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Te Akau’s Seasons’ Stakes of $8.4 Million

29 Jul 2019

With the New Zealand racing season concluding this coming week – and the Singapore season just on seven months completed – it’s a great time to reflect on some remarkable milestones:

  • Te Akau Singapore trainer Mark Walker brought up his 50thwin for the season on Friday
  • Te Akau NZ trainer Jamie Richards lies second on the Trainers’ Premiership with 98 wins for the season – including 18 Group/Listed wins, seven at Group 1 level
  • In the past NZ season and half the Singapore season, Te Akau owners have won over $6 million in prizemoney.

If we look at the 2018/19 full NZ season and the full 2018 Singapore season – Te Akau has won 185 races – 21 Group/Listed races and almost $8.5 million in prizemoney for our owners …

Te Akau trainer Mark Walker, twice Champion Trainer in Singapore, notched his 50thwin for the season when Sacred Sea (Sea the Stars) charged home on Friday night at Kranji.

In a season running the calendar year in Singapore, Walker has a 13 win buffer over Michael Clements and could be on target to set a new record. Towards the end of last season, Elite Invincible (Archarcharch) winning the $1.35m Singapore Gold Cup (Gr. 1, 2000m) provided Walker with his 500thwinner in Singapore.

“We had 87 wins when winning the premiership in 2017 but may struggle to reach that with quite a few of our winners now up in grade,” Walker said. “Last season we won $4.7m in prize money for the owners and we will probably top that.

“We will probably have quieter time with winners in September and October because a lot of our horses that are winning would have reached their peak, up in class, and of course it makes it tougher to win. A lot find their rightful grade and they have to drop back down to win again, and it’s just the system they’re within in Asia.

“We’ve had some nice wins, but a bit disappointing it rained last week for the (Singapore) Derby. By race nine the track was severely rain-affected and the two we had in couldn’t get through it.”

Walker ended last season in fourth place on the premiership table, and the leading Kiwi trainer. The winner of five training premierships in New Zealand, Walker was crowned Champion Trainer in 2015 and 2017 while also finishing second and third since setting up stables in 2010 at Kranji Racecourse.

Back in April, with 17 wins, 24 seconds and 17 thirds, Walker alluded to some frustration with the number of seconds while rightly predicting a change of fortunes. “I can see we’re going to have a pretty good stint coming up because we should be running a lot of horses in their rightful grade and that can be a turning point,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards has saddled his last horse for the season and currently preparing the team for another successful year.

“It’s been a phenomenal season for Jamie to get nearly 100 wins and all those stakes’ winners, an incredible effort,” Walker said. “They’ve got such a good team of people. Not only at the farm but also at the stables and Jamie is always the first to say, anyway, you’re only as good as the people around you and he’s certainly got very good people around him.”

Commenting on the business, Walker said: “For Dave (Ellis) and Karyn (Fenton-Ellis MNZM) to syndicate as many horses as they do is an incredible achievement and I don’t think you’d find anyone else in Australasia syndicating that many. 

“The business has grown so much and Singapore has been a big part of that because financially it’s been very good for the business having a Singapore base. It’s enabled us to make improvements on the farm and the stables and attract better quality staff. So, we’ve got to be happy with the way everything is going.”

“Our timing was pretty good, coming to Singapore, and it’s just unfortunate the state the New Zealand racing industry is in. But, at least there is light at the end of the tunnel. (Racing Minister) Winston Peters is onboard and RITA (Racing Industry Transition Agency), the working group, under Dean McKenzie as Chair and a board that includes Sir Peter Vela. When I was training for Sir Peter I got to know him very well and not only has he got a great racing brain but he’s got an incredible business brain on him.

“Unfortunately, no matter what they do, they are going to have to make some very unpopular decisions, but they’ve got to be made if the industry is to survive and go forward. And it’s not just racing but the breeding industry as well and we wouldn’t want the foal crop to drop much further. 

“It’s been exciting what Brendan and Jo Lindsay have been doing at Cambridge Stud, but in a perfect world we need another three or four people like that. I take my hat off to them, and people like Kevin Hickman at Valachi, but we need other new investors as well.

“People put their heart and soul into the New Zealand racing industry, people that are currently struggling to keep their heads above water, so hopefully we’ve reached the low point and can get the necessary changes for it to improve.”

Te Akau New Zealand finished the season in second place on the premiership ladder with 98 wins, including 18 stakes victories, and nearly $4m in prize money, while also having the best strike rate (5.4) among the top 20 trainers.

“It’s been a great first season as solo trainer,” said Jamie Richards, who previously won the premiership in partnership with Stephen Autridge in 2016, and followed with a third and second, respectively, in 2017 and 2018.

“Right from the very start, our first winner was Melody Belle in the Foxbridge Plate and thankfully the horses have continued to perform well all year. We managed to keep the strike rate right, had a good bit of success in Australia, and the young horses coming through have raced well.

“To win seven Group Ones was testament to both the horses in the stable and the staff, and the systems and procedures that we’ve got in place. Obviously, everything was put in place from when Dave (Ellis) and Mark (Walker) set up Te Akau. It’s been an incredibly exciting season and hopefully we can continue to build on it. 

“I’d like to extend a big thank you to all our owners, who without we wouldn’t be in this position, and also to all the staff that have done such a great job. 

“Going forwards, we’ve got a lovely bunch of horses, both older horses and younger horses coming through. We’ve always lacked a bit of depth in our older horses, but I think we have some there that have spelled well and come back in good order and can hopefully continue to get through the grades.

“Dave and Karyn, to have bought such good quality horses and get them all syndicated – I think there is only a ten percent share left in one Iffraaj colt, a lovely horse – is quite amazing. The success of the stable starts in the sale ring at Karaka, with the horses that we buy. And without being able to buy those horses and have Dave and Karyn syndicate amongst a wonderful bunch of owners that Te Akau has then our success wouldn’t be what it is. We can’t make slow horses run fast, so we’re just lucky Dave buys the right horses and that we’re able to get them sold.

“Dave is an incredible leader and very influential not just in my career but also helping so many of the staff. If there is anything he can do to help, nothing is ever a problem for him, especially if they’re prepared to work hard and get stuck into it.

“Where Dave and Karyn are based: Te Akau Stud is incredibly important in our operation and cannot be underestimated. They’ve got a great team of people out there. It’s paramount that horses do well when spelling and their every need is catered for at the farm. They put weight on and arrive to us at the stables in great condition, which gives us plenty to work with.”

Gingernuts – arrives home from his Australian hospital life-saving treatment – 2018

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