Day At The Track

An eye for the prize

04:32 PM 23 Jan 2019 NZDT
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Michael House Highview Tommy  950 x 633.jpg
Michael House has been on all previous Tours

The depth of quality in this year’s yearling draft is reflected in the record number of harness racing trainers and owners who have registered to attend Southern Bred Southern Reared’s Yearling Tour in February.

Included in this year’s draft are some of the big names in the industry and in addition there’s going to be a sprinkling of new faces.

Michael House and Ken Barron have been on all previous Tours and many other prominent potential buyers have been regulars, including Robert Dunn, Brent Mangos, Ray Green, John Dunn, Phil Kennard, Ken and Karen Breckon, Greg Payne, Trevor Casey, Ken Barron, Grant Payne, Tony Herlihy, Michael Purdon, Cran Dalgety, Bunty Hughes, Gavin Smith and Peter Blanchard.

The Tour is into its seventeenth year and regular visitor Michael House says as a buyer/trainer it’s a great opportunity to see what’s available and replenish racing stock.

“There’s often a good horse hiding amongst them and its wonderful comradery with the boys. It’s good to get it out of the way because there are some horses you don’t have to see later on and you can focus,” he said.

The Tour, particularly in recent years has produced some high priced graduates. One of these is Chicago Cub, a full brother to millionaire pacer Chicago Blues. Chicago Cub topped the Christchurch Sales last year selling to Emilio and Mary Rosati for $190,000. The second highest yearling was another SBSR colt bred by Arden Lodge’s John and Judy Stiven - Arden Roanoke, which sold for $155,000.

In 2016 The SBSR group produced the top two lots in Mach Shard ($200,000) and Honor And Glory ($170,000) whilst further back Bollinger sold for $200,000 in 2015. His half brother Titanium was the top lot in 2013 at $170,000, and Beaudiene Beaufighter was a sales topper in 2014. 

When Michael House was on the Tour in 2007 he spotted a diminutive black Bettor’s Delight colt named Highview Tommy at Highview Stud in Riverton.

“I’ll never forget that day. There was quite a bus load of us. He was a small horse but he was very strong in stature. At Dave Clarks he was standing in the middle of the courtyard and everyone was walking around him. He was so relaxed. I was taken by him and I had to have him after that. Smiling Shard was another horse I really loved. Every year there seems to be a good horse.”

Highview Tommy

House bought Highview Tommy for $40,000 before selling him at the Ready To Run Sales to Hazel van Opzeeland and Glenys and Phil Kennard for $200,000. He ultimately won seventeen races and $1,021,904.

This year sees some of the younger trainers coming on the Tour with the likes of John Dunn, Mitchell Kerr, Michael Purdon, Bob Butt and Regan Todd all confirmed visitors.

“The trick to yearling sales and my advice to anyone wanting to start out is that you’re buying the horse that is in front of you not its relative. That’s a quote from Michael House. The page (in the catalogue) is only a guide,” he advises.

Ken Barron has also attended all seventeen Tours and has seen it develop in that time.

“It’s a very well run tour and it’s had a bit of fine tuning over the years. To fly to Invercargill and out of Dunedin has streamlined it a bit,” he said.

Barron says that because the three major yearling areas – Auckland, Canterbury and Southland/Otago all have to fit their yearling tours in post-Christmas the schedule has got tighter.

“It used to be good to see them early on and then later, see how they’d developed. Now it’s so close to the sale it’s about eliminating the ones you don’t want or seeing the ones you like, to save you time on the day.”

He says SBSR has tried to work through this issue but everyone has accepted that the tours are difficult to programme now.

“You can’t do it pre-Christmas and there’s very little time between Auckland, Canterbury and Southern. John Stiven has worked very closely with the buyers and tried to appease us all. It’s the only thing we can’t do anything about.”

One of the first time visitors on the tour in February is young Canterbury trainer Michael Purdon whose uncle Grant Payne recommended that he should come south.

“He said it’s quite a good tour and worth checking out. As a young trainer I’m building up a bit of a client base so you can do these sorts of things. It’s a good chance to look at them while they’re still relaxed and they’re not worried about anything that’s going on around them. You can go up to them and have a good look at them,” Purdon said.

He bought three yearlings from last year’s Sale of the Stars; Ringo’s A Star (Bettor’s Delight-Blackbird Fly) for $23,000, Willie Go West (Auckland Reactor – Bettor Go) for $20,000 and One Guz Hall (Angus Hall – Landora’s Pearl – passed in at $35,000.

“They’ve turned out pretty good so far. The Angus Hall trotter is on a deal.” 

One Guz Hall carries the ownership of breeders Heather and Lex Williams and Michael and his brother Nathan while Ringo’s A Star is owned by Michael Purdon. Willie Go West is also owned by Michael and his mother Vicky.

The SBSR Tour will be held over two days - Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th February.

On Day One the Tour will visit Price Bloodstock and Julie Baynes in Winton and then Dave and Dawn Kennedy at Bayswater.

Day Two features yearlings at Shard Farm, Arden and Macca Lodge combined, Tuapeka Lodge and Wingatui.

Southern Bred Southern Reared looks forward to presenting an excellent group of horses for perusal and sale.

Bruce Stewart

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