Plenty Of Smiles At Grinaldi
There are few Southlanders more passionate about their horses than Ben and Karen Calder.
They breed from a small band of broodmares, and often top up their racing stock by purchasing at the national sales.
And it’s one of their homebred pacers, Mr Mojito that’s providing them with much satisfaction at the moment.
Ben Calder is a no fuss sort of guy who shies away from the limelight and just goes about breeding and purchasing horses whilst enjoying racing them either with his wife Karen and good friends and family.
The first horse the Calders raced of any note was Grinaldi the winner of ten races, and $162,712. He also owned Sunning which won eight races including the Group One Victorian Trotters Oaks, Bought In The Pub, New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes winner, and The Oyster Man which won five races. And there have been a host of others.
Ben and Karen live at Ryal Bush 10 minutes north of Invercargill where they’ve set up their show piece property Grinaldi Lodge. Southland’s leading trainer Nathan Williamson currently works out of their stable.
The latest Grinaldi Lodge horse to emerge from the same bloodlines as Grinaldi is Mr Mojito; a rising star in the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable.
Mr Mojito was always highly rated by Ben and original trainer Brett Gray. He won a workout then qualified at Young Quinn Raceway in January 2015 as a two year winning by four lengths and running a mile in 1-59.5. He was purchased that day by Butterworth Racing Syndicate.
He was put aside to mature, and his much anticipated debut came later in the year on the same course in November. Sent out third favourite, he settled last and never improved, to finish over 200 lengths from the winner. Stewards ordered a post-race veterinary examination which confirmed the gelding had suffered an atrial fibrillation.
He returned to racing in April this year, winning easily at Central Southland Raceway. Shortly afterwards he was transferred to the Purdon-Rasmussen’s Rolleston stable.
Since joining that stable he’s been in hot form running second behind the highly talented Heaven’s Rock before putting a picket form line together of four impressive wins.
“He appears to have the X factor. He’s looked super and going forward in richer comp any he says to me that he can do it,” said Ben.
He was bred by the Calders out of their In The Pocket mare Wanaka Bay.
“All of the In the Pocket mares had a bad attitude. Wanaka Bay was trained by Becky (Alan Beck). She lay down on the track after one of her early workouts but won her first race.”
Mr Mojito winning at Winton for Brent Barclay
The Calders also have a two year old half-brother to Mr Mojito by American Ideal but had the misfortune to lose a Bettor’s Delight foal recently.
“It was slipped in the paddock and was about seven week premature.”
Sunning has also been a good broodmare for the Calder with only one of her seven live foals of racing age not winning races.
She’s left Burano (10 wins), Medora (3 wins), Sunny Vacation (5 wins), No Potato (5 wins), Santorini Sunset (5 wins) and Agnes Brown (2 wins). Her two year old Breaking Bad (by Angus Hall) is about to come back into work with Kevin Townley.
As well as breeding from a handful of mares Ben was active at the last round of yearling sales purchasing six yearlings, all with rich pedigrees.
Paramount King (Love You – Paramount Star) is with northern training partnership John and Josh Dickie who share in the ownership of the colt. His dam won seven races and is the mother of Paramount Geegee the winner of fourteen races including the Harness Jewels Thee Year Old Trotting Ruby, Great Northern Trotting Derby and New Zealand Trotting Derby and $357,236, and Paramount Queen which won eight races and $122,612. It’s a family that the Dickie’s have had a huge amount of success with.
They also have a Betterthancheddar – Baptism of Fire colt which is a half-brother to Highview Tommy the winner of fifteen races and $885,062.
“He’s broken in nicely and shows a bit. They like him.”
Other stock in the north for the Calders includes a two year old Art Major – Gretna’s Best colt who’s with Brent Mangos. Named Bronco Banner he’s closely related to Smooth Gretna the winner of fifteen races.
“He also broke in nice.”
Another sales purchase is Nuburgring (Bettor’s Delight – Cullen’s Creation)
“He’s trained by Kevin Townley and is related to Courage Under Fire. He got an infection in his tendon sheath and is coming home to heal.”
Townley a long time trainer and friend of the Calders also trains another yearling purchase Swoon (Monarchy – Hot Vacation).
“His second dam is the mother of Sheemon and Karen and I have a half share in him with Kevin and Margaret Townley. We may have to change his name.”
Robinson Crusoe (Somebeachsomewhere – Asabella) was also bought by Grinaldi Lodge at the sales. This is the mare’s seventh foal and she’s the dam of four winners including Ohoka’s Bondy (22 West Australian wins), Dancing Diamonds (9 wins and $343,276) and Code Red (12 wins).
“He’s trained by Brad Mowbray who shares in the ownership with his wife Mel and was strong minded and difficult to break in. He was big but so was Brad. He was put out for a spell and he’s come back as a true gentleman. I’ve tried to breed a Somebeachsomewhere a couple of times but didn’t have much luck so it’s nice to have one.”
Outside of their sales purchases this year the Calders have plenty of other horses ready to hit the racetracks.
Ash is a three year old Ben is looking forward to getting to the races. He’s by The Pres out of Tamarix and is a half-brother to Larix, Given and Larch. His four dam Haakondahl is the mother of Sapling (22 wins including the Great Northern Pacing Derby).
“We’ve had to wait on him as he’s gone through a growing spurt.”
Another trotter on the books is a Muscles Yankee colt out of Classic Armbro - a daughter of the great Merinai. Named Sertorius he’s also on the books of John and Josh Dickie.
Tour Director an Art Major gelding out of Bremner Bay who won once from five starts is also back on the active list.
“He’s stranded a tendon and is being worked up at Nathan’s.”
Foo Fighter an American Ideal gelding out of Lucy’s Way which is a full sister to Wanaka Bay (dam of Mr Mojito) qualified at Wyndham as a two year old. He’s owned by Juliette Earl, Karen Calder, Katie Williamson, Neville Cleaver, Kevin Strong, Sid Slee, Robyn Jones and Alan Jones. His first start is eagerly awaited as he qualified well.
He’s a half-brother to Treble Cone which won impressively at her first start when trained by John Earl. She had two other starts before heading to the broodmares paddock. She has a nice American Ideal colt called You Too which is owned by the Calders and Earls.
So between homebred stock and young horses purchased at the sales Ben and Karen Calder have plenty to watch this season.
And hopefully plenty more pleasurable moments to share with friends and family without too much fuss, which is just the way they like it.
That’s the case with Brittany Willis and Haig McGorlick of Tisbury just out of Invercargill.
Neither has history or heritage in the game but neverth less they’re giving both breeding and training a go - albeit on a small scale.
Brittany got her first taste of horses at a young age while she was at primary school.
“We had school days where they had pony rides. You could do sewing, cooking or pony riding. I was away sick on the day everyone got to choose and I got put in sewing. I wasn’t domesticated at all so I used to sneak out of class and sit by the pony rides. I became obsessed and got offered this pony for the school holidays for two weeks at Christmas. Two weeks turned into six weeks which turned into three months and six months later we bought the pony,” she said.
She soon joined Pony Club and competed there and at Eventing fixtures before becoming a groom for friends who had showjumpers.
“I became hooked, I got my first standardbred as a hack at 18 and just fell in love with the breed.”
She then experienced her first taste of standardbreds while working at Tom Kilkelly stables for a couple of month when she was 20.
“I also did a bit of standardbred rehoming. I’ve been doing that off and on for the last seven years.”
In 2010 both she and Haig moved to Perth Western Australia, chasing the mining money.
“I was sick of my job and we wanted to do something different so we got jobs in the mining industry there. We didn’t have horses for a while but got in toe with Graham Bond, a family friend and the rest in history.”
