Win fourth of the sea­son

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

MARK Brooks is a rel­a­tively new face on the Mata­mata rac­ing scene but he’s quickly mak­ing his pres­ence felt as the trainer in res­i­dence at Waikato Stud.

At last Wed­nes­day’s South Waikato Rac­ing Club meet­ing at Mata­mata, Mark sad­dled his fourth win­ner since tak­ing up his new role at the start of the sea­son.

His first win in the Waikato Stud colours came with Flut­ter at Te Awa­mutu in late Novem­ber, I’m Jake fol­lowed with a mid-sum­mer brace at Paeroa and Mata­mata and Shopa­holic was win num­ber four when she took the day’s two-year-old event on her home track last week.

The daugh­ter of Pins and for­mer smart race mare Splash­ing Out had shown prom­ise with a third plac­ing on de­but and a close up sev­enth when pit­ted against the best of her age in the J Swap Mata­mata Breed­ers’ Stakes at her only other start.

‘‘She raced right up with them in the Breed­ers’ Stakes and even though she fin­ished out of the money she was still only a bit more than three lengths off An­a­ban­dana, who is eas­ily the best two-year-old in the coun­try,’’ said Shopa­holic’s trainer.

‘‘It was a big drop in class last week and she won well. Now we’ve got to toss up whether to keep go­ing or ease up on her. She’s en­tered for the Sires’ Pro­duce Stakes at Awa­puni but it mightn’t be the right race for her just yet.’’

On top of get­ting the right re­sult for his em­ploy­ers, Mark en­joyed an added bonus with his part­ner Michelle Wenn the win­ning jockey.

‘‘Michelle was also on Flut­ter when she won my first race for the stud and I was happy to have her on this filly too,’’ he com­mented.

‘‘She rides a lot of work and is also their first time rider at the tri­als a lot of the time, so it’s only fair that she gets some of the race­day rides.’’

Mark’s pri­mary role at Waikato Stud’s Courtza Park train­ing is the ed­u­ca­tion and prepa­ra­tion of young horses bred on the prop­erty.

He there­fore gets to work with the very best blood­lines, some­thing he is well aware of as he goes about his daily rou­tine.

‘‘The blood­lines that Garry and Mark (Chittick) have de­vel­oped here over the years are fan­tas­tic and that shows in the qual­ity of the horse I get through my hands,’’ he said.

Waikato Stud is of course home to a classy group of stal­lions, in­clud­ing pre­mier­ship win­ners O’Reilly and Pins.

‘‘It’s hard to split those two, they’re both very good stal­lions but if I had to I’d prob­a­bly lean to­wards O’Reilly. All the stal­lions here can leave a good race­horse though, so that’s pretty good.’’

Mark grew up with horses in his blood as the mem­ber of a well known farm­ing fam­ily at Onewhero, in the Pukekohe district. As a young­ster he at­tended pony club, hunted and com­peted suc­cess­fully at the high­est level of showjump­ing, which in­cluded a na­tional Pony of the Year ti­tle. As a teenager he took out an ama­teur rider’s li­cence and in the win­ter of 2000 won a maiden steeple­chase at Pukekohe on So­lar Rebel, a horse he owned in part­ner­ship with his par­ents Roger and Heather.

In his early twen­ties Mark be­came more se­ri­ous about showjump­ing, mak­ing a big im­pres­sion and cap­tain­ing a na­tional team in a competition in Queens­land. When it came to de­cid­ing on his longer term ca­reer prospects he ini­tially opted for ac­coun­tancy but even­tu­ally horses won out. Af­ter es­tab­lish­ing a break­ing-in and prepa­ra­tion busi­ness near Cam­bridge, he was of­fered the Waikato Stud po­si­tion mid­way through last year.

‘‘It’s good to be do­ing more than just break­ing them in and hand­ing them on,’’ he said.

‘‘This way you get to en­joy them a bit longer and even though a lot of them end up in Aus­tralia and with other train­ers in New Zealand, I still get to play a big part in their de­vel­op­ment.’’ As­sisted as well by for­mer jumps jockey Missy Browne – the grand­daugh­ter of jumps rac­ing icon Kenny Browne – and English­man Matt La­tus, Mark has a team of about 30 in work at Courtza Park.

Most work is done at the on­site train­ing fa­cil­ity, with more ad­vanced sta­ble mem­bers mix­ing their train­ing be­tween the stud and the Mata­mata track.

It’s a for­mula that ap­pears to be work­ing, Mark hav­ing pre­pared his four win­ners from a to­tal of just 14 race­day starters.

‘‘I like it over here in Mata­mata,’’ said the for­mer Cam­bridge res­i­dent. ‘‘The setup at the stud works well and hav­ing ac­cess to the fa­cil­i­ties at the race­course is a good bal­ance.’’

The Waikato Stud rac­ing colours are a fa­mil­iar sight through­out New Zealand as well as on many of Aus­tralia’s race­tracks. The for­mer Brook­strained I’m Jake won at Wer­ribee, just out­side Mel­bourne, last Fri­day, while a week ear­lier Do Ra Mi won the A$500,000 Kewney Stakes at Flem­ing­ton.

The Waikato Stud in­flu­ence spread to Hong Kong last week­end when Am­bi­tious Dragon capped off his fouryear-old sea­son with vic­tory in the pres­ti­gious Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby. While nei­ther bred nor owned by the stud, the new star of Hong Kong rac­ing is by res­i­dent stal­lion Pins, adding to his record as sire of Group One win­ners in New Zealand, Aus­tralia and Asia.

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