Derek never tires of winning feeling
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.