Bond is currently working at 430 acre Allwood Stud Farm in WA where Follow The Stars and Tinted Cloud stand.
He trained in Drummond in Southland for a good number of years before moving to Rakaia then onto West Australia. He was a regular buyer of horses out of New Zealand which he trained in Perth.
One such purchase was J Walker which was bought out of the Geoff Small stable. Bond, Willis and McGorlick shared in the ownership of the Christian Cullen gelding which won eight races before he was sold on.
Their next venture was to purchase Kamwood Girl a young Courage Under Fire mare who’d retired after winning eleven races in Australia.
“Bondy found her actually. He said - I’ve found this broodmare. Do you want to go halves. Before that we had no desire to breed. He then decided he wanted out so he could focus on other horses he had, so we own her now.”
So with a broodmare in toe the next step required a bit of luck.
“I bought a ticket in the Western Australian Standardbred Breeders stallion service raffle and won the service to Art Major and that’s where this horse came from. It was huge. It was to promote breeding in Western Australian which we didn’t do because we got her (Kamwood Girl) in foal and sent her back to New Zealand. We were pretty lucky and it was a good start for us.”
Brittany Willis and Art Major gelding Foveaux Major - Photo Bruce Stewart.
Returning home the couple have set up a small stable at Brittany’s parents five acre property at Tisbury and in a few weeks they take over land with a house next door which has seven acres of land.
Brittany has also taken out a training licence and has rented a couple of boxes and a paddock at Ascot Park.
She has just the two horses in work. Cullect Alot is a three year old filly that’s been broken and is just starting in work. She’s by Gotta Go Cullect out of Wren A lot, an unraced Sir Vancealot mare which is out of the five win Admiral Halsey mare Royal Wren. She’s owned by Graham Bond.
Her other horse is two year old Foveaux Major - the foal the couple bred by sending Kamwood Girl to Art Major. So the numbers are small at this stage but you’ve got to start somewhere.
Brittany has also sent up an equestrian business called Foveaux Equestrian.
She imports Kentaur products which are a high end equestrian range from the Czech Republic, for which she is the exclusive New Zealand agent. She also sells Red Light Therapy products.
“They’re a high end product. It is a limited market. 90 per cent of our business has been from Canterbury north mainly online but we also go to horse shows and do trade stands.”
She’s also a qualified Equine Bowen Therapist after completing a two year course at Smart Bowen International in Melbourne.
“I started to get Bowen Therapy done on myself when I had back problems and found it to be absolutely amazing. I thought if it was good for me I wondered if we could get it done on our racehorses. I found someone who did Equine Bowen Therapy and the results on our horses were fantastic so it inspired me to study it.”
Their ties to racing horses in WA haven’t gone away either and Willis and McGorlick still have a twenty percent interest in Dame Puissant a well performed race mare in Western Australia.
She’s by Tintin In America out of Glenferrie Magic and was owned by Trackside presenter Matt Cross and junior driver Kimberley Butt.
She qualified as a two year old and was sold by the pair. From twenty two starts she’s won five races, and has been placed second and third twice.
As a two year old she ran third in the Group Three Two Year Old Fillies Gold Bracelet at Gloucester Park and at three finished third in the 2016 Group One West Australian Oaks.
She’s trained by Robbie Williams.
Their broodmare band has also expanded and they have three mares on their books.
The two other mares they own are Kamwood Beauty and Hennessey Franco.
Kamwood Beauty is an unraced American Ideal mare out of the five win In The Pocket mare Kamwood Diva. She’s a half-sister to Real Kamwood which won five races for Paul Kerr.
Hennessey Franco is by Red River Hanover out of Heather Franco. She’s a half-sister to Franco Hat Trick which won eleven races here, another nineteen in Australia before being a big winner in America. His biggest stake days in Australia were memorable. He won the $120,000 Nissan Chariots of Fire and he ran second to Our Sir Vancelot in the 1998 $100,000 Group One Australian Pacing Championship at Albion Park.
Hennessey Franco was bought by McGorlick for $400 at this year’s PGG Wrightson All Age Sales in foal to Tintin In America.
“Initially we were breeding to sell but with the unraced mares they are less commercial. With Kamwood Girl we are breeding to sell but the other two - we’ll see what happens.”
This young couple, who recently sold a Washington VC yearling colt out of Kamwood Girl for good money, are working hard to establish a foothold in Southern breeding circles and it’s great to see.
The Expanding Arden Lodge
John is based in Tapanui, a town that’s produced two prominent harness names in the last four decades; Stiven and Lischner. John Lischner, the town’s butcher and small time trainer, became New Zealand’s leading trainer in 1997 and 1999 while based in Canterbury. He was also a breeder.
John Stiven’s parents Doug and Noreen operated a milk run in Tapanui and started breeding from their first mare Stormy Star in 1969.
In 1974 they registered the name ‘Arden’ (a name that John believes came from the television series Doctor Findlay’s casebook) with the New Zealand Trotting Conference. Doug passed away in 2001 and John helped his mother to continue the Arden operation, doing the hands on work and also in an advisory capacity. Noreen passed away in 2012.
John started his working life as a carpenter and working at local sawmills.
He formed Deloraine Timber in 2005 which takes timber orders and manages the product from the sawmill to the client.
“Eleven years ago we started out own little business buying and selling timber. It’s not as big as it used to be because a lot of sawmills have closed but we’ve got some pretty good clients that we’ve had from early days,” said John.
John admits breeding started as a hobby but with fifteen mares now on the books it’s certainly become a business.
“It’s a full on busines’s what we’re doing now. I guess we’ve grown to where we are now, and it just proves we can cut the mustard.”
Of all the horses Arden Lodge has had on its book Stiven rates Winter Rose as the best mare he’s had on the property.
She recently received the 2015 Broodmare Excellence Award. Her progeny include Bettor’s Strike, Rocknroll Arden, Southwind Arden, Arden’s Choice, Bella Arden, Winter Strike, and Garden Rose.
The Stiven family has also been honoured with Southland Broodmare Awards through mares Arden Regal, Arden’s Dream and Winter Rose.
The best horses sold away from the Sales are Arden Meadow which won the WA Derby in 1986, and last year’s New Zealand Cup winner Arden Rooney.
The best sales results have been Arden’s Place—an Artsplace colt out of Winter Rose which sold for $110, 000, Arden’s Ruler—a Bettor’s Delight colt out of Achieve A Dream which fetched $100,000, and Bettor’s Strike, a Bettor’s Delight colt out of Winter Rose which was knocked down for $70,000.
As the next round of yearling sales draw near John’s excited about his eight colts and two fillies mix.
“It was pretty exciting getting the calls from Mac (Brent McIntyre from Macca Lodge) when all the colts were coming. It makes a huge difference commercially. When it’s a colt you can do what you want – take it to the sales or race it.”
When you run over John’s current mares, many are in foal or being served by Somebeachsomewhere. That’s because he’s a big fan.
“Through the trip Brent McIntyre, Mark O’Connor and I had to the states to see Panspacificflight we got to see Somebeachsomewhere. I was always a fan and we got one of his first foals in New Zealand - Someardensomewhere who we syndicated. There’s no doubt the buyers are warming to him as the years have gone by and he sold well at last year’s sales. He quinellaed the Fan Hanover in Canada recently with Pure Country beating Darlinonthebeach.”
Three of the colts Arden Lodge are taking to next February’s sales stand out at this stage.
An Art Major colt out of Rock N Roll Arden - her first foal, Somebeachsomewhere colt out of Winter Rose and a Somebeachsomewhere colt out of Arden’s Darlin.
