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Te Akau Friday Update

20 Mar 2020

Te Akau Friday Update

David writes:

It has been an unbelievably frustrating and worrying time for everyone during the outbreak of the corona virus, and this week has been incredibly tough hasn’t it? It seems that every hour there is a new development nationally or internationally – with borders being closed, flights cancelled, people stranded – and racing – well that’s a whole other story.

I feel so sorry for people whose jobs are at risk, especially people who operate or work in small businesses who are so reliant on industries such as tourism in New Zealand.

I have told our Te Akau Racing team that their jobs are safe with us – people have enough to worry about and Karyn and I wanted all of our team to know that we will look after them. Together with our horses and their owners, our team and their well-being is an absolute priority for us. Our people and their families really matter.

The racing environment has been a changing feast too but it has been great to see the authorities acting swiftly and diligently to try to keep us all racing in New Zealand and Australia.

It’s a very strange sensation I am sure you will agree, to see empty racecourses, devoid of owners and public – with only the bare essentials of personnel now allowed on course for each raceday.

So far this has proven a really intelligent and sensible response and I am so proud that all of our owners understand these new rules. When we sent an email about this, the feedback was so positive and supportive – so thank you. We – and the industry leadership – really appreciate this.

It was the same in Australia last weekend when the surreal running of the A$5 million All Star Mile was staged at Caulfield, again to an empty racecourse. Melody Belle was a bit unlucky I thought when racing well to finish third – and collecting about A$360,000 for her efforts. Unable to be on course, her owners who had travelled were able to enjoy their day at the Crown Casino instead.

That evening Jamie Richards returned home, with Opie flying back too – the next day we were advised that the Australian borders would close at midnight as Opie arrived home so he literally raced home, repacked, had his wife Emily book a flight to Sydney and he was straight back in time to avoid the mandatory 14 days self-isolation.

That means Opie will remain in Sydney for the Autumn Carnival and will during coming weeks be riding Te Akau Shark (tomorrow), Probabeel and Melody Belle – all Group 1 winners in Australia for Te Akau Racing this season.

Jamie has remained in New Zealand with the team here but our Sydney horses are in great hands with Paul Richards travelling up from Melbourne with Melody Belle during the week, to join Ashley Handley who has been such a super job as well with our team there.

Also spare a thought for our Singapore trainer Mark Walker – as with many Kranji-based trainers, many of our stable staff travel each day across the Malaysia border to work – the border is now closed so it has been a challenge for everyone.

While we are all being very sensible and supporting the regulations that have been issued, it has made me realise just how lucky we are to still have racing, as in the UK they are not racing at all until mid April. We are also still fortunate to have a farm that is pretty unaffected by this virus.

Let’s hope and pray they find a solution and to cure to this virus sooner rather than later. 

The good news during this difficult time is that our trainer, Jamie Richards, has our racing team on fire!

On Wednesday, we took two horses to Rotorua. Our first mare, Shezathinka, won her race by five lengths while Aromatic was even more impressive by winning her race by six and half lengths!

So that’s a 100% success. When Shezathinka won, she became our 97th New Zealand winner for the season – but if you add our three Group 1 winners in Australia – Jamie hit the century overall. Then Aromatic saluted the judge to become our 98th domestic winner for this season (101 total), and we have a strike rate of 4.8 in new Zealand – this is an unbelievable statistic for our team! 

You only achieve these results if everybody is working hard and playing their part with dedication and passion. From the ladies in our offices, to our stable teams at our Matamata and Singapore stables, to our Te Akau Stud crew who look after our spellers and break in our yearlings – and all of our partners e.g. our vets, farriers etc – well done! I am so proud of all your achievements; you are all just incredible.

I must admit, the season isn’t over yet, but I am already getting excited about this next group of yearlings who will go into our stable shortly. Seeing them being broken in and worked around the farm makes me realise that we have the best group of yearlings I have ever seen here at the stud. To our owners who have invested with us – congratulations! They really are the pick of the bunch.

I spend a lot of time at present looking at our weather forecasts. Gee, I really hope the rain forecasted for this weekend arrives! As I write, it has just started to pour down, so it will be hard to wipe the smile off my face if this continues. Even if we received 25mls, it would be massive help to the farm.

Saying this, after looking at all our horses spelling this morning, we have had to slightly reduce their feed in several paddocks as we have several horses who are conditioning far too well!

Best of luck to all our owners with runners this weekend – in new Zealand and of course Sydney where Te Akau Shark (drawn wide yet again!!) contests the A$1 million George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill – …


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