Don and Lorraine Scoullar of Tawa were well into their 70s when they decided to get involved in racing ownership, and they are pleased they did it.
They are part of the Fortuna syndicate that races six-time Group One winner Melody Belle.
“We are bit late to get started in the game, but we are obviously glad we did and are simply having the ride of our lives,” Don said on Trackside Radio this week.
The couple try to be on hand as often as possible to cheer their mare on, but didn’t make it to Ellerslie last Saturday.
Don was a little embarrassed to admit he was hopeful more than confident that she could beat Danzdanzdance over 2000 metres.
“We were disappointed we didn’t travel to Ellerslie, but you won’t keep us away when she resumes in the spring,” he said.
“Being there and mixing with other syndicate members who are fast becoming our friends is just the tonic us older people really enjoy.
“I’ve never screamed at the TV as much as I did on Saturday. All my wife could say was, ‘C’mon girl, beat the grey, beat the grey!’
“We have so much respect for ‘DDD’, as we call her, and we wish her nothing but the best in Sydney.”
Don and Lorraine may be late starters in ownership, but their strike rate is amazing.
“We’ve raced horses with John Galvin for about 10 years,” Don said. “We’ve calculated we’ve had 22 wins with horses with Fortuna in New Zealand and Singapore, from just four runners.”
The introduction to the Fortuna team was quite fortunate.
“We always had an interest in racing while we operating a petrol station in Otaki. Many of our customers were racing people, the local trainers for example, people like Clem Bowry, his daughter Robyn, Anton Koolman, Ken Thomson and others.”
Coincidentally, Robyn is also a share-holder in Melody Belle.
“In the early days my mother was a casual punter, too,” Don added. “She often said that her two favourite horses were Great Sensation and Grey Way. I suppose in a way my wife and I got the racing bug initially from her.
“We bought into three more petrol stations in Wellington, and when we retired my wife simply said, ‘Why don’t we take a share in a racehorse?’ She said she was sick of taking Lotto tickets and getting nothing!”
On the weekend of Fortuna’s Group One win in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas with Tell A Tale, Don and Lorraine made the call to join John Galvin’s Fortuna operation.
“To be honest we were planning on going with the Go Racing team,” recalled Don. “But I suppose the Tell A Tale win was opportune for Fortuna and it’s been an absolute dream come true for us at our stage of our lives ever since.
“The communication from John and the team is incredible. I don’t think he sleeps. Sometimes the emails are sent at 2 in the morning, but that’s all good by us. We are living the dream!”
A world-class achievement for Opie
Opie Bosson showed his star quality with his 63rd Group One win, and the bloke whose New Zealand record be broke (Lance O’Sullivan) should also be ranked right up among the very best.
With 63 Group Ones, Opie now sits third behind the retired expats Jimmy Cassidy (100) and Shane Dye (90) among Kiwi-born jockeys.
George Moore (119) and current rider Damien Oliver (115) top the table in Australia, and Bosson sits just outside the top dozen on an all-time list of Australasian Group One wins.
But when you consider that New Zealand has only 21 Group One races in a season compared to Australia’s 74, the Bosson and O’Sullivan records should be rated as comparable to some of the Australian greats.
Lance is a Hall of Famer, and it’s a no-brainer that Opie will join him at some stage in the future.
Melody Belle is a record-breaker
Many people have asked this week whether Melody Belle created any sort of record with her fifth Group One win for the season on Saturday.
The simple answer is yes she did! From what we can establish in the modern era, no New Zealand-trained horse who raced solely in New Zealand in a single season has won five Group Ones.
For the record, Ocean Park won five in a season throughout New Zealand and Australia, Bonecrusher and Sunline did four Group Ones in two seasons in a row, and Mufhasa, Seachange and Dundeel all won four in a season.
In Australia, the record for the most Group Ones in a season belongs to Winx (six in each of the last two seasons).
Cox Plate flashback in more ways than one
Memories of the 1986 Cox Plate came flooding back at Ellerslie on Saturday.
The old boy Bonecrusher would have been proud as his race, the Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes, unfolded the way it did with a tooth-and-nail struggle between Melody Belle and Danzdanzdance.
