Mrs Beau K’s somewhat unique place in the history books
By Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress
Horse racing tends to throw up some pretty unusual events.
But a 10-year-old Mrs Beau K winning on debut at Westport on Boxing Day had to take the cake.
It would be unusual enough for a 10-year-old to even have its first race at that age, but to actually win it?
Nobody can remember anything like that happening before.
Probably, if one’s memory happened to go back for over a century when ‘trotting’ was in its formative years, one could find something similar or even more bizarre.
Back then, racehorses often had a variety of other jobs such as carting milk around, and some began racing at a very advanced age once their speed was discovered.
But not many people are 100 years plus and for those that are, their memories are probably not that good.
We could research such things but we’d be here for weeks.
Yaldhurst’s Basil Lynskey, who had success with the Santa Anita family, was renowned for leaving horses in the paddock for long periods and producing them at an advanced age.
His last winner Visalia began racing as an eight-year-old and won two of her first four starts at Motukarara and Washdyke in 1988.
Much earlier in 1973, Las Vegas also began racing as an eight-year-old and won his debut at Oamaru and Lynskey drove him to win four of his eight races that season.
Then there was Santa Amada, a U Scott mare who won a race in the mid 50s, then returned to the races six seasons later, winning two of her five races as an 11-year-old.
As one can no doubt imagine, it took some rather unusual events for Mrs Beau K to achieve her feat.
The well-travelled former miner Trevor Walsh trained and drove her at Westport and that was an unusual enough event in itself.
Walsh has been doing a bit of driving in recent times but it was his first win in the sulky since November, 2004, when he drove Steal The Moon to score at Kaikoura for Blenheim’s Paul Scott.
When Walsh trained his own mare Malinka to win at the same Westport meeting last season – she was driven by Jim Curtin – it was Walsh’s first win in that respect for over 20 years.
Back in the late 90s, Walsh had a couple of handy sorts in Nether Wood (4 wins) and Lord Dashwood (5 wins), but once they’d done their dash, he left the game to work on the second tunnel at the Lake Manapouri power station.
He’s been back in Westport for about five years, reading power meters for Wells.
There’s been the odd horse since his days in Marlborough, but Malinka was the only one he was training at the Westport track until Mrs Beau K joined him in early November.
It is West Coast breeder-owner John Rogers, a Westport TC stalwart over the years, who can take the ‘credit’ for Mrs Beau K’s somewhat unique place in the history books however.
“She was broken in as a yearling and had another prep at two, but then I simply got too busy with the (dairy) farm and she remained in the paddock for years,” said Rogers.
“I tried to give her away on numerous occasions, but nobody was interested.
“I’d pretty much given the game away and I thought she was the last horse I’d be breeding.”
But Rogers had been an admirer of Highview Tommy and when a service was donated to the Westport club, he bought it and bred the dam of Mrs Beau K, the Holmes Hanover mare Emma Rose, to him.
That resulted in the filly Agirlcalledtom and when Rogers began working her up as a three-year-old, late in 2018, he brought the by now nine-year-old Mrs Beau K back in as well “so she had something to work with”.
Rogers had however by this point suffered a bad back injury in an accident at the Westport track which has since limited his abilities to only jogging the horses up at the beach on the back of a tractor.
“I stepped back off a mudguard of the trailer into thin air and landed on my tailbone, also cracking my head.
“I’ve had a major back operation which didn’t really work and now I’m waiting for another one in the next month or two.”
So Rogers sent Agirlcalledtom and Mrs Beau K to Kevin Townley, who had trained their close relation Glen Del for him, and they qualified in the same heat at Ashburton in March last year.
Townley drove Mrs Beau K to win the heat by three and a half lengths in 3.09 with Agirlcalledtom finishing third.
He gave them one more trial at Rangiora and then Covid hit, so the pair went back into Rogers’ paddocks.
“Mrs Beau K showed me a bit of speed back then and I wasn’t surprised to see her win at Westport,” said Townley.
But when Rogers was jogging the pair up again in the spring, Townley’s stable was full and no other Canterbury trainers that were asked were willing to take them either.
“So I threw them back in the paddock thinking that that was that,” said Rogers.
“But then a few days later, Trevor (Walsh) dropped by to read my meter and I asked him if he would take them.
“He said he could take one and he took Mrs Beau K.”
Walsh gave Mrs Beau K trials at Waterlea, Westport and Richmond to fit her for her raceday debut and everything fell into place just perfectly in the first event on the first day at Westport.
Walsh didn’t have to do anything to wind up in the one-one on the home turn and Mrs Beau K stomped home to pick up the pacemaking favourite Tas Girl Bromac by half a length at odds of $23.
Things did not go so well during the remainder of the circuit though.
Mrs Beau K was pulled up on the second day at Westport and then she finished last at Reefton after missing away.
“She actually went away both days and then galloped and panicked,” said Walsh.
“For a 10-year-old, she’s actually still quite green, but she’s a lovely mare to do anything with.”
No surprises there given Mrs Beau K basically did nothing for seven years between the ages of two and nine.
But Rogers had no real issues with her when he did bring her back in, something he attributes to a sensible Holmes Hanover dam.
“She doesn’t know her age – like a lot of women when you ask them I guess.”
Mrs Beau K comes from one of the last crops sired by Sands A Flyin and she was his first winner in a few years as well.
If Rogers had had his way, she would have been called No Knickers Nicky.
“Nicky was a nice lady who went to school with my children and at one time she was working the bar at the Star Tavern in Westport.
“She said to me one day when are you going to name one of your horses after me?
“So I put No Knickers Nicky in as a name to be cheeky when I registered Emma Rose’s filly but it was turned down.
“It was only a few weeks before she qualified that I named her Mrs Beau K after the wife, Pauline.
“Her nickname is Mrs Bouquet as she likes to be prim and proper.”
Mrs Bouquet was the name of the lead character in the early 90s television comedy series Keeping Up Appearances, or Hyacinth Bucket insisted her surname be pronounced Bouquet.
Mrs Beau K is the latest and perhaps the last of a long line of winners dating back to the 60s for the Rogers family and the maternal line emanating from Sub Rosa, a 1945 daughter of the Dillon Hall horse Congressional who had gone unwanted as a broodmare over many years.
Rogers’ uncle Jack appears as the breeder when Sub Rosa produced the Morano filly Maelynne in 1960, but John says it was actually his father Tom that borrowed the mare.
“Jack was an accomplished horseman who had a number of good horses over the years, such as the trotters Gay Flame (8 wins) and Coventry (7 wins).
“Dad had been trying to get a winner for 20 years, but from Maelynne he hardly went a year without a win.”
Maelynne won three races with Tom training her to win twice in the same day at a Reefton JC meeting in 1965 with Jack driving, while a bit later she won at the Cheviot meeting, paying $39 for Maurice Holmes.
She would produce nine winners for Tom and later John, including Armbro Tom (US2.00), McKenna (US1.55.8) and Roger (5 NZ wins, US1.56) in the 70s, while her last winner was Steven John.
The latter burst on to the scene when he won in the mud at the Westport meeting on Boxing Day in 1985, or 35 years earlier, going 2600m in 4.14 with John Rogers as the trainer-driver.
They won again at Reefton and then at the Greymouth meeting in early January to claim the first $10,000 West Coast Bonus.
Steven John was a very good horse and won his next three races as well – the Amberley Cup from 20m, the Nelson Cup from 10m and the feature race on the second day at Waterlea from 20m in successive weeks.
A bit later he won at Addington beating Rolls Hanover and Keystone Surprise, but then Steven John went amiss, the result of a paddock accident as a youngster.
He made a brief comeback three years later and won another race at Greymouth, but that was a lowly claimer.
Katrina Del was an Armbro Del sister to Steven John who had earlier won four races as a three-year-old with Kevin Townley driving.
She won at Addington beating Spry Guy and later on heavy grass tracks at Ashburton and Rangiora in the winter.
It was a tough old breed and at stud she produced Okari Lad, who Rogers thinks might have been the first New Zealand-bred horse to go 1.55 in America, and Glen Del.
The latter was a sensation when he won nine straight races during the first three months of 1992.
He swept through the Nelson-Marlborough circuit unbeaten and later won the Hororata Cup and the feature race at Methven in March, going 4.12 for 3200m from 30m with John Hay driving all along.
Glen Del was going for 10 straight wins in the Messenger in Auckland, but was unplaced there from barrier eight and soon after he broke a pedal bone.
“We attempted a comeback with him and he was placed in a Kaikoura Cup, but he was never the same,” said Townley.
War Buoy had set a record for 10 straight wins in the 30s, one matched by Cardigan Bay and Young Quinn and later eclipsed by Noodlum (15) and Courage Under Fire (24).
But going from being a maiden straight through to open class is something a lot different or harder than dominating at age group level.
New Age Man managed it a few years after Glen Del when he went unbeaten in 13 races and won a G1 Round Up Quarter Mile FFA at Addington along the way, although that was over the space of a year with a winter spell in between.
The incomparable Lyell Creek, another son of Roydon Glen, won 20 straight from being a maiden trotter and then after a defeat, won his next 13.
Rosalynne Del, the last foal from Katrina Del and a three-quarter sister to Glen Del, being by Smooth Fella, produced six foals for four winners including Emma Rose.
But her only other filly in Jagged Ice (3 NZ wins, US1.54) wound up in America and the other three fillies from Katrina Del were no good, being by either Doc’s Tuck or Rum Customer.
So this is how the family and John Rogers have pretty much reached the end of the line.
Rogers is definitely done with breeding now and at 71, he is not far off retiring from the dairy farm at Okari just south of Westport as well.
But we may not have seen the last of John Rogers just yet.
“I’m getting that back operation so I can do things like the horses again and if it is successful this time, I’m going to need something to do once the farming is over.”
So while Agirlcalledtom remains in the paddock for now, there’s a chance she could be Rogers’ last hurrah.
“I’ve got six years to do something with her I guess.” – by Frank Marrion