The NZ all-weather track discussion

A typical trial day scene in NZ; at least this day the meeting wasn't cancelled

Champion Trainer Murray Baker suggested post Bonneval’s win at Moonee Valley on Saturday that it’s been the “wettest winter in the Waikato for 40 years”.  I reckon he’s right.  In my near four decade career in this industry I’ve never witnessed a more difficult time for trainers to get horses ready for spring & summer racing, not to mention the scores of vendors battling to prepare two-year-olds for the Ready To Run breeze ups next month.

I regularly see racing on all-weather tracks on Trackside from all around the globe.  It’s become an absolute must, but here in NZ a purpose-built major all-weather training & racing facility remains very much in the too-hard basket.

Administrators reading this will say there is “not enough money” or find 50 other reasons why it’s not a good idea.  Well try telling that to a syndicate of owners who have been paying months of training fees and they can’t even get their horse to a trial – let alone a race – due to track conditions.

I live in Cambridge.  It’s thoroughbred heartland.  This town & the surrounding area has a concentration of horses in work like no other part of the country, yet there is not a purpose-built facility to ensure that training, trials & race days are not governed by the weather.

Two minutes from where I live is NZ’s No.1 cycling facility.  The Velodrome cost tens of millions and many said it wasn’t possible.  But they made it happen.  Fifteen minutes from where I live is NZ’s No.1 rowing facility.  Again world-class, lacking for nothing.

Racing generates levels of revenue through gambling & thoroughbred exports which would stagger the bean-counters at cycling & rowing.

Yet here we are with training tracks struggling to cope, trial meetings being called off every week & race meetings a regular casualty too.

I’ve probably wasted 15 minutes of my day raising this topic as the people that can make a difference to the status quo would prefer to “have a meeting about a meeting”.  Let’s ditch the meetings and make it happen.  I know I don’t speak alone.


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Lakota fifth Nearco-bred winner in Australia this season

Lakota (All Too Hard ex Fasline) looked smart when winning on debut for Team Hawkes at Geelong today.

With just five weeks of the new season under our belt, my client Nearco Stud has already chalked up five individual winners in Australia – the others being Hard Faith (All Too Hard), Backless (Cape Blanco), High Tranquility (High Chaparral) and Aromoana (Cape Blanco).

I purchased Lakota’s dam Fasline on behalf of Nearco Stud at the 2010 Gold Coast June Broodmare Sale.  Lakota is her fourth foal.  He was born and raised at Mike & Kate Fleming’s Bhima operation and sold at last year’s Gold Coast Magic Million January Sale for A$220,000.  The photo included is Lakota prior to that yearling sale.

Fasline is back in New Zealand and is carrying a full brother or sister to Lakota.  Her booking for 2017 is the exciting newcomer stallion for Rich Hill Stud, Vadamos.

Lakota seen at Bhima prior to heading to the 2016 Gold Coast Sale

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Fourth Nearco-bred Australian winner for new season

Aromoana’s nice win today at Labrokes Park Hillside for Team Hawkes continued what has been a fine start to the new season in Australia for fillies & mares bred by Nearco Stud.

Aromoana (Cape Blanco ex Causeway Queen) is the fourth individual winner in the first 23 days of the new season, the others being Hard Faith (All Too Hard ex Absolute Faith), Backless (Cape Blanco ex Alagant Satin) and High Tranquility (High Chaparral ex Tranquility Cove).

I selected the dams and planned the matings for Aromoana, Hard Faith and Backless, so it’s very satisfying.

Aromoana was born in New Zealand at Bradbury Park and was later sent to join Broadwater Farm (these days known as Bhima) who offered her on behalf of Nearco Stud at the 2015  Inglis Easter Sale.  The buyer, at A$200,000, was Team Hawkes.

Nearco Stud is selling an excellent colt by Dundeel half-brother to Aromoana at the upcoming NZB Ready to Run Sale.  An Olympic Glory filly from the mare will be offered at  the 2018 Inglis Classic Sale, while the mare is currently in foal to Dundeel and will return to the young stallion again this season.

Aromoana as a yearling at Broadwater Farm

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Nearco fillies & mares prominent

Filles and mares bred by my one of clients Nearco Stud have made a great start to the new season.

High Tranquility (High Chaparral ex Tranquility Cove) was a dashing Maiden winner at her second start yesterday at Kembla Grange, which followed closely on the heels of wins by Backless (Cape Blanco ex Alagant Satin) at Goulburn last week and Hard Faith (All Too Hard ex Absolute Faith) at Geelong the week before.

Add to that a bold resuming second from Belle du Nord (Reliable Man ex Bankside Belle) at Taupo on Friday and it’s been a pleasing start to the term for the Nearco Stud breed.

Yesterday’s winner High Tranquility, who is prepared by John Sargent, was born in England and Nearco imported the mare & foal into Australia.  The photo you see with this piece is High Tranquility at Broadwater Farm (now known as Bhima) in October 2014.  If she looks a big foal, it’s actually because she was born in the January of that year!

Tranquility Cove is currently in foal to Jimmy Choux and recently returned to the Hunter Valley (Bhima) for a mating with Dundeel, the result of which will produce a close pedigree match to High Tranquility.

High Tranquility has been retained by Nearco Stud who shares in the racing lease with John Sargent & other clients of his Randwick stable.

