Win fourth of the season
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.