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Vale Norm Holland, champion jockey, true gentleman: Dennis Ryan, The Informant Mon, 01 Dec 2014
01 Dec 2014
Norm Holland, OBE, made a huge contribution to racing.
Norm Holland, OBE, made a huge contribution to racing.

Racing has lost one of its iconic members with the passing at age 90 of Norman Bannerman Holland, champion jockey and true legend of the turf.

With a list of accolades that include an OBE, recipient of the NZTR Excellence in Contribution to Racing, Ellerslie Legend and life membership of the Auckland Racing Club, it’s clear that Norm Holland left his mark on the sport that was his life and love.

That began as a childhood emigrant from England, followed by a jockey’s apprenticeship in Taranaki and a life-changing youthful indiscretion that was more than balanced by three jockeys’ premierships in the late 1940s and early ’50s.

The list of top horses he rode was headed by champion three-year-old Syntax, while he counted amongst his toughest rivals Bill Broughton, the dominant jockey of the post-War era, along with the Ellis brothers, Larry Wiggins, Jack Mudford and Wally Hooton. Into the 1960s they were followed by Bill and Bob Skelton, Grenville Hughes and David Peake.

Holland retired in the early 1970s with close to 1,000 wins, but he maintained a close link to race-riding for years afterwards. Nearly two decades as Auckland Apprentice School riding master and even longer as jockey liaison officer at most northern racing venues were a measure of the valued contribution he made so willingly.

“Apart from anything else I just love the contact with such a wonderful group of people,” he said at the time. “Everybody has their job to do and I enjoy helping make the whole day work.”

Norm, invariably distinctive as the best dressed man on course, continued his liaison role into his eighties, stepping back only when the demands of travel around the northern district became too challenging. His health deteriorated in more recent times and he spent his final years in care, notwithstanding the daily attention of his beloved wife Myrna.

Experience wins as China Silk takes Otaki opener: Richard Edmunds, The Informant Fri, 28 Nov 2014
28 Nov 2014
Race experience was to the fore in the Courtesy Ford 2yo at Otaki today as third-starter China Silk led all the way and held on to beat an inexperienced field of juveniles in the $20,000 opening event on the Premier programme.

Sent out favourite for the race following the scratching of highly rated debutant Rocanto, China Silk scooted out of the gates to find the lead early in the 1000-metre event.

Celtic Cross and Mr Conductor tried to go forward and put pressure on, but China Silk was unfazed. She travelled beautifully to the turn under Leith Innes and then kicked strongly along the rails to keep the late-finishing Okagbare and Perfect Harmonee at bay. She won the race by a long neck.

“She jumped really well and settled well in the running,” trainer Danica Guy said. “She was probably a bit more educated than the others, having had a couple of starts before this, and that might have helped her today.”

A daughter of Kentucky Derby runner-up and highly promising sire Hard Spun, China Silk was bought for just $9,000 at the South Island session of the National Yearling Sales. After encouraging runs for fourth and third in her first two races, today’s win took her prize-money earnings past the $10,000 mark.

But she is set to race for a lot more money than that in a couple of months’ time.

“She’s heading to the Karaka Million,” Guy said. “She’s probably safely in the field now so we can relax and work out how we get there. But that’s the goal anyway.”

The win continued a terrific week for Guy, who saddled up classy mare In Style for a win in the Listed Counties Bowl last Saturday.

Today’s opening race was run in a time of 57.96 seconds for the 1000 metres on a track rated Dead4.

Investigations ongoing in latest Cropp case: Dennis Ryan, The Informant Fri, 28 Nov 2014
28 Nov 2014

Investigations into the irregular test returned by Lisa Cropp are ongoing.
Investigations into the irregular test returned by Lisa Cropp are ongoing.

Investigations are ongoing before any formal charges are laid in the wake of the irregular drug test returned by comeback jockey Lisa Cropp at yesterday’s Te Awamutu race meeting.

The former champion was one of several jockeys asked to provide a urine sample and the only one of them who failed to pass the interim test. Cropp’s “non-negative” return prompted stewards to stand her down and she will remain sidelined until the matter has been further investigated by the Racing Integrity Unit and any resultant charges are handed on to the Judicial Control Authority for judgment.

Cropp returned to race-riding earlier this month after an injury-enforced absence of two years. From 26 mounts she had yet to ride a winner but finished second in what was to be her final mount, Nek Minnit, early on the Te Awamutu card before being stood down.

