David Ellis: An unrelenting quest for success

Date: 21 Jan 2023

David Ellis: An unrelenting quest for success

Written by Trent Masenhelder

Te Akau principal David Ellis is a tireless worker. He's been doing the hard yards in the new year, and on Saturday at Pukekohe Park, he hopes to celebrate his seventh-straight R. Listed Karaka Million 2YO triumph.

With David Ellis CNZM at the helm, it's little wonder Te Akau Racing has achieved so much over a sustained period, both locally in New Zealand, and overseas in Australia and Singapore. For more than 40 years, the Te Akau principal has been relentless and uncompromising in his pursuit of excellence from the business' base, Te Akau Stud, which is situated in the Waikato region on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. The honour roll is hugely impressive, with some brilliant gallopers carrying the synonymous tangerine silks to Group 1 glory.

They include the five-time Group 1 victor Darci Brahma (NZ); the two-time Group 1 winner and cult hero Te Akau Shark (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle {Ire}); the Champion Mare Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands) - a winner of no less than 14 Group 1s; the four-time Group 1 heroine Probabeel (NZ) (Savabeel) (Bought by David Ellis, trained by Jamie Richards but raced in Cambridge's black and yellow silks); and Avantage (Fastnet Rock), who triumphed in top company on nine occasions.

Furthermore, Te Akau has remarkably won the past six editions of the Karaka Million 2YO and that could well become seven by Sunday, with team represented by seven runners (half of the field).

Ellis isn't one to dine out on past glories and like any good businessperson, he is always looking for the next opportunity. He puts in the work, with the support of “an amazing team” and duly reaps the rewards. Last week, Ellis spent six days in Queensland, where he bought eight yearlings (four colts, four fillies) at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale. Since returning to New Zealand, he has been touring some of the nation's finest stud farms, inspecting yearlings that will be offered at the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale from January 29.

On Wednesday morning, Ellis attended the barrier draw for the Karaka Million Raceday at Pukekohe Park, which is where he will be come Saturday. “It's been busy, but it's that time of year,” Ellis told TDN AusNZ. “I was on the Gold Coast for the yearling sale and I've just finished looking at our third draft (for Karaka).

Ellis was delighted with his Magics haul, saying he was able to secure most of the yearlings he had on his wish list. “We got everything pretty much everything we wanted. We're thrilled, it was a great week there,” Ellis commented. “We're really happy and looking forward to getting them home this week. “Where we were really lucky, is most of the horses we really liked were in on the first day and I think the buying was considerably better early in the sale, it just seemed to get stronger as the sale progressed.

“We bought the first lot up on the second day, an I Am Invincible colt from No Evidence Needed, then on the last day, we bought a half-sister to Sword Of State (by Merchant Navy), who was the Champion 2-Year-Old that I bought.” Ellis' octet included a Snitzel colt from the Westbury Stud draft. He is from the winning High Chaparral (Ire) mare Joy Forever and made $650,000. “He's an absolutely stunning colt and I could see him being back at the Gold Coast for the race next, for sure,” said Ellis.

Yearlings by Widden Stud's freshman sire Zousain were well sought-after, averaging $228,800, and Ellis came home with one - Lot 59 - a filly from the stakes-winning mare Liesele (Exceed And Excel), who was offered Coolmore Stud. “She's out of an Exceed And Excel mare, that won herself as a 2-year-old, so you'd expect the filly would get up and run, and looking at her on type, I think she will,” Ellis remarked.

A seven-pronged attack on Karaka Million 2YO Te Akau has made the Karaka Million 2YO (1200 metres) its own in recent times. In 2017, Melody Belle handed them their first win in the race, before Avantage repeated the dose 12 months later.

In 2019, Probabeel extended the streak, winning from the outside gate, while Cool Aza Beel (NZ), a son of Savabeel, who now stands at Newhaven Park, was much the best in 2020. The classy On The Bubbles (Brazen Beau) followed Probabeel's lead, scoring from barrier 14 in 2021, then last year, Dynastic (NZ) (Almanzor {Fr}) made it six consecutive victories for Ellis and Co.

