Trainer hon­oured

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By DEN­NIS RYAN

Jim Gibbs, recog­nised for decades as one of New Zealand’s very best thor­ough­bred train­ers, has been granted the rac­ing in­dus­try’s great­est ac­co­lade by be­ing in­ducted into the New Zealand Rac­ing Hall of Fame.

At a black-tie func­tion at Eller­slie last Fri­day evening, Jim joined re­tired Mata­mata trainer Dave O’sul­li­van and his jockey son Lance as a Hall of Fame mem­ber.

Dave and Lance were in­ducted at the in­au­gu­ral Hall of Fame func­tion in 2006 and since then al­ter­na­tive to rid­ing, which meant tak­ing up train­ing. I bought my orig­i­nal prop­erty – nine acres in Banks Road with a three-be­d­room house – for £6500.’’

From those small be­gin­nings the name Gibbs grad­u­ally be­gan to stamp its pres­ence in train­ing ranks, capped by a hal­cyon decade in the 1980s. Jim be­came the first trainer to pre­pare the win­ners of $1 mil­lion in stakes in a sin­gle sea­son, 1986 to 87, and two years later took that to an­other level with $2 mil­lion in earn­ings.

His string of open com­pany gal­lop­ers in­clud­ing Mau­rine, Mickey’s Town, Re­gal City, Spy­glass and Sounds Like Fun de­liv­ered wins in the Auck­land, Avon­dale, Waikato and Coun­ties Cups but the real stand­out of this pe­riod was a filly by the name of Ti­dal Light.

Her three-year-old form, headed by wins in the New Zealand Derby, Air New Zealand Stakes and Can­ter­bury Guineas, earned cham­pion three- year- old and ul­ti­mately Horse of the Year hon­ours. A more per­sonal ac­co­lade for Jim at the same time was the pres­ti­gious Rac­ing Per­son­al­ity of the Year award.

‘‘I was lucky for many rea­sons, what with the qual­ity of the horses I had in my care and the peo­ple around me,’’ he said. ‘‘You’re only as good as the horses in your sta­ble and your staff work­ing with them – I don’t care what any­one says oth­er­wise, that’s a fact.’’

Peo­ple have in­deed been a big part of the Gibbs suc­cess story, es­pe­cially in his men­tor­ing of some­thing like 35 ap­pren­tice jock­eys, bud­ding train­ers and count­less sta­ble grooms.

Roger James, who was his ju­nior train­ing part­ner back in the Ti­dal Light days, and who just last Satur­day put his name in the New Zealand Derby record book for the fifth time, is his most suc­cess­ful trainer grad­u­ate, while oth­ers are the wor­thy Mata­mata duo of Lance No­ble and Gra­ham Richard­son. Michael Cole­man set the stan­dard amongst jockey grad­u­ates.

The one per­son who Jim sin­gles out as the most in­flu­en­tial in his life and in the day-to-day op­er­a­tions both dur­ing his train­ing ca­reer and since is his wife Ann.

‘‘The big­gest thank you must go to Ann,’’ he said.

‘‘I wouldn’t have had the suc­cess with­out her there mak­ing her con­tri­bu­tion with the ac­counts, own­ers, staff, ev­ery­thing that goes into mak­ing it work.’’

One of Jim and Ann’s most trea­sured ex­pe­ri­ences was as part-own­ers of the Melbourne and Caulfield Cup win­ner Doriemus, a horse that, like Ti­dal Light, Jim had bought in the auc­tion ring for less than $5000. When the late ma­tur­ing chest­nut had shown early form, a ma­jor­ity share was sold to clients of the Vic­to­rian trainer Lee Freed­man, who de­vel­oped him into the best stayer of his era.

As he looks back on his time in rac­ing, you get the im­pres­sion that Jim wouldn’t have swapped it for any­thing.

That was also ev­i­dent when some 80 fam­ily, friends and sup­port­ers joined him at the Hall of Fame func­tion and at the Eller­slie races the fol­low­ing day. The week­end bonus was the win in the $100,000 Dar­ley Plate by Durham Town, who is part-owned by Jim and Ann.

‘‘Yes, it was a week­end to re­mem­ber. The Hall of Fame in­duc­tion is prob­a­bly the high­est hon­our of any,’’ said the man who also re­ceived a New Zealand Or­der of Merit award in the Queen’s Hon­ours list sev­eral years ago.

‘‘Hall of Fame mem­ber­ship along­side so many great peo­ple and horses is some­thing that is there for­ever.’’

While hav­ing to con­cede to the Roger James- trained O’reilly filly Silent Achiever in the New Zealand Derby, the Ja­son Bridg­man-trained lo­cal Rock ’n’ Pop per­formed with great credit in the coun­try’s premier clas­sic.

His dogged sec­ond on a track that was softer than he prefers may well have set him up for a Syd­ney au­tumn cam­paign.

Gra­ham Richard­son con­tin­ued his won­der­ful sea­son when he opened and closed Satur­day’s Eller­slie pro­gramme with wins by El Volante and Al­lanah. El Volante had let the side down when well beaten at his pre­vi­ous start, but a change in tac­tics by Michael Cole­man pro­duced an easy all-the-way win.

The three- year- old son of Fast ’ N’ Fa­mous is raced by his breed­ers Philip and Cather­ine Brown of An­croft Stud, in part­ner­ship with Philip’s cousin Frank Hil­liar. Philip and Frank get as much as they can out of their race­horse in­ter­ests, an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent of which is reg­u­lar at­ten­dance at the train­ing track any or ev­ery morn­ing of the week.

The same goes for Tim Rogers, a mem­ber of the part­ner­ship that races final race win­ner Al­lanah, who is shap­ing up as a more than handy cus­tomer with three wins from five starts. Tim’s week­end also in­cluded a birth­day cel­e­bra­tion with his mates, who in­clude fel­low own­ers, El­ders Live­stock agent and Mata­mata Rac­ing Club com­mit­tee­man Danny O’leary, and your friendly tim­ber and hard­ware man Terry James.

Once again it was Michael Cole­man tak­ing it to the op­po­si­tion as he sent Al­lanah straight to the front and never looked like be­ing headed. The grey mare shares a com­mon fam­ily colour with her well per­formed half-brother Don Domingo, the pair hav­ing been bred by lo­cal iden­tity Bar­bara Perry, who also has a rac­ing share.

By the time you read this page, Gra­ham Richard­son will be close to – or may even be al­ready – re­al­is­ing his for­tunes in the Stella Ar­tois Auck­land Cup. Sec­ond favourite Sin­gle Minded, whose wins this sea­son in­cludes the Avon­dale Cup, and light­weight Top Spot were set to carry their trainer’s hopes into Wed­nes­day’s 3200-me­tre race.

In­duc­tion: Hall of Famer Jim Gibbs, ac­com­pa­nied by his wife Ann, is in­ter­viewed by MC Steve Davis at Fri­day night’s func­tion.

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