Stiven says it’s easier to sell colts but the top end fillies also sell well.
“The thing is though, they’re the ones (fillies) you want to keep to go forward with. If we hadn’t kept Arden’s Darlin we wouldn’t have been where we are now. She’s been a huge help. We took her to the sales and didn’t sell her so we just got lucky there.”
Arden’s Darlin is the dam of four win Rock N Roll Heaven gelding Celestial Arden who looks as though he will improve with age.
“We’ve got a half-sister to Arden Rooney by Well Said which we’ve kept on purpose and she’s going into work shortly, and we’ve also kept a Somebeachsomewhere filly out of Garden Rose. We’ve also put two Somebeachsomewhere colts into the one syndicate. They’ve been broken in and look promising. One’s going to the All Stars Stable and the other is going to Barry Purdon.”
John sees this option as a way of spreading the Arden name and introducing new people into the industry.
“It takes the risk out of the sale. It’s another way of doing it. It’s got a whole lot more people that know a bit more about Arden Lodge now. They become interested in all of the Arden horses not just their own one. It’s been a new exciting part of Arden Lodge and we’ve really enjoyed it.”
Showing faith in the industry, John recently purchased mares off Tuapeka Lodge in Lawrence. The first was leased mare Ruby Morn.
“We were attracted to her because she was by Presidential Ball and they cross well with Panspacificflight so that got us into the Tuapeka Lodge breed.”
He later took up the option to buy two more; Real Wing and Raindowne.
“I was talking to Dan (Cumming) later on and they’ve decided to cut back. They had a list of eleven mares and we took a couple of those.”
He also purchased Tuapeka Art.
Earlier this month they also purchased a trotting broodmare Sufin Sunsation off Terry and Andrea Taylor of Pleasant Point.
This young unraced Sundon mare is closely related to Cabaletta (7 wins), Allegro Agitato (22 wins) and Skyvalley the winner of 24 races including the Group One ABC Three and Four Year Old Finals and the 2009 Bill Collins Sprint.
At the administration level John is also the current President of the Southland Breeders Association.
“It’s been going for a long time and there’s a handful of us that are second generation. It’s good to be a part of. We raise money to put into fillies races and support the breeders with stallion seminars.”
He’s also one of the driving forces behind the South’s breeding banner Southern Bred Southern Reared.
“It’s a wonderfully positive group to be a part of. Everyone has grown together.”
Over the years they’ve been able to access some nice mares to lift our broodmare band quality.
John says he enjoys the total process from researching the pedigrees and stallions, to rearing foals, to seeing them succeed at the races.
Broodmare Band and stallion/mare/foaled/served by:
Mark and Pauline O’Connor have been breeding horses for twenty years and their Denario name has had a fair amount of success over the years at the National Yearling Sales.
Both Mark and Pauline come from harness racing backgrounds with Pauline having a rich pedigree.
“She was brought up on a farm and has been around horses all her life. Her mother was a Dalgety so her uncle is Jim Dalgety and cousin is Cran Dalgety,” said Mark.
Mark also has a ‘bloodline’ which is perhaps a bit more grass roots.
“It started when I was young kid and my father worked on the tote in Southland and travelled around to both galloping and harness meetings. My grandfather was JJ Burke who was a hobby trainer and I got some exposure to stable and training environment.”
One of a handful of winners for Burke was Darkie Song in the Borough Handicap at Winton in 1972 when driven by TB Fordyce. Darkie Song was owned by A R McEachern who also owned and drove the second horse Garrison Band - also trained by Burke. Darkie Song and Garrison Band were half-brothers.
When Mark left high school he worked for NZI Trust and whilst working there he undertook tertiary study.
“I did most of my study when working. I went to the local community college which is SIT now. I did the last year full time at Otago University so made a few jaunts out to Forbury Park. I remember back in the day you got your bursary allowance at the start of the term so there was always a great lunge by the guys to take the money out to the races.”
After University he was employed by local accounting firm Ernst and Young.
“I had ten years with them including two years in Canada; towards the end of that time. Pauline and I had just got married. I got a contract role in Toronto for two years and we went to a few race meetings over there. There was a track in downtown Toronto at the time called Greenwood and we also went to Mohawk and Woodbine.”
Two years after returning from Canada the O’Connors purchased a ten acre life style block on the outskirts of Invercargill rearing bobby calves for the first two seasons before they started to accumulate a few riding horses. At that time Pauline was a teacher at James Hargest College.
“When I was first courting Pauline I went to my first yearling sales with her and her parents. I thought it was pretty good fun and got the bug. She started a riding school for kids after schools twice a week offering the basics of riding for young children. She’s currently got ten horses that are been ridden twice a week. She started to grow her horse numbers so I bought a few harness broodmares.”
The first mare the O’Connors bought in 1996 for $3,500 was the Talk About Class mare Campeche in foal to Safely Kept. The resulting foal Flow Denario won one race for Alan Paisley. She’s now owned by Dexter Dunn who’s since bred the five win Mach Three gelding Mach Denario from her.
The second foal Dreamo Denario, won four but it was the next foal Fake Denario that put the Denario name on the map.
He was bought by Stephen Reid for Robert Famularo and won the Australian Breeders Crown and Sires Stakes Final as a three year old before he was sold to America. While racing there he recorded a mile World Record on a 5/8 track of 1-48.4.
Denario translated is Latin for money, and the Fake Denario family certainly has plenty of big money earners in its extended pedigree. It’s produced the likes of Delightful Lady (47 wins), Jacron (9 wins), Grinaldi (10 wins), Ross The Boss (10 wins), Slugger (10 wins), Davey’s Jill (10 wins) and Kotare Jaeger (8 wins).
Over the years lots of horses have passed through the O’Connors hands either as yearlings for sale or as racehorses. And they had some good returns. They sold Cee Cee Denario for $65,000 in 2008, Romeo Denario for $55,000 in 2012 and Magnifico Denario for $46,000 in 2014.
They now have a much smaller operation with fewer mares but still have a focus of breeding good saleable stock.
“When you’re breeding for the yearling sales you have to be reasonably brutal because if you haven’t got any well credentialed offspring close up in your line you’re going to struggle.”
They’re now breeding from Averil’s Atom (Soky’s Atom – Quest Of Glory), Southern Delight (Bettor’s Delight – Averil’s Atom), Presidential Sweet (Presidential Ball – Stylish Sweetheart) and Shezaball (Presidential Ball - Averil’s Atom).
Shezaball winning at Ascot Park for Tim Williams
They’ve also leased out two mares; Goodtogo Denario (Presidential Ball) and Ergo Denario (Bettor’s Delight) to Woodlands Stud.
“I haven’t had an in-depth discussion with the principals of Woodlands but my understanding is that they were directing a lot more progeny to the weanling and yearling sales and they also wanted to get a good number of mares locked in for Sweet Lou.”
Over time both Mark and Pauline have been great supporters of the racing side to the industry and have raced many of their horses with friends and acquaintances including Shezaball which won eight races and recorded a 1-56.2 mile time.
“We had a lot of fun racing her and those friends have stayed in and formed a breeding syndicate so hopefully we can carry on with that ride. She’s probably our best credentialed broodmare at the moment.”
The mare’s first foal by Rock N Roll Heaven will race for the O’Connors while her latest foal, a colt by Art Major, will go through the yearling sales.
“He’s called Ronnie Denario and is a nice striking type.”
Also heading to the Christchurch sales next year are a well bred filly by Somebeachsomewhere out of Averil’s Atom, a Sportswriter colt out of Southern Delight and a Rocknroll Dance filly out of Presidential Sweet called Jive Denario.