This year, the bases are loaded, with Trobriand (Kermadec {NZ}), Tokyo Tycoon (NZ) (Satono Aladdin {Jpn}), Talisker (NZ) (Embellish {NZ}), Balance Of Power (NZ) (Almanzor {Fr}), Believe In Magic (NZ) (Not A Single Doubt), Rhetorical (NZ) (Snitzel) and She Turns Heads (Headwater) engaged in the NZ$1 million R. Listed feature.

All seven are trained by Mark Walker and each of them will go around in the Te Akau tangerine, with different coloured caps to distinguish them. Ellis said he was “incredibly proud” to have such a big hand in one of the country's iconic races. “It's something that we are incredibly proud of,” Ellis said. “I've got a great team around me that help me inspect the yearlings, including New Zealand Bloodstock Chairman Joe Walls, as well as Marcus Corban and our Racing Manager Reece Trumper.

“It's just incredibly rewarding for me as the team leader to see our team at the sales, who put so much work and time into it, get the results for our owners, because that's what it's all about, getting the right results for our owners and the people that investment with us.

“It's really satisfying to see the smile on these peoples' faces when the horses gets in the Karaka Million and the excitement around it's pretty special.”

Trobriand, who is unbeaten in three starts, is the top seed and stable jockey Opie Bosson, who is gunning for a sixth win in the race, has elected to ride the Kermadec (NZ) colt. Trobriand has drawn gate six (and will jump from five if the lone ballot, Stickto The Order, fails to gain a start).

“Opie found it hard to separate Trobriand and Tokyo Tycoon. He picked Trobriand after the barrier draw; I told him he could wait until after the draw,” Ellis remarked.

“We have won the race twice from the outside draw, so it's not over for Tokyo Tycoon (who will break from barrier 14).” Trobriand was a NZ$260,000 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale Book 1 buy from the Windsor Park draft in 2022 and they will offer his half-brother, by Russian Revolution, as Lot 39 at the 2023 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale Book 1.

Tokyo Tycoon, meanwhile, is unbeaten in two starts and will be handled by Craig Zackey. The gelding was consigned to the Rich Hill Stud draft and realised NZ$125,000. Ruch Hill Stud will offer his Vadamos (Fr) half-sister as Lot 24 this year.

Ellis believes maiden gelding Talisker, who will be partnered by Sam Weatherley, will be extremely competitive on Saturday. “We've got some really good chances and he is definitely one of them,” Ellis commented.

“He's by Embellish, who I bought as a yearling, and he now stands at Cambridge Stud. It would be an unbelievable result for Brendan and Jo Lindsay, who stand him (Embellish). He's a pretty exciting stallion that's been standing at NZ$4000; he won't be standing at that rate for long, because we've got seven in work and there's some pretty exciting ones in addition to Talisker.” Talisker was offered by Landsowne Park at last year's sale and fetched NZ$70,000, and they will offer his brother as Lot 781 in 2023.

Two chances to knock off the star filly The R. Listed Karaka Million 3YO Classic shapes as an absolute beauty with the brilliant Legarto (NZ) (Proisir) looking to extended her unbeaten streak to six. Standing in the way is the Te Akau duo Wild Night (NZ) (Vanbrugh), who has only tasted defeat once in his fledgling career, and Dynastic - a Listed victress and Group 1 runner-up. Incidentally, all three are drawn alongside each other, with Legarto in one, Wild Night two and Dynastic three.

“It's probably as good a field that's been assembled in New Zealand this season and somebody was telling me this morning that it's as good a 3-year-old field as there has been in New Zealand or Australia this season, so that was an interesting observation,” Ellis said.

“Legarto is a top-quality filly that's been well-placed and well-trained and she will be very hard to beat, but we're pretty happy with our two.” Wild Night - a NZ$50,000 Book 1 buy in 2021 from the draft of Windsor Park Stud - will be partnered by Bosson, who has won the race on five occasions. Dynastic, who was also consigned by Windsor Park Stud in Book 1 and fetched NZ$360,000, has the services of Craig Grylls. Windsor Park Stud will offer the gelding's Rageese half-brother as Lot 343 in 2023. Legarto will again be ridden by Ryan Elliot for Ken and Bev Kelso



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