Above: Bana Wu (GB)

Property developer turned thoroughbred breeder Sean Duke will have a close eye on Flemington on Thursday with two progeny out of his mare Bana Wu (GB) (Shirocco {Ger}) set to contest Oaks Day riches.

When property developer Sean Duke purchased Bana Wu at the 2018 Inglis Sydney Broodmare and Weanling Sale for $92,500, he certainly wasn’t expecting the mare to have the favourite in the G1 VRC Oaks and a live chance in the G3 Ottawa S. on the same day.

But that is the way it has worked out with Montefilia (Kermadec {NZ}) and her 2-year-old half-sister Nice For What (Shalaa {Ire}), and Duke couldn’t be any more excited ahead of Thursday’s Flemington meeting.

“I just got off the phone with Simon from Ciaron Maher’s camp and they’re all very excited to put Nice For What in the deep end and see how she goes for her very first start,” Duke told TDN AusNZ on Wednesday.

“She’ll need the race experience being a 2-year-old but they obviously have a great opinion of her if they’re running her in that type and quality of race on such a day.

“They obviously have a great opinion of her (Nice For What) if they’re running her in that type and quality of race on such a day.” – Sean Duke

“It wasn’t planned that she would be running on the same day as Montefilia of course, but that’s just the way it has turned out. I was speaking to David Payne about Montefilia and he’s very excited about her and tells me that she hasn’t looked better so that’s good and we’re excited for it.”

Montefilia was only a weanling when Duke purchased Bana Wu in foal to Shalaa (Ire) at Riverside Stables on April 16, 2018. At that time, she was only the dam of a placed colt named Danbana (Dansili {GB}) and an unraced filly by High Chaparral (Ire).

Now she is a Group 1-winning producer and Duke has a valuable broodmare on his hands.

Group 1 producer

“I bought Bana Wu in foal to Shalaa and now I’ve got a lovely Ribchester colt in the paddock out of her, so I’m sure that little colt will be excited to see how his two big sisters go tomorrow.

“He’s a nice colt and a few people have already come over to look at him, but I think we’ll wait and take him up to the Inglis Easter Sale.”

A fan of the Shalaa filly who is now named Nice For What and is in training with Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Duke decided to send Bana Wu back to the Arrowfield shuttler, however after she missed to the stallion he is now looking at the prospect of having a full sibling to a Group 1 winner.

“She went to Shalaa and she was positive and then two weeks ago she came up negative,” he said.

“I went back to Shalaa because I really like the filly that’s running tomorrow but in the meantime Montefilia came out and won two Group 1s so she (Bana Wu) has gone back to Kermadec.

“It was probably more of a conservative approach but whatever comes next year, will be a full sibling to Montefilia and who knows what she will do tomorrow, but if she does something special, there’s a full sibling inside of her mother so that’s the approach I took.

“You’d like to think (it will be a valuable horse) which is exciting and she’s still up in Scone at the minute so hopefully she’ll be coming back down to my farm soon.”

Above: Ribchester (Ire) x Bana Wu (GB) (colt) as a foal at Valiant Stud

Venture into breeding

Having being interested in horses for a long time and having owned some horses over the years, Duke decided to experiment with breeding and over the last two years, he has built himself a solid broodmare band and will look to continue selling his yearlings.

“I’ve had an interest in horses for about the last 20 years and I was just buying horses, mainly 2-year-olds,” he said. “But I’ve always been a bit of a country lad, I used to have cattle and stuff, and I’ve got a small farm, so I just thought I’d go in and buy a few mares that I liked because I’d become interested in breeding and the genetics and crosses and how it worked.

“I had a horse called Crackerjack King that I stand and I put a few mares to him in the first year to see whether I’d like the breeding side of the industry.

“So I played around with that and enjoyed it, so the last two years I’ve tried to go out and buy a bit better quality mares. Hopefully I’ll just keep buying better quality mares from now on.

“The last two years I’ve tried to go out and buy a bit better quality mares. Hopefully I’ll just keep buying better quality mares from now on.” – Sean Duke

“I’ve got 14 yearlings on the ground now and I’ve had about 10 mares foal down this year so I’ve got about 15 mares on the farm overall.

“I’m breeding to sell and sometimes to race. Mostly I’ll breed to sell and then just keep a share of my own horses instead of buying horses to race.

“I’d sell 10 to 15 good quality yearlings each year, that is what my aim would be and not to get any bigger or smaller.”

His venture into breeding is still very much in its infancy and regardless of the amazing results he has achieved, Duke said he has loved it so far.

“Tomorrow is going to be a real thrill, although I’ve bred other horses, this will be the first horse I’ve had from go to woe, so for her to run on Oaks Day down the straight, will be a big thrill.

“I really like the industry and I really like the breeding side of the industry, but it’s also been great for me with what I do with my property development with COVID-19 and the restrictions.

“For me to have that other part of my life where I can go out on the farm for a couple of hours a day and enjoy it, I’ve loved it.”

Article courtesey of Georgie Dennis TDN