On the racing front the O’Connors are excited about a Somebeachsomewhere filly with Cran Dalgety called Mantis Denario.
“She qualified back in February and we’re hoping she’ll perform and help the progeny that’s going through the ring next year.”
Another arm to the O’Connor breeding operation is Stylish Breeding Partnership with former Southlander now Queenstown based Owen Shaw.
“Owen and I have been friends since we were kids. He hadn’t been involved in harness racing before but liked the idea of seeing some action around the track. We bought some mares originally to breed from and we raced Stylish Arden. We bred a horse out of her by Camtastic called All Style and didn’t sell it because it got caught up in a fence a few weeks before the sale. We took it home and tried it ourselves. It was no star and we sold it for a couple of thousand dollars. The second horse we bred from the mare was Cut And Style (Presidential Ball). She didn’t fetch what we wanted so we brought her home and raced her.”
Cut And Style was sold as a four year old after winning three races for Invercargill trainer Wayne Adams. She won a further four races in New Zealand before being exported to America.
One of the last acts for the partnership was the purchase of For The Corz (Lis Mara) bought at the Christchurch weanling sales 18 months for $7,000. She’s a rising three year old filly and a half-sister to big Australian winner Corzin Terror. (19 wins and $276,857). This is the family of Sogo (13 wins) and Hitchcock (10 wins).
“That’s probably our last horse under the Stylish Breeding banner.”
Although Mark is the face of Denario Breeding he’s quick to acknowledge his wife Pauline as being an essential part of the operation.
“She’s a critical part of the Denario breeding operation. She’s the horsewoman and knows how to handle the horses correctly and gives them the right direction and grooming as a young animal. I’m responsible for the feeding. Luckily she’s a school teacher, so she doesn’t get a holiday over the Christmas break as the yearling are brought in everyday at that point. We have a weaning process where if we’ve got three or four mares in the paddock we just pull one mare out at a time rather than separate them all cold.”
On the business front Mark is CEO of South Port and is also on the executive of New Zealand Standardbred Breeders, and is impressed with the strength of the group around him.
“John Mooney is doing a fantastic job as Chairman. He’s committed and invested in the breeding side of the industry.”
There’s also a recognition that there are challenges.
“It’s a game that’s become more challenging because of the challenging entertainment offerings in the market.”
But the O’Connors are continuing to do their bit to get more people involved in the industry.
“We’ve formed a racing syndicate to race Muso Denario (Rocknroll Hanover – Averil’s Atom) with my older brother Stephen who’s going to be the syndicate manager. Half the crew are from where I work at South Port and the other half are from the Marist Rugby Club. There are fifteen shares and about twenty people involved and I think that’s the way forward. We need to try and broaden the base as much as we can and give an insight into how the game works. It always looks a bit mysterious looking from the outside in. It’s about getting a bunch of people who know about it and mixing them with greenhorns and help them understand the risks and the upside.”
And one final comment of ownership from O’Connor.
“If all people involved in harness racing took that approach and invited their circle of friends that weren’t involved, we would have a much broader base to draw on and that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day.”
The Sellars Story
She probably didn’t get the national recognition she deserved but Southland mare Leyava certainly did a great job as a broodmare for the Sellars family of Myross Bush.
There are plenty of horse tales about where horses have come from and how luck was involved – right place right time. This is the story of Leyava and begins in the early 1940’s at Seaward Downs just east of Invercargill.
“They had a rabbit board that came around fumigating rabbits. It was a unit drawn by a horse. My father (Jack Sellars) asked the rabbiters what the horse was. They told him it was a good racehorse named Fortune’s Favourite. And that Davie Todd trained it. He rang Davie, who said yes he did train it, that it was no bloody good but it was a good family. So Dad ended up paying 25 pounds for her,” said Andrew Sellars.
Andrew Sellars - Photo Bruce Stewart
Once in the paddock the family who were relative newcomers to the breeding of Standardbreds, had lengthy discussions about which stallion to choose before deciding to send her to Indianapolis, three times New Zealand Cup winner.
From that mating Pollyapolis arrived in 1946.
“An old friend of the family Jack Winter trained her initially before she went to Wes Butt. She won six races.”
Once Pollyapolis’s racing days were over Jack Sellers started breeding from her and she left a number a nice horses including Trigside (Flying Song) which won a Gore Cup (1963), and Va Vite which won ten races.
By that time Jack Sellars had also bought from George Youngson, Rustic Maid. She became the dam of twelve winners including 1950 New Zealand Cup winner Chamfer, and 1946 New Zealand Derby winner Free Flight.
“Dad was keen to breed a filly at the end of her career. He said to me that he wasn’t going to breed off two horses and asked if I wanted to take Polly (Pollyapolis) saying I could get a foal from her. I thought that was pretty good. Initially I was going to go to U Scott but I was advised because he was in such demand that if I missed out on getting in foal you didn’t get any refund. I thought I can’t afford that. Clem Scott advised me to go to Garrison Hanover. From that we got Leyava.”
A racing partnership between father and son was formed and Jack and Andrew Sellars began racing the mare.
“She had ability, but had a poor attitude to racing. Dave Kerr trained her and she won two races and had numerous placings. After she finished racing I took her over on my own for breeding.”
The name Leyava is a combination of Andrew’s wife Shirley and daughter Avalon’s names.
“We nearly lost her before we got her in foal the first time. She was on the property here and my neighbour had stored some bags of wheat. She pushed the door open and got an oversupply of wheat into her system. She was very close to dying. The neighbour rang Cliff Irvine in Christchurch and asked him what we should do. He said get her into a good muddy watery area and let her stand in there for a couple of days and she came right. We don’t know why it worked but you never questioned Cliff Irvine.”
Her first foal was Sassenach by Young Charles.
“I trained him as a two year with the help of Henry Skinner. Maurice Skinner had him for a few weeks just to get him used to company. I took him to a few trials and then sent him up to Jim Winter to train on a training arrangement.”
He soon showed Winter that he had ability as a three year old and had his first start on Cup Day in the Riccarton Stakes, finishing third when driven by Doug Watts. He won four races at that age including the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Clubs Three Year Old Championship.
“All the best three year olds in the South Island were in that race. He lost seventy yards at the start and won by three lengths in a New Zealand record time for three year olds. It was an outstanding performance.”
Bob Young at that point had taken over the driving.
“He was a very astute man. A real old Scotsman. We weren’t punters but after the Riccarton Stakes we had two or three hundred pounds in stakes money. He was in the Cross Stakes at New Year. I said to Jim that we should just put that stake money on him because he should win that race. We put it on but he broke up badly and he just made up a few places. Jim who was not used to big punting was a bit upset at my suggestion. He mentioned it to Bob who said God if I’d known that I would have tried a bit harder. He thought he could have still won but was just saving the horse.”
The following year as a four year old he won six races and started in the 1971 Interdominions Series at Addington.
“He was only a four year old. He won his first two heats and ran second in his third heat. He was the second highest qualifier for the final behind Holy Hal another Southlander.”
The final was won by Junior’s Image who was later disqualified after returning a positive swab. The promoted winner was Stella Frost.
As a five year old, Sassenach returned to racing at Ashburton in October before progressing to the Cup meeting in Christchurch raced then over four days.
“He was throwing his head around a lot and Bob Young couldn’t steer him. One vet suggested that it could have something to do with the seed out of the grass. Jim threw a nose guard on him on the third night and he duly won and was roundly booed because he’s been pretty well backed on the first two days.”
He came out on the last night of what was a four day cup carnival and won the Ollivier Handicap against the Cup horses.