It’s almost a decade since Cropp returned a positive test to amphetamine in the same season that she set a then record 197 wins on the way to securing the 2004-05 jockeys’ premiership. Then followed a lengthy legal process which finally came to a conclusion in 2009 with Cropp being found guilty of the original charge. She was suspended for nine months and incurred fines and costs of almost $100,000.

She renewed her licence in the 2011-12 season when she rode seven winners from 112 mounts, but after relocating to Victoria, she voluntarily relinquished her licence.

When Cropp was charged over her 2005 methamphetamine charge she was able to continue riding, but under revised legislation she cannot compete until the outcome of any JCA hearing is known.

More than a year has passed since any licensed jockey has been found guilty of a drug offence. That jockey was Leanne Isherwood, who returned a positive test to methamphetamine after being tested during trackwork in August last year. At a subsequent hearing in November, Isherwood was found guilty and disqualified for 12 months.

Isherwood had previous history, having been charged with methamphetamine offences in 2002 only for those charges to be dropped due to a technicality. In 2007 she was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention for her part in an police investigation involving methamphetamine and cannabis.   

War vet with prosthetic leg cleared for race riding: AAP Turf, The Informant Thu, 27 Nov 2014
28 Nov 2014
A British point-to-point jockey who lost a leg fighting in Afghanistan has not let his war injury stop him returning to race riding.

Former army officer Guy Disney, 32, rode five winners before losing his right leg below the knee in 2009 when he was in a vehicle hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

With the help of an inventive navy doctor and a customised Australian-produced leather 'toe stopper', Disney has now ridden in his first race with an artificial leg.

The war veteran initially struggled to convince the British Horseracing Authority it was safe for him to compete, according to reports in the UK's The Telegraph.

But a naval doctor with experience helping injured pilots return to the cockpit helped Disney make his case to the BHA by proving his artificial leg was not a safety concern.

He showed video footage of him losing and regaining his irons at speed to demonstrate his control.

Disney told the Telegraph he didn't expect miracles as a one-legged jockey but hoped to ride in more point-to-points in the new year on his white horse Swing Bill.

Sargent excited about Cauthen's future: NZ Racing Desk, The Informant Thu, 27 Nov 2014
28 Nov 2014John Sargent is confident new stable recruit Cauthen can be competitive in top company next autumn.

The Randwick conditioner has taken care of the lightly-raced stakes winner, who has undergone a wind operation since he last raced.

“We got told he only had 30 percent open and that’s not going to allow a horse to run at his full capacity,” Sargent said. "Jonathon Lumsden, who did the same operation on So You Think, operated on Cauthen and the horse looks magnificent.”

Cauthen arrived at Sargent’s yard on Monday and will be taken along quietly with his autumn targets yet to be confirmed.

"He might be best suited over shorter trips, but I’ll see how he comes along over the next couple of months,” he said. “At his best he’s up to the top level.

"I’ve seen the horse a few times throughout his career and he’s definitely never looked better. There’s plenty of talent there and he’s had a very genuine excuse for not going on with it. That looks to be fixed now.”

Cauthen posted two wins, including last season’s Listed McKenzie Stakes at Moonee Valley, from five starts for Opaki trainer Andrew Campbell and then joined the Melbourne spring carnival team of Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young.

He finished sixth in both his Victorian outings for the Cambridge duo before undergoing surgery.

Sargent will also welcome back his Gr. 1 VRC Oaks winner Kirramosa next week after a hamstring injury cut short her spring.

“She’ll be here with Neena Rock as well and Thunder Lady will have another couple of weeks out before she returns,” he said.

Neena Rock won the Gr. 3 Angst Stakes during her last preparation while Thunder Lady claimed the Gr. 2 Wakeful Stakes before she was runner-up in the Gr. 1 VRC Oaks.

Shailer signs on as jockey agent: NZ Racing Desk, The Informant Thu, 27 Nov 2014
28 Nov 2014Matamata trainer and Trackside personality Paul Shailer is getting deeper involved in jockey management.

Shailer, who trains in partnership with his brother Kris, had managed Kelly Myers until the couple's relationship ended, but he has now signed on to manage Sam Collett and Michael McNab and has considered adding further jockeys to his stable.

"I was originally doing Kelly's rides and it was something I really enjoyed, but then that broke down," Shailer said.

