Meddles have been on parallel careers – until now

By Frank Marrion - courtesy of the HarnessXpress

Bryce’s Meddle and Hayley’s Meddle have been on an amazing parallel career which culminated in them both winning their second starts from bad draws in consecutive races at Rangiora on New Year’s Day.

The Dunn stablemates and close relations started their present campaigns at the Rangiora workouts in late November, where Hayley’s Meddle won the heat with Bryce’s Meddle third.

The following week they qualified in the same heat with Hayley’s Meddle and Riley Harrison beating Bryce’s Meddle and John Dunn by half a head.

A week later at Rangiora, they both finished second in different mobile heats.

Then they both made their debuts at Addington just before Christmas, with Bryce’s Meddle finishing second to Tuapeka Lou and Hayley’s Meddle third to Icee Styxie.

Get to Rangiora on Sunday, and Bryce’s Meddle draws 16 or the outside of the second line in a 2000m mobile, but it matters not as Dunn makes a move from the back to sit parked with a lap to run before taking the lead and going on to beat another promising three-year-old in Sharp As A Tac by over two lengths.

Half an hour later, with Tim Williams having taken over the raceday driving, Hayley’s Meddle draws eight or the outside of the front line in a 2000m mobile for fillies and mares, but it matters not as Williams improves from the back a lap out and sits parked from the 800m.

Favourite Jezebel appeared to put a winning break on them on the home turn having run a quarter down the back in 28 for Robert Anderson, but Hayley’s Meddle rounded her up easily in the end with over six lengths to the rest.

After doing plenty of work in the run, Hayley’s Meddle posted a 1.57.9 mile rate, home in 57.

“They’ve actually been together and done everything together since the day they were born a few weeks apart at Wai Eyre,” said Ashburton breeder-owner Warwick Sparks.

“That’s the first time we’ve won two races in one day and what made it even more special was the fact that my mother (Una) was there.

“She’s been a bit ill lately and I saw a tear in her eye after the second win.”

Sparks’ father Graeme had initially somewhat reluctantly taken a share in the foals from family along with Una’s father Lionel Birch.

Una took over Lionel’s share when he passed away and then Graeme died about four years ago.

Graeme had raced some nice ‘Eyre’ horses over the years with his good friend Mike Brown, hence the reason Warwick always uses Wai Eyre for his mares.

Sparks has always had a few broodmares on hand, but only breeds from two in any one season and often only every second season.

“That’s enough to handle given the costs of breeding and racing them these days.

“And we’re just too busy on the farm – we can’t do more than two at a time every second year.

“We like to do short sharp preps and do quite a bit with them at home before they go to the Dunns when it’s time to get serious.

“That comes as a cost to us but it’s also a saving.”

At one time, Sparks was using Master Musician to educate the young ones and then it was Mr Meddle and Hayden’s Meddle in later years.

The latter pair are now enjoying their retirements as hacks at the Five Star Beef operation at Wakanui, where they keep 20,000 plus cattle and grain feed for the Japanese market.

“They use the horses to ride around and check that the cattle are okay.

“Mr Meddle and Hayden’s Meddle are fine with that because they were raised with cattle.

“They’ll line up 200 steers on concrete and pretty much feed them 24 hours a day.

“There’s been issues with animal welfare groups, but I’ve never seen more happier and content cattle in my life.

“And I’ve never tasted better beef – it just melts in your mouth.”

Gavin Burgess broke in and did the early education with Bryce’s Meddle and Hayley’s Meddle, although that role has been taken over more recently by Ross Houghton, who is breaking in Sparks’ current yearlings.

They’re colts by Downbytheseaside-Awesome Speed and Sweet Lou-Cullen’s First Meddle, the latter a half to Hayley’s Meddle.

Sparks bought Awesome Speed for $13,000 at the yearling sales in 2016 and the daughter of Bettor’s Delight is the only horse he’s had which he hasn’t bred from the ‘Meddle’ family.

“Every year, our neighbours Bevan and Keith Grice would go through the catalogue and talk about the bloodlines.

“It was Bevan who suggested you would do well to obtain a nice filly with Awesome Speed’s pedigree and that the family would make a comeback – and now it has also produced Krug.

“Awesome Speed won two of her first three races and the Rangiora win carried a free service to Terror To Love, which we used to breed Bryce’s Meddle.

“I was told at the time to throw the free service in the rubbish, but I don’t think Terror To Love is the worst now.”

Awesome Speed belongs to the Tondeleyo family and comes via Adios Star and Bionic Star.

Krug comes from the same family, but via New Guest, the dam of Hilarious Guest and who led to another exceptional filly in Champagne Princess.

“We actually lost the first foal from Awesome Speed, a filly by Downbytheseaside which broke a shoulder in a paddock accident as a foal.

“That was shattering as I’d really wanted a filly by Downbytheseaside.”

Awesome Speed has this season been bred to Sweet Lou along with Aimee’s First Meddle, a Bettor’s Delight sister to Hayley’s Meddle and the first foal from Cullens First Meddle, a Christian Cullen mare who won twice.

“We thought Aimee’s First Meddle was going to be the best one we’d had after she won her first start at Addington (beating Manhattan).

“But then she had a hairline fracture in a hock and had to have an operation and be boxed.

“She won her first start back the next year at Ashburton, but things then started to go wrong and it was found she had a high heart rate.

“It was a rare condition which could have been treated, but there was a 50/50 chance she could die and we didn’t want to risk that.

“We used the Terror To Love service on Ashleigh’s Meddle as she comes from a different side of the family and not the one where I’ve been trying to use the best sires possible. At the time, it was a case of use it or lose it.

“Ashleigh’s Meddle was a Presidential Ball mare that we liked and she qualified at Methven, but she went unraced after suffering a fractured pastern.”

Aimee’s First Meddle and Hayley’s Meddle are the first two foals from Cullens First Meddle and are bred on the Bettor’s Delight-Christian Cullen cross.

Aimee’s First Meddle might already be a broodmare, but in Hayley’s Meddle, Sparks has a racing prospect which could well go ‘all the way’.

“She just thrives on the work and the racing – she’d work all day and every day if you let her.

“She is a little pocket rocket, but Bryce’s Meddle is a different build altogether and is weaker and needs spreaders for the moment.

“I think we’ll just give him one more start and tip him out as I think he is still 12 months away.

“They were going to Nelson because we didn’t think they could win at Rangiora from those draws.

“But now I’m not so sure what’s going to happen next – I haven’t caught up with Johnny on that yet as he’s been so busy.”

So Bryce’s Meddle and Hayley’s Meddle are actually about to finally go their separate ways.

Hayley’s Meddle is a result of top drawer breeding with Cullens First Meddle being a sister to Hayden’s Meddle (8 wins, $83,000), while their dam Make A Meddle (7 wins) was a half-sister to

Lionels Meddle (14 NZ wins, $113,000), Majhac Meddle (7 NZ wins, $83,000, US1.55.8) and Mr Meddle (6 NZ wins, $43,000, Aus1.54.9).

But Sparks concedes he hasn’t always done the family too many favours with his sire selections in earlier years.

Since he began with his first mare Dont Meddle in the mid-80s, the sires involved have included the likes of Meddlesome, Jiffy Boy, Mostest Yankee, J J’s Cornell, America’s Pastime, Stand Together, Make A Deal, Jeremys Gambit, Peruvian Hanover, Ohoka Arizona and Gotta Go Cullen.

Make A Meddle, from the JJ’s Cornell mare Another Meddle, was far and away and the best filly sired by Make A Deal, a brilliantly-bred son of No Nukes who was a disaster at stud.

That is a rather impressive list of siring failures and the path even began with a mistake.

“I was just a shearer at the time (in the mid-80s) and I was doing a job for my uncle Peter Andrews at Selwyn Lodge when I mentioned I wouldn’t mind a mare of my own,” recalled Sparks.

“I’d shorn some sheep and ploughed a paddock and Peter offered to give me a mare instead of paying me for the work.

“So I headed away to get a float and when I got home with the mare, my dad (Graeme) said you’ve made a mistake there and that Peter was far too smart for me.

“For quite a while I had to concede he was probably right.”

The mare was Dont Meddle, an unraced daughter of Meddlesome and one of eight foals from Frosty Lil, whose best performer was the one-race winner Keystone Lil.

Frosty Lil had won three races and was a Thurber Frost half-sister to Scottish Charm, who finished second in a New Zealand Cup to Globe Bay and who was twice runner-up in the Auckland Cup to Stella Frost and Royal Ascot.

Scottish Charm left a good trotting mare in Keystone Charm, but that was a long time ago now and outside of the ‘Meddles’, the family hasn’t produced a lot since.

“I couldn’t afford the good stallions for many years and I was usually doing some sort of deal. Often I wasn’t breeding from a mare at all.

“When I’d left school there wasn’t enough for me to make a living on the family farm, so I had to go off and make money any way I could.”

Sparks would eventually return to the family farm and expand it, and nowadays mostly farms crops and supplies feed to trainers including the Dunns, while processing 5000-6000 lambs a year.

Sparks was also raising a family, but his situation through a lot of hard work would improve in time and more recently he’s been breeding to the likes of Christian Cullen and Bettor’s Delight, the latter at $25,000 to get Hayley’s Meddle.

Sparks has always been a very keen student of the game and even as a kid, when he was at Timaru Boys High as a boarder, he can remember fighting over the local racing liftout with Richard ‘Nifty’ Norman, who would become a top trainer in America.

Graeme had a farm at Pendarves next to the Grice family and Warwick also grew up being friends with John Grice, a son of Bevan who died 15 years ago of cancer aged 40.

Therein lied another link to National Bloodstock and how Sparks was able to get deals on their stallions. Most of them would prove rank failures.

Sparks only bred a couple of foals from Dont Meddle before giving her away as a hack and the first one in Yankee Meddle, a filly by Mostest Yankee, only raced a couple of times before she ran off the track in training with Colin Harrison and hit a post, and had to be put down.

The second one was Another Meddle, a daughter of J J’s Cornell who won races at Nelson and Wyndham some 20 years ago under trainer Robert Dunn, and that is an association which continues to this day.

Another Meddle had no pedigree as such, but would prove the catalyst to the success of the family, despite not getting many favours from Sparks.

Hayley’s Meddle’s win on Sunday was the 50th emanating from that mistake, Dont Meddle, and just about all of them have been for the Sparks.

Lionels Meddle won four races at the end of his career for Geoff Knight after being claimed at Forbury Park.

Hayley’s Meddle could also be ‘the one’ to take Sparks to another level.

“We’ve never had a contender for a Group 1 – a second in a Methven Cup is the closest we’ve got.

“But hopefully it’s only a matter of time now that we’re breeding to the best sires.” – by Frank Marrion

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