Farewell & Welcome Back

Date: 29 Mar 2022

Farewell & Welcome Back


A good measure of sadness accompanies Jamie Richards departing New Zealand, bound for the bright lights of Hong Kong.

His ability to assess what is best for a horse at any given time, understanding handicapping within a racing programme, use of existing systems for horse management, patience to digest and heed advice, and general communication skills, are just some crucial elements which have led Richards to success.

Others might suggest the racing gene inherited through father Paul Richards, who rode over 1000 winners, and mother Leanne, a racing administrator, has led to early achievement (aged only 32) within an industry he cut his teeth on, while credence could also be attributed to the hardened racing figures that he grew up watching in Wingatui, Mosgiel.

Richards became the second Te Akau trainer, following five-time NZ Premiership winner Mark Walker, to break the national record for wins in a season when Feelin' Fancy (Rip Van Winkle) became his 144thlast April at Hastings, before ending on 160.

In January last year, he completed the fastest training century in New Zealand, bettering the previous record by nearly three months.

He is again assured of premiership honours this season; the current 114 wins being 44 clear of second.

While grooming for the top job, Richards began his training career in partnership with Stephen Autridge at Te Akau in 2015/16 and winning the premiership with 104 wins. They finished third (74) in 2016/17, second (81) in 2017/18, before Richards went solo.

He ended 2018/19 in second with 98 wins, scored a century (101) winning in 2019/20 despite government intervention halting racing for three months, before the record (160), and now dominant again this season.

To cut a long story short regarding all important stakes' wins, young Richards trained an unequivocal 53 Group 1 winners among 152 stakes' victories. Those figures include 16 stakes' wins (6 Group 1) in Australia.

Among highlights were Champion Two-Year-Old and dual Horse of the Year Melody Belle (Commands), who surpassed Sunline (Desert Sun) registering a new national record for Group 1 wins (14). Nine-time Group 1 winner Avantage (Fastnet Rock), another Champion Two-Year-Old, current Horse of the Year Probabeel (Savabeel), winner of four Group 1 races in Australia, and, incredibly, he has prepared the previous six Karaka Million 2YO (Restricted Listed, 1200m) winners.

With colts, something Te Akau has hung its hat on through breeding syndicates, Richards has trained Champion Two-Year-Old Sword of State (Snitzel), secured to stand alongside former stable-mate Embellish (Savabeel) next season at Cambridge Stud.

Also Group 1 winners Cool Aza Beel and Xtravagant join others of that ilk from Te Akau to stand at stud: Darci Brahma, Heroic Valour, Rock ‘n' Pop, the late Burgundy and King's Chapel, while the most recent Karaka Million 2YO (Restricted Listed, 1200m) winner Dynastic (Almanzor) heads the Te Akau 2021 Stallion Syndicate and is earmarked for stud. Currently the syndicates have eight stallions standing at stud throughout Australasia.

Without opportunity there is no success, and instrumental in the careers of both Richards and Walker is the man that took them on, Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM.

“Mark (Walker) came to work for me when not long out of school and Jamie (Richards) was working at Waikato Stud, but not sure which path he wanted to take in the racing industry,” Ellis said.

“I get a big thrill out of helping all the young people that have worked through the ranks at Te Akau, seeing them develop, and one of the great things I've seen is that such a high percentage of Jamie's group wins have been with horses we've bought at the sales. And it's quite staggering to think that over a third of them have been in Group 1 races.

“Mark and Jamie and have become internationally acclaimed trainers and I'm extremely proud of them both. Not everyone can train racehorses, it's a particular skill and these two guys have proved they do it to the highest level.”

Richards also acquitted himself well as an Amateur Rider, winning four times, including two seconds, from only eight rides.

Secondary schooled at Otago Boys' High, he graduated from Otago University with a Bachelor of Commerce in Management and Accounting, and Diploma in Marketing. A Sunline International Management Scholarship (funded by Sunline Trust, managed by New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (NZTBA)) enabled 10 weeks working in England, and further 10 weeks in Kentucky. Additionally, he worked at Coolmore Stud, New Zealand Bloodstock, and Waikato Stud.