"I'm doing Weigh In and watching a lot of races for that and it takes up a lot of time, so it really goes hand-in-hand. 

“I've taken a bit of a backward step from the training with Kris doing more at the moment so it fits in well."

13 Wins at 3 Racemeetings!
27 Nov 2014

Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday's race meetings have seen Matamata based trainers winning 13 races! 

Congratulations to all connections!


Puccini prepares for Captain Cook: NZ Racing Desk, The Informant Wed, 26 Nov 2014
27 Nov 2014
Matamata trainers Peter and Jacob McKay are sticking to a proven formula as they seek further Group One success for Puccini.

The Encosta De Lago stallion finished fifth in a 1000-metre open trial at Rotorua yesterday, with rider Vinnie Colgan keeping his mount under restraint before letting him stride home in the straight.

Peter McKay was pleased with Puccini's trial, which he hoped would serve the purpose of having the four-year-old at fever pitch ahead of Saturday week's Gr. 1 $200,000 Rydges Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham.

Puccini was unplaced in trials before both his Gr. 2 Great Northern Guineas win at Ellerslie last December and his last-start win in the Gr. 3 Thompson Handicap (1600m) at Trentham.

"It's worked for us in the past," Peter McKay said.

"We gave him 10 days off after the 2000 Guineas in Christchurch last year, trialled him and then he won the Great Northern Guineas at Ellerslie. We did it before his last win because he pulled too hard at his previous start in the Spring Classic.

"We've just let him drop back and run home. He has a happy day out and it's a good way to teach him to relax in running. He was starting to find the line nicely at the end, similar to what he did in his trial before his last win. I was really happy with his run."

Bred and raced by Paul and Cushla Smithies, Puccini spent a week in the paddock after his Thompson Handicap win but has pleased the McKays with his trackwork and his trial in preparation for the Captain Cook Stakes.

With Thompson Handicap-winning rider Jonathan Riddell opting to partner Coupland's Bakeries Mile runner-up Nashville, Colgan is reunited with Puccini for the Captain Cook Stakes, which is also set to attract several other Group One winners including last year's winner Shuka along with I Do and Survived. 

The McKays have four runners entered for Ellerslie on Saturday - Alvesta, Jimmy Hoffa, Culto La Vida and Travino - while Beckham is earmarked to accompany Puccini to Trentham next week.

Snapshot scores in captain's run: NZ Racing Desk, The Informant Wed, 26 Nov 2014
27 Nov 2014Richie McCaw sealed victory with a dive to score right on the line.

The All Blacks captain continued a great run of form, this time with racing success at Te Aroha this afternoon through blue-blood Matamata galloper Snapshot.

McCaw races the Stravinsky gelding out of former star mare Snap in partnership with former All Black Ali Williams, breeder Henrietta Duchess of Bedford, Berri Schroder and Will Rouse out of the stable of Graham Richardson.

"It's great for racing. Everyone is important in this game," Richardson said of Snapshot's narrow debut win for his famous owner under rider Craig Grylls.

"That was a gutsy effort and he’s got no idea what he's doing. He's got a lot of improvement to come and we've given him plenty of time. 

“He could go through the grades on that - onwards and upwards."

Daffodil's daughter impresses: NZ Racing Desk, The Informant Wed, 26 Nov 2014
27 Nov 2014The first foal of the former multiple Group One winner Daffodil opened her account at Te Aroha today.

Pins filly Snowdrop carried the Waikato Stud colours to an effortless maiden victory at her third appearance.

“It was lovely to see her win like that, she’s out of a very good mare and she’s not got the size and scope that Daffodil did, but based on that I’d say she’ll win more,” said Garry Chittick, who bred Snowdrop with his son Mark.

“We’ve got three or four fillies out of her (Daffodil) and we like developing those breeds, we get a lot of fun out of it.”

Daffodil won the Gr. 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas, the Gr. 1 AJC Oaks and the Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate when trained by Kevin Gray.

Trial form bodes well for Otaki: NZ Racing Desk, The Informant Wed, 26 Nov 2014
27 Nov 2014The form of leading Karaka Million qualifier Windborne augurs well for a bold debut showing from a first-starter at Otaki on Friday.

Jason Bridgman’s filly is unbeaten in two starts and last weekend she added black type to her record with victory in the Listed Murdoch Newell Stakes.