He then travelled north for the Auckland Cup and ran fifth on a wet track showing signs of soreness.
“He was sent home to me and I pottered around with him and treated his legs. I took him to Riverton on the old grass track and won the Riverton Cup with him. Apart from Riverton, which was an equalisator meeting, I couldn’t quite get a win with him.”
Then export agent Bob McArdle approached Sellars and he was sold to Canada in June 1976.
His New Zealand race record was 78 starts for 12 wins and 6 seconds and 6 thirds.
Sassenach winning as a three year old at Addington
Leyava’s second foal Ryal which was by Canny Scot was also racing and winning races at this stage. Jim Dynes had bought him as a weanling.
He was also fashioning a good racing record and ended up winning 8 races including the New Zealand Autumn Stakes and Canterbury Free For All in 1973.
He raced against what was a vintage group of open class pacers like Robalan, Speedy Guest, Young Quinn, Hi Foyle and Arapaho.
“He went to America and won forty odd races over there.”
Shavande was Leyava’s next foal. He was by Hundred Proof and was trained by Andrew from his property on Roslyn Road just out of Invercargill.
“He was as good as any of the horses she’d left. He had a very bad attack of strangles. Peter Williams (Vet) did a hell of a good job to save him.”
After being nursed back from this major setback he won a double at Wyndham.
“He also won a Gore Cup and he was sold to America. Doug McNaught thought he was an outstanding horse. He was on his way to cup class no doubt about that.”
The next foal from the mare was Hi Lo’s Forbes colt Stylist.
“He had some ability but was bad in his gait when tried at high speed. Jim Dynes took him over to try and straighten him out. They won a race with him and one for me.”
Lumber Dream was the next port of call for Leyava and that mating produced another colt named Profiteer.
“The most intelligent horse I ever had. He was cunning with brilliant speed.”
He was trained initially by Sellars and recorded his first win at Wyndham in November 1977 winning by three lengths, running the 2400 metres in 3-08.
“Peter Wolfenden phoned me wanting to buy him but I said he was too good to be selling.”
A year later although still racing well, Profiteer was starting to win the battle of the wills in the south so he was sent to Gavin Hampton in Canterbury to train.
“He was sent up prior to the Reefton Cup which was the richest C2 race in the country at that time. He won that race and came back and won two races at Addington. Then Lucky (Profiteer) worked Gavin out so he came back down here.”
At that point Sellars had to reinvent the horse’s training and racing regime.
“I knew the whip and Profiteer didn’t go together so I got wee Austin Stack to drive him. He was a quiet wee driver. He got placing after placing with him but never won. He was running off long marks and doing not too bad so I whipped him up to Addington and I won with him. I got Paul Hampton (Gavin’s son) to drive him because I thought the horse would know Gavin. I’ve never yelled so loud for a horse.”
Profiteer finished his career in March 1982 and commenced a short career in the stallion barn.
He sired 35 live foals and left three winners - Auburn Profit (6 wins), He’s A Gun (5 wins) and The Developer (2 wins).
“He was never going to get a lot of mares because he was a cheat, but a very fast one.”
Socialite (Armbro Del) was the mare’s next foal. She was unraced.
Zabadak (Nevele Bigshot) was the next off the Leyava production line. He initially won five races for Henry Skinner including an impressive double at Wyndham in March 1981 culminating in the 3200 metre Wyndham Cup.
“Peter Davis drove him. Henry drove him to win on the first day but he decided to drive another horse in the stable (Eden’s Joy off 40 metres 6th). Peter took him straight to the front and donkey licked them (4 ½ lengths in 4-11.0 over 3200 metres on slushy track). At the time it was a Southland record.”
At the end of that season Skinner decided he wasn’t going to carry on training.
“Allan Devery phoned me and said would I consider sending Zabadak there as he was getting a bit more serious about training professionally. I said yes as long as he took another horse called Stampede. Henry had qualified Stampede. Allan wasn’t very sure about it so he rang Brendon Fahy, a good friend of mine. Brendon told him that if Zabadak won four races for him next season Stampede would win seven so Allan took him.”
It was the beginning of a very fruitful relationship between Sellars and Devery.
“Allan was an outstanding conditioner and trainer and he won the next seven races with him (Zabadak). He won all eleven races with Stampede.”
One race that remains in Sellars memory was the day Zabadak won at the Canterbury Park Trotting Club meeting in January 1983.
“He tried to kick Gavin (Hampton) out at the start. It was a mile race. He’d decided that they weren’t going fast enough in the lead up and he started bucking and kicking. He was kicking himself right out the back by five and six lengths. He settled down and caught the field and Gavin, who could be pretty severe when he wanted, decided to send him around the field at the half. He beat the likes of Hands Down. That’s the sort of horse he was. On his day he could beat anything.”
His most important win was in the Firestone Cavillino Stakes on Cup Day 1983. He won eleven races from 64 starts banking $53,325 in stakes.
At that point Zabadak’s younger brother Stampede had also finished his racing career. He also won eleven races including the Interdominion Consolation, and he finished second in the Kaikoura Cup and third in an Easter Cup.
Sellars was keen to give him a shot as a stallion.
“I was keen for him to have that chance. He was a beautiful horse with a lovely nature. He had arthritic knees which restricted him a little bit as a racehorse.”
He notched up a moderate record as a sire, helped by two quality horses in Defoe and Stands To Reason.
“At the height of his career he (Stampede) had 194 mares. It was the season when Defoe had won the Lion Red Mile and was dead unlucky not to win the Messenger. And Brendon Fahy’s horse Stands To Reason won the $150,000 Sires Stakes Final in Auckland (1990).”
Post Stampede Leyava had just two more foals, both fillies Saligna (Lumber Dream) and Sakina (Son Of Afella) and that’s when a breeding arrangement with Brian West began.
“We had a few mares. Brian suggested that he would take them all up there, look after the stud side of it and prepare the progeny for sale. It never worked out that great. I can’t blame Brian as he used good sires. It was one of these breeds that seem to mix better with sires like Nevele Bigshot, Hundred Proof and Canny Scott.”
The horse market back in the mid 80’s was relatively buoyant and in February 1986 Sellers was offered big money for the unraced Saligna and Sapele.
“Sapele was trained by the Lees. She was about to go to the trials when I was approached by Paul Davies on behalf of John Curtin to see whether he could buy these two Lumber Dream mares. I said no because I didn’t want to let two Lumber Dream mares go out of this breed. Anyway I put a price on them $100,000 for Saligna (Lumber Dream –Leyava) and $60,000 for Sapele (Lumber Dream – Socialite). He bought the $100,000 one. I sent the other one (Sapele) to stud and she died.”
From eleven named foals Leyava left seven winners of fifty five New Zealand races. A grand record for a mare that was bred from a mare bought from the Rabbit Board.
Although the breed has faded somewhat, like many of the old pedigrees in this country there are still a number of mares that trace back to Leyava being breed from.
Brian West is breeding from a Mach Three mare named Titled who is a great granddaughter of Leyava. She has a qualified two year old called His Royal Harness who is trained by Chris McDowell and a Stunin Cullen yearling filly.
West is also breeding from two other granddaughters of Socialite in Flashbang (McArdle- Susan Who) and Famous Lover (Dream Ahead – Susan Who).
Well that’s the Leyava story, and it’s really only half the tale because of course foundation mare Pollyapolis’s other filly Va Vite (by Young Bob) has also plenty of upside to her stud career.
She left Largs (Lordship) the dam of Glen Moria (10 wins) and handy performers Calton Hill (Smooth Hanover) 5 wins, and his full sister Churnside also 5 wins.
