The Corner with Garry Chittick

Racing can be and is great fun. On Saturday, Waikato Stud joined forces with Te Rapa for the Waikato Stud raceday featuring the time-honoured Group 2 Foxbridge Plate over 1400 metres. This is the start of the real horses, and there will be many more yet to show their ability with the excitement of up-and-coming three-year-olds not yet seen. The Foxbridge didn’t disappoint – Imperatriz was imperial. The raceday attendees responded to her performance in true sporting fashion, we all love a great horse and I believe we witnessed the start of a dominant spring for her.

Pippa and Butch Castles conspired to upgrade the winners circle with the Waikato Stud brand. It was a pleasure to host the winning connections, a group of owners joined together by the Te Akau racing team . I have no idea how many owners there are, or how many enjoyed our hospitality, but the attendees were compelled to watch our gelding I Wish I Win score in impressive manner at Caulfield. This was not a Group race, however as a Saturday metropolitan race offered a stake of AU$160k. Ironically our aspirations were not at this level but the result is important as it franks NZ form. I Wish I Win was a two win horse but not to be underrated, achieving multiple Group placings at home. He is a story on its own, a full brother to No Limits who sold for $1.4m, I Wish I Win was born with his near fore in at the knee and attached to his shoulder at an unfortunate angle.

An attendee in our room expressed, to his disappointment, having seen his newly born foal which he described as being turned out. I couldn’t resist showing the shot of I Wish I Win, you can imagine his surprise. As you know I have been breeding horses for a long time, and my first experiences of deviated foals really disappointed me. I had a client who, on seeing his foal, cried. Obviously, more emotional than me. Anyway, he arrived a couple of days later with the well-respected Massey University Veterinarian, the late Harry Pearce. He instructed us to confine the mare and foal in a small paddock, and he instructed the owner not to return for at least two months. In fact, he said no owners should see their foals until one month old. I Wish I Win was subject to no surgical intervention; time, blacksmith management and we have a racehorse. We are constantly amused when listening to potential buyers whispering about the slightest issue which will inhibit the racing soundness or ability. We didn’t offer our horse as a yearling, mind you he was at the extreme end. Who knows, he may never win another race but he has achieved more than most.

I read with interest that the minimum stake to be offered by the newly formed Auckland Racing Partnership is $20k. Well good on them, it is a start. But is it good enough? During my tenure as Chairman of the Racing Board the trainers requested a tiered racing structure. My Board, in conjunction with the codes, confined the combined executive staff to the Museum Hotel to devise a formula to meet these demands. The resulting Graduation, Feature and Premier days set the minimum stakes clubs could offer; Premier days were required to run a minimum of eight races at $20k, bearing in mind that was over twenty years ago you can see we have come a long way. Incidentally we are running for $55k in a Wednesday maiden this week, guess where?

Finally for the week don’t allow yourself to be enamoured by the Auckland Racing Club’s so called generosity: “We have topped up the stakes by $1.4m” – why wouldn’t they? ‘Racing Headquarters’ as they label themselves, are of course the showpiece of our sport. I can tell you when the board I was Chairman of wrote off a debt of $14m (probably like $30m in today’s terms), their balance sheet looked a helluva lot better and we copped the flack, on behalf of the industry which they are part of.



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