Had a certain buyer put his finger up for one more $500 bid on Croker at the Sales last year, he would now be holding his hand out for a $13,750 cheque. That is how much the Falcon Seelster-Take My Arm colt won after taking out the PGG Yearling Sales Southern Graduate.
Croker ended up being a buy-back for his vendors John and Maurice McDermott when he reached $15,500 in the ring - $500 short of what the brothers were prepared to let him go for. The pair even turned down a subsequent offer on the day, but they are looking the winners now because Croker is going to target the Welcome Stakes this Saturday night before a heat and hopefully the Final of the Sires' Stakes Series.
Trained by Colin and Julie De Filippi, and now part-owned by Colin in partnership with the McDermotts, Croker ended a long drought for both brothers, especially John, by winning on Friday. Maurice last tasted success with Kedell at Rangiora in February 1999, and before that with Kedell's dam Scintilla at Addington in 1993, but John hadn't known that winning feeling since Olympic Medal scored at Addington back in October 1984.
A former employee of the Bank of New Zealand who specialised in rural finance for two decades, John also spent 18 years on the committee of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and was the Club's representative on the Sires' Stakes Board for six years. Taking a break from both roles when the three Addington clubs amalgamated, John also had a change of tack following the passing of his father Eugene in October 1998 and joined his brother to run the 200-hectare family farm in Halswell, where they milk a town supply herd of cattle. A Past-President of the NZMTC, Eugene McDermott was well-known for co-breeding the fine pacer Robalan, and he was also the son of Eugene Snr who suffered a heart attack while driving Colonel Grattan in the 1939 NZ Cup.
The mare that got John himself started was Olga Korbut, a Lordship half-sister to Noodlum that he was given a half share in in return for grazing horses on the farm. Taken to C6 by trainer Freeman Holmes, Olga Korbut ran second in the 1975 NZ Welcome Stakes to Fancy Fred before going on to capture her last five races that season. "It has been a battle trying to continue her breed," McDermott said. "She only had the five foals and all but one were colts; I spent a lot of money trying to breed her by embryo transfer."
Since taking over the farm, McDermott is breeding from four mares - Scintilla, Vault (Olga Korbut's filly), Croker's dam, Take My Arm and Shining Cloud. "Kevin Townley trained Take My Arm for us. She went amiss a week before she was due to go to the Qualifying trials, but he thought she would be worth breeding from though. "She has a late colt foal at foot by Caprock, and was served by Il Vicolo." Take My Arm's first three foals are Boston, Barney Bear and Croker.
"He is a bit of a character, ducking out like he has done a couple of times," McDermott said of his latest winner. "Colin has always rated him though, and when a horseman like him says that, you take notice."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 11Apr01