Celebrating The King’s 2000 wins

I have always been a big Michael “The King” Coleman fan, so seeing him join the elite band of Kiwi jockeys to reach 2000 winners today was pretty special.

 

During a conversation with a Matamata trainer one day, he quizzed me about why I was so keen on Mickey – the answer was simple, he provided me with my biggest thrill on a racecourse when riding my first winner.

 

It was one or two wines ago – 1987, to be precise. Mickey was an apprentice and the apple of my eye, Genuflect, a filly from one of my grandmother’s old mares was trained by his boss Jim Gibbs.  I had headed from Auckland to Matamata for the South Waikato Racing Club meeting, an on-course only meeting, to see whether she could improve on her first start ninth.

 

From memory, she paraded with a shortened tail, thanks to the ministrations of the cattle beasts at the pre-training establishment.  Gibbsy, waxing lyrical, described her as being a girl in a mini-skirt…!  He also insisted I come and speak with my jockey pre-race so there I was all new to this caper about to greet Mickey – “Hello, Blossom”……I have no idea where that came from but the upshot was a jockey whose face matched the maltese cross on my colours and a trainer bent in half laughing.  Henceforth I called him Blossom.

 

Embarrassed or not, Blossom rode a great race and won, becoming in the process my favourite jockey of all time.  Just how favourite is probably emphasised by the fact I had to check on the NZTR website to see who was in the saddle when I had my first (and, so far, only!) Group One winner.

 

Michael was the leading apprentice of his generation and has always had an association with an above-average horse or two subsequently, so I was a little gobsmacked when I got a brief to write a piece on him.  

 

Not that Mickey’s countdown to 2000 wins wasn’t worth a story, it was more how the request was worded.  In this person’s mind Michael was starting to “look like a journeyman” but his season thus and his association with the formidable Baker-Forsman stable made him newsworthy.

 

Obviously, the 212 wins, including 24 Group and Listed races he had won over the three previous seasons, had escaped this good judge’s notice!

 

In general conversation during the interview Genuflect got a mention, likewise today when I sent him a text to congratulate him on his achievement.

 

According to Mickey “they all help”.

 

 

 

 

Missing a trick with raceday promotion?

I went racing on Saturday.  It shouldn’t be a big deal, but these days I tend to prefer the comforts of home and watching things unfold on Trackside.  Of course, watching Trackside brings with it a number of challenges, but that’s a whole other blog topic!

Anyway, before dragging myself (reluctantly) to Te Rapa I first headed to the hairdressers for a little bit of pampering.  Conversation with one of the young girls working led to what “plans” I had for the remainder of the day and I ‘fessed up that I was going racing.

I am always intrigued when bringing up the topic of racing as to what the reaction is going to be. Given I was in the Tron I was half expecting she might think it was some form of motor racing which was going to grab my attention.  But not this smart cookie.  She was stunned to discover that racing at Te Rapa was a fairly regular occurrence and thought it was only held “on special occasions.”

She was fascinated too, to discover that in the winter, racing could also include jumping races. We chatted about her last experience racing at Te Rapa – a Christmas at the Races event – where she went with workmates and had a fabulous day.

She told me about her boss dividing them into three teams with each team aiming to see who could get the best result from their $50 betting fund.  Despite the two other teams having among their number someone with racing knowledge, it was her team of newbies who ran out the winners.  She raved about the fun, the colour and the fact it was a really memorable day which she wouldn’t mind repeating if she knew when the races were being held!

The upshot being, she was pretty much a racing convert ripe for the picking and, somehow we (the racing industry) failed to capitalise on that.

I know from past committee involvement that the Racing Board has employed people to maraud the course at the Festival of Summer racing events and extract email contact details. Does this not happen at the Christmas at the Races functions?  Are we missing a trick?

Lord knows, it is hard enough to convince people of the fun which can be had during a day at the races.  But why, when we have them there and they are obviously having a good time have we not found some way to connect with them so we can let them know about future events?