“I developed a feel for getting a horse ready to race when I was riding track work at Wingatui, Richards said. “But in the greater scheme of things it wasn't until I was working in partnership with Steve (Autridge), and able to take a step back from riding work, that I was able to get involved in planning a horse's programme and how many times it would trial, regards spacing and things like that.

“I spent a lot of time on the Racing NSW website, following what Chris Waller was doing with some of his horses, but never really understood it properly until I was with Steve and learnt the scale of how to go about training a horse to peak on race day.

“Looking through the calendar and picking out the right race, I think has been a massive part of the success in trying to place horses in races they could potentially win. Not every horse is capable of winning on a Saturday, but if we can get a win for the owners, whether it's a Thursday at Woodville, or wherever, it's still a buzz when you get a horse to win a race.

“Te Akau is certainly a very well organised operation that pride itself on leading the way, whether it be the emphasis put on communication with owners, giving them good valuable feedback, and making sure the Horse Schedule (diary) is kept accurate in terms of where horses are and how long they're spelling for, when they're coming back, and when they're trialling and racing.

“The business is in great hands with Mark (Walker) coming back. Obviously, he's a world-class trainer that's won nine training premierships between New Zealand and Singapore.

“Dave (Ellis) has been an outstanding role model for me and helped shave off a few of the rough edges, in the early days. Hard work is such an important part of it and putting the hours in reflects in the results.

“Dave and Mark, Karyn, everyone has such a huge work ethic and it helps drive everyone involved. I've been helped by wonderful horsemen that have worked here, like Scott Lucock who taught me a lot about horse's feet.

“Having dad (Paul Richards) to work alongside has been invaluable. People like Tracy Collis and Nicole Shailer, senior staff running the barns, and those travelling horses like Ashley Handley, Hunter Durrant, Assistant Trainer Sam Bergerson, and the next wave of young people coming through which I think is incredibly important.

“We're very fortunate at Te Akau, I guess because we're right up there in leading the field, that we get a lot of young people that want to have Te Akau on their CV. And it's great when you're getting those young, skilled, enthusiastic people coming through that are excited by the brand and the horses they get to work with.

“People like (assistant trainer) Sam Bergerson are the future, and others of that ilk like Laura Macnab, Hunter Durrant, Liam Cunningham, Sarah West, and Reece Trumper, show that the business is in good hands.

“I'm grateful for the services of Ronan Costello, a vet that has been very important in the success of the business as has Dr Douglas Black. He's a fantastic vet to work with and provided a lot of good advice. And good farriers: Gareth Allis and Kim Hughes have been a huge part in making sure everything is done to a high standard and help drive success.”

Richards will handover following the race meeting on Wednesday at Matamata, and outlined an itinerary for him and wife to be, Danielle Johnson.

“On Friday we're going to Sydney, for races and sales, for a week to 10 days,” Richards said. “We'll come back and have a break and hopefully do some domestic travel.

“I'm going up to Hong Kong on 11thMay, do a week of quarantine, and then straight into it. I've had a steady number of enquiries to train horses and that's really positive.

“We'll be able to take horses off the plane from June and prepare for the start of their new season in September.

“It's going to be a really challenging time, training in a different climate and learning to understand soundness and things like that in a humid environment.

“We'll be living at the racecourse (Sha Tin). We have a three-bedroom apartment there, where quite a few of the trainers, jockeys, and officials live. Nice and central and it will be great.”

With Richards departing to train in Hong Kong, his replacement at the helm, Mark Walker, need no introduction. Walker won five premierships before setting up stables in 2010/11 for Te Akau in Singapore, and became Champion Trainer in 2015, 2017 (record 87 wins), 2019, and 2021, and was runner-up three times, as well as third, and fourth.


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