Her progress has been monitored with interest by Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh, who will present first-starter Rocanto in the juvenile event at Otaki. 

The Per Incanto colt has won both his trials and beat Windborne in the first of them at Te Awamutu last month. 

Rocanto has since undergone a change of ownership with Bryce Tankard’s Waikato Bloodstock now managing the colt on behalf of a Hong Kong client.

Leading diplomat confirmed as new Racing Board CEO: Dennis Ryan, The Informant Wed, 26 Nov 2014
27 Nov 2014

Newly appointed Racing Board CEO John Allen
Newly appointed Racing Board CEO John Allen

John Allen, the man described as New Zealand’s top diplomat, has been confirmed as the new CEO of the New Zealand Racing Board.

The position became vacant with the sudden resignation in late June of two-year CEO Chris Bayliss. The former banker was the third CEO in five years to head the country’s racing broadcasting and betting organisation.

Allen has been the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade since mid-2009. A commercial lawyer by profession, he went to MFAT after a period as CEO of New Zealand Post.

Allen headed a significant and controversial departmental restructure when he went to MFAT, while more recently he has been involved in major initiatives that included New Zealand’s successful bid for membership of the United Nations Security Council.

Racing Board chair Glenda Hughes describes Allen as a “top negotiator at international level who sees racing as a key part of the Kiwi fabric.”

“Racing has been at the crossroads for a long time and we need someone who can get us through that position,” Hughes told “With challenging negotiations coming up around international wagering and broadcasting rights agreements, the Racing Board believes John Allen is that person.”

Allen has no obvious experience of the racing industry, but his appointment comes as no surprise given a speech Hughes made earlier this month to the Annual General Meeting of the gallop code’s governing body, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing.

“The new CEO needs to be a practical man – or woman – with CEO experience, Wellington based, someone who does understand and get on with Government, who knows how to take costs out of the business, be able to work long term strategies,” stated Hughes.

“A cerebral man who can look at detail and run a bookmaking and wagering business, with the need to be supported by people who understand racing.”

Allen says he is excited about the opportunity to join the Racing Board. “It’s going to be fun," the 53-year-old said.  "The New Zealand Racing Board is a $2 billion business that plays a vital role in the New Zealand economy by supporting the racing and sports industries. 

"It is also the owner and operator of the TAB which is an exciting commercial enterprise and iconic New Zealand brand,” says Allen.

Allen will join the NZ Racing Board on March 2, 2015.

Allpress joins Beasley on unwanted Singapore list: Dennis Ryan, The Informant Wed, 26 Nov 2014
27 Nov 2014

Lisa Allpress is in shock that her Singapore licence will not be renewed.
Lisa Allpress is in shock that her Singapore licence will not be renewed.

Australian Danny Beasley has been joined by New Zealand premiership winner Lisa Allpress on the list of jockeys unwanted in Singapore.

When the licensing department of the Singapore Turf Club released its list of jockey and trainer licences for the 2015 season, Beasley and Allpress were the two notable omissions in the expat jockey category.

The granting of licences to Australian jockeys Crag Newitt and Michael Rodd perhaps goes some way to explaining the scenario around Beasley and Allpress, notwithstanding a feeling of shock exists at the news.

Beasley has enjoyed tremendous success in the seven years he has ridden in Singapore. He is currently second on the premiership with 76 wins, while he has been associated with the star galloper War Affair.

Allpress, who won the 2011-12 New Zealand premiership with 159 wins, has ridden permanently in Singapore for the past 18 months. Last year she finished eighth on the premiership with 35 wins, and with three weeks remaining in the current season she has the exact same statistics.

Allpress was busy riding trackwork when made contact this morning, but her husband Karl reflected exactly how disappointed she felt over her snub.

“It’s come as a huge shock,” he said. “Just recently when it was time to pay our boys’ school fees for the first term of 2015 we were assured by a high authority that Lisa’s licence was good for next year.

“I thought she was joking when she told me the club had rung to say her licence was not being renewed, but she definitely wasn’t. No reason was given and it still hasn’t really sunk in.

“It’s some consolation I guess that the club have told Lisa if any positions do become available she should apply, so that’s something.”

The Allpress family, including sons Josh (10) and Angus (7), had planned a Christmas break in New Zealand, with return tickets booked the day after the final race meeting for the year, December 15.

