Rico Lodge's race day debut - "a huge buzz"

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

When Lamarli ran at Ashburton last month it wasn't just another horse making her race day debut.

It also signalled the start for a new racing enterprise, Rico Lodge, that has its roots 12,000 kilometres away from New Zealand.

And even more than that - it marked something special for Brett Grose, who lives and works in Mongolia, and his wider family.

"The "Rico" of Rico Lodge is an emotional acknowledgement of my son that passed away during birth in 2003," says Brett Grose, "the Gold Star resembles Rico so on the track when we see the colours it’s an emotional reminder of the journey taken to get here."

Rico Lodge's colours are white, with a gold star, collar and waistband. Ashburton was their first race day appearance.

"Mum and dad attended and we had a video call before the race and after, it was a great thrill, being based overseas we watched live on TV and to just see our colours on track and on the TV was a huge buzz."

Rico Lodge's creation came about as Grose found himself in a Covid-enforced lockdown in Mongolia, where he manages the underground health and safety of 14,000 copper and gold mine workers in the South Gobi desert.

"We had to remain onsite for no less than 5-7 weeks at a time due to the complexities of travel and Mongolian Government instructions. During this time and having an interest in harness racing I thought now was the best time to chase a dream."

That was 2020. Since then things have grown rapidly.

While Lamarli (A Rocknroll Dance - Pure Opulence) is the first to make it to the race track there are now 12 horses under the Rico Lodge banner, including plenty of young stock. That includes two yearling colts, by Sky Major and Locharburn, and four foals on the ground. All fillies, they are from Bettors Wish, Always B Miki and Poster Boy (2).

Brett Grose's love of horses and racing goes right back to his childhood in Christchurch.

"I remember my grandad always having the Turf Digest and as kids we would always read those and where we lived in Middlepark road there was a large contingent of galloping trainers that would ride their horses past our house at 6am, the sound of their shoes on the road would always draw me out of bed to watch them ride past."

His parents got into horse ownership - "mum and dad bought into a Holmes Hanover foal named Alicia Maree." She had seven starts, including one win at Addington. She was trained by Wayne Ross at Ohoka in North Canterbury and driven by Kevin Townley.

Grose started working at Ross' stables at the weekends, before taking on a job there full-time.

"I used to watch the likes of Courage Under Fire, Tupelo Rose, Adios Dream and Hero be educated as juveniles ... I really realized then that I had a passion for horses."

"During this time we had Flak Jacket win the Kindergarten Stakes (2006) and Kevin win the Ordeal Cup with Sundons Luck (2004)."

Brian O'Meara, of Christian Cullen fame, was another Grose looked up to.

"I would just sit on the fence and watch Brian work his horses".

But Grose's life would change markedly after the birth of his daughter. Bella was was born at 24 weeks. Being so premature she had lung issues and so it was decided to leave Christchurch's wet and cold winters. Grose got a job at the Iron Ore Mines of the Pilbara, Western Australia, staying in Perth for 11 years.

Harness racing took a bit of a backseat there though son Jonte got involved in pony trots and there were frequent visits to Gloucester Park on a Friday night.

Grose dipped his toes back into horse ownership about the time he transferred from Perth to Mongolia. He bought into an American Ideal colt with ex-pat Kiwi trainer Tim Butt.

"We named him Khulan Kid as Khulan is the name of one of Genghis Khan's wives."

"We try to keep the Mongolian name in all our horses now as my wife (Solongo) is Mongolian and the culture is very important to us."

Khulan Kid, who's had one win from six races, is one of four horses he has shares in that are based in Australia.

The others are Hautacam, a three win trotter trained by Matthew Craven, Sagano, who had five wins in New Zealand before heading across the Tasman in 2021, and two race winner Millies Creek, who's now in the broodmare paddock.

Rico Lodge's motto is “The courage to breed, the will to succeed" and their broodmare band includes Charioteer (Christian Cullen - Alicia Maree), Smirk Free - "with her Courage Under Fire lines" and Art Major mare Laytons Lass, who won five races and at one stage held the NZ mares' pacing 2000m stand record at 2:29.8. That time was bettered by Kerri Maguire in 2022, and then only recently by Corravally Star at Addington in February (2:25.2).

Brett's brother Jason is a key component of Rico Lodge, specially on the breeding side of the operation.

"The long-term goal is to breed nice honest types ... I would love to breed one to win the Kindergarten Stakes, there is just something about that race that I love , when you see some of the past winners, such as Master Mood (1984), Cigar (1998) and Akuta (2021)," says Brett Grose.

In Canterbury Terry Chmiel and Sam Payne are Grose's go-to trainers-drivers.

"You could see from the limited number of starters Sam always turned out his horse in perfect order ..... it only took one phone call to Sam to make our mind up that we would send our horses to him with the support of having Terry as a senior accomplished driver."

And it was Payne in the bike when Lamarli ran on nicely for sixth on debut at Ashburton.

"She has come on a lot with time and I’m sure we will have fun with her no doubt," says Grose.

Racing has also helped galvanise a family.

"Without establishing Rico Lodge I believe the way we as a family stay in touch wouldn't be anywhere near as constant if we hadn't done it. Two of my children Jonte and Bella live in Perth along with my siblings and their families, and my Mum and Dad and my oldest brother (Jason) live in Christchurch.

"Harness racing has made us stay in constant contact via messenger, emails and video calls, a normal casual chat always ends up moving to racing, the horses, and breeding"

Rico Lodge has also now expanded into sponsorship.

"We have jumped on board with the Sires Stakes and this year sponsoring the four-year-old mares and older Uncut Gems to be held at Addington in May."

As for Larmali she'll front up next at Timaru next Wednesday with her performance again being closely scrutinised from all corners of the globe.


Related Category News

22 May 2024

News Briefs : May 22

Jason Grimson’s two New Zealand Cup contenders will clash at Menangle on Saturday night.

22 May 2024

Big changes ahead for Dylan Ferguson

Waikato-based trainer and driver Dylan Ferguson is looking forward to a new challenge as he sets out as an individual trainer next month.