Harness racing trainer Warren Stapleton was always destined to work with horses from an early age.
His father, who was a publican by occupation,trained a small team of gallopers in the deep south and Warren was the strapper for his fathers select team.
Wins in the Dunedin Guineas and the Southland Guineas led to the occasional North Island raid with a win in the Napier Park Gold Cup one of the better results achieved.
The first involvement Warren had with standardbreds was when his father took over the Maikiki Hotel and he helped out the renowned local trotting trainer,Clem Scott who had many top class trotters pass through his hands as a trainer.
Warren learnt plenty about the square gaiter while there, an experience that would prove invaluable with the many top trotters he trained later in his career.
Married soon after, Warren and his wife Wendy moved to the Mid Canterbury township of Chertsey where Warren started work at the local engineering shop.
It was while working there that Warren struck up a friendship with Laurence Hanrahan senior that endures to this day.
Between them the pair would race many of the horses such as Highwood (14 wins) and October Pride (9 wins) that would establish Warren Stapleton as a trainer.
The first few horses they tried were pretty non-descript before they found their first winner in Majestic Pride.
She only won a couple of races but as one W.E.Stapleton was her regular driver,maybe she was a touch better than her record suggested.
The first horse Warren trained for outside clients was the smart Noodlum colt, Tipperary. Only given to Warren after he had suffered a bad case of salmonella, Tipperary was in poor condition when he first arrived.
Treated with a charcoal based paste inherited from his father, Tipperary went on to win eight races although Warren was convinced he was never 100% throughout his career.
It was about this time that Warren and Laurie leased a smallish sickle hocked gelding from the Watsons of Dunedin.
Named Highwood, he proved a handful to get going but showed any amount of ability from day one.
A winner on debut, he gave an early glimpse of how classy he was by winning the Group One New Zealand Trotting Stakes at just his second start.
Not long after that win, Highwood began to have soundness problems which were to plague him for the rest of his career.
Even with these problems he managed to win 14 races including an outstanding win in the Group One Rowe Cup.
It was during Highwood's career that Warren started researching and experimenting with various leg paints in an effort to help him fulfill his potential.
The first lesson he learnt was the necessity to correctly identify what had caused the unsoundness in the first place.
The lifting of angles and the squaring off of the toe were just two of the things that he found that helped immensely.
With his leg paints, Warren tried to replicate what the bodies defenses do naturally when a horse suffers an injury.
Hundreds of different combinations and ingredients were tried before Warren was happy with the balance and performance of his paints.
He soon became known as the go to man when the vets had run out of ideas.
Over the next twenty years Warren would put countless high class racehorses back on the racetrack and in the winners circle.
Over the last ten years Warren has scaled back his racing team and focused instead on the research and development of new paints and products.
Of late his focus has been on the development of stem cells in powder form in conjunction with an international company and the production of a powerful immune system booster that has no with holding period.
Recently we visited Warren in his laboratory down in Mitcham in Mid Canterbury to get his insight on some of the better horses he has nursed back to health in the last thirty years.
The following is a roll call of the horses that Warren rated highly:
When he first came off the transporter, I just about put him straight back on.
You could put your fingers between the cannon bone and the tendon and touch your other fingers. The tendon had completely come away from the bone.
But he responded brilliantly to the treatment I gave him and won ten races for me including the Group One Dominion Handicap and a heat of the Inter-Dominions at Auckland in New Zealand record time.
Came to me with a really bad hock.
Patched him up and set him for the open class trot on New Zealand Cup day.
I was really confident as his work had been tremendous.
He paid $60 for the win and I needed a wheelbarrow for the cash.
He then ran a great third to Lyell Creek in the Dominion Handicap and was then sold to Australia.
Came to me after Massey University had had a couple of goes at pinpointing his problems without success.
He had several problems actually but I got him to function, running a nice sixth in the Dominion Handicap on a rushed preparation.