“We’ve already received a couple of options but at this stage I’m not sure if we’ll need the return tickets,” Karl Allpress added. “As far as I’m concerned Lisa can be very proud of what she’s achieved in her time here. She’s held her own against the best locals and others who have visited here.”

Resuming her career in New Zealand will come under consideration, but first Allpress will enjoy some time out catching up with family and friends.

“She’ll need some time out anyway, it’s been pretty full-on up here all year, but knowing her, after a couple of weeks off she’ll be like a caged lion,” her husband commented.  

25 Nov 2014

Here is an extra date for your diary!!

Matamata Racing Club has been given an additional race date this season with the reallocation of the Counties race meetings for the remainder of the season. 

SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY 2015 will now be at Matamata!


Windborne tops Million table: NZ Racing Desk, The Informant Mon, 24 Nov 2014
25 Nov 2014Unbeaten filly Windborne is top of the order of entry for January’s Karaka Million after her last-start success in the Listed Murdoch Newell Stakes.

“She had probably already qualified for the Karaka Million with her win at Ellerslie but Saturday’s win cemented her place as a live chance in the race,” trainer Jason Bridgman said.

“It is a hard race to win, there are no guarantees but it is what she has been set for.

“She has pulled up 100 per cent and will have a freshen up before going to the Eclipse Stakes on New Year’s Day into the Karaka Million. 

“After that, she will follow the traditional two-year-old races like the Matamata Breeders Stakes, Diamond Stakes and Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes – all going well.”

Derby hope to step out at Ellerslie: NZ Racing Desk, The Informant Mon, 24 Nov 2014
25 Nov 2014Surprise packet Margin Trader will make his New Zealand debut at Ellerslie this weekend.

The Michael Moroney and Chad Ormsby-trained three-year-old trialled here as Bellagio before he was sent to Melbourne and performed well above expectations in his only start there.

“He came over for the (Victoria) Derby, but he got a bit colty and we had to geld him,” Moroney said. “He did a lot wrong on debut, but there is plenty of improvement in him.”

Margin Trader won his maiden over 1400 metres at Bendigo last month in a performance that has resulted in his return to Matamata.

“We’ve got Derby aspirations for him here, although he’s still got to prove himself,” Ormsby said.

“It was a surprise to us the way he won his first start – he made them look second rate and we were pretty shocked.

“He hadn’t showed that much and he’d always worked like a dour stayer. He had a jump-out at Flemington and ran a furlong last, but Mike thought his work had improved a lot after that.”

Margin Trader will be nominated for both the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial and a lower grade race at Ellerslie on Saturday.

“He’s happy to be back here and doing well,” Ormsby said. “There’s the three-year-old race for him or the Rating 65 mile, which might suit him better at this stage.”

By Tavistock, Margin Trader is raced by Robin Peel-Walker and Mark Wyborn and is out of the Zabeel mare Power And Might.

“There is a lot of Zabeel in his appearance and the older he gets, and the further he gets, the better he is going to be,” Moroney said.

Change of plans for Graphic: Richard Edmunds, The Informant Mon, 24 Nov 2014
25 Nov 2014

Wellington Cup winner Graphic is building towards a defence of his Trentham title.
Wellington Cup winner Graphic is building towards a defence of his Trentham title.

Last season’s Wellington Cup winner Graphic remains on track for major staying assignments this season despite skipping a race at Avondale on Saturday.

Having caught the eye with a powerful late run into fourth fresh up at Ellerslie last month over an unsuitable 1400 metres, the Volksraad gelding had been entered for the open 1600-metre handicap on Saturday’s programme. But trainers Michael Moroney and Chad Ormsby decided against running him in the race.

“He got lumped with a big weight on Saturday,” said Nick Fairweather, the racing manager at Ballymore Stables New Zealand.  “We want to aim him for the cups further down the line, and if he had won that race it would have made it harder to place him.

“So we’ve elected to run him this weekend in the open mile at Ellerslie instead. He’ll get a more manageable weight under the conditions of that race.”

The Gr. 3 Eagle Technology Stakes is run under set weight and penalty conditions.

“He should get 57 or 57.5 kilograms,” Fairweather said.

Graphic has produced one of the most rapid rises seen from a stayer in New Zealand in many years, winning five of his seven starts last year to rise from maiden to Wellington Cup winner within the space of four months. His big win at Trentham came in just the eighth start of his career.

All indications are that Graphic will be a force to be reckoned with in staying features this year as well.

