Breen reflects on a breakout season
By Garrick Knight
As Syd Breen saw off one of his stable stars this morning, he couldn’t help but reflect on the roller-coaster ride that has been this season.
On the track, the Gore trainer has been unstoppable, recording a career-best 16 wins this season, more than double his previous high of seven.
But off the track, he was brought back to earth with a thud mid-season when struck down by a serious health issue.
Santanna’s Rocket has been a key part of his small stable this season, winning four times and placing a further five for over $32,000 in stakes.
But he’s off to Sydney to continue racing for his group of owners.
“He headed off at half-past six this morning, going over to Menangle on a fifty-fifty deal with Robbie Morris and KerryAnn Turner.
“We had him on the market for a while but, typical agents, they kept trying to cut us back on price.
“In the end we decided to send him over ourselves.
“Ross Wilson is a good mate of mine and he’s had a few horses with them over there so that’s where the link came from.”
Breen isn’t one to get soppy and emotional but he admits he will miss the horse he has been handling since a yearling, four years ago.
“He’s had 39 starts for six wins and 23 times in the first four; you don’t get many like that these days.”
With stable star Sagwitch and Mucho Macho Man having a spell, Lorretta Franco retired and in foal to Betterthancheddar, and Coolhand Easton back with his owners, Breen is enjoying a bit of downtime right now, something his doctor no doubt approves of.
“I had a heart attack in January, the day after Sagwitch won at the Northern Southland meeting.
Breen was rushed by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital and after a quick procedure was on the road to recovery.
“I’m just so thankful for the excellent treatment I got; a lot of people bag Dunedin Hospital but I can’t speak highly enough of the staff there.”
It was a reminder to take things easy and he says his days are nowhere near as long as they used to be.
“By five o’clock I’m pretty tired now; I can barely keep my eyes open.”
Hopefully his body has bounced back by the spring time because he has some lofty ambitions for Sagwitch that include a crack at the Inter Dominions in Auckland come December.
“I was going to send him up to Auckland now but he came to the end of it a wee bit, and with Santanna’s Rocket going I thought it would be best to turn him out.
“They are best mates and have been since they were broken in together so I thought he might just get the sulks now that the other horse has gone.
“He’s a real thinker that horse so the plan is for him to buddy up with a new mate in the paddock and then I’ll bring him back in to work.
“We’ll try and be ready for the Hannon Memorial or the Methven Cup and then the owners are really keen to go to Kaikoura.
“Long term we’re hoping to go to Auckland for the Inters to have a crack up there.”
Sagwitch ended up winning the Southland Country Cups championship this season, amongst his three circuit wins the Wyndham Cup in March,
“I actually had two Country Cups winners in my stable this season because we sold The Night Hawk to Scott Dickson in January and he won the northern series, too.
“We are getting presented with a nice dress rug for Sagwitch this Saturday, which is a lovely little bonus to top off the season.”
Breen trained his first winner in 1992 and pottered around with a few horses until 1998 when a broken engagement saw him walk away from the industry for a decade.
“I ended up at the freezing works doing four 12-hour days a week, which just left me no time to do the horses the way I wanted to.
“Eventually I started helping out Billy Heads when he was at Waimumu and after a while I took a share in a few horses.”
That whet his appetite and eventually Breen took his licence out again in 2014.
On his brilliant season, Breen attributes it to a number of things – good support, luck, and the maturity of Santanna’s Rocket and Sagwitch.
“Steve McRae sending down Loretta Franco probably started it all off for me.
“She did an amazing job for us and that gave me some confidence in my training, and in others to send me horses.
“Confidence is a great thing is this game.
“When you’re going good, you’re not scared to back yourself and try something different.
“As an example, I was having a clean up the other day and I found six overchecks, none which had even been used.
“The speed they’re going these days, the less restricted you’ve got them, the better they seem to race.
“Mine seem a lot happier without them on.
“Take Sagwitch. He’s had a few breathing issues and I tried everything with him, even a Cornell Collar.
“As soon as I took his overcheck off, he won the Wyndham Cup.
“And as well as that, I got the right horses at the right times.”
Breen will line up Phil’s Last Chance at Ascot Park on Saturday and his other race horse at present is the maiden, American Mac.
“The old guy that owns American Mac lives in Gore so (former trainer) Alan Beck asked me if I could train him for him.
“And the same with Phil’s Last Chance. Brad Williamson sent her over because she’s owned by a few locals too.”