But ………….. another story for another day perhaps.
The Raks Of Rakauhauka
Southland breeder Brendan Fahy has made famous the prefix “Rak” or “Raka” – a reference to the district of Rakauhauka where he lives and farms.
Horses like Raksdeal, Rakarebel, Rakarazor and Rakarolla have been to the fore recently but there have been a number of Raks or Rakas over the past 30 years starting with the original Rakauhauka in 1985.
Over the years he’s used the prefix in combination with his children’s nick names, precious stones, cars, and the stallion’s name to name his horses. Sometimes it takes a bit of working out!
The man behind all this is Brendan Fahy and he’s been involved in harness racing for a long time as an owner, breeder and administrator.
His father was part of the Cead Mile Syndicate which raced the Canny Scott mare Royal Twinkle. She won five races for trainer Brian Gliddon and she ran fourth behind Ar Miss (dam of Armalight) in the 1972 New Zealand Oaks.
“I used to go to the races as a kid with Dad. My uncle, Bill Murphy lived opposite Andrew Sellars and later on I’d go to the races with Andrew with horses like Sassenach, Stampede and Zabadak. I actually named Zabadak,” said Fahy.
His background is farming - although it’s not as fulltime as it used to be. He’s reduced the size of his property from 450 acres to 250 acres, selling some off to his children and running a few beef cattle with his horses. He also leases land to local growers who grow tulips and root vegetables.
“My accountant said it was a good thing to be doing.”
Although he was interested in racing in the early days he soon became a keen breeding student and in 1979 he headed north, chequebook in pocket, to the Christchurch sales.
“I went up and bought Sentimental Belle. It had to be by Lumber Dream out of a U Scott mare. There were four horses in the New Zealand Cup the previous year on that cross. She was only a wee dot. I thought I’d get her for a song but as it turned out she was the second highest filly of the day.”
Once paid for, local transporter and former jockey Ronnie Weaver bought the filly to her new home in Southland.
“Ronnie carted her home. Dad was at home and didn’t know I was having a decent old splurge at the sales. Ronnie got her out of the float and said to Dad – “it doesn’t look much for ten grand does it!!” Dad nearly fell over backwards.”
Sentimental Belle was trained by Hamish Hunter and started eleven times for a handful of placings.
“She never won a race because she had a bad training accident.”
She was soon at the court of popular stallion Smooth Fella and her first foal was name Rakauhauka. The beginning of the legacy.
“We got $20,000 for him at the sales and he was sold to the Treuer brothers. I think that was one of the highest priced yearlings to come out of Southland at the time. The Aussie couldn’t pronounce Rakauhauka so they changed it to Sentimental Fella.”
He won 28 races in Australia.
Two years later Fahy bred what he potentially thinks was the best horse he’s ever bred. She was by Admiral Halsey and named Rakamo.
“She was only a wee wee thing. Clark (Barron) was at Winton at the time and I gave him a half share to train her. We went to the workouts one day and she reared up at the start and fell over. He gave her a few days off and she came back and qualified really well.”
She had her first start at Wyndham in March 1990 beating Diane Score by two lengths, running a mile in 2-02.6.
“Then Vinny Knight came over especially to drive her at the Winton trials and as a two year old filly she won the free for all. He bought her for $50,000 for Pacers Australia. She went to Melbourne. At her first start (at Moonee Valley) she raced the best fillies. I think they had a hell of a punt on her. She led and at the quarter she was only a length ahead but at the finish she was 25 metres in front. She also raced the colts and beat them. She had the most potential of all the horses I’ve bred.”
Rakamo broke down as a young horse and ended up with Peter Walsh in Sydney.
“I met him at the sales one day – he said, “she wasn’t very big mate but she was the best.” She won a few races for him in Sydney.”
She has also been successful as a broodmare leaving Hy Royale (Lotsa Clout) the winner of 20 races, $263,564 and the 2009 Group Two Governors Cup at Gloucester Park, Confinement (Safely Kept) 14 wins and Sokyamo (Soky’s Atom) 11 wins.
“Funnily enough Clark got an email from a fella in Aussie the other day wanting to know if there were any of her bred still around.”
Fahy also had some success with Sentimental Belle’s full sister Sentimental Reason whom he bought later.
“Stewart Somerville a long-time friend raced a horse called Armbro Wings. He was going to a presentation in Canterbury and couldn’t get anyone to go with him so I went up with him. That night we meet these people who were selling a full sister to Sentimental Belle. There and then we bought Sentimental Reason. After we got her home they rang and said they were meaning to tell us that she was an RH mare. The first foal from her that Stuey and I bred was Bulluraz which was Clark Barron’s first winner as an owner.”
Bulluraz was trained by Ron Barron and owned by brothers Tony and Clark Barron.
Brendan later bred Blotch (Admiral Halsey) from Sentimental Reason.
“She has a great white patch on her stomach. She was a trotter and Stuey wasn’t keen to carry on (with Sentimental Reason) so I bought him out. I tried to get her in foal up north but I couldn’t so I brought her home. Andrew Sellars used to buy oats off me so I swapped a service fee to Stampede for a couple of tons of oats. So that’s how we got Stands To Reason.”
Another one of her daughters Blip (Oblivion II) qualified here before being exported to Australia. She won three races and left a couple of handy horses in Frame Game (Impressionist) which won 23 races including the listed 2005 Warangal Pacing Cup. Blip also left Deliverthegoods (Sealed N Delivered) 16 wins.
Over the years Fahy has prided himself of keeping up to date with the latest breeding trends and has spent hours looking through stud books and on the internet doing his background research.
“I still keep an eye on the radar (America). I knew every Lumber Dream in the stud book off by heart at one stage. Artsplace seems to be doing a similar job in America to what Lumber Dream was doing back then, so when I could get the semen to him I took it and that’s how I bought Raksplace.”
Later on when Western Ideal became available he jumped at the opportunity to cross him with Raksplace.
The resulting foal was Raksdeal who was a star racehorse but is now one of Fahy’s broodmares along with Raksplace (Artsplace – Rakamobile), Rakarach (Son of Afella – Sentimental Belle), Rakabaa (Western Terror - Rakarach), Rakarata (Art Major - Rakarach), Penny Gem (Artsplace – L’armour) and Rakaudi (Holmes Hanover – Rakamobile).
Rakarolla, Rakarazor and Raksdeal
Like all breeders Fahy has experienced in recent times the unpredictability of the breeding cycle.
“I’ve got seven yearlings. All seven mares got in foal that year which is unusual. The next year I sent six mares away and got one in foal (Sombeachsomewhere filly out of Penny Gem) and then this year I sent all six to stud and the whole lot got in foal again.”
Fahy is always on the lookout for the next best thing in the stallion ranks and two fresh faced ‘boys’ he’s interested in are Shadyshark Hanover and Always A Virgin.
Shadyshark Hanover (Cam’s Card Shark) served 15 mares in New Zealand and in America he’s left 88 foals for 51 starters and 31 winners. He’s currently third in the first season sires.
Always A Virgin (Western Ideal) sired Always B Miki which is the 2015 Breeders Crown Older Horse Pace Champion and Color’s A Virgin the 2015 Breeders Crown Old Mare Pace Champion.
Fahy has a filly by Always A Virgin out of Coughin.
“If you start sending them all to Mach Three, Art Major or Bettor’s Delight you can’t keep going (as a breeder). If they don’t work out (with a new stallion) it’s not costing you an arm or a leg. I sent Penny Gem to American Ideal, Western Ideal, Rocknroll Hanover and Somebeachsomewhere. So I think she’s had a good chance and rather than wait and not get her in foal I thought I’d send here to Shadyshark Hanover.”
Like most New Zealand breeders he has his opinion on why the industry in going through a tough time at the moment.
“We’ve heard for the last thirty years that we have to breed because there’s going to be a shortage of horses. I think there is a shortage of racehorses. It’s getting so expensive to race horses. I’m not blaming the trainers because you don’t see many of them driving around in Mercedes do you. Everything has gone up except the stakes. I was looking at the stakes when Rakarach was racing in 1990 and she was racing for six and a half thousand then, that’s twenty five years ago. The costs have probably gone up three fold.”
He also says the export market isn’t the same as it has been in the past especially for the horses at the lower end of the price range.
“Two or three years ago you could qualify a horse and there’d be three or four guys trying to buy it. You could flick that horse off for $12,000 - $15,000 because you may think you had a half-brother at home that’s better. That keeps you going. But now you go to the races and run third in a maiden race and you’re lucky to get anyone to buy it at all. If you’re breeding horses all the time you need to be able to move them on. You get so many horses you’d need to own a station to run them.”
Fahy says you don’t have to breed horses if you don’t want to.
“There’s some real genuine people especially in Southland,” and he says that’s what’s kept him going.
On the racing front Fahy has always encouraged his trainers to travel and one of his first ventures outside of the province was with Stands To Reason. He won the 1990 Sires Stakes Final at the Franklin meeting at Alexandra Park.
“I think the biggest problem with Southlanders is that they under rate themselves, both trainers and drivers. I remember Allan Devery when he was training. He wasn’t frightened to have a crack. It also puts the value of your horse up. Sometime you’re judged by the company you run in. Alex Milne said years ago that if you’re not in you can’t win.”
And to prove the point Fahy remembers racing Only The One (Holmes Hanover – Rakamobile) in a heat of the Sires Stakes at Forbury Park against hot favourite Roman Gladiator.
“Someone said you never know. He (Roman Gladiator) could get a flat tyre. It would be the only chance we had. But anyway as it turned out he got two flat tyres and the tyres came right off and wrapped around the rim. We did beat him but not by much.”
Only The One finished sixth and Roman Gladiator was a nose back in seventh.
He also took Rakarach north after she won the New Zealand Sires Stakes Prelude at Rangiora. She trekked to Auckland running fifth in the Group Two Ladyship Stakes behind Pocket Queen before running ninth behind Tupelo Rose in the 1999 New Zealand Sires Stakes Championship. The winning time for the 1700 metres was 2-01.7. That time remained a New Zealand record until it was broken by Ideal Belle in 2013 - 14 years later. Incidentally that new record time was set up by a game Raksdeal owned By Fahy.
He also encouraged Ryal Bush trainer Peter Hunter to take Rakarebel to Addington and Auckland.
“He was racing against horses like Beaudiene Bad Babe and Raglan down here so we took him to Auckland. He raced really well up there and I’m sure it puts the value of your horse up when you race against better horses.”
After racing at Addington in April 2011 a training deal was struck between Fahy and Western Australian trainer Gary Hall Senior to race Rakarebel in Australia.
“After he’d won his first two starts over there he rang me wanting to buy him so I sold him.”
Rakarebel won his first eight starts at Gloucester Park and has now banked $336,363.
On the training front, Fahy shares his horses between Southland trainers Peter Hunter and Clark Barron.
“Peter handles all the horses as foals and does a hell of a good job. I used to give him the pick of them and Clark would get the others. Anyway, Pete said that he was such a poor picker that he didn’t care which ones he gets now. I pick them now. If there’s four they get two each.”
Fahy provided both Barron and Hunter with their first training wins. Barron trained Best Dressed to win for Brendan and wife Barbara at Ascot Park in September 1989 and Hunter trained Only The One - his first winner at Tuapeka in November 2013.
To date Barron has trained 30 winners for Fahy while Hunter has trained 16.
The best Rak horses for Clark Barron so far are Raksdeal (5 wins) and Rakalees (4 wins) while for Peter Hunter it’s been Rakarebel (6 wins) and Rakabolt (3 wins).
Alex Milne also trained for Fahy in the early days. Winners including Stands To Reason, Rakarach, Rakeitin, The Porsche, Rakillac, and Sensuous.
Over the years Fahy has built up a strong band of broodmares all originating from Sentimental Belle with the exception of Penny Gem.
So there’s plenty more Raks on the way.
Incidentally I haven’t been the only visitor to Sentimental Lodge Rakauhouka in the past fortnight - the crew, cast and cars of Pork Pie had been on site filming in Brendan’s sheep yards so here’s what I’m thinking:
Rakaudi already has foals named after cars (Rakarover and Rakabeamer) so will Rakarup or Rakamini be the name of her next foal?
Horses and Hounds – Neil Timms has Both.
By Bruce Stewart
Southland breeder Neil Timms wasn’t born into harness racing but he was born to be involved.
He went to Primary School in Christchurch, and attended Waitaki Boys in his last year at high school. It was very early, when still at Primary School that he first developed an interest in Standardbreds.
“My Uncle used to farm at Irwell and his neighbour was Gerald Johnson who got horses off Noel Simpson. He had Luck’s Way (Lucky Hanover – Dilly Dally - winner of five races including the 1961 Greymouth Cup) which was one of the first horses ever to be sold to Wales. And he had Thunderina which was a good race mare,” said Timms.
Thunderina left Out To Win gelding Candillo which won seven races in New Zealand before being exported to America.
“I also got to know Cecil and Phil Heywood at Springston. They had an Ayrshire stud and used to train a few. They won the Methven Three Year Old Stakes with Chatterton. We used to go to Addington a bit when night trotting was taking off.”
Chatterton won the 1973 TS Harrison Three Year Old Stakes at Methven beating Eclipse, Mighty Gay and Kotare Legend.
It wasn’t long before Timms started to breed his own horses. In fact he’s credited along with John Burrows, for breeding Landora; the dam of quality mare Landora’s Pride, the winner of 34 races including a Rowe Cup and Dominion Handicap.
Burrows and Timms became friends when they both worked in the Oxford area. Burrows was a hobby trainer prior to becoming the private trainer for Ian Langford who owned Even Speed. Neil tells the story of how he and Burrows obtained Landora.
“I was playing rugby for Old Boys in Kurow and we went back to a mates place, Alex Familton. This horse had just come back from Chertsey. They couldn’t get it to go. I mentioned it to Johnny Burrows who had just sold a horse called Johnny’s Pal to Sir Roy McKenzie. We decided to lease her for the right of purchase of $3,000. She was dual gaited. She could work a mile and a half free-legged in 3-15 and go round the other side of the track and turn around and she would trot. She had a bone growth on her knee so we got that operated on and she went from strength to strength.”
At her first start at Methven in a field of 22 she was unplaced when 17/17 in the betting. The winner was Castleton Pride which later went on to win the 1975 Interdominion Final, being driven by John Langdon.
Landora was retired after winning two races and Timms and Burrows bred Scotty Boy (Scottish Hanover).
At that point Timms went off to America, England and Wales and wasn’t sure when he’d return so it was decided to sell Landora in foal to Game Pride. She was bought by the Allingham family and the resulting foal was Landora’s Pride.
In early 1973 he bought what was to become his foundation mare Lucky Surprise.
“Gerald Johnson said it was a real tough family. We bought her off Fred Barclay who was a possum skin buyer. He used to come down here and get skins off the Gutsells and play cards. He was a bit of a gambler. The first one I bred from her was Jersey Girl (Jersey Hanover). We sold her to Australia. The next one was Keyanau (Key Club). Bryce Buchanan and I raced her. She could run under the qualifying time but would run off the track. I hacked her up in Te Anau – she was my main hack. Then I started to breed from her. The first foal was Kiwi Gold (Knowing Bret) and I sold him.”
Keyanau’s half-sister Orange Queen (Bachelor Hanover) left Queenship (Lordship). She was an outstanding broodmare leaving Lord Hillas (6 wins), Queen’s Advocates (4 wins) Carefree Princess (8 wins), Noble Fella (9 wins), Horatius (4 wins) and Man Of Steel (4 wins). She’s the only mare to leave winners of two of Southland’s premier races; The Southern Supremacy Stakes (Noble Fella 1987) and Southland Oaks Final (Carefree Princess 1986).
Mini Clare (Armbro Del) another half –sister, left smart Gaines Minbar mare Remote which won nine races.
In 1978 Timms ventured to America again consigned to look after 43 race horses that were heading off shore. He travelled with Brian Meale, Peter Bagrie and Charlie Hunter and was away for three months. Included in the shipment were Sly Brewer and Final Curtain.
“Most of the horses were pre-sold. I stayed with Paul Jessop at Hollywood Park. He was training a lot of Brian’s horses. Young Quinn was there at the time. I also took stallions to England on that trip.”
Once back home Keyanau’s second foal, Keyali was sold to Charlie Smaill and Archie Affleck. She went on to win seven races.
“We’d just bought a block of land at Wyndham and that horse paid three quarters of the mortgage.”
Keyali left Kute Jaccka, the winner of 4 races and she is the grand dam of Mossdale Conner which won 12 races including the Taylor Mile in New Zealand record time.
“Every horse that got up and running we sold. I got $35,000 for Keyafella who was also out of Keyanau.”
Keyafella won 30 races in Australia and over $200,000 in stakes.
Other foals from the mare that were sold include Renegade which won 2 races In New Zealand and another 4 in Australia and Mate Of Mine which won 3 and was also successful in America.
One foal he did keep was Aliora (Paulsboro) which won 4 races for Ali Malcolmson and was the dam of Fella I Know.
“I sold him to Kelvin Harrison.”
Two of Aliora’s other foals; Ali’s Home and Ali’s Fella, are two mares Timms is still breeding from.
Also in the early days Timms helped Bryce Buchanan with weaning, mouthing and long reining all his foals.
“I used to help them when they went away on holiday when I was living in Te Anau. He was still milking cows at that stage. He was a very astute trainer.”
While in Wyndham Timms also had a brief stint as a stud master standing Stanley Rio for his good friends George and John Noble.
“When they sold their property they didn’t have anywhere for him to go. I said I’d take him. He only covered about five mares a year, he wasn’t the easiest horse to handle. He didn’t like anything in his paddock – birds or anything. When they used to have the A&P Show I had to put him in a box because he’d see the kids with the ponies in the float park near his paddock and put his ears back.”
All the way through this period Timms has had another source of good income – dogs. Like harness racing the interest also started when he was still at High School. He bred both heading and huntaways.
“Some years I’ve sold up to 200 broken in dogs. When I was doing casual mustering I ended up selling a few as well. It got bigger and bigger. I was coming back from the North Island with twenty odd dogs to break in each trip.”
He said back in the day you could get $6,000 for a good station dog.
“A lot of the dogs I buy are broken in and just need finishing. The main market was the North Island where they do stock work 24/7 whereas down here our stock is behind string (hot wire) for four or five months. People haven’t got time to break in dogs these days.”
But lets get back to the horses. Although Timms was having success with his own breed he was keen to look at other options and in 2010 he boarded a plane and headed to Christchurch with Brent McIntyre from Macca Lodge and Gore breeder Paul Pierce.
“We were thinking about buying a couple of weanlings to do up for the sales but they hadn’t been very well done. Luckisaladytonight came up in foal to Christian Cullen. I thought she’d go for 60 grand. She got to 25 so I wacked one bid in and she was knocked down to me. I said we gotta find a bar here. They’d spent seventeen grand on this new stadium complex and it didn’t have a bar – I needed a whiskey!! I had to come home and sell a few dogs and a car to pay for the hind leg and the tail. I sold three hundred ewes and lambs and a few cattle. I got out of it because I sold the foal (Cullen Keefe) for forty eight grand.”
Three of her progeny; Cullen Keefe (4 wins), The Manipulator (4 wins from 8 starts) and Ladys Are Ideal (1 win from 2 starts) have had their successes.
Luckisaladytonight is in foal to Somebeachsomewhere. Her weanling filly by Panspacificflight has been bought by Macca Lodge.
“I send her to good stallions because everyone want foals out of her.”
The Manipulator is one horse Timms is excited about and still has a share in.
“He went through the sale ring but he’d hurt his hind leg in the joint. We had to tell the auctioneers it had been X-rayed and it had been all right but that devalued him. Tony Herlihy bought him and I kept a quarter share. He went up to Tony’s and he couldn’t get him to pace. We got him back to Macca Lodge and Tommy Behrnes (chiropractor) worked on him. He thought he’d got him right but he kept on running off the track. Macca had him ready to go to the workouts. Tommy came back three months later and discovered his hip was out. The one start he did miss (running a place) was because he injured his knee. He was operated on and had to be boxed for three months.”
Luckisaladytonight has also left Well Said two year old qualifier Afterdinnerspeaker which is trained by Ken Barron. He was sold as a weanling.
“He was likely to be a $100,000 horse at the yearling sales. If you get good money before the sales you’ve got to sell. I’ve sold weanlings here for $15,000 to $25,000 but for a real good one you could get $50,000 to $60,000.”
Although Luckisaladytonight is doing a great job, Timms still has plenty of his ‘old’ breed to go on with.
Ali’s Home (Holmes Hanover - Alioro) has left Even Flow the winner of 6 races. Even Flo has recently been added to his broodmare band so Timms has given Ali’s Home to a friend to try his luck.
“Just gave her to a friend of mind Paul Mulder at Woodlands. He’s just started to get into breeding. She (Even Flo) ended up with a quarter crack. She never got over it. She’s going to American Ideal.”
One Ali (Live Or Die – Bo Ali Chip) has Tintin In America and Net Ten EOM colts while Ali’s Fella (Son Of Afella – Alioro) is proving to be valuable leaving Ted West (6 wins) and Sioux West (3 wins).
Onlyali (Badlands Hanover – Ali’s Fella) has Gotta Go Cullect and Gotta Go Cullen fillies and a Net Ten EOM colt, Schapelle Rapido (Mach Three – Laprida) has a Net Ten EOM filly, while Just One Amy (Artsplace – Ali’s Home) has two Panspacificflight colts.
“Just One Amy qualified and then hurt her leg. Malcolm Shinn has a two year old from her by Panspacificflight. You don’t normally hear from him but he’s rung me twice. You usually get a shoeing bill from him but I haven’t. He rates him as good as a two year old that he’s had. He’s trained something like 13 group winners.”
Although Timms usually doesn’t go to first season sires particularly if he’s going to the sales, there’s one stallion he is supporting in Net Ten EOM.
“I’ve got 5 here and they’re terrific looking horses. You couldn’t fault one of them. They’ve got a good balance about them and they’re natural pacers.”
Weanlings earmarked for next February’s sales are colts out of Ali’s Fella and Just One Amy and a filly out of Ali’s Home.
From his downsized property of 20 acres at Riversdale in Northern Southland Timms is kept busy running the farm, a dog motel and feeding his next crop of weanlings. Young horses are enough to keep this breeder happy.