Te Akau + Kuru = Top Combination

Date: 8 Jul 2024

Te Akau + Kuru = Top Combination

Former Champion Jumps' Jockey of the Year in New Zealand - Aaron Kuru has fashioned a superb record since relocating to Australia.  Some of his most recent successes coming via Te Akau's Cranbourne stable and trainer Mark Walker.

Walker has long been known to love jumps' racing and is a very talented trainer of jumpers as well as flat horses.  Three horses currently based at our Victorian stable are now enjoying success over the jumps recording six wins - Kuru has ridden Prismatic,Leaderboard and to The Mighty Spar to victory.

So all three Te Akau jumpers have won, and in doing so have provided Kuru with 20% of his winning rides this season!  it's a terrific relationship and one that we know will keep delivering.

NZ Racing News recently reported (excerpt):

It’s no accident that Aaron Kuru has become Australia’s most in-demand jumps jockey.

The talented Kiwi is in the midst of a career-best season with 25 wins at a 25 per cent strike-rate across jumps and highweight flat races and will look to continue that form in the Thackeray Steeplechase and Kevion Lafferty Hurdle at Warrnambool on Sunday.

When Kuru, New Zealand’s premier jumps rider at the time, made the move to Victoria in 2020, it wasn’t a case of a simple transition to the top.

He’d built a name and a reputation in this part of the world, first via an incredible viral win on a fallen horse in a jumps race in New Zealand and later when successful aboard Tallyho Twinkletoe in both of the 2019 Australian Grand Nationals.

But that counted for little as he struggled to gain traction and, by his own admission, found it difficult to adapt to different conditions and different tracks.

In a weighing room with Pateman, McCarthy, Jackson, Ryan and Cully, he needed to find a way to stand out.

“Moving over here, no matter the outcome, my partner and I made a decision to come and make it work,” Kuru said.

“It was pretty tough in the first season or two then we slowly started to get improvement.

“In terms of my style, I had no real style at all.

“In New Zealand with the Heavy tracks, I used to ride long and safe and when I came to Australia, I stood out but in in a bad way.

“I don’t think I looked that good, so I needed to change something about my riding because my first season here wasn’t going to plan.

“I put my irons up a few holes, got a bit of strength in my legs and my core and tried to look a bit more like a flat rider.

“I thought that if I could stick out in a good way, maybe people will notice that.

“I think a lot of the jumps riders have that European style, so I thought if I could look different to that, maybe I will get noticed in a good way.

“Patrick (Payne) sends a lot of horses to trials and jumpouts, so I was able to work on it there and really build my fitness as well and put the work into my legs to ride like that.”

Even the most hardened jumps racing fans marvel at the poetry in flight that is Kuru’s seat on a horse approaching and over a jump.

That he’s become such a polished rider is an achievement in itself, given he didn’t sit on a horse until well into his high school years.

A career as a jockey was never on the cards, even after he’d ridden trackwork for several years, but a chance encounter in a picnic race was the catalyst for a change of heart.

“I had no link at all to jumps racing and I didn’t sit on a horse until I was about 14 or 15,” he said.

“My high school in New Zealand was directly across the road from a racecourse and at that sort of age, you’re always asking your parents for money, so I needed to get a job.

“I just thought that maybe I could ride some horses for cash before school and that’s really how it all started.

“I started riding and I learned to ride trackwork and that was my job all the way through high school.

“I didn’t really have any interest in becoming a jockey at all, so I finished school, but my boss, John Barry, had an older horse that had reached his mark, so he put him in a picnic race and I got my picnic licence to ride him.

“He ran second and I got the bug after that.

“I did the picnic circuit for about a year-and-a-half and was ready to throw it away before someone told me I should become a jumps rider.

“I had no interest at all, but I went to Mrs Brown’s jumping school in New Zealand and after the weekend I took my jumps licence and we started from there.”

A decade on and Kuru boasts almost 200 wins, including features on both sides of the Tasman.

His association with Patrick Payne has yielded success in the Grand National Hurdle and Grand National Chase, while he’s won a Brierly and formed a brilliant partnership with the ‘King of Casterton’ Elvison for his other main supporter, Symon Wilde.

“I feel like I’m getting on really nice horses,” he said.

“Symon Wilde has a lot of input in my success and a lot of work goes in behind the scenes with him and I.

“I actually live not far from Paddy Payne, so I ride work for him and, generally once a week or whenever Symon needs me for gallops or jumpouts, I’ll head down to Warrnambool.”

Kuru won’t ride for Payne or Wilde in Sunday’s two feature races, although it’s likely he will link up with them on the undercard, which consists of jumps races and highweight flat races.

Instead, he will continue a lethal combination he’s formed with another New Zealander, Mark Walker.

The pair has combined only 11 times this season but it’s an association that has yielded six wins aboard emerging jumpers Leaderboard, Prismatic and The Mighty Spar.

“At this stage, I’m riding Prismatic for Te Akau in the Kevin Lafferty Hurdle and Leaderboard in the Thackeray Chase,” he said.

“My great strike-rate with Mark is purely just a case of him identifying the right horses to send jumping.

“I don’t think it was a case of these horses reaching their mark on the flat, but I think the schooling (over jumps) has out a bit more of a spark into them.

“From that schooling, he (Mark) has identified that they are quite nice jumpers.

“They all had a jumps start in New Zealand.”


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