“Everything’s ticking along well with him,” Fairweather said. “He’s working really well. Both Craig Grylls and Chad Ormsby have been riding him in his gallops, and Chad said it’s the best he’s ever felt. So we’re hopeful that he’s come up well this prep.”

Graphic is nominated for the Gr. 2 Wellington Cup on January 24, when he will bid to become the first back-to-back Wellington Cup winner since Castletown in 1991/92. He also holds a nomination for the Gr. 1 Auckland Cup on March 4.

Noble eyes black type with maiden winners: Richard Edmunds, The Informant Mon, 24 Nov 2014
25 Nov 2014
Matamata trainer Lance Noble had a bumper day at Te Rapa yesterday with eye-catching maiden wins from two highly promising fillies, and he shared the success with a number of familiar faces.

“There’s a few people that own Realta that are also in the syndicate that owns Viadana,” Noble said. “But there are also some first-time owners in there as well. It’s a good mixture and most of them were on course yesterday and had a great time.”

Having the second start of her career, Realta stepped up over 1600 metres and brought up the first leg of Noble’s double in the Battle Paint 1600.

“That was a nice performance,” Noble said. “She blew the start and did well to recover and win really strongly. She looks like a filly with staying ability.”

That staying ability will likely be put to the test in just over a month’s time.

“We’ll probably run her in a race back at Te Rapa in three weeks, and then maybe we’ll step her up to 2000 metres for the Royal Stakes at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day,” Noble said. “We’ll give her one more at a mile first, see how she goes there and then try her over ground after that.”

Realta is a daughter of Red Giant and the O’Reilly mare Betwixt. Noble picked her out of the 2013 Select Yearling Sale for $25,000.

Westbury Stud sire Red Giant had his second winner of the day just over half an hour later when the Jim Collett-trained Red Striker scored an impressive maiden win of her own over 1200 metres.

The second leg of Noble’s double came later in the day when the royally bred Bohemian Lily scored narrowly but strongly in the Fairview Ford Cambridge 1400.

The maiden win came at Bohemian Lily’s fourth start, and Noble thought it was about time.

“We’ve always rated her pretty highly,” he said. “A couple of things haven’t gone right with her and she’s taken a while to learn. But it was nice to see her get that maiden win out of the way yesterday.”

A daughter of O’Reilly and Bohemian Blues, Bohemian Lily is a full sister to dual Group One winner Shamrocker and a half-sister to Group Three winner Rock Diva. Bohemian Lily carries the distinctive gold and blue colours of owner Kevin Hickman.

The filly comes from a family rich in black type and will soon get the opportunity to contribute some of her own.

“We’ll probably have a crack at the Eulogy Stakes next with her,” Noble said.

The Gr. 3 Eulogy Stakes will be run at Awapuni on December 16.

Deja vu as Hennessy unveils another Ocean star: Dennis Ryan, The Informant Sun, 23 Nov 2014
25 Nov 2014
Ocean Emperor and Criag Grylls return to scale after an impressive debut win at Te Rapa today.
Ocean Emperor and Criag Grylls return to scale after an impressive debut win at Te Rapa today.

Gary Hennessy could be excused feelings of déjà vu after producing Ocean Emperor for a stunning debut win at Te Rapa today.

The Zabeel colt, sent out favourite for the Coolmore Australia 1200 off some impressive trial form, had his supporters on-side as he found the lead easily, only for alarm bells to start ringing when he ran wide approaching the home turn.

As rival runners got up inside Ocean Emperor, his rider Craig Grylls was desperately trying to correct his wayward course and got the desired response with 300 metres to run. Wresting back the lead with a second impressive turn of foot, Ocean Emperor put a break on the opposition and even though Raj Mahal was closing, the margin was still a short neck across the line.

Comparisons between Ocean Emperor and former Hennessy star Ocean Park are easy. The Matamata trainer sourced both as Karaka yearlings, Ocean Park at $160,000 and Ocean Emperor at $240,000 in partnership with Hong Kong clients Andrew Wong and Steve Yan.

Both are attractive, medium-sized bays with top-shelf pedigrees. Hennessy’s management of his latest talent closely follows the same pattern as Ocean Park – a light autumn two-year-old programme, followed by a more serious spring build-up.

