Nemera Franco and Craig Thornley gave Steven McRae his 200th training win. Photo: Race Images.
West Melton trainer Steve McRae brought up his 200th training win in style when debutante Nemera Franco recovered with a superlative win at the Akaroa grass meeting at Motukarara on Sunday.
His first win came at Forbury on October 31, 2004, with Franco Traveller, after taking up a position with Spreydon Lodge.
"You never forget your first one," McRae said.
McRae has developed a host of top winners from the well-bred stock bred by Spreydon Lodge Ltd, from mares accumulated over a long period by the late Wayne Francis.
Most are on-sold after showing early potential for McRae and stable driver, Craig Thornley.
He was the on-site trainer for many years at the young training nursery of Spreydon Lodge, on the outskirts of Christchurch, but the property is now being re-developed as a residential sub-division.
He subsequently relocated to West Melton, taking over the former stables of Tim Butt, three years ago.
During his time at Spreydon Lodge, he prepared top mare Nearea Franco to win 11 of 34 starts for $441,405, including the 2008 Harness Jewels 4YO Diamond at Cambridge, the 2008 Gr.1 Queen Of Hearts for mares at Auckland, and the 2009 Gr. 2 Kaikoura Cup.
McRae also prepared top pacer Franco Nelson to win his first eight races including the 2012 Gr.1 NRM Sires Stakes Final at Addington.
Franco Nelson has raced on for various other stables to win $758,127 lifetime, from 18 career wins.
He thought latest winner Nemera Franco had classic potential until having to undergo a wind operation last term.
"I'll probably take her down south over Christmas-New Year and just see if she improves enough for the fillies’ races," he said.
After tangling away and settling last, the three-year-old daughter of champion sire Bettor's Delight stormed home wide to win The Famous Grouse Hotel Pace impressively.
She justified her short $2.60 win quote, winning going away by 1 1/4 lengths, the leaders running their last 800m on the grass in 61.2s.
Bred by Spreydon Lodge Ltd, she was subsequently half-leased to a large group.
"We have three yearlings that we lease out a half-share in each year," McRae said.
"It's a good way to get new people, along with some existing people into the game. We try and find three with potential and go from there."
Others in the group include the Organ Donation Saves Lives Syndicate, WDSMML Syndicate, the Thunderbolt Syndicate, and four individual owners, including Brent Smith, who owned and trained former champion mare Armalight to win 1981 New Zealand Cup and Free-For-All, and 1983 Auckland Cup.
In later years, Mr Smith worked at Spreydon Lodge until suffering a major health setback a year-and-a-half ago.
"It's not the same not having him here each day," McRae said.
"Hopefully, the win will give him a little boost."
Nemera Franco is bred to be above average, being the sixth winner from seven to race for her dam Nature Franco, making her a half-sister to Lively GNP (1:57.8, Aust), Franco Nattai (1:55.6), Franco Nepia (1:54.1, Aust), Eh Ef El (1:52.1, Aust) and minor winner, Toll Gate.
Nature Franco (1:59.2, three wins) is a Union Guy half-sister to Northern Franco, the dam of 2013 NZ Free-For-All winner, Pembrook Benny (1:53.6, 22 wins and $907,890), and the sub-2:00 fillies, Northern Velocity (1:56.6), Pembrook Caesar (1:53), Holme Fire (1:58.8) and (Sparkling) Tachyon (1:55.5).
Nemera Franco's grand-dam Natural Appeal (1:59.8) is an El Patron half-sister to former top 1980s Victorian pacer Panyan (1:57.3, 29 wins), 1986 Addington 4YO Superstars Championship winner Pathfinder, and Rare Charm, the lightly-raced four-win dam of Glossy (1:53.2h, US).
McRae wasn’t long starting the long road to his next 200 winners – Selena Franco won for him later on in the day to take his tally to 201.