Small-town horse makes good
The progressive emergence of Armada as he has raced his way to favouritism for the HK$16 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile has been almost life-changing for New Zealand studmaster Sam Williams.
At his Little Avondale Stud at Masterton, in the lower central districts of the North Island, stands Armada's sire, Towkay, and Williams has been watching on eagerly as Armada racks up win after win, and consequently give his sire greater and greater prominence in the ultra-competitive world of thoroughbred breeding.
'I've been aware of Armada right from the start,' Williams said. 'I saw John Size at Easter this year when the horse had won his first three starts and asked him what he thought.
'John said he thought the horse would remain unbeaten that season and would go on to represent Hong Kong at the international meeting, so he was absolutely spot on.'
Towkay was a Group Three-winning galloper in Melbourne. He was owned by Malaysian millionaire Ananada Krishnan and trained by Lee Freedman. He was very well named, too, because the horse was a son of Last Tycoon and in the Malaysian language Bahasa, a towkay means tycoon.
Towkay is a half-brother to Group One-winning Danehill horse Danasinga and was definitely worth a punt as a sire. And because he was marketed at a relatively cheap stud fee of NZ$5,000 (HK$26,700), he was quite popular to begin with and that popularity is now growing by the day.
'Towkay finished eighth on the Hong Kong general sires' premiership last season and was the leading sire for average earnings among stallions with five or more runners,' Williams said.
'He hasn't really been a horse that you find at the big commercial yearling sales so most of his progeny are retained, trained up and are taken to the trials - like Armada was - before being sold to Hong Kong, Macau or Singapore.
'Towkay typically gets a nice, clean-legged, athletic sort of horse and a lot of the trainers like them.'
What will it mean if Armada graduates to become an international Group One winner tomorrow?
'It's already been a great journey,' Williams said. 'But for your horse to sire a Group One winner at the Hong Kong international meeting, well that would be just a dream come true ... as good as it gets.'