Brothers elated with progress
Establishing a training operation has had its challenges for the brothers Paul and Kris Shailer, but looking back on the past season they’ve got good reason to be satisfied with the progress they’ve made.
On the weekend their latest talented stable member Forefront was sent south to Trentham, where he took his record to two wins from two starts with an impressive performance to go with his debut effort in February.
Just as significantly, Saturday’s success took the Shailer’s tally for the season to 21 wins, good going for a stable that has never numbered more than 30.
Those wins have come from just 89 raceday appearances, which translates to a winners to starters strike-rate of 4.52, the second-best of any stable in the top 30 on the trainers’ premiership.
Getting to that point hasn’t been easy for the partnership that began when older brother Paul arrived back in New Zealand three years ago after a decade in Sydney as foreman for fellow expat and now champion trainer Chris Waller.
Initially Shailer Racing was headed by Paul as trainer and Kris as foreman before the latter also took out his licence at the start of this season.
In 2011-2012 Paul had eight wins from 82 starts and it’s a sign of real progress that the current season tally is now well into double figures. Star performers through the summer were the dual two-year-old winner Fantastic Honour, who stamped her class when second to the country’s leading juvenile Ruud Awakening in the Karaka Million, and the talented sprinter Trepidation, who likewise finished her season with a stakes placing.
Fantastic Honour is by the Rich Hill Stud stallion Any Suggestion, also the sire of the Shailer-trained Killa Question, who notched the fourth win of his career at Awapuni last week.
In common with those two, Trentham weekend winner Forefront also hails from the Walton nursery and races in the colours of Rich Hill partner Alan Galbraith.
‘‘ We’ve had brilliant support from Rich Hill and studs like Windsor Park ( the owners of Trepidation) and other owners, but it hasn’t been easy getting our numbers up to anywhere near where we would like them,’’ said Paul, who like his brother cut his teeth in racing as a jockey before increasing weight forced a change of direction.
‘‘We’ve done pretty well with the numbers we’ve got; in fact I really don’t think we could have done much better in just our second full season.
‘‘I’ve come to realise the reason it’s been so hard to build on our success is that not many people are prepared to put up any money.
‘‘It hasn’t been easy getting to where we are now and much of it has meant buying our own horses. You take this year, we spent half a million on yearlings and then had to go out and find owners.
‘‘It was hard work and not without its worries, but we worked our butts off and thankfully we got them all sold.’’
In making those observations Paul is in a good position to draw comparisons between New Zealand and Australia, noting the massive difference between the preparedness owners.
‘‘I know that if we had had the same rate of success in Sydney people would be banging on the door, that’s how it is over there. I guess for a start people have got more money in Aussie, but they also seem to be keener on getting involved.’’
A year ago Paul made a decision that he now reflects on as the smartest move from a business perspective, when he set up a satellite stable at Palmerston North’s Awapuni racecourse.
He has since based himself there while Kris has run the Matamata operation from one of the Matamata Racing Club oncourse barns.
‘‘It’s given us a broader platform and helped with the wins,’’ Paul said.
‘‘We’ve won races with horses that wouldn’t have won up north.’’
Weekend winner Forefront doesn’t necessarily fit into that category, having scored on debut at Te Aroha in February and making the trip south from Matamata as part of his development.
The three-year-old, by O’Reilly from a Zabeel mare, has taken time and won’t be seen out again until the spring.
‘‘I wasn’t so sure he would like that heavy ground on Saturday but Kris insisted he would be okay,’’ said Paul. ‘‘That was based more on ability than any liking for a heavy track, but I was happy my brother was right.
‘‘He’s a slow-maturing sort of horse and is still a bit soft, but the trip away will have helped him grow up.
‘‘He’s already back home and will have four weeks in the paddock.’’
Spring plans are well in hand for rising three-year-old Fantastic Honour, who was turned out after her Karaka Million second in late January.
She is now in light work at the Awapuni stable and will be aimed initially at the Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings in September.
Having had a decade’s experience of lucrative Australian racing, Paul is naturally keen to compete there under his own name.
He identifies Trepidation as his first possible subject, with tentative plans for a Melbourne spring campaign.
‘‘ There isn’t much here for sprinters in the early part of the season but if she did head across we’d still have her home in time to set her for the Railway and Telegraph,’’ Paul said.
Keeping a close eye on proceedings across the Tasman, Paul was saddened by the fatal breakdown in Brisbane last Saturday of one of the stars of the Chris Waller stable, Pentire eight- year- old Rangirangdoo.
‘‘ He was my favourite horse during my time with Chris and the best horse I’ve ever had anything to with.’’
Rewarding: Kris and Paul Shailer with stable jockey Kelly Myers after winning with Casual Fling at Ellerslie earlier in the season.