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Te Akau Shines at Horse of the Year Awards

12 Oct 2020

Te Akau Shines at Horse of the Year Awards

With horses they train, owners they train for, and people they employ, Te Akau Racing had a major hand in 10 of the 19 titles at the 2020 New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards.

With the NZTR Awards’ Ceremony physically cancelled, and the winners being announced via a virtual broadcast – Te Akau decided to host its own season celebration, and also take in the live broadcast of the awards’ announcement as they happened.

What a huge success the event was too!

Headlining once again was star mare Melody Belle (Commands) who retained her Horse of the Year title, winning both Champion Sprinter/Miler and Champion Middle Distance. Trainer Jamie Richards won both the Trainers’ Premiership and Dunstan Champion Trainer of the Year titles, Cool Aza Beel (Savabeel) was Champion Two-Year-Old, Opie Bosson was Jockey of the Year, Julia-Rose Hayes won the Contribution to Media, Digital, and Content, and Brendan & Jo Lindsay won the Owners’ Premiership. 

At the helm of Te Akau Racing and the man that made the business, David Ellis CNZM was thrilled with the overall results and how the virtual format panned out. 

“It was a huge success and I thought the virtual connection, which took a lot of work by a lot of people, went really well,” Ellis said. 

“We were thrilled to welcome well known and respected Trackside presenter and journalist Aidan Rodley as MC for the evening. He’s very knowledgeable, humorous and is a class act,” Ellis added.

“The greatest thrill for Karyn (Fenton-Ellis) and I was seeing our youngest daughter, Julia-Rose (Hayes), win the Contribution to Media, Digital and Content Award, after Karyn won it in 2012. She puts a lot of work into our business and it’s a real team effort with all the owner communications and content. She spoke articulately in receiving the award and she’s a great person.


“It’s impossible to describe how it makes me feel and brings tears to my eyes to share in the success of all the Te Akau winners. I started off with no family in racing and to finish up seeing our team of people and horses winning all these awards was a massive thrill and I’m extremely proud. 

“It’s been 40 years of hard work. When I had my first Group 1 winner in 1986, I thought wouldn’t it be great if I could get one more and here we are celebrating 11 in one season, all with horses that Jamie (Richards), Mark (Walker) and I bought, it’s pretty exciting.


“We had 150 people at a special function last night at Te Rapa, and sitting next to me was (New Zealand Bloodstock Chairman) Joe Walls. He’s been a massive part of the success that Te Akau has had, in both encouraging and advising me. It was incredible the people that came to support us and they will never know what the effort they put into coming means to me. It was a very emotional night and occasion.

“I was thrilled for our owners that won awards because they support us so much and we simply could not do it without them. People may not realise, to run a business like Te Akau, the hours that we put in. I’m in my office every morning by 4.05 a.m. and Karyn works most nights until 11pm or midnight. We do it because we want to do well and we want to achieve the best results we can for our owners.”

Trainers Premiership and Trainer of the Year – Jamie Richards:

Early in the season Richards (30), who equalled Mark Walker as the youngest premiership winning trainer, prepared Melody Belle (Commands) to become the first horse ever to win the elusive Hawkes Bay Triple Crown. He created history again when Cool Aza Beel (Savabeel) and Probabeel (Savabeel) won the Karaka Million double at Ellerslie, and won two Group 1 races on the same day at Royal Randwick, with Te Akau Shark (Rip Van Winkle) and Probabeel (Savabeel), as well as a stakes’ race at Ellerslie. 

Having ended the previous season on 98 wins in his first as solo trainer for Te Akau Racing, Richards led the premiership in all facets: wins, prize money (nearly $4 million), group & listed wins, and the best strike rate (4.8) among the top 10 trainers in the country. Adding to his 17 stakes’ victories in New Zealand, Richards added three Group 1 wins in Australia, with 11 of his 20 group & listed wins coming in Group 1 races and a total of 104 wins for the season. 11 Group 1 wins in a season is a New Zealand record. During the season, Richards was rated as high as sixth (he is currently 9th for the new season) in the TRC Global Trainer Rankings. 

“It’s a big thrill to have your name up there with some legends of the training ranks,” Richards said. “To win in my first year when training with Steve Autridge was a big thrill, but to do it in my own right, leading a big team of horses and people is very gratifying.

