Mark Smolenski … and his winter reward
By Rob Courtney
Now a North Canterbury trainer, Mark Smolenski is in a quandary about his most recent winner, Winter Rewards winner Sophia Bromac.
Now the winner of six, the He’s Watching – Life Of Luxury five-year-old mare has been the subject of several recent offers and by his own admission, Smolenski is a seller.
"I learnt from Jack (Dad) when I was first starting out, that you needed to sell to survive and so historically any horse that had ‘quality’ was on its way out," he explained.
Sophia Bromac was purchased by Smolenski after fracturing a hind pastern when her previous owner wasn’t willing to continue with her.
She had already been a race winner.
"I boxed her for 3 months and it went from there.
"I love to breed and her mother was a good racehorse from a good family so I’m not quite sure if I am doing the right thing by turning down these offers," he reflected.
Dam Life Of Luxury was competitive against the best of her age at two and three, winning five and $153K in stakes. As a five-year-old she was sold to America where she ended up taking a time of 1:51 and extending her stakes to close to $500k.
Co-Nevele R founder Bob McArdle brought her back to NZ in 2008 but sadly she was a shy breeder and in her ten year breeding career, only left four foals.
Interestingly, foal one Lancelot Bromac had a whopping 513 starts for 34 wins and 140 placings for ‘only’ $390k in stakes.
Sophia Bromac (foal three) herself was conceived by embryo transfer but Nevele R were successful in obtaining foal four Kardashian (by Vincent) by natural service and for Steve McRae the three-year-old filly has had one placing from three starts to date.
Breeding buffs will know that Sophia Bromac traces directly back to Barbara Del then Coo Doo, a family which had great success for the Grice brothers back in the 1970s. Barbara Del was good enough to win the NZ Welcome Stakes as a two-year-old against the best colts.
Mark Smolenski’s harness story has certainly changed in the last 12 months. After 40+ years and finding his ‘niche’ in breaking in yearlings for others, he and wife Carolyn moved out of the Weedons property developed by Mark’s parents, holding many great memories of some of our greatest horses.
“Of course Jack was leading NZ trainer in 73 and had no better example of his horsemanship in developing the ‘cup winner’ of the same year in Arapaho. Most wouldn’t know my own story but I have broken in over 3000 yearlings and in those golden All Stars years, I used to do around 80 for Mark Purdon. One day, 37 arrived all at the same time,” he proudly shared.
Household names like Lazarus, Vincent, Have Faith In Me and Dream About Me were all given their early education by Smolenski at the family's Weedons stables.
That stable block has been demolished by new owner Stonewall Stud as they prepare to set up a state of the art harness training complex in Canterbury. It's expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Now residing in Pegasus, Smolenski currently leases a complex next door to the Rangiora racecourse and has a team of eight in work.
The Smolenski family bred Krug from their top mare Champagne Princess (12 wins + 8 placings from only 23 starts) and Smolenski believes he has a ‘special horse’ in Krug’s full sister called Krug Rose who is set to debut in October.
"I’ve got race winners With Grace (Bettors Delight – Beaudiene Bad Babe) in foal to Always B Miki and Tip Your Hat Loui (2 wins) in foal to Royal Aspirations."
"As for Sophia Bromac, we served her four times with Always B Miki but unsuccessfully but I guess we will try again in the new season.”
In the meantime Smolenski feels that he has worked out how to drive ‘Sophie’ (she was last at the 600m in her most recent win) and with very clean bowls after feeding in the last couple of days, he will just keep going in the interim unless that next offer is too good to turn down.