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Petagnas Launch Elsdon Park at Matamata Operation

The former Valachi Downs property of 600 acres was purchased by the Petagnas in May.

The former Valachi Downs property

The former Valachi Downs property

Courtesy of Valachi Downs

New Zealand's Lib and Katrina Petagna's significant investment in the Australasian racing and breeding industry added a new chapter Aug.1, with the official opening of their private stud operation Elsdon Park at Matamata.

The former Valachi Downs property of 600 acres was purchased by the Petagnas in May, leading to a dispersal of Kevin and Jo Hickman's thoroughbred interests, and the new property has become the private home to their expanding JML Bloodstock portfolio.

"Lib and Katrina and JML Bloodstock have been racing horses for a long time and, once you start racing and racing some fillies, your broodmare band starts growing and all of a sudden you've become a (commercial) breeder," Elsdon Park general manager Kerrie Cox told ANZ Bloodstock News on Monday.

"The broodmare band's got up to around 60 and we needed to acquire more land, so it was a great opportunity with Valachi coming up for sale. It's the most beautiful property with good, rolling country for growing racehorses.

"It's very exciting, not just for Lib and Katrina, but for all of us at the farm."

Cox is well-known in the New Zealand thoroughbred industry, spending 17 years at Waikato Stud prior to a sabbatical which was only ended when the Petagnas reached out to her to head-up Elsdon Park.

She was to work from a 200-acre farm about ten minutes away from Valachi, but the Petagnas changed direction when the opportunity came up to acquire more land.

"There's another 200 acres, which is actually developed to be a horse property, but at this stage it will be running cattle and that will be a big part of the operation because we do have fewer horses than Valachi had," she said.

Among the valuable broodmare band under the ownership of the Petagnas are three-time group 1 winner Lucia Valentina, Zaniah, a three-quarter sister to top stallion Deep Field, and group 1-winning sire Shooting To Win, and Australian Oaks (G1) winner Sofia Rosa.

Lucia Valentina is in foal to Australia's champion stallion I Am Invincible carrying a colt while Zaniah, a listed-winning sprinter, trained by Kris Lees for Petagna, is also in foal to I Am Invincible and has been booked into four-time champion stallion Snitzel this year.

With a Nov. 18 service date, Lucia Valentina will be assessed once her foal, her fifth, is born as to whether she is mated again in 2022 or given a year off.

Sofia Rosa is in foal to newly minted New Zealand champion first-season stallion Almanzor and is set to be served by the Cambridge Stud sire again this year.

Petagna also bred and co-owns top-class John O'Shea-trained sprinter Lost And Running, who is already assured of a slot in this year's The Everest after running fourth in last year's $15 million race.

His dam Dreamlife is in foal to Little Avondale's Per Incanto and is therefore carrying a sibling to Lost And Running.

"Lib has quite a large racing team as well, which we will probably limit a little bit from now on because we'll be selling more of our horses," Cox said.

"The goal will be to be a commercial breeding operation, so we will be selling most of our crop and we won't be keeping as many fillies, and we will sell yearlings where we feel they're best suited.

"We want to support the New Zealand breeding industry as well and, when the time comes, we will work out where they're best suited on type, matings and definitely Australia is on the cards as well.

"This will be our first year under Elsdon Park. The horses have got a new brand on them this year and it is going to be exciting to sell under our own name for the first time."

The Petagnas were partners in Blandford Lodge, but to facilitate the acquisition of the Valachi property, they have sold out their share of the business to co-owners Graham and Helen Bax.