“A couple of big factors in why the stable has been so successful: Dave (Ellis) has bought a lot of quality horses and Mark (Walker) continues to have a fantastic input from the Te Akau stable in Singapore. 

“Butch Castles (Te Rapa CEO) said me that we’re probably underselling ourselves with Melody Belle winning the Triple Crown, because even Starcraft, a world champion, couldn’t do it. She is a wonderful mare and to have her back winning another Group 1 last week at Hastings is fantastic.

“I have a lot of people to thank and have a great team around me, headed by Dave and Karyn. Right through from the office staff to the people running the barns, it’s a massive team effort and a privilege to be here accepting the award.


“Probably the highlight was winning the double with Te Akau Shark and Probabeel, two Group 1 races within half an hour of each other. Both horses were bought by Dave (Ellis) and ridden by Opie (Bosson), a real Kiwi connection.

“I’m very fortunate given the effort, time, and money that Dave has put into surrounding me and himself with the right people and horses and that’s evidenced by the awards that we’ve won. New Zealand racing is something we’re all very proud of and Australia is where we all strive to be competitive. To have won three Group 1 races there was nothing short of phenomenal, so I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve.

“I take great pride in working hard and I think the rest of the staff feed off that. I’d like to thank David and Karyn, obviously, but also everyone at Te Akau Stud and it is probably not recognized enough how important the spelling farm is to the overall business. The horses come back in great shape after spelling.

“Dad (Paul Richards) is an integral part and does a lot of travelling with the horses. And (sister) Libby has been an integral part of everything. She is very much in the mix and a wonderful person. I’ve got a great family, all in Matamata, and I’m privileged that mum and dad (Paul & Leanne) have raised both Libby and I like they have.”


Champion Two-Year-Old – Cool Aza Beel:

Having provided Te Akau with their fourth consecutive $1m Karaka Million 2YO (Restricted Listed, 1200m) victory, Cool Aza Beel (3 c Savabeel – Cool ‘N’ Sassy, by Testa Rossa) returned to his favourite course (Ellerslie) for victory in the Sistema Stakes (Gr. 1, 1200m) on Auckland Cup Day (7 March), and gave Te Akau their fourth consecutive title and eighth overall in the juvenile category. 

Owned by the Te Akau Sassy Beel Syndicate (Mgr: Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM), winner of four from six and $707,560, and following in the footsteps of Melody Belle (Commands), Avantage (Fastnet Rock), and Probabeel (Savabeel), the colt was purchased by David Ellis CNZM for $150,000 at the 2019 Karaka Book 1 Sale, from the draft of Fairdale Stud.


“It’s incredibly exciting for all the owners and to win a fourth Karaka Million was beyond any imagination,” said syndicate manager Karyn Fenton-Ellis. “He’s been an amazing horse and full credit to Jamie Richards and team, who have done an amazing job.”

“It’s awesome and you couldn’t wish for anything better,” said part-owner John Elstob. “It takes the stars in my view: David Ellis, the star that bought the horse, the horse himself, and the people at Te Akau Stud and at Te Akau Racing, they’re stars as well, and having a star jockey, Opie Bosson, on board.”


Champion Sprinter/Miler, Champion Middle Distance and Horse of the Year – Melody Belle:

Purchased by Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM for $57,500 as a yearling at Karaka, Melody Belle, winner of 11 Group 1 races and $3.6 million in prize money, recorded four Group 1 wins in the 2019/20 season, including an historical treble in the Hawkes Bay Triple Crown: Tarzino Trophy (Gr. 1, 1400m), Windsor Park Plate (Gr. 1, 1600m), and Livamol Classic (Gr. 1, 2040m), remains unbeaten in all six Group 1 starts at Hastings, plus the Empire Rose Stakes (Gr. 1, 1600m) at Flemington, and matched the herculean Winx (Street Cry) – 25 Gr. 1 wins – by winning seven Group 1 races in a calendar year (2019). Winx achieved the feat in 2018. Melody Belle has won more Group 1 races than any horse in the history of New Zealand racing. 


Fortuna Syndications manager John Galvin said: “She is a fantastic mare and so great to be associated with her. It was a great thrill to win the Triple Crown. A lot of good horses had attempted it but it had never been done before. 

“We have 33 owners throughout New Zealand, and one in Australia, people stemming from Whangarei to Cromwell, in the south. I hear lots of stories from around the country: Waipukurau and rural Taranaki, those sorts of places where we’ve got owners, and how the people in those communities get behind her. 