It also demonstrates how far off the radar racing events are when it comes to connecting with millennials and the like.  Old school advertising might remind your old school clients that an event is forthcoming but even they are relying on different forms of media when it comes to getting information.

Clubs shouldn’t kid themselves that Facebook is the way forward either. Most of the millennials I know have abandoned Facebook to their midster parents and prefer the hashtag-laden environment of Instagram.

Instead of sitting back and congratulating themselves on “embracing” social media, racing clubs and indeed the Racing Board, should be looking forward – maybe aligning themselves with, or even creating, an event app which gives the industry a new profile.

Of course, we still have a heap of work to do to ensure the events they turn up to, outside of those Racing Board promoted “occasion” race days, measure up to the expectations established there. Uphill battle?

Why is the TAB giving me “free” money?

Over the past month, I have received five random text messages from the TAB, each bearing the news that they are gifting my account the grand sum of $5 available – like the very best headline act – one day only!

I fluctuate from being peeved that they think I can be bought for a mere $5 (I can) and irritated at the seeming scatter-gun approach of their “marketing”.  

The $5 appears in my account carrying the following notification – “Prize – Marketing – sport” – which I guess means the funds are coming out of the sports betting marketing fund, but then again maybe not.

They – the TAB marketing people – obviously operate from the “small fish are sweet” school and I have decided to embrace the idea and join them there.

Generally I am a weekend punter, unless there is a specific horse racing midweek that I want to back (that would be a slow one I am involved in the ownership of and feel obliged to encourage it).

The marketing chap at the TAB I spoke to about this $5 phenomenon – what, you thought I’d just rant without getting some details?! – was a little vague on the detail around it.

How do they decide who is going to be the beneficiary of the “free” $5? Apparently, there are

“All types of different criteria” and there are “so many running at any one time.”

He claimed the idea was to “make people more aware of a racing day, and get them to have a look”.

To be fair he did sound pretty young – and pretty vague. Anyway, he’s a marketing person and obviously, marketing is his thing, even if understanding his customers isn’t.

The main reason these $5 “gifts” had been intriguing me was the fact that my younger son was also enjoying the TAB’s largesse $5 at a time. The only difference being, his were valid for four days.

According to our man at the TAB this might have been due to the fact he predominantly bets on sports.

If that is the case then people betting on sports are seen by the TAB as to be clever enough to know which sport they want to bet on and are given the opportunity to spend their free money on that chosen sport.  Us racing mugs though, are apparently so stupid we have to be reminded there are mid-week race meetings – Lord knows how we manage to negotiate daily life.

Anyway, Mr TAB said the $5 bets are being “picked up a bit more and is getting a good reception.”  He did get a little cagey when quizzed as to whether this might be considered encouraging the churn.

That is “not at all” the case, if anything he was somewhat defensive that someone would think giving away $5 to punt would then encourage them to bet all day.

He rather coyly admitted that if someone had a win they might carry on betting though.

The upshot of my phone call to the TAB was that I was none the wiser.

I don’t know how they select who gets the dosh; sports betting people get longer because, I can’t remember I must have zoned out then; and the $5 giveaway isn’t to encourage turnover.

So, having failed in my task to establish the whys and wherefores I am just going to keep taking the $5 and doubling it for my weekend betting. Mind you, after this I might drop off the list of recipients for free money!

How “Kiwi” is Winx? Kiwi as….

Aussies have been laying claim to Kiwi greats since day dot, if you need proof then just ask them who invented the pavlova?

In the racing world, the battle still rages over Phar Lap.  What better time then, as the latest superstar of the Australian turf, Winx, is inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, have a little dig about the part New Zealand played in her creation.

And we aren’t talking about the indisputable Kiwi origins of her trainer Chris Waller, no this is purely a breeding story.

The daughter of the Irish-bred stallion Street Cry may carry the (Aus) suffix, but take a closer look at that dam line.  Bar one slight glitch it is, as the saying goes, Kiwi as.

It is also the family of a mare whose incredible staying and weight carrying feats earned the title of the best staying mare of her era.

