Catriona's Roch 'n' Horse joy

16 February 2023 Written by VRC

In the space of eight months, Kiwi-bred Roch ‘n' Horse has had two stunning wins at Flemington: the Newmarket Handicap at $101, before repeating the effort at $20 in the Champions Sprint in Cup Week. None of this would have been possible without Sam and Catriona Williams, third-generation breeders at New Zealand stud Little Avondale.

Sam and Catriona have succeeded Sam’s parents, Buzz and Susie, who still live on the farm. Little Avondale, which emerged in 1967, is in the township of Masterton, south of New Zealand’s North Island. The district is separated from Wellington by the Remutaka Range.

It is here that Catriona and Sam, who have been married for 21 years and share a deep love of horses, run the successful breeding business. Despite Catriona being a tetraplegic as the result of a fall from a horse in 2002, she remains driven and optimistic. She had enjoyed a decorated career in showjumping and eventing before the accident, but did not let it stop her thirst for adventure.

Among her many physical achievements are the completion of the New York marathon in 2010 and being among the first hand-cyclists to reach Everest Base Camp in 2013. She has also founded a trust that has raised more than $10 million for spinal cord research.

Her passion still lies with horses, and those in Little Avondale’s breeding operation.

Roch ‘N’ Horse, whose sire Per Incanto stands at Little Avondale, was offered for sale as a yearling, but didn’t meet the auction reserve of $40,000. The mare has always had a special place in Catriona’s and Sam’s hearts, and Catriona always considered her up there with the best. The Darley Champions Sprint win proved this true, and that the 2022 Newmarket win was no fluke.

Before the Newmarket was run last March, Catriona asked to meet with Patrick Moloney, who was riding the mare that day. Moloney met with the sprinter’s owner who made it quite clear that this was not just a “100-to-1 chance”.

“Don’t just push her around thinking she has got no hope. We haven’t travelled all these miles just to have a day out at Flemington. She’s one of New Zealand’s fastest mares and she’ll give these horses something for their corner,” Catriona told Moloney.

Only hours later, Catriona greeted her famous mare in the Flemington mounting yard after winning the Group 1 feature, proud that the horse really was right up there with the best.