Jewel in breeding crown to change hands

Iconic is a word which is, in my humble opinion, rather overused. Yet, when it comes to Cambridge Stud what other description is there?

Today’s news that Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan’s property will change hands next April left me feeling somewhat melancholic at the approaching of the end of an era.

We all realised Sir Patrick wasn’t going to be at the helm forever but there is a sense of finality in the fact he is stepping down and handing over the jewel in New Zealand’s breeding crown to Brendan and Jo Lindsay.  Obviously, not “literally” handing it over – the money involved would not be insubstantial and Sir Patrick could probably still teach lesser mortals a thing or two about the art of the deal!

I had cause to visit Cambridge Stud recently after a substantial lull – I think the previous occasion was the launch of Sir Patrick’s biography many years earlier – and there was still that feeling of history combined with familiarity.  The magnificent drive, the stable block which in early days the occasional visitor mistook for a residence, and just the sense of place that this property has carved out over the years.

A couple of years earlier, through a comedy of errors which I will claim were totally intentional, an old friend and I managed to seal our own part of Cambridge Stud history when purchasing a yearling from their draft.  To prove that the magic pixie dust comes as part and parcel of the CS brand, said yearling evolved into yet another of the Group One winners to be reared and sold under their banner.

Long before this though, Cambridge Stud was part of my daily life as I worked at BloodHorse magazine and the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.  These were the glory years of Sir Tristram and his phenomenal offspring.  They were heady days as the Group One winning tally climbed and the desire to own a son or daughter of Sir Tristram saw the magic $1million mark broken at the yearling sales.

Sir Tristram was, in journalistic terms, the gift that kept on giving as each new Group performer allowed us to write yet another chapter in his remarkable history!

The Sir Tristram juggernaut rolled on as his sons and daughters also dominated at stud – his dynasty was well and truly established.  And then along came Zabeel.  Continuing Cambridge Stud’s fairy-tale story, in March this year Zabeel overtook Sir Tristam’s benchmark of 45 Group One winners when Lizzie L’Amour took out the Bonecrusher Stakes.

“I doubt very much if there will ever be two stallions, a father and son standing at the same farm, that can leave 45 and 46 Group One winners in New Zealand again,” Sir Patrick said at the time. “It’s a tremendous achievement.”

It is also a rather large feather in the cap of the man who selected first Sir Tristram as his foundation stallion in 1976 and then chose exactly the right son in Zabeel, to take over his sire’s mantle.

Sir Patrick not only gave us two of the all-time greats he also put an indelible mark on the way we sell horses in this country. In every area from professional marketing to hospitality and staff livery he set the bar.

In the history of New Zealand thoroughbred breeding Sir Patrick Hogan’s Cambridge Stud was epoch-making.  Next April a new era will begin.

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Racing policies left in the gates

I had every intention of sharing and analysing the racing policies from each party in a timely fashion leading into Saturday’s election, but the pollies didn’t make it easy.

 

My initial requests were sent back in June. How hard could it be, right? My expectation was that there would be – at the very least – a document from the previous election. It could’ve been dragged out from wherever it was hidden away,  brushed off, tarted up and sent back out into the world. But no, it wasn’t that easy.

 

At this stage, I have to give a vote of thanks to the much-maligned Greens, who at least got off their butts and provided something in the way of policy.  Even if it did threaten to do away with the Racing Minister.

 

Interestingly, with the exception of Winston Peters, I believe that most of the other parties would (at least inwardly) support that move. They don’t really like racing people – it probably comes down to lack of understanding around the Racing Bill and how much government can actually do for them.  Answer: not a lot!

 

They also point to industry hierarchy opening encouraging the industry to support NZ First purely based on their racing policy. That policy hasn’t changed greatly in the past three years but, when I emailed some questions asking for more detail around how the stated goals would be achieved I was told the query had been forwarded to the senior media team.  

 

All I can say is that the senior media team must be pretty damned busy putting out all the fires in Winston’s wake because in spite of several follow-up emails I am still waiting.

 

Labour’s racing spokesman Kris Faafoi was pretty proactive responding to my initial request and, again after several follow-ups, the policy did appear.  He was also happy to address any questions around it.  I emailed some but again…still waiting.

 

The Nats, with our current racing minister David Bennett, should’ve been way more proactive. They are the guys with their fingers on the pulse and the minister should be across industry concerns.  I lost count of the interactions I had with his office (and the mind-numbingly moronic replies).

 

By the time I got the email advising me their policy was up online I had pretty much lost the will to live.

 

Meanwhile, Winston managed to steal a march with a story appearing online which erroneously claimed his was the only party with a racing policy. This was then followed by another story – which was basically a different version of the same story churned out every three years – where Sir Patrick Hogan extolled the industry to support Winston. Purely based on his “support” of the industry.

 

Just a matter of days before the election Winston is looking likely to – once again – be the Kingmaker.

 

Whether racing will be any better off is anyone’s guess.

If you do want to check out what Labour, National and NZ First have to offer check out their racing policies:

 

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/nzlabour/pages/8556/attachments/original/1504503634/Racing_Policy.pdf?1504503634

 

https://www.national.org.nz/racing

 

http://www.nzfirst.org.nz/racing

 

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?