Ocean Park made his debut as a November three-year-old, dead-heating for first at Gisborne and going all the way to a Cox Plate victory less than a year later. In the same month three years later, Ocean Emperor has made a winning debut – and now the planning begins.

“I fell in love with him the first time I saw him as a yearling at Waikato Stud,” Hennessy recalled. “He’s got the same gorgeous looks as Ocean Park, the same presence and intelligence, but if anything I think he’s got more brilliance.

“We’ve had a few hiccups on the way to getting to where we are. He’s been shinny off and on and we’ll see how he comes through this before deciding where he starts next, but his long term target is the Randwick Guineas in the autumn.

“He’s very exciting, he makes you pinch yourself every now and then to think you’ve got another high quality horse.”      

Starting gate woes surface again - but a solution is on the way: Dennis Ryan, The Informant Sat, 22 Nov 2014
25 Nov 2014The inadequacies of the Caddy style starting gates commonly in use on raceday arose again at Avondale today, but the good news is that a solution is close to being found.

That will come as scant consolation to the connections and backers of Pussy O’Reilly, one of the leading fancies in the Gr. 2 NRM/Auckland Breeders’ Stakes. She was a clear last to hit the ground when the start was made in the 1400-metre feature before making up a big slice of ground for fourth.

The siren sounded shortly afterwards and at a subsequent inquiry it was established that Pussy O’Reilly was the latest victim of a slow-opening gate and she was ruled a non-runner. In the previous race Biggin Hill had been similarly affected before finishing third, but that placing stood.

The difference in the two cases is the racing rule common to both New Zealand and Australia. Even if a horse’s chances have been affected by a starting gate malfunction, if it finishes in the first three the placing must stand, whereas any affected horse finishing fourth or worse must be ruled a non-starter.

Not even the pleas of Pussy O’Reilly’s co-trainer Ken Kelso and the valuable mare’s owners, industry heavyweights Sir Patrick Hogan and Peter Walker, could alter the stance of today’s Judicial Control Authority representatives.

“Once again the connections and punters lose out through no fault of their own,” said Kelso. “How would you like to be the owners having to wave goodbye to the stake or a punter with a First4 ticket on her?

“We all realise what the rule states and that it has to be observed, but it just highlights how hopelessly inadequate these gates are.”

To their credit, Counties Racing Club officials have advised Pussy O’Reilly’s connections that they will be compensated for the $5,000 forfeited stake and starting costs. That, however, raises the matter of where starting gate malfunctions leave clubs.

The most glaring recent example came on the middle day of the Hawke’s Bay spring carnival when four horses were deemed to have been affected by gate malfunctions and declared non-runners. Not only did each set of connections have to absorb the loss, but the club suffered a significant turnover loss from cancelled bets, as did the industry at large whose lifeblood is betting turnover.

If there’s a silver lining to this cloud, it’s that planning is under way for more modern overhead starting gates to be introduced at venues that have continued to rely on Caddy gates. Overhead gates have been in use at Ellerslie for several years, while other tracks using them include Riccarton and numerous venues in the South Island.

Northern Raceday Services, the club-backed organisation that supplies starting gates to the majority of venues in the top half of the North Island, has been well aware of issues and initially looked at modifying the starting mechanisms of its Caddy gates.  

But in response to ongoing stakeholder pressure, NRS, lower North Island suppliers and New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing have set in place a process that in the near future is expected to usher in overhead gates across the board.

The NRS model involves transporting gates to northern venues, a practice simplified by the foldable Caddy gates. However, Australian overhead gates supplier Steriline has recently submitted design plans to NRS that will enable a 14-stall set of overhead gates to be transported between venues.

Plans are also in train for venues that host a significant volume of racing to secure their own permanent sets of overhead gates. In all cases funding has yet to be finalised, but NZTR has indicated support under its strategic funding initiative.

NRS is meeting again this week to advance its transportable overhead gates plan in the hope of implementation early next year.

“We know the current situation cannot continue and we’ve resolved to address it,” NRS chairman Roger Blake said today. “Northern Raceday Services is a non-profit organisation and as such we don’t have large resources, but with NZTR’s help we believe we can find an overhead solution.

“It’s anticipated that the gates themselves and a purpose-built trailer will cost in excess of $200,000, but we believe that’s achievable, it really has to be.

"It’s not going to happen overnight as we have to observe processes and there’s a time factor in constructing the gates and the trailer, but hopefully we’ll have the new gates operational by February or March.”
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