Te Akau & Westbury Gear Up for Group 1 Day

Date: 8 Sep 2023

Te Akau & Westbury Gear Up for Group 1 Day


Dennis Ryan of Raceform reports:


At every level, the first Group One raceday of the New Zealand season is big, but none more so than for two of the industry’s most significant entities, Westbury Stud and Te Akau Racing.

Both will be out in force on Tarzino Trophy Day at Hastings this weekend, Westbury Stud as the key raceday sponsor as well as a connection to feature race contestants, and Te Akau with its potent Mark Walker/Sam Bergerson-trained contingent.

In the middle of all this is Gerry Harvey, a hugely successful Australian-based entrepreneur and the owner for more than a decade of Westbury Stud with its significant property holdings in Karaka and Matamata. 

Horses sporting Harvey’s blue and white colours are nearly as ubiquitous on the country’s racetracks as those carrying the Te Akau tangerine. Both entities are massive contributors to the racing industry, and inevitably their paths cross.

That was evident last Saturday at Riccarton Park, when one of the four Te Akau-trained winners on the card included the Harvey-bred, Westbury-raised Viva Vienna. The All Too Hard filly took her record to three wins from six starts when heading a Harvey-bred quinella with her photo-finish victory over Illicit Dreams.

Viva Vienna was a $100,000 Karaka yearling purchase by Te Akau principal David Ellis, and her three-year-old debut win confirmed plans to target the New Zealand 1000 Guineas in November. One of Te Akau’s Group One haul last season included Westbury Stud graduate Romancing the Moon (below), by resident sire El Roca, who won the Levin Classic at Trentham in the autumn. 



Westbury Stud has long been a go-to source for Te Akau’s continual replenishment programme, and the past year is a perfect example. Amongst the yearlings purchased at sales across New Zealand and Australia are three bred by Gerry Harvey. 

At Karaka in January, Ellis signed for a Capitalist filly from the Westbury draft at $75,000, while his Gold Coast purchases included colts by I Am Invincible and Snitzel at A$525,000 and A$650,000, both of them consigned from Harvey’s Baramul Stud. 

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating, and already these three yearlings are trial winners amongst the eight Te Akau juveniles that have been successful in early season heats. Snitzel colt Unbridled Joy (below) won at Te Rapa on the first trial day of the new season, while I Am Invincible colt Move To Strike and Capitalist filly About Last Night were both successful at Avondale on August 15. 



“Typical of horses that Gerry Harvey breeds, all three were lovely yearlings when we bought them and they’ve made all the right moves since,” Ellis told RaceForm. “The two colts have quality pedigrees with the potential to become stallions in the mould of other well-bred colts we’ve developed.

“I’ve got the utmost respect for Gerry, he’s a huge investor in the industry, he’s a great guy and his passion for racing and all that goes with it is obvious.”

Harvey’s main man in New Zealand, Westbury Stud General Manager Russell Warwick, is only too aware of Harvey’s broad industry reach.

“Gerry is unique when you consider everything, and he has brought so much to New Zealand racing and breeding. Apart from the day-to-day management of his interests, every month I get a reminder of just how massive his input is when I sign off all the invoices. It’s a mind-boggling commitment.

“A big part of Gerry’s and Westbury’s involvement is relationship-building, and operations like Te Akau are high on the list. Over the years we’ve enjoyed that relationship with David and his team – it’s been fruitful for both parties and all things being equal will continue to be.”

Warwick and Ellis share the enthusiasm being expressed from so many quarters for the massive steps that have become a reality since the joint venture signing between Entain and TAB NZ. 

“It’s great to see stakes increases across the board, from Group Ones right down to midweek maidens,” Ellis said. “There’s so much else too, you take what Auckland Thoroughbred Racing has just announced with such a massive lift for Karaka Millions night and everything else they are planning. 

“The boost for the Pearl Series is another fantastic initiative – I know that only too well after we won two $20,000 bonuses in the space of a week at Riccarton with our Burgundy filly Sorcha (below). That’s what I call a bonus!”



Warwick doesn’t hide his pride in what has been achieved with the amalgamation of the former Auckland and Counties Racing Clubs.

“I did 16 years on the Ellerslie board and three years as Chairman, so obviously it’s close to my heart and I couldn’t be more impressed with the advances that have been made. Like everybody, I’m so looking forward to be back racing there in the New Year and you can’t help but be excited by everything else that’s going on in the industry.”

As for the here and now, Warwick and his team are as keen as ever ahead of Tarzino Trophy Day, more so with Westbury-bred Redwood pair Sharp ’N’ Smart and Solidify primed for their season debuts in the Tarzino Trophy and El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy.

“They both proved their class last season,” Warwick said of the Rogerson-trained duo. “The reports coming through after they galloped at Te Rapa on Tuesday have us optimistic that if things go their way they can step up on our big day.”


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