Walker Making Every Post a Winner

Date: 2 Dec 2022

Walker Making Every Post a Winner


Dennis Ryan of Raceform reports:


Mark Walker is well on the way to another landmark season at the helm of Te Akau Racing.


With only four months of the season signed off and already holding a massive lead on the trainers' premiership, Mark Walker is neither resting on his laurels nor making any predictions about what his final tally might look like.

Another big weekend between the Te Rapa and Wanganui race meetings put Te Akau Matamata's incumbent on 69 wins on the trainer's table. That took him past $2 million in stakes for the August-November period and a lead of 45 over his closest rival.

Walker is already seemingly assured of another premiership title to go with the five he claimed in his initial 13-year New Zealand stint before setting up a Singapore stable for Te Akau and adding another four premierships during 11 years at Kranji.

Having set his own record of 108 wins before heading to Singapore in 2010, the prospect of taking his tally into double figures or challenging the current benchmark of 160 is far from Walker's mind. That record was of course set by Jamie Richards, whose decision to relocate to Hong Kong precipitated Walker's return to New Zealand earlier this year.

Walker took over duties at Te Akau's Matamata headquarters seamlessly, adding another 24 wins to Richards' 112 by the end of last season and continuing unabated into the new term. Last weekend was another landmark with stakes wins at both Te Rapa and Wanganui along with another dominant two-year-old hand at Te Rapa.

“It was great to see Prise De Fer (below) win the Eagle Technology and I got a special thrill from La Flora Belle's win the Wanganui Cup,” Walker told RaceForm.



“Prise De Fer has been such a good campaigner over a long time, he's been all around a Group One win without actually getting one. One of the problems has been placing him and originally we weren't going to Te Rapa, but the conditions got him into the race on the right weight and he got the win he deserved.

“We figured he could go to that race and still be able to back up this weekend in the Captain Cook Stakes, so here's hoping he can do it again and get that Group One.

“We all got a big thrill from La Flora Balle, to see those famous colours winning a black-type race for her owner-breeder Marie Leicester. We had set her for the race a long time and it was great to see it all come together. Like everything else at Te Akau, it was a team effort, right down to the 10 out of 10 ride from our stable apprentice Joe Kamaruddin.



“Marie has continued the legacy established years ago by her parents, she makes a huge investment into her breeding and racing team and she leaves us to play our part. She has been so patient with this mare, she's given her all time she has needed, and now she's getting the reward.”

Leicester played a major role in recent Te Akau fortunes as the breeder of the marvellous racemare Melody Belle, a dual New Zealand Horse of the Year titleholder who established a record of 14 Group One races when carrying the Fortuna Syndication colours.

Walker also acknowledges the part that Te Akau principal David Ellis and his wife Karyn play in the country's largest training and syndication operation.

“Dave is great for the whole industry and has been for a long time,” he says. “Settling back in to the New Zealand operation has been a reminder for me that he and Karyn are still as enthusiastic as ever in the crucial part they play.”

Recent developments on the domestic scene have boosted Walker's confidence that the racing industry is headed in the right direction.

“What they're setting out to achieve at Auckland Thoroughbred Racing is huge for everyone. After all, the best driver for investment in racing is stake-money, and the new Auckland set-up is going to provide a huge boost.

“I also think we're in for some exciting times with so many young stallions coming through. Savabeel has been massive for the whole industry over a long period and now we've got these younger stallions putting up their hand, and that creates a great depth of choice.”

Rather than make predictions about his own immediate future in the matter of wins, Walker is content to continue a daily routine that begins with a 3am alarm call, knowing he has the backing of well-appointed operation, from the horses in his care to a structured team.

“I'm so lucky to have such a bunch of energetic, keen people to work with, from the older experienced hands to my assistant Sam Bergerson (below right with Mark), really good young men and women running their stable blocks, our new racing manager Reece Trumper (below left) and a top selection of trackwork riders and jockeys to call on, including our stable jockey Opie Bosson who returns on Waikato Cup Day which we are really looking forward to.”



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