Day At The Track

Brian West and Molander to set up in Aussie

08:49 AM 13 May 2011 NZST
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Sydney-bound Nicole Molander Brian West of Studholme Bloodstock holds
Sydney-bound Nicole Molander - receives a kiss from husband Dean after a win last year.
Duane Ranger photo
Brian West of Studholme Bloodstock holds - City Of Auckland FFA trophy.
Duane Ranger photo

Prominent Canterbury harness racing breeder Brian West is shifting a large part of his operation to Australia in what looks an ominous sign for the New Zealand industry. Furthermore, one of the north's most promising horsewoman, Nicole Molander, is on board with the move as a trainer which will see her based at Menangle in Sydney.

Molander has had good success training some of West's top fillies and mares, such as Secret Potion, Collectable and Lancome, under the Mark Purdon/Grant Payne banner when their Auckland stable opened in 2009.

West said the decision was "purely economical" and designed to maximise the earning potential of his 28 broodmares and their yearlings in the future.

"I've been to Menangle twice in the last month and can say that it will definitely be a long term plan for us.

"We will share a barn in the new complex they are building."

"I have discussed this with (Queensland horseman) Luke McCarthy, who is setting up there, and an agent of the Fitzpatricks (leading NSW trainers) and am convinced it is the right move.

"Then Nicole put her hand up saying she would like to give it a go and that got me thinking.

"I was given opportunities coming from a non racing family. People like Jim Dalgety made it easier for me and I know how hard it can be.

"Because of that I like to give young people an opportunity and with that I will certainly give Nicole a number of fillies to get her kicked away as a trainer."

The A$200 million stakes boom at Menangle, from the recent sale of the historic Harold Park track, is the main attraction, with stakes set to skyrocket on July 1, then again on January 1.

"We have something like 80 or 90 horses on the farm. We have 22 horse aged two-year-old or older."

Of those we are probably paying the bills on training most of them and at least 10 of those are 100% of the bills.

"If we remained with what we are doing, and that is selling the colts and racing the fillies, if we have three relatively lean years I'm out of business."

Menangle's super fast times - case in point Smoken Up's recent 1.48.5 run in the Len Smith Mile - will increase the value of his breed, West believes.

"Menangle gives us an opportunity to put times on our yearlings that we would not be able to do in New Zealand.

"Menangle is going to set records and we want to be a part of that.

"There was a classic example this year of a mare I brought back from Canada, Fake The Moment, who had a 1.51 time on her.

"We put her first colt, a Mach Three, through the sales and got $63,000.

"Horses just don't have the opportunities here in New Zealand to get those kinds of times.

"If New Zealand doesn't get their act together, we will get left behind. It is already starting to look that way.

"There is Ashburton but the racing there is not frequent enough and not all races are miles."

The initial plan will be for Molander to train a team of half a dozen, but West says his star mare Lancome is not part of the plans.

"I'm sort of juggling on which ones to send initially. We aim to have six fillies racing there by July, but it is going to depend on a number of things.

"A couple I had earmarked to go have just been put aside and I am yet to talk to Mark (Purdon, West's main trainer) about which ones he thinks will suit Menangle.

"Lancome is definitely going to the broodmare paddock and at this point the Jewels will be her final start.

"I actually wanted to breed from her last year but Mark talked me out of it.

"Secret Potion has been struggling with joint problems all season so I have not made my mind up on her either."

One horse that will be going is Flashbang, a daughter of McArdle that was on lease to Don Morrison in Blenheim before that agreement recently ended.

West looks forward without hesitation, truly believing it is the best move to make at this point and time.

"I'm really quite excited about this. It is giving us, as a company, something to look forward to."

By Garrick KNIGHT (Courtesy of the WAIKATO TIMES)

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