Warstep [pictured] these days is pretty much a footnote in history, acknowledged through the race at the Canterbury Racing Club which carries her name. But the winner of most of our notable staying races, including the 1914 Auckland Cup, was a crowd favourite.

Her trainer George Murray Aynsley recalled the mare being mobbed by racing fans who would pluck hairs from her mane and tail. Any wonder they loved her, at the time she ran in, and won, the 1915 Trentham Gold Cup the £3000 invested on her was a record for any one horse.

Given Warstep’s position as the pin-up girl of her generation, it is probably right that we start the Winx story with Warstep’s sister Stardancer.  

A daughter of the champion sire of his era Martian, Stardancer left 11 winners, including the 1920 Auckland Cup winner Starland and the good winner Limelight.  The winner of 12 races, Limelight also went on to feature as the grand dam of Nereid, the dam of 1956 Wellington Cup winner Fox Myth (by Foxbridge) and 1963 Caulfield Cup winner Sometime (by Summertime).

Another of Nereid’s offspring was Galston who later found fame as the dam of the New Zealand-bred Galilee.  The Trelawney Stud product became the first horse in history to win the Caulfield, Melbourne and Sydney Cups in one season and was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2005.

If we skip forward a few generations, through Stardancer’s daughter Spotlight (by Nassau) and Spotlight’s daughter Silver Beam (by Silverado) we arrive at Winx’s fifth dam, the Theio mare Gay Abandon.

Bred in 1945 Gay Abandon had a lengthy career at a broodmare, leaving her first foal in 1950 and her last, a filly by Stunning named Vegas, in 1969.

It was Gay Abandon’s second foal, a colt by Gabador, foaled in 1952, that was to put her on the map as a broodmare. Racing for Sir Woolf Fisher as El Khobar he made an immediate impact on the track with two wins from his only starts at two. While taken to Australia for a three-year-old campaign, illness meant it wasn’t until the winter of 1956 that the Australians got to see what the fuss was about. El Khobar’s seven wins in Australia included the Doomben Ten Thousand and the Ascot Stakes. He went on to win races in the United States before standing at stud.

Vegas was bred in the Wairarapa by Frank Robertson, son of Charles Robertson, widely regarded as the founder of our national yearling sales. She met with little success at stud, with her first two foals, a colt and filly by Sovereign Edition, both destroyed.  She left just two live foals before dying in 1979.

The first of those live foals was the Sovereign Edition filly Vegas Street, bred by the Estate of Sir Woolf Fisher. Placed as a two-year-old in Australia, Vegas Street left two winners and the placed Ballerina Magic, the dam of Listed VRC Auckland Racing Club Handicap winner Arabian Magic.

Of course, the most notable of her offspring now is the two-time winner Vegas Magic. The daughter of Voodoo Rhythm, and as such the only Australian-glitch in Winx’s bottom line, was purchased in Melbourne by New Zealand Hall of Fame trainer Graeme Rogerson.

Once her racing days were behind her Rogerson had high hopes for Vegas Magic’s first foal Black Magic Maggie. The daughter of Westminster won three races and was Group Three placed before breaking a leg.

Vegas Showgirl, foaled in 2002 and a stakes winner of seven races was described by Rogerson as a “good, handy filly.” But there was an interesting tale behind just how the mating which resulted in Winx’s dam came about.

Rogerson had sent Vegas Magic south to Grangewilliam Stud to be covered by Batavian when they received bad news. The multiple stakes winner from the Rogerson stable had dropped dead from a heart attack while serving a mare.  The decision was made to instead send her to Batavian’s associate sire Al Akbar.

While Vegas Showgirl was sold to John Camilleri’s Fairway Thoroughbreds for $455,000 at the 2008 Magic Millions National Bloodstock Sale, Rogerson still retained some members of the family.

Two of those, Antalaga and Eagle Magic, both daughters of Duelled out of West Magic (by Westminster-Vegas Magic) will go through the same sale later this month.

Given the amount of Kiwi history around the creation of the racing wonder which is Winx, I think we can lay claim to just a little bit of credit.