“We had over 20 owners there the day she won the Empire Rose Stakes on Derby Day at Flemington, and that’s a thrill we will take to our graves. Her run for second to Magic Wand in the MacKinnon Stakes was amazing and with a little more luck she might have got up and won.

“I would again like to extend a special thanks to David Ellis for buying this filly as a yearling in 2016 at the Karaka sales, Jamie, of course, for a wonderful training effort throughout the year and Opie for riding her in three of her four Group 1 victories.


“And my wife Jessica also shares in Melody Belle, which I bought for her as a Christmas present.”

NZTR Award for Contribution to Media, Digital, and Content – Julia-Rose Hayes:

Julia-Rose became a second-generation media award winner, when claiming the prize for her work for Te Akau Racing. Julia-Rose emulated her mother, Karyn Fenton-Ellis, who won the same prize in 2012.


“Firstly, I want to say how honoured I am alongside all the other nominees,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you have the level of results that a stable like Te Akau does in racing, but if you’re putting into our industry you are putting into racing and that what this award is about.”

“We’re so lucky to be in an environment where everyone plays a massive part in winning an award like this. Kate Belsham does a lot of work for us on the ground at Matamata, my mother Karyn Fenton-Ellis who is an amazing wordsmith, contribution by Jeff Dore, the team in the office, but without the quality horses David (Ellis) buys we wouldn’t have such great content. 

“To captivate people into racing horses we need to get more eyeballs on our sport and ignite their passion for the horses. So, we try to create innovative content from our social media pages to our website, daily, and keep our owners fully updated on their horses.

“We had an initiative last season where we gave shares to Boys Get Paid (Luke Kemeys and Ben Masters) who have 18,000 members in their Facebook group. Combat Queen (Pierro) and Awareness (Redoute’s Choice), who have won three races between them from only a few starts. They have received over 60 emails about their horses and our job is to keep people informed anywhere in the world. 


“What we want to move into is making horse ownership more accessible for first time owners, educate and have them understand terminology and what horse racing is all about. And making sure every Te Akau owner can go to the races and know what they’re talking about.

“David has supported me through everything. I started my career at Ellerslie, under Cameron George, which ignited my love of racing. Mum has been amazing, proofs all my work, but I couldn’t do my job without my husband, Hamish Hayes, who owns a digital marketing company (Calibrate Digital). He has taught me everything I know and I’m lucky to have him.”

Jockey of the Year – Opie Bosson:

Winning for the second consecutive year, Bosson, who has voted Jockey of the Year for the sixth time, also won 11 Group I races, including five in Australia, 17 stakes wins, and was the leading rider at the Sydney autumn carnival. 

Highlights included being the leading Group 1 rider in Australasia, and breaking the New Zealand record for the number of Group 1 winners ridden by a jockey in a single season, while maintaining the lowest strike rate among the top 50 jockeys in the NZ premiership. 


“It’s been a great season and I’ve been lucky enough to ride so many great horses,” Bosson said. “As the awards have gone on, tonight, I’ve ridden just about every horse that has won awards.

“I was lucky enough to go over to Australia with Te Akau horses and they ran well and performed. It was a dream result, even while being away from the family for awhile. My wife Emily is a big part of my career and I want to achieve as much as can in my career for her and Max, so he can be proud of his dad. I can’t thank the Te Akau team enough and all the trainers that have supported me and I’ve ridden for throughout the season. 

“It was great atmosphere the night I rode both Karaka Million winners (Cool Aza Beel and Probabeel) at Ellerslie. It was a big thrill.”

NZTR Stablehand of the Year – Northern winner, national finalist – Mette Mosebo (Te Akau Racing):

Mette Mosebo was announced a fortnight ago as the northern region winner for NZTR’s Stablehand of the Year award. Asn one of three national finalists, Mette received $2,500 from sponsor Majestic Floats. While Mette may not have won the overall national award on the night e were very proud of her, with David and Karyn announcing she would receive a $1,000 gift from Te Akau Racing.


We also wish to congratulate our other finalists
of whom we are very proud:

winner of three Group 1 races in 2019/20 in New Zealand

Te Akau Shark
trans Tasman Group 1 winner in 2019/20

Karaka 3YO Million & Group 1 Surround Stakes’ winner (Sydney)

Enjoy some pics of our fabulous team too:

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