Following Famous Footsteps

Date: 29 Feb 2020

Following Famous Footsteps

Ray Thomas of The Daily Telegraph, Sydney reports:

THERE'S a lot of Chris Waller in Jamie Richards.

This proud New Zealander is quiet and articulate, meticulous by nature, has an affinity with the thoroughbred - and is successful.
Richards has only been training in his own right for just over two years but has already prepared 183 including a remarkable 14 at Group 1 level.

Almost overnight, he's emerged as New Zealand's dominant trainer and has the outstanding duo Te Akau Shark and Probabeel contesting Group 1 races at Royal Randwick tomorrow.

Richards's runners are coming up against the might of the Waller stable in both majors which is a clash Australian racing fans are going to become very familiar with in coming years.

Because Richards is only 30 and Waller, 46, and both men seem certain to remain at the top of Australasian racing for many years.
Richards admits he draws inspiration from Waller's success as a trainer.

“Chris is a role model,'' Richards said.

“He shows what can be done with hard work and the right support from owners and staff.

“I haven't had a lot to do with Chris but like everyone in racing I watch him closely and pay attention to what he does with his horses and how he programs them.

“I wouldn't be scared to go and look through the records of how Chris has been able to have success and win these races.

“If there was a pattern there I would try and follow it. I am trying to work out how we might be able to beat him one day!''

Richards concedes he is following the trail blazed so successfully by Waller and all-time great Winx with his stable stars Te Akau Shark and Probabeel at Royal Randwick tomorrow (Saturday).

Te Akau Shark is the $2.80 favourite for Group 1 $600,000 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) against a crack field that includes 10 individual Group 1 winners with Waller saddling up five runners.
Probabeel takes on old rival, Waller's outstanding filly Funstar in a field of outstanding three-year-old fillies for the Group 1 $500,000 Surround Stakes (1400m).

Winx won the Chipping Norton Stakes four years in succession between 2016 and last year, using this race to launch her dominant, unbeaten Group 1 winning sprees each Sydney autumn carnival.

She then won the George Ryder Stakes four years in succession, and ended her autumn campaigns with her 2016 Doncaster Mile win and her Queen Elizabeth Stakes hat-trick in 2017-19.

Richards is going to follow a similar three-race autumn campaign with Te Akau Shark culminating with the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 11.

“Te Akau Shark's campaign is more about the race timing with him, the three weeks between runs to the George Ryder Stakes and then the Queen Elizabeth suits this horse,'' Richards said.

“He is not a horse that likes to be over-raced, so the three week gap suits him nicely.

“But it is good to know that Winx has been there and done it before as well.

“I also read an article about Winx going from the Surround to the Phar Lap Stakes and then the Vinery (Stud Stakes) which is something I think I am going to do with Probabeel.''

Te Akau Shark is almost unbeatable in New Zealand and was a brilliant first-up winner of the Group 1 BCD Group Sprint at Te Rapa earlier this month.

But the powerfully-built chestnut, part-owned by former Cronulla Sharks legend Paul Gallen, is still chasing his first Australian win. He finished in the placings in his three starts here last spring with seconds in the Tramway Handicap and Epsom Handicap, before his third in the Cox Plate.

Richards believes the five-year-old gelding is physically at his best for his Sydney autumn campaign.

“Te Akau Shark is going really well and we were pleased with the way he won in New Zealand,'' Richards said.

“But he has to take that next step in Sydney now although hopefully his form from the spring shows he is good enough to run very well.

“He did us all proud last spring and I think he can step up to the mark again.''

Probabeel has won her last five starts in New Zealand including wins in the Karaka Millions as a two-year-old and again this season but like her stablemate, she is also winless in this country.

But Probabeel has shown her ability to be very competitive at the highest level with her second placings behind Surround Stakes rival Funstar in the Tea Rose Stakes and Flight Stakes last spring.

“She is going well and trialled nicely at Randwick last week,'' Richards said.

“I was happy with her work last Saturday but she She needs to bring her A-game to the Surround Stakes as these are very good fillies.

“We are under no illusions with the task in front of us but we are looking for to it.''

Richards is also the trainer of New Zealand's champion mare Melody Belle, a 10-time Group 1 winner, who is being aimed at the $5 million All-Star Mile (1600m) at Caulfield on March 14 and then most likely the $3 million Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick on April 4.

Melody Belle resumed with a close third to Streets Of Avalon in the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield last week.

“She ran really well, she was always going to improve with the run,'' Richards said.

“But the way the track played it was going to be hard to finish off so she did a good job, she didn't lose any admirers and will tighten up for three weeks time.

“She will then come to Sydney possibly for the Doncaster or we also have the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Queen of the Turf Stakes the following week to consider, too.''

Richards admitted the last few years have been a “whirlwind experience” as his rapid rise through the trainer ranks has coincided with a resurgent New Zealand racing and breeding industry.

Te Akau Shark, Probabeel and Melody Belle alongside the likes of crack three-year-old Catalyst and others gives the Kiwis some real depth on the racetrack for the first time in years.

The venerable John Messara has recently provided his report and recommendations for reforms to the New Zealand thoroughbred industry to the Ardern Government with the reform process giving Richards confidence and hope about the future of the sport in his homeland.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons Richards concedes he is not about to follow Waller and move to Sydney to train anytime soon.
“I'm very happy with where we are at the moment,'' he said.

“Australia is only three hours away so we can always come over and have a crack. Things can change in the future but right now I'm enjoying my training.''

Ellis Has No Doubt Jamie Will Become A Superstar

DAVID Ellis, New Zealand's leading owner and breeder, remembers vividly the day Jamie Richards sought his counsel for some career advice.

“Jamie told me he didn't know what to do with his life,'' Ellis said.

“I told him it is quite simple - if he wants to stay in the breeding side of things then he should continue working for Waikato Stud which is the best there is but if you want to go into racing then you better come and work for me as soon as you can.

“I could tell racing and training was what he really wanted to do and he was prepared to work very long hours to be successful.''

Ellis had already noticed Richards's work ethic and attention to detail when he was doing dual roles as a trackwork rider in the early mornings then spending his days at Waikato Stud.

Richards had been born into racing - his father was a jockey and mother a racing administrator - and completed his university studies before finding work in the thoroughbred industry.

The offer from Ellis was too good to refuse and Richards took up a job as Racing Manger at Te Akau Racing in 2014. The following year Ellis appointed his young protégé as a training partner with Stephen Autridge.

Then two years ago, Autridge decided to step down from the role and Ellis had no hesitation in announcing Richards as sole head trainer.

“I have never in my life been as confident as I am in my belief that Jamie will go on to be one of the great trainers in Australasia,'' Ellis said at the time.

“He is a brilliantly capable horseman who deals in the currency of common sense and has one of the greatest work ethics I have ever seen.''

Ellis has been proven right as Richards's star has soared ever since.
“Jamie is an exceptionally talented young man,'' Ellis said.

“He's a great listener and you never have to ask him to do something twice - it just happens. He crosses the T's and dots the I's.

“He's an exceptionally hard worker and makes my job easier because it is fun working with him.

“But it is his attention to detail that is so good, you never have to worry about something not being done properly.

“He is a superstar as a trainer and an outstanding young man.'


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