All Black Richie Mo’unga’s generous gesture for Child Cancer Foundation

Crusaders first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga is playing arguably his rugby of his career this season. ANTHONY AU-YEUNG/GETTY IMAGES

When Kiwi-bred colt Mo’unga wins, Child Cancer Foundation wins.

So does All Blacks and Crusaders first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga, who owns a 10 per cent stake in the three-year-old Savabeel colt named after him.

Just not financially. He donates his share of winnings to Child Cancer Foundation, a charity close to his heart.

“I’ve been brought up around kids my whole life, and it’s heartbreaking to see kids going through that, that have been dealt the shorthand. For me, it’s a good opportunity to connect with them and do what I can to try and help them as much as possible,” Mo’unga said.

The Annabel Neasham-trained Mo’unga started his career in Sydney with expat trainer Chris Waller, and has won four of seven starts, most notably the Rosehill Guineas last weekend.

Mo’unga’s first group one win netted his owners AU$351,000 (NZ$380,000), increasing his career earnings to $759,000.

“It’s actually quite weird having a horse named after you, but it’s been awesome,” Mo’unga said.

“It’s giving me something else to do in the weekends. When Mo’unga is racing, just really getting on my feet and cheering him home.”

The 26-year-old wasn’t an original owner of the 2017-born thoroughbred, which has three other part owners.

It was them who named the Savabeel colt after the All Black and Crusader, before they approached him to see if he was interested in getting on board.

“Obviously, I’d heard of Mo’unga and thought that was pretty cool. Then they got in touch and wanted a bit more input from myself, just keeping in contact with the trainer and who is riding the horse and the conditioning of the horse, it’s good to get updates like that.

“It’s really nice to watch the horse run, and obviously when it’s named after yourself, it’s pretty cool.”

Bred at Waikato Stud, Mo’unga was sold at the National Yearling Sales for $325,000 in 2019. The horse’s mother is Chandelier, whose ownership included All Blacks great Dan Carter.

Mo’unga is now trained by Englishwoman Neasham at Warwick Farm, and is being aimed at the Doncaster Mile at Randwick on April 10 which has a winner’s purse of A$1.74 million. The colt is second favourite ($6) on the NZ TAB.

Speaking after Mo’unga’s maiden group one win, Neasham labelled him “beautifully produced” and an “incredible horse”.

“I look forward to bigger and better things from Mo’unga. Mo’unga is a really awesome horse, and shows good things and characteristics of a good race horse, so hopefully he can keep that up,” Mo’unga said.

“I haven’t had a huge background in racing and horses, so it’s something new to me. It’s just good that myself and Annabel Neasham and everyone involved with Mo’unga get to do something positive with its winnings.”

Mo’unga has been working closely with Child Cancer Foundation for about three years, going above and beyond, including regular visits to the Children’s Haematology Oncology Centre at Christchurch Hospital.

“Beforehand [former All Blacks and Crusaders captain] Kieran Read was one of the main faces for child cancer and I went in with him, it just sort of happened that he was leaving. It gave me an opportunity to take over and help out more outside of the times the Crusaders work with them.”

It keeps him busy outside of rugby, as does daughter Billie, who wife Sophie gave birth to last August in Christchurch.

Finding time to play piano and guitar is now hard to come by. But he’s found another passion to go along with horse racing and being a father.

“I love coffee. Having Billie, coffee has become that much more important. So I’ve invested in a coffee machine, working on coffee art.

“Just spending time with family, my world rolls around my little girl now, which is awesome. It’s teaching me a lot of lessons, being organised earlier, obviously habits are getting up earlier now, which are all good things. And I think it’s influenced and benefited my footy.”

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