High Tranquility - born NHT and imported into Australia at foot during 2014

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Patient policy paying off with Backless

Nice to see the lightly-raced four-year-old Backless (Cape Blanco ex Alagant Satin, by Al Akbar) win her second race at Goulburn today.

Owner Jason Abrahams and trainer Matthew Dale have taken their time with the mare and today’s outing was just her fourth appearance.

Jason Abrahams, the driving force behind the successful Australian Syndication company Champion Thoroughbreds, went to NZ$380,000 to secure Backless at the 2015 NZB Karaka Premier Sale.  She was offered by Curraghmore on behalf of my client Nearco Stud.

I purchased her dam, Alagant Satin, off the track for Nearco Stud.  The mare was prepared by Murray Baker and his son Bjorn (who was in partership with his dad at the time).  Alagant Satin is one of the gems in the Nearco broodmare band.  Her first foal, by High Chaparral (now named Calypso Bay – 3 wins to date) made NZ$550k as a yearling.  Backless is the second foal.  Nearco has a 3YO gelding by Ocean Park from the mare in work with Paul Pertab and the fourth foal is a yearling filly by Tavistock which has been retained.

Alagant Satin, by the same sire as the dam of Winx (Al Akbar), is currently in foal to Showcasing & has a booking to Shocking for 2017.

I took this photo of Backless as a yearling at Gordon Cunningham's Curraghmore in December 2014.

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Hard Faith’s effort massive today

I got a real kick out of watching Hard Faith (All Too Hard ex Absolute Faith, by Not a Single Doubt) break out of Maiden company today at Geelong.  It was a huge effort as the filly was a long way back, made her run very wide out at the bend but never looked like flinching on her run and was impressive in scoring.

I purchased Hard Faith’s dam Absolute Faith for Nearco Stud off the track, dealing directly with her trainer John McArdle.  The first foal, by Starcraft (named Thetruthisoutthere) was a winner and Hard Faith is the second foal.  She was born & raised and Mike & Kate Fleming’s Bhima operation and sold at the 2016 Inglis Easter Sale for A$160,000.

Appropriately John McArdle was the successful buyer and he looks to have a more-than-promising three year old filly to take into spring racing.

Nearco Stud will offer an Olympic Glory filly from Absolute Faith at Inglis Classic at the start of next year.  The mare is currently in foal to Exosphere and returns to All Too Hard this season.

Hard Faith as a yearling - she is part of the first crop of Vinery Stud's rising star stallion All Too Hard

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During my 15 years of presenting and producing the breeding industry weekly television programme The Ford Report for Trackside Television I filmed scores of stallions around New Zealand as well as NSW and Victoria in Australia.

Today I laid eyes on a stallion who ranks as one of the most athletic I have seen.  I say that with total sincerity.  I went to the Rich Hill parade today with a very open mind.  I had seen the horse on television and in the publicity photos, but seeing him in the flesh is a whole new experience.

The most handsome I had seen previously was Westbury Stud’s former shuttler Makfi; I used to call him ‘Tom Cruise’.  I have special memories of filming Encosta de Lago at Coolmore in the Hunter Valley too; he was quite some horse.

Not only does Vadamos possess magnificent physical make-up, but he walks on water.  Added to that he appears to have the most remarkable laid-back temperament.  He has been at Rich Hill for only six days and you’d swear he had been there all his life.

Vadamos is surely an outstanding addition to the choice breeders have in 2017.  I reckon the astute breeders at the public parade today would have been signing on the dotted line for a service nomination after seeing him.

A pleasure to meet Vadamos today at Rich Hill Stud

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5% share available in twice trial placed 2YO

A five percent ownership share is available in CHOUXS WISELY, who was narrowly beaten into second at the Te Teko trials today.  The filly was also placed second at her only other trial (at Avondale last month) and is likely to make her race debut at Hastings 20 July in a Maiden Juvenile over 800m.

A rising three-year-old by Jimmy Choux – the Champion Freshman Stallion of 2016, Chouxs Wisely is from the 4 time winning Falkirk mare Purpose.  This is the immediate family of the Group One winners Sirstaci, Nimue and Smiling Like.

For purchase price of the 5% interest in the Challenge No.8 Syndicate & ongoing upkeep costs, contact Adrian Clark at or 0274 954  264.

Choux Wisely and Sam Weatherley returning to scale at Te Teko today. The filly is prepared at Cambridge by Shaune Ritchie.

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Swiss Precision on target for 3YO campaign

Swiss Precision cooling down after her trial effort at Taupo today












I came away from today’s trial fixture at Taupo satisfied that the promising Swiss Precision is very much on target for her planned three-year-old campaign.

Raced by the Challenge No.7 Syndicate & prepared at Hastings by John Bary, Swiss Precision (Swiss Ace ex With Ice, by Snowland) was third on debut at Wanganui in the very first juvenile race of the season.  She was put aside after that; has grown heaps during that time and the penny looked to have dropped when she did things professionally for her trial third today.

Jockey Sam Collett reported back that the filly felt great and had plenty of improvement in her going forward.

Swiss Precision could race again at two but the main focus is her three-year-old campaign which could kick off at the Taupo track in August.


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Weanling Sale purchases

I was very pleased to secure weanling fillies by Atlante and Rip Van Winkle at the just-concluded NZB May Sale.

They will grow out at Bradbury Park before the next stage of their respective careers is decided.

Lot 130 from Mapperley Stud, by Atlante ex I Say

Lot 221 from Westend Partnership, by Rip Van Winkle ex Platinum Elle


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