Wins make per­fect start to year

Matamata Chronicle - - Outdoor Living -

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.

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