Sold to Joe Muscara and he went super in North America winning $136,000 in his first six months before a freak accident ended his career.
He had been retired when I was offered him.
He had issues with both his front legs and also had an issue with his overall balance.
Only started twice for me,winning the second against Shortys Girl and Annies Boy at odds of $51 to one.
I was very confident leading into the race as his work had been outstanding at home. Needed the wheelbarrow again.
Another one that was sold to Joe Muscara and he won $156,000 in North America.
Bruce Negus asked me to have a look at him after he missed nearly 12 months through unsoundness and the vets had recommended retiring him.
He had issues with both his front legs and I treated him at Bruces for quite a while.
Made a few changes in how he was set up and got him back to the track.
He went on to win a further 23 races which gave me a lot of personal satisfaction.
He hadn't raced for six months when I got him.
I thought I had him sorted out when I lined him up at Invercargill first up for me and he duly obliged, beating Annies Boy but was sore the next morning.
It took me another nine months to get him back to the track.
The secret to him was that he was a big slabby horse and every time he moved from a stationary
position, he whacked his fetlock for a stride or two.
Put a boot on him 24/7 and that resolved a major part of his ongoing problems.
Another one to go to Joe Muscara in North America, earning over $135,000 up there.
I wasn't that keen to take him at first as there was a fair bit of acrimony about his removal from the care of his previous trainers but Joe Muscara rang me and asked for a favour and after all his support I couldn't say no.
I was very disappointed at the condition of his legs on his arrival and he had other serious issues as well.
I slowly got him back and managed to win the $50,000 Dullard Cup in Australia.
Not long after that I convinced Joe to send him back to North America and he didn't disappoint, winning in 1:53
Jayne and Noel stayed with me while campaigning Golden Reign at the 1995 Inter-Dominions in Christchurch.
Golden Reign got knocked down badly on the last bend in the second round of heats and was injured and they were going to scratch him out of the series.
I convinced them to let me treat him and we got him to his third round heat which he won and then Jayne and Noel managed him beautifully in the week leading up to the final which he duly won.
They were very appreciate of my help at the time and even now drop off some duty free vodka when visiting New Zealand.
Vance The Conqueror
I got him as a six year old maiden that had broken down several times.
He was allergic to everything,had shocking knees and was riddled with arthritis but boy did he have a motor. Only won six for me but without doubt the bravest horse I ever trained.
One of quite a few gallopers I have treated over the years.
His trainer Paul Nelson was a pleasure to deal with,implementing all the changes that I suggested.
Patched him up to win the Grand National and he was voted Jumper Of The Year that season.
Harnesslink - Was there any horses that you didn't get back to the track that you really liked?
Tartan Clansman - This one really annoyed me at the time.
I had him 100% right and ready to go but I outsmarted myself by changing his shoes and lost him and never got him back.
Harnesslink - Can you give us a rundown what you manufacture and sell?
Well I manufacture quite a few products such as Electrolytes and the range of leg paints which are sold through various outlets.
I have just started to trial a new Immune Booster that I have been working on which has no with holding period.
The product is still in its early stages but I am very happy with the results so far.
It seems to have the added bonus of helping a couple of mine who are bleeders/have ulcers.
I have also been involved in the development of stem cells in powder form with an international company.
Some of the initial results have been really exciting but we still have a fair way to go to get to the finished product.
I also make my own processed feeds which allows me the luxury of being able to vary the mix to accommodate each individual horses needs.
Harnesslink - Is there anything really get under your skin?
One of my biggest gripes is having people bring you horses which they insist are very smart but unsound only to sort the soundness issues out and then find the horses can't get out of their own way.
I have also had numerous horses given to me to train that are unsound, but as soon as I have fixed their soundness issues, the owners arrive with the float and take the horse home before I get a chance to line them up.
They only do it once though.
Harnesslink - Thanks Warren for taking the time to talk to us. It is much appreciated