The Matamata Racing Club has made a significant addition to its racing and training facility with the purchase of one of the region’s most successful training establishments.

Originally known as Wexford Stables when founded in the early 1970s by iconic trainer Dave O’Sullivan, in more recent times it has been the base for Kevin Hickman’s Valachi Racing.

The opportunity to purchase the property, which comprises 5.4 hectares and current stabling for more than 60 horses, arose with the recent decision by the Hickman family to divest of their extensive stud and racing properties.

The MRC conducted due diligence on the stables when the property came on the market and decided that given it adjoins the racecourse property, it would be fit for purpose in meeting the needs of trainers seeking additional stabling in close proximity to club training tracks and amenities.

In a statement, the Hickman family’s company Valachi Downs gave its seal of approval to the MRC’s purchase. “We are pleased that the property with such a rich history of racing success will be utilised to support local trainers for generations to come and wishes the Matamata Racing Club every success.”

The development over the past 20 years of the five-barn, 152-box stabling complex on current MRC land has been a success for all parties, and given continuing demand, the time is now opportune to expand on that model.

Club-owned stabling has a long history in Australia and other racing jurisdictions and in more recent times has likewise become more accepted – indeed expected – of racing clubs in New Zealand. The MRC’s first 40-horse barn was occupied by John Sargent following his return from Malaysia in 2002 and was pivotal to his 111-win premiership title a decade later.

Jamie Richards prepared the majority of his multiple premiership-winning Te Akau team from on-course barns at Matamata, while other examples of the model have been the dominant Cambridge partnership of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.

“The days of trainers, especially the younger brigade, having the resources to set up and maintain their own stables have diminished significantly over recent years,” commented MRC Chair Julie Caldwell in announcing the acquisition.

“As well as playing our part in encouraging the next generation of trainers, it’s now almost an expectation of racing clubs such as Matamata to include readily accessible stabling in their overall training facility.

“The Matamata Racing Club has a proud history of acting in the best interests of not just its own community but the overall New Zealand racing industry. The fact that over the past three years more than half of New Zealand’s Group One races have been won by horses trained at Matamata says a lot about the quality of the training facilities the club provides.

“We can’t rest on our laurels though, which is why we see the addition of such a significant holding as an important step in not only maintaining our own position but also continuing this club’s contribution to the wider industry.

“Alongside this week’s announcement by NZTR of substantial stakes increases as well as the establishment of a significant infrastructure fund, the MRC believes it is more than keeping pace with industry needs and expectations.”

The MRC will take possession of its new property on August 1, by which time trainer tenants will have been identified and allocated their portion of existing stabling. Further development of additional horse accommodation will take place in due course and as demand warrants.

“Matamata’s location in the eastern Waikato places it within an hour’s drive of all Waikato and Bay of Plenty racetracks as well as being in easy reach of Auckland and outlying regions such as Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki and Manawatu,” added Caldwell.

“The MRC welcomes inquiries from trainers – both within local ranks and from elsewhere – wishing to take advantage of the opportunities offered by our latest acquisition.”