The Coalman and his Kaiapoi connection

With The Coalman winning his fourth race at Addington last Thursday night Rob Courtney profiles his owner-breeder, and reveals how the horse got its name.

by Rob Courtney

Like many of his generation, Kaiapoi born and bred Craig McConchie, owner of The Coalman, was taken to the races often as a young fella by his family.

McConchie remembers vividly a photo proudly hanging in the family garage of his father holding onto champion Highland Fling.

"Dad (The ‘Cobbler) had a shoe shop in Rangiora and through those community connections, as a teenager, I scored a holiday job as a stablehand at Erin Crawford’s Rangiora stable."

"I was hardly in my 20s when I owned my first horse."

A builder by trade, McConchie’s other strength was his ability on the rugby field and as a young fella was good enough to represent Canterbury Country at a senior level alongside Roddy Butt, younger brother of Tim and Anthony.

He borrowed Vance’s Theme (from the Nanoose family) and to Live Or Die, she left him Jungle Jane, that mare’s only progeny.

Named after his wife Jane (nee Yellowlees) because of her love of the outdoors, both were ex-pupils of Kaiapoi High School, the same education institution that produced Ben Hope, Brent Lilley, Glenn Scott and current Canterbury race-caller Matt Cross.

Jungle Jane won six including the Great Northern Breeders Stakes at Alexandra Park for McConchie and trainer Tim Butt.

"I used to spend most Saturday mornings down at their stables at a time when Lyell Creek, Flashing Red, Stunnin Cullen and Foreal were the stars on the track and I did some ‘stable building’ on the side when I wasn’t driving fast work", he reflected.

"Jane", the equine version, has been a creditable producer at stud for her owner.

The Cobbler (Art Major - Jungle Jane), now trained by Adrienne Matthews at Waiuku, was named after his own father and The Coalman after Stu Yellowlees, Jane’s father, who was a coal merchant in Kaiapoi for many years.

Trained by Mark Jones, The Coalman, one of the very few by Pet Rock in this country, has now won four from 26 starts as has The Cobbler but from 46 starts.

All up ‘Jane’ left McConchie seven winners from nine foals.

Jungle Genie won 23 in Australia and America for nearly $300k in stakes with a race time of 1:52.6.

Jungle Jewel won 16 and nearly $240k. Jungle Gem (7 wins) and Sagano (5 wins here in NZ) were other handy types, the latter trained by Jonny Cox.

Leaping Leo (named after his son Leo) won one here before getting exported to Australia. Leo, the human version, has his Dad’s passion for rugby and is the current half-back for the Kaiapoi seniors.

Jungle Jane is no longer with us but her tenth foal is an Always B Miki two-year-old colt with Central Otago breeder Rusty Nevill.

McConchie is still building, retains his passion for rugby, closely following the fortunes of his beloved Kaiapoi Club and racing horses - bugs he has had for some time.

The father-in-law no longer deals in coal but The Coalman looks good enough to add to McConchie's record over the