But let’s not forget about Big Red’s fierce competitor whose name was certainly linked to the Auckland Cup winner, Glory Days, who after all is nothing but a Waverley star!
Not since the great Kiwi was around has Waverley, always a proud racing centre, had reason to celebrate the way they did after the well-prepared mare strolled home in the Ellerslie two-miler.
There’s no doubt the wet track tripped some up, but at the end of the day Glory Days was supreme and a credit to Waverley horseman Bill Thurlow, whose timing and precision throughout the season has to be admired.
To say he’s a seriously talented horseman may embarrass him, such is his modest and unassuming nature, but the facts speak for themselves.
For example, his strike is 3.14, by far and away the best among the top 25 trainers on the national premiership.
Bill and his army of Waverley followers, who charged into Ellerslie with chartered planes from Wanganui and commercial flights from New Plymouth or Palmerston North, partied up large on Saturday night.
They hit a bar with a live band and asked whether there’s a chance Bruce Springsteen’s big hit, Glory Days, could be accommodated for a bit of a sing-along in celebration of the mare’s historic win.
“At first the band wasn’t too sure, but it’s amazing what a couple of hundred-dollar bills will do, which the boys had no worries about flinging over,” Bill joked.
“It was a fabulous night and great to celebrate it with so many friends, especially those who made the trip north.”
It’s now all systems go for the Sydney Cup, with the Waverley flock no doubt following.
Bill’s unsure where he will stable his staying star, but there would be no problem if he decided to give Chris Waller a call. As we mentioned after the Avondale Cup win, Chris once worked for Bill in Waverley.
However, Bill is uncertain whether taking Glory Days to a stable as busy as Chris’s would be ideal.
“She’s used to having smaller teams around her when she’s working at Waverley,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to Chris’s PA Sophie once or twice about coming over, but I think we will try a less populated base. I’ll work something out over the next few days.”
- Despite the rain-affected track conditions, wouldn’t you say that Saturday’s big meeting at Ellerslie provided some of the greatest moments of this racing season?
- Does it make sense to have almost identical programmes carded at venues less than a 90-minute drive apart, as was the case with the depleted fields at Otaki and Trentham last Friday and Saturday?
- If you watched the horrific fall at Tamworth on Sunday, were you surprised that no jockeys were more seriously injured? Two of the five jockeys who fell were unhurt, while the other three suffered a broken collarbone, broken leg and concussion.
- When the curtain falls on Winx’s stellar career, is The Autumn Sun the hot favourite to take over the starring role in the Chris Waller stable? Was his Randwick Guineas win one of the most astonishing finishes you’ve seen in any Group One three-year-old race?
- While we were all in awe of The Autumn Sun, did you also appreciate the performance of the Kiwi star three-year-old Madison County? The Baker-Forsman runner was three lengths behind The Autumn Sun at the 300-metre mark and had eaten into that margin at the post. A massive run first-up in Sydney!
- How fitting was it to see promising driver Sam Ottley win in the “teal pants” at Reefton on the last day of the HRNZ ovarian cancer appeal on Sunday? Sam, as one of the ambassadors for this wonderful cause, hasn’t stopped wearing the pants since the introduction to the campaign six weeks ago.
- Is racing engaging and involving women effectively, and is there room for further improvement? Industry participants, male and female, are being invited to go to www.nzrb.co.nz/womeninracing to fill out the anonymous survey that best suits their connection to racing by next Friday, March 22.
- Wasn’t Holly Andrew’s return to the winners’ circle richly deserved? Has any current jockey endured as many injuries and setbacks?
- If Danzdanzdance had produced her current, dual Group One-winning campaign last season instead of this one, would she have pipped Bonneval for the Horse of the Year title? Would it be fair to say her only chance now would be if she could do the almost unthinkable and beat Winx in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes? Then again, if Madison County won his next two Group Ones in Sydney, could he pose a threat?
- Do you get the feeling that April 13 at Randwick, with Winx in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, along with the Sydney Cup and Australian Oaks with a strong New Zealand representation, could be the raceday of the decade?