Wins make perfect start to year
Regan Donnison is one of the lesser lights among Matamata racehorse training ranks but that hasn’t stood in the way of success or ambitions to achieve a lot more before his career is much older.
The 30 year old became one of New Zealand’s youngest trainers when he was granted a licence late in the 2001-02 season.
His first win was something he had to wait for but it finally came when Black Gem, owned by his parents Peter and Joan, made the breakthrough in late 2003.
Regan’s interest in thoroughbreds was nurtured through a strong tie on Joan’s side of the family, her parents being the hugely successful owner-breeders Eric and Nola Hopson.
Most of their big wins were achieved before Regan was even born but he does have vague childhood memories of his grandfather’s highclass horse Impasada. She won seven races all told and as a three year old in the 1987-88 season captured the prestigious Filly of the Year title.
‘‘I guess you could say I became a trainer because I grew too big to be a jockey,’’ says the six-plus-footer with a wry grin.
‘‘Seriously, when I was a young fella that’s what I had my heart set on. Mum told me early on that there was no way I would ever be small enough but it took me until I was about 10 before I realised she was right.’’
Regan still gravitated towards racing, from the age of 12 working school holidays and weekends at the Moroney stable, and by the time he had left high school had his mind set on becoming a trainer. It didn’t take him long to realise that there were easier ways to make a living but a decade later he has no regrets at the path he took.
‘‘Everything’s going well, my numbers are up to 17 and I’ve got some very loyal stable supporters,’’ he said. ‘‘My parents and my partner Tori have to be top of that list but I’m also very fortunate to have the backing of a group of Australians who have already invested in horses and are keen to keep doing that.’’
The 2010-11 season, with four wins from 35 starters, was Regan’s best to that point but he has already matched that number before halfway through the current term and has hopes for more in the near future. The new year got off to a perfect start when his promising stayer Dickens won at Hastings on January 1, while the promising three-year-old Red Shift got the win he had threatened at Paeroa last week.
‘‘Dickens has been a slow maturing stayer and I had hopes of running him in the Dunstan Final at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day, but we ended up down at Hastings instead and that race was a soft kill in the end.
‘‘He’s owned by two of my greatest supporters, Jock and Dawn Spinks from Paeroa, and in time he’s going to be a handy stayer.’’
Red Shift, who was bought for $10,500 at the Karaka yearling sales two years ago after Regan had put together a 25-strong syndicate, was a very popular winner when he dashed home late for Michael Coleman at Paeroa.
‘‘They’re a happy bunch now,’’ said Regan of the syndicate that includes his mother, his brother Greg and his close friend Brent Gibson from their former Matamata days, and not forgetting Tori and her Englanddomiciled parents.
Big plans are in place for Red Shift, foremost the $750,000 Telecom New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie in early March. That’s a big jump from a midweek maiden to the country’s richest classic but Regan goes by the old adage that if you haven’t got a plan you’ve got nothing.
‘‘We’ll hopefully run him next on Karaka Million night at Ellerslie and go from there,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve always rated him and I would love to give him his chance.’’
The other proven member of the Durham Farm stable is two-race winner Leica Queen, who is owned by Okoroire farmer Murray Cole. She’s spelling at present waiting for the softer tracks of autumn and winter but Regan is confident that she’s some way off meeting her mark.
She will be back racing at around the same time that Regan keeps a far more important date, travelling with Tori to Northumberland in the United Kingdom to marry his long-time partner, who works in Auckland as a corporate lawyer with legal firm Simpson Grierson.
‘‘That’s something to look forward to,’’ said the groom-to-be. ‘‘Hopefully the team can kick a few goals between now and then and we’ll have some good stories to take up with us.’’
Speaking of kicking goals, Graham Richardson continues to wear his golden boots as his stable members pile up the wins. Two more midweek at Te Rapa and Paeroa were more than matched by a treble – including a quinella – at Ellerslie on Saturday.
Smart two-year-old Green Wings won his second on end and in the process qualified for the lucrative Karaka Million at the end of the month. Most pleasing for the trainer was that Matamata newcomer Masa Tanaka rode that colt as well as maiden graduate Jubilate and for good measure added another on the programme.
‘‘I talked Masa into coming north a couple of months ago and he’s been fantastic with his work attitude,’’ said Graham, who has now prepared 25 winners this season.
‘‘He’s a very under-rated rider so hopefully an Ellerslie treble will make others realise what he’s got to offer.’’
Up and coming: Regan Donnison and his horse Red Shift.