Bobby Zen

Humility goes by the household name of humble and you will be hard pressed to find a more humble couple than Donna Cowens and Nicky Souza de Oliveira of DNA Equine.

The pair burst onto the scene at the Goffs Breeze-Up Sale at Doncaster last year when selling Mantra (Ire) to Jake Warren on behalf of Highclere for a life-changing £160,000. The Tamayuz (Ire) filly had been bought for a song the previous winter.

Identified by Cowens as a potentially nice type to go breezing and get the DNA consignment up and running, the native of Northumberland shelled out just €10,000 for the filly from Ringfort Stud at the Goffs Autumn Sale 2022.

Mantra more than held up her part of the bargain by breezing like a rocket, resulting in that massive return on investment for the young couple, but you won’t find any gloating here. Instead, Cowens and Souza de Oliveira described that dream debut as “beginner’s luck” and are fully concentrating on building on that result this spring.

“I don’t think that sale ever settled in, really,” Cowens reflected. “We didn’t get a chance to sit back and take it in–you just keep your head down and keep on going in this game, don’t you?”

She added, “But it definitely made the decision to go out on our own a lot easier. If we didn’t take the plunge after that, well then we probably never would have. We owe that filly a lot. She gave us the springboard that we needed.”

The DNA team are raring to go for the breeze-up sales | Brian Sheerin

Cowens, 34, and Souza de Oliveira, 39, are graduates of Willie Browne’s famous Mocklershill Stables. After the success with Mantra, the pair decided to go out fully on their own, and have rented a yard on the Curragh.

With 10 horses for the upcoming breeze-up sales and eight more in pre-training, you could say this fledgling operation is finding its stride.

Cowens said, “We have rented a yard on the Maddenstown side of the Curragh and have 18 horses in at the moment–10 are for breezing and the rest is made up of horses in pre training. We moved here last September.”

She added, “We’ve got three for Doncaster–a nice Earthlight (Ire) colt for the Guineas Sale and a lovely Sottsass (Fr) colt for Arqana. That’s rather exciting because he is the only Sottsass colt catalogued for France.

“The rest of the horses will be split up between Tattersalls Ireland and then we have a few for the July Sale in France as well. Obviously it was very difficult to get horses into the breeze-up sales this year so we will be taking a few to France in July as well.”

It seems to be a common complaint among the breeze-up handlers this year. It was in these pages last month when Harry Fowler of Goffs and Tattersalls Ireland boss Simon Kerins explained how entries for the breeze-up sales were at an all-time high. Invariably, some consignors were going to be left disappointed, as there simply weren’t enough slots to go around.

However, in DNA’s case, they are happy to roll the big dice with a certain Sands Of Mali (Fr) filly on the racetrack, with Souza de Oliveira saying that he is convinced she is up to winning a maiden.

“I already have a name picked out for her,” he explained. “I am from Rio in Brazil and, with her being by Sands Of Mali, I was thinking Copacabana Sands would be a nice name. I think she could be up to winning a maiden so we don’t mind being brave.”

And Souza de Oliveira would know. Still a major cog in Browne’s Mocklershill wheel, Souza de Oliveira has ridden countless high-class horses at home and at the breeze-up sales. Not only that, but the couple are taking heart in the result fellow Brazilian native and prominent breeze-up rider Manoel Marques enjoyed with Buyin Buyin (Ire) (Bungle Inthejungle {GB}) this time 12 months ago.

Cowens explained, “We’ve worked her a couple of times and she goes particularly well. Obviously she will be for sale but we’re happy to race her ourselves if we have to. She will go to Diego Dias and hopefully, if she shows on the track what she has been showing us at home, we can get her sold. With a filly like that, you don’t want to be waiting until July. She will be ready to run in four to six weeks and, while we don’t want to get into the habit of keeping horses, we’re happy to take a chance with a filly like her.”

She added, “Diego is very good friends with Nicky. He has sat on her and is actually the one who said to us, ‘this filly is good guys, I think you need to be brave.’ Hopefully it ends up being a similar story to Buyin Buyin last year. He wasn’t accepted into a breeze-up sale but was obviously ready to run early. Manoel rolled the dice and ran him and the rest is history. Nicky rode Buyin Buyin a good bit at home at Willie’s so he knows what’s needed to win a maiden.

“Nicky still works very closely with Willie and will be riding for him at the breeze-ups as well. If we didn’t take the plunge to go out on our own, Willie is a man I would have happily worked for for the rest of my life. He has always been there for help and advice. The knowledge he has on the game is amazing. When we were leaving, he said, ‘I’m not happy that ye are leaving, but I wish ye the best of luck.’”

And finally, what’s behind the name? Not only do DNA have the horses to make their second year in business a success but they are also the proud owners of one of the catchiest consignment names in the game.

Cowens laughed, “Everyone asks us this! Basically, it’s all about the DNA of the racehorse, isn’t it? When you are buying potential racehorses, you are looking at bloodlines and pedigrees, so we said we’d use DNA. The logo actually came first. Everyone thinks the D and the N is for Donna and Nicky and they ask us what the A is for. We always say it’s for associates. So, anyone who wants to associate with us, it can be Donna, Nicky and associates.”

There are few nicer people to be associated with.

The post DNA Equine Team Bidding To Build On Dream Debut At The Breeze-Ups appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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