Gareth Downey is relocating to Valachi Downs.
Following seven years as business development and client services manager at Waikato Stud, Gareth Downey has joined the team at Valachi Downs in Matamata.
“Gareth was looking for a change, identified the growth in Valachi and it’s a great opportunity for us to employ someone with his experience and depth of knowledge to help us with our development,” said Valachi general manager Jonathan Scully.
“The appointment couldn’t have come at a better time,” he added, referring to Valachi entering the stallion fray this season with freshman sire Savile Row and proven stallion Zacinto, who is relocating from Inglewood Stud in North Canterbury.
Downey trained as an accountant and spent time working in the manufacturing and biotech industry, but always had huge passion for racing and breeding and first gained the chance to be involved full-time after approaching Mark Chittick at Waikato Stud.
“When I started there (Waikato Stud), it was superb, because initially I was out on the farm, hands-on, actually learning what working in the industry was all about, then liaising with clients in pedigree analysis, while learning off Mark, Garry (Chittick), and the whole team."
Through the experience, Downey admits that his confidence levels within the industry are infinitely better now than when he first started.
“It takes a while to get a proper understanding of how the industry works and dealing with breeders and yearling buyers is certainly a highlight,” he said. “You develop wonderful relationships with these people, while hopefully playing a part in helping them achieve their goals. "
The change comes about for Downey at an ideal time for him to impart the knowledge and skills he has developed.
“I approached Valachi, as the launch of their new stallion venture looks exciting and they are certainly expanding,” Downey said.
“I feel there is a strong philosophical alignment with how Kevin and Joanna (Hickman) want to develop Valachi. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, it will be great to research the two new stallions and help breeders with their mating to them and a key part to me joining Valachi is the belief I have in both Savile Row and Zacinto.
“It’s a perfect way for Valachi to launch into the stallion business, with a proven and a first season sire. Savile Row is a magnificent looking horse with a beautiful head. He looks immaculate, has a great nature, good size, very close to being a dual Group One winner and he looks perfect heading into his first season."
Downey said that Zacinto is “probably a much more successful stallion than people give him credit for”.
“I did some updated stats on stallions standing this year in New Zealand - 44, believe it or not - and if you rank them all according to percentage stakes winners to runners, which is probably the fairest measure, Savabeel is obviously number one, which everybody would know, but Zacinto is number two and I don’t know how many people would be aware of that,” he said.
“He’s had five stakes winners from 58 runners, which is over eight per cent, and there are only six stallions in all of Australasia above that mark so it puts him in elite company. Although he hasn’t served big numbers, he’s still managed to get five stakes winners. But he has been supported by astute breeders and that would have helped.”
Already sire of Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas winner Ugo Foscolo, one of the rising stars for Zacinto is two-year-old colt Vassilator, winner of the Listed Anzac Stakes in April and another A$100,000 race, both at Flemington. He is trained by Colin Little, and just returned to training as a potential A$2 million Caulfield Guineas contender on October 13.
“He had three weeks out in the paddock after his last win,” Little said. “The horse was going quite well, but we couldn’t contemplate going all through the winter and into the spring. We think he has a presence in the spring, so that’s why he had three weeks and he’s been back in the stables for two weeks.
“We’re happy with him and he’ll go into the spring, possibly Caulfield Guineas, but I’ll just take him along and see how we go. We’ve got a high opinion of him and he’ll remain a colt. We don’t expect any problems there.”
Out of the High Chaparral mare Highlights, Little bought Vassilator for $25,000 at the 2017 Select Sale at Karaka from the draft of Windsor Park.
“He’s a nice horse, laid-back, great temperament, very strong, and we certainly like him,” Little said. “We think he can get over a fair bit of ground. He got a lovely attitude, relaxed and can quicken. Not sure how far, but 2000 metres doesn’t present any problems in my opinion.”
Little was drawn to Zacinto after training a filly named Soft Sand, by his sire Dansili, and from his first crop bought Navagio, also at Karaka.
“I’ve bought two Zacintos and both are Flemington winners, so I’ve got a soft spot for the stallion. Soft Sand was a very, very good filly, just beaten an inch in the Myer. I’ve always thought Dansili was one of the best stallions in the world, so that’s where I’ve started with Zacinto.”