Mark's Fabulous Five

Date: 4 Aug 2020

Mark's Fabulous Five

Hunting down his ninth premiership, world-class horse trainer Mark Walker bagged five wins on Sunday 2 August at Kranji Racecourse. 

After Savabeel (Zabeel) gelding What You Like won the first race, he strung together four in a row, bookended by another Savabeel gelding, Savvy Command, while later in the programme Shocking (Street Cry) gelding Amazing Choice made it five. 

After winning five premierships at the helm of Te Akau Racing in New Zealand, Walker has enjoyed a decade of success in Singapore. The reigning Champion Trainer after winning for the third time last year, he has also finished second, third, and fourth. 

His ongoing professionalism and ability to churn out winners has been matched on home soil by Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards, who won the premiership with 101 wins in the season just ended, after finishing second on 98 in this first season (2018/19) as sole trainer, and having won the 2015/16 premiership in partnership with Stephen Autridge and finished second & third between times.

In a Covid-19 restricted season in Singapore, Walker leads the premiership with 29 wins, during a season that runs the calendar year. 

Reflecting on the five wins, Walker said: “It was really good and things fell into place. You don't get days like that often. There's still a long way to go in the premiership, but the horses are running very well.

“It was pretty tough through the lockdown when we were short staffed and short of riders, so it's been a really good team effort to keep everything going.

Gus Clutterbuck - with wife Karen -
our right hand Singapore team

“We'd had five (wins) in a day previously in New Zealand, and I think we did one other day in Singapore but (Manoel) Nunes weighed in light on the last winner and it was disqualified.”

Asked about the NZ-bred gallopers in Singapore, Walker said: “They always punch well above their weight, it doesn't matter which country they're in. But we've probably got more Australian bred tried horses in the stable at the moment because they've been a bit cheaper to buy, to be honest. 

“We've been able to buy ready-made racehorses out of Australia, at a reasonable price, that the owners can still make money out of. Everyone's business has been affected by this awful coronavirus, so they're not looking to spend as much on horses as they used to.”

While Covid-19 is causing ongoing ramifications world-wide, Walker has appreciated some of the solace that is being experienced in New Zealand. 

“I've really enjoyed watching the Super Rugby from back home and it's just incredible to think that people can go and sit in the grandstands, normally, and one of the only countries in the world that you can do that. 

“We've done pretty well restricting the virus in Singapore, but not as good as New Zealand has. We're really happy to be back racing because the lockdown period did have an impact on racing and we've just got to battle the best we can through this.

“We've nearly got our staff numbers back to full strength. There have been some long and frustrating days, though, but we're getting back close to normality.”

Walker again paid tribute to his right-hand man, Gus Clutterbuck, his wife, Karen, and the rest of the staff.

“This is Gus and Karen's last year here and then they're going home to New Zealand. Previous to this year, we'd done 16 years together and won eight premierships. They've been a massive part of that. 

“They just don't make horsemen like Gus, anymore, in my opinion. He notices things that others wouldn't and you can't beat that experience. We've been very lucky to have them both as part of the team for so long. They live for the horses and it's very hard, these days, to find people that have devoted their life to the industry and horses in general. 

“Overall, we've got a great team of staff at present. You only win races if you've got good work riders and we've got top-class work riders. It's very, very important. If they're not getting the gallops right, you're not winning races. So, we're very fortunate. But, we've spent a lot of time training them ourselves to do it our way and you only reap the rewards if you're putting in the hard yards of training them as well. 

“It's very easy, training racehorses, to have them leave it on the (training) track. You can leave a winning run on the track, galloping Tuesday or Saturday, easily, so it's very important that your riders are getting it right in the gallops.”

Walker, like (Jamie) Richards, was given a leg-up by Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM and he was quick to point out the ongoing influence and benefits that Ellis has on the pair.

“There aren't many people that understand all aspects of racing like Dave does,” Walker said. “He's very good at thinking a problem through. Sometimes, you put something to him, option A, B, or C, and he'll ask for a day or two to think it over. And it doesn't necessarily have to be about a horse, either.

“He could ring you from out the back of the farm, and you can hear him on the four-wheeler or whatever, and he'll say he's thought it over and give you an answer. He's not only been a fantastic mentor and friend, but he's been a great sounding board over the years. 

“And he's got better with age and experience, as well, but there are few more complete racing people. Dave has experience in all facets of the industry, from the front of the book to the back, and there are not many people that have done all the things he's done in racing. 

“He's provided Jamie and I with hundreds of horses to train, that him and Karyn (Fenton-Ellis MNZM) have syndicated. You don't get results without a lot of hard work and you can say that we've always been lucky enough to have good horses, but if you're doing it consistently, year in and year out, it shows you're doing things right.

“I think, personally, the whole game is won and lost at the yearling sales and other sales, and the advantage we've had is that Dave has been buying these horses. For example, if you're not buying the right yearlings and winning Group 1 races you're not able to syndicate the next crop of horses you buy. 

“So, my theory, basically, and I've said it for quite some time, is that the whole racing game is won and lost in the sales ring. And, I truly believe that. 15 to 20 years ago, when we trained horses like Maroofity and King's Chapel, those sorts of horses were cheaper horses but they were good horses. 

“And even the first horses we bought for John Galvin (Fortuna Syndications), like Kapsdan, Dave bought her cheap. She was a good horse and that got John hooked into it and on his way. 

“There's only one winning post and that's how you're judged, whether you're a trainer, breeder, jockey, whatever, it's the same principle and everyone loves winning. If you're getting results then you get repeat business and new clients, but as I say, in my humble opinion, it's all important the horses you buy.

“Both Jamie and myself have been very fortunate that we've had the backing of Dave and Karyn.”


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