Derek never tires of win­ning feel­ing

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - DEN­NIS RYAN Rac­ing colum­nist

Alot has changed in the four decades that Derek Mortle­man has been breed­ing and rac­ing horses, but one thing that has re­mained con­sis­tent is the de­light he takes from win­ning.

Twice in re­cent weeks he has ex­pe­ri­enced that unique joy, first as a mem­ber of the syn­di­cate that races Royal Com­mand, who train­ers Paul and Kris Shailer sad­dled for her first win at Mata­mata last month, and again with the Alan Tait-trained twoyear-old Sherpa at Avon­dale last Satur­day.

‘‘It’s al­ways a good feel­ing when you win a race, there’s noth­ing quite like it,’’ says Derek, who is well-known to many as one of the friendly faces at Farm­lands’ Mata­mata de­pot.

‘‘We’ve had some handy horses along the way, prob­a­bly the best of them was Prince Sim­bir, who won eight races. Our first win­ner was a filly by the name of Lady Fenella back in 1973. I re­mem­ber when she won her first race the stake was $3000, but back then we were pay­ing only $8 a day in train­ing fees!’’

Derek and his wife Colleen orig­i­nally farmed in the Gis­borne re­gion but now live in the Hin­uera Val­ley, where the neigh­bour­ing property is Kevin Hick­man’s emerg­ing thor­ough­bred nurs­ery, Valachi Downs.

Whereas that oper­a­tion has a brood­mare band that has grown past the half-century mark, the Mortle­man’s con­fine their blood­stock to just a hand­ful – and very much from the bar­gain base­ment at that.

For in­stance Royal Com­mand, a half-sis­ter to Welling­ton Cup win­ner En­voy, cost just $2500 as a wean­ling, while Sherpa is out of Gypsy Rose, who was in-foal car­ry­ing the weekend win­ner when Derek bought her for $1200 at a brood­mare sale in 2011.

‘‘I picked up an­other in-foal mare with a sin­gle bid of $200 at the last Karaka brood­mare sale,’’ he says. ‘‘Now I’ve got four mares at home due to foal this spring – I must be mad!’’

That said, the Mortle­man’s are look­ing for­ward to Royal Com­mand lin­ing up at New Ply­mouth this weekend in a $20,000 race, while later in the month the plan is for Sherpa to have a crack at the fi­nal two-yearold black-type race of the sea­son, the $50,000 Ry­der Stakes at Otaki.

For a trainer with just a hand­ful in his rac­ing string, Alan Tait has some­thing of an em­bar­rass­ment of riches thanks to Sherpa and an­other smart twoyear-old, South­ern Icon, who fol­lowed a de­but win at Ruakaka ear­lier in the win­ter with a sec­ond plac­ing on the same track two weeks ago.

Sherpa was the first leg of a win­ning dou­ble at Avon­dale for Samantha Col­lett, while lo­cal ap­pren­tice Jack Wong also rode two win­ners on the same card. He has im­pressed since trans­fer­ring ear­lier this year to the Lance O’Sul­li­van-Andrew Scott sta­ble.


RE­TURN TO SCALE: Sam Col­lett re­turns to scale on the first of her two Avon­dale weekend win­ners, Sherpa.

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