Dual success just the start for southern trainer

He must train at one of New Zealand's most remote locations - but Wayne "Ox" McEwan wouldn't have it any other way.

Last week he notched up a first from his Te Anau stable when Kirstin Green drove both Branxholme Lass and Major Fire to victory in Invercargill.

"I've had quinellas and stuff in the past but that was my first double so that was pretty good."

And it seems that McEwan is only going to increase his involvement in the sport in the years ahead as he pivots away from his day job at trucking behemoth Ryal Bush Transport.

About 18 months ago McEwan set up a 800 metre training track and breeding establishment 10 kilometres out of Te Anau. It's an area he's "always loved" though it's a decent haul to the closest race track for workouts or races.

"Geographically it's a bit out there - it's two hours to Winton and two and a half to Invercargill."

On site he has about 15 horses in work, as well as broodmares, yearlings and other juveniles.

"There are half a dozen racehorses and we pre-train for Kirstin and Brett Gray and Ken Barron - he's been my mate forever."

Key to his Te Anau operation are Johnny Bennett and Olivia King.

"I just couldn't do it without them."

McEwan and Bennett go way back to the early days in Branxholme.

McEwan's father Ron was a horse trainer there and right across the road was Southland legend Henry Skinner, of Honkin Vision fame. Skinner had a 65 year career as a horseman, with over 1000 combined driving and training successes.

As a teenager McEwan drove fast work for the Skinners, before becoming involved in the Branxholme Syndicate. They purchased Self Control from a dispersal sale. In the 1980s she would go on to produce nine separate race winners including No Control (6 wins) and The Gangster (4 wins). These horses were trained by Ron McEwan.

Now he has a good band of broodmares with his foundation mare being Leah Mac, who is named after his grand-daughter. She won three races from 2015-18 and it was her first progeny Branxholme Lass who was one of McEwan's two winners at Invercargill (November 23).

McEwan was late to the training ranks, setting up his own little over a decade ago. He's now had 11 wins from 247 starts. His first was in 2011 when he quinellaed a race in Winton with Kacee Jane (also named after a grand-daughter) and Lady Of The Night.

About 18 months ago, having sold his property at Branxholme, he established the new track and facilities 140 kilometres away at Te Anau. Work obligations though means he spends three days a week in Invercargill.

McEwan's worked for Ryal Bush Transport (and latterly HW Richardson Group) since the 1970s. He's seen Ryal Bush Transport flourish into one of the largest operators in the country involved in livestock cartage, gravel supplies, contracting, demolition and more.

He started out as a truck driver and worked his way up the business to eventually be a long-standing director and part owner.

Carting deer from Fiordland right around the country was huge business in the 1980s when live deer recovery was introduced and when their truck The Deerhunter was finally retired it was estimated it had done over four million kilometres!

These days he is the HW Richardson Group General Manager of Rural Transport, and his son Shannon is the Chief Executive of Ryal Bush Transport.

The Ryal Bush Transport colours (red and yellow) are also McEwan's racing colours.

Now in his mid 60s McEwan is thinking about scaling back his work commitments "maybe in the middle of next year" and spending more time in Te Anau, where he also owns some motels. He also wants to build his bloodstock business "Leah Lodge".

"The horses will be more of a day job - as they should be," he laughs.


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