Outstanding Contribution Honour for David Ellis
11 Sep 2017
Te Akau principal David Ellis was honoured with ‘Outstanding Contribution to Racing’ during the 2017 New Zealand Racing Awards at the Langham Hotel on Sunday 10 September in Auckland.
Not only does Ellis ensure that every horse under the Te Akau Racing banner receives an idyllic and professional environment to prove themselves, which is carried over to all the people that have been fortunate enough to work for him, but he has also done his best for the betterment of the New Zealand racing industry as a whole.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Chairman Dr. Alan Jackson presented the award, following a citation that gradually introduced the recipient.
“He has been a racing fan since attending Ellerslie and backing a $30 winner,” he said.
“Today he is a thoroughbred breeder, buyer, owners, syndicator, administrator, sponsor, stud master, punter, and operates premiership-winning stables in two countries.
“He is also a farmer and oversees a large sheep and cattle enterprise, that runs alongside the thoroughbred breeding and pre-training operation on a 4000-acre property in the Waikato.”
At which stage, for many, it became clear that the accolades paralleled David Ellis.
Jackson went on to say: “But his profile probably peaks at the national yearling sales.
“This ambitious, competitive and passionate man has become the King of the ring at Karaka. With a nod here and a wink there, he has been leading buyer for the past 12 years and purchased 369 yearlings in that time.
“More remarkably, he has subsequently syndicated and managed most of those horses, bringing hundreds of new owners into the industry.
“He has established successful stables in both Matamata and Singapore and his now famous tangerine colours with blue stars will also be carried in a Group One race in Ireland in a few hours (The horse in question: Torcedor (Fastnet Rock) 14-1 finished second in the £260,000 Irish St Leger (Gr. 1, 2816m).
“He has become the seller of dreams, highlighting the one true constant in the racing industry – the thrill of racing a winner or, better still, a major race winner. In many cases, those dreams have become a reality for his clients, through the likes of Darci Brahma, Princess Coup, King’s Chapel, Xtravagant, King’s Rose, Maroofity, Rock ‘n’ Pop, Burgundy and last season’s Group One winners Gingernuts, Melody Belle [named Champion Two-Year-Old at the Awards] and Hall of Fame.
It has required an enormous amount of work, to both establish and maintain such a large operation but the rewards have been outstanding. The name Te Akau has become a global thoroughbred brand and the choice for an army of owners.
Much of that success has come from investing in youth, through the likes of Mark Walker, Roger James, Stephen Autridge, Jamie Richards and Jason Bridgman, who were all given a chance, as trainers, at the helm of Te Akau Racing early in their working lives.
“The person we honour has also had considerable success as an owner and breeder in his own right – with the likes of Cosmetique [his first Group One winner in 1986 at Ellerslie], Distinctly Secret and Melbourne Cup runner-up Te Akau Nick.
“In addition, he has made a significant contribution to our industry beyond the track. He is a life member of the Waikato Racing Club, after being a committee member for 18 years, including a stint as president, spent seven years on the NZ Racing Conference/NZTR Executive and has been a member of the NZ Thoroughbred Marketing Board.
“Let me personally assure you he is a colourful and positive individual and forthcoming in his passionate views to improve the industry and sport in New Zealand.
“Finally, many of these awards are given to those who are nearing the end of outstanding careers. We hope he is just warming up and that his passion never wanes – ladies and gentlemen, David Ellis.”
Humbled in the honour, Ellis took the stage with his wife Karyn in front of a large contingent of racing industry participants and MC Michael Guerin who co-hosted the evening with Mike McRoberts.
Ellis said: “I get a huge thrill out of seeing the tangerine win. It’s a feeling that you can’t describe and to see Matt (Cameron) or Opie (Bosson), great friends of mine, winning group races for the sensational owners we’ve got is a thrill that money can’t buy and something that we really love.
“There is nothing in the world that beats winning Group One races at Ellerslie, or Te Rapa, Trentham or Riccarton. It’s an excitement you just can’t describe, unless you’re involved.
“Distinctly Secret would easily be a favourite, because he came during a tough period in my life when we were very short of money and I owned himself for a lot of his career. Owned the mother, sisters and brothers, and he won $1.8 million in prize money. We sold the mother, sold half-brothers and sisters to him, so he was a very, very special horse to Mark (Walker) and I.
“They’re all different. A horse like Gingernuts has got a huge character, Xtravagant was a beautiful colt, Darci Brahma has been a champion racehorse and sire, we have had so many champions, but I love them all.
“Mark Walker came to work for me the day he left school. We became fantastic friends, business partners, and you have no idea how much of a thrill it’s given me to see him do so well, not only in New Zealand but also on the international stage. He has been the greatest friend and support partner you could ever have.
“It really is quite emotional to see all these people develop that have been with Te Akau, as horseman, as leaders, as employers, it’s very satisfying.
“Kayrn (Fenton-Ellis) is my soul-mate, my wife, and I just can’t thank her enough for the amazing woman that she is. Karyn has been quite unbelievable in what she has done for Te Akau. She works regularly to midnight in the office. Her discipline is incredible. She encourages everyone and she is just a wonderful person, and our youngest daughter Julia-Rose also works in the team.
“To every owner that has ever had a horse with Te Akau, thank you so much because it means an unbelievable amount to us and I wouldn’t be here tonight without the owners who are just so important.
“Also we have here tonight our team members from Matamata, people that get up every morning at 3.30 a.m. and start work at Te Akau Racing at 4 o’clock and at this time of year, in the rain, it is pretty miserable, but they do it because they love the horses. They are the true heroes of our industry. We are fortunate to have an unbelievable group of people that work so hard and I’m grateful to them for their support.
“Also on my table tonight, I have a Hall of Fame trainer in Colin and Alison Jillings. Colin has given me so much good advice and support and helped me so much over the years. And I’d also like to thank all the stable riders we’ve had that have been part of the Te Akau team: Matt Cameron, Opie Bosson, and James McDonald etc.
“Thank you all very much.”
New Zealand Bloodstock Managing Director Andrew Seabrook: “His service has been absolutely enormous and he’s had a great influence on New Zealand racing. He has been leading buyer for 12 years at Karaka, spending in excess of five-million dollars each year and in syndicating these horses he has introduced so many new people to the game.”
Sir Patrick Hogan: “His contribution has been enormous and he hasn’t missed anything from buying to syndicating to administration having been a Chairman of the Waikato racing Club – his contribution has been huge.”
Mark Walker: “The great thing about Dave is his encouragement of young people, not just in racing. Luke (Copeland), for example, has been his stock manager at the farm. He went there when he was 16 years old and he’s been there 15 years. Opie (Bosson) came to the stables when he was 15 years old and he’s still part of the team. Dave gives anyone a go and if they’re prepared to work, he’ll mentor them and teach people how to work. And also he’s not afraid to back people that show great promise.
Gai Waterhouse: “The most influential man in Australasian racing is David Ellis” and “He was very kind to send me over my first Group One winner, a horse called Te Akau Nick.
Karyn-Fenton Ellis: “I am extraordinarily proud tonight – David is also a wonderful family man. Our daughter Julia-Rose and her fiancé Hamish are here tonight and his daughters, my wonderful step-daughters, Joanna and Sarah who are both brand new mums in the last eight weeks and they’re both here tonight and David’s wonderful sister, Sue.