Celebrating the NZB Karaka Million | Bevan Smith and his million-dollar contender

17 Jan 2023
Auckland Thoroughbred Racing

Only 10 months or so ago (due to Karaka 2022 being held in March), Bevan Smith joined forces with Andrew Forsman and Andy Williams to purchase Ethereal Star for a significant $600,000 from the draft of Blandford Lodge.

She’s since justified her six figure price tag with stakes success at Pukekohe Park in November that put her on track to line up in Saturday’s $1m DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO race.
We chat to Bevan Smith about what made her stand out from the crowd and how it feels to have selected a horse now in the running for million-dollar glory.


Bevan Smith, of Bevan Smith Bloodstock, hard at work at a recent thoroughbred sale



This is such a busy time of year for you so thank you for taking a moment to chat. When did you last get to spend a week in one place? I know you’re due here in Auckland for the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million on Saturday and then the following week for Karaka 2023 but I imagine that’s just one stop in a long line of sales…

The first half of the year is a traveling circus for us on the sales circuit, and particularly this first six weeks of the year as there is a sale to be at every week. I don’t get to see much of my own bed!

As a keen participant in the thoroughbred industry, is being involved with a runner in the DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO something you’ve been keen to achieve for a while now or is it more a happy coincidence?

It is the richest race in New Zealand which is an obvious attraction. Every year at the Sales [New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sales Series] I do have the race in my mind when inspecting yearlings, trying to find something that might make it there.

To learn more about the Karaka Million incentive series or the upcoming National Yearling Sales Series, visit New Zealand Bloodstock’s website here.

Ethereal Star is currently third on the order of entry – and therefore is guaranteed a start in the $1m DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO. Was that race always the goal?

She showed a lot of natural ability early on and that’s when the race came on our radar. For her to win a stakes race at her second start in November and have the prizemoney to get in the race from that early stage it made it easy to target the race. She hasn’t run since November but that is perfect for her, she isn’t your typical early 2YO, she is a lovely scopey filly that is only going to get better with time. We haven’t had to tax her to get into the race and going in fresh is going to suit her.

Ethereal Star winning the Barfoot & Thompson Challenge Stakes in November


So tell us, what drew you to Ethereal Star at Karaka 2022?

She oozed class and when Andy Williams, Andrew Forsman and I all came together she was our clear top pick for the sale. She has strong pedigree, she is by the best sire in Australasia in Snitzel, then physically she had the strength, athleticism and movement that we look for.

Who is in the ownership group you pulled together and are you making a night of the Karaka Million? Win/lose/draw, do you have plans to celebrate the experience of having a runner in a million-dollar race?

Ben Kwok owns the majority share of her, and he is who I represent. He is a very generous man and kindly leased out small shares to some of Andy Williams’s friends and family that were keen to race her with him. She races in the Zame family colours who are big supporters of Andrew Forsman and have had many good horses with him. They are somewhat lucky colours – and could be even luckier come Saturday.

I know there is a big contingent of people coming up from the Cambridge/Hamilton area and I dare say win, lose or draw there will be a few bottles of champagne consumed. I am flying over from Australia for the race and am excited to get amongst the party.

Ethereal Star as a yearling


What are the plans for her next? Are we likely to see her on track at Pukekohe Park again this season for the Sistema Stakes?

We will see what happens on Saturday but being a Group 1 race, that will be valuable for her pedigree, so it is definitely on the radar. She is a filly that is going to be at her best as a spring 3YO and we are mindful of not over-taxing her as a 2YO.

Your involvement with the Karaka Million spans across many years having actually been a member of the NZB Marketing team and thus closely involved with both the raceday, the Karaka Million Series and Sale itself, to an attendee, and now as a connection to one of the runners. Given your long association, does the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million have a special spot in your heart?

The Karaka Million is a great raceday and my favourite that I have attended anywhere in the world. Some may say I am biased but obviously that is because it does hold a special spot in my heart being a kiwi.

Can you share another Karaka Million memory with us?

On The Bubbles winning the Karaka Million was a huge result for me as he was a horse Ben Kwok and I bought as a weanling to pinhook. We sold him to Te Akau Racing as yearling at Karaka. He was one of the first horses I purchased when I went out on my own as a bloodstock agent so for him to win the Karaka Million was a huge boost for my career. It is already a special race for me and hopefully it only gets more special this weekend!


The New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million is being held at Pukekohe Park this season due to the track upgrade at Ellerslie with the 2024 event due back at the Big E. Will we see you oncourse again then?

I will be back at Karaka this year (for Karaka 2023) trying to find another horse for the Karaka Million race that will be run at Ellerslie for sure.

As I said, I love the raceday and having a runner in it makes it so much more exciting, especially on the new and improved track next year. While I am sure it will be a great event at Pukekohe this year, the atmosphere created at Ellerslie on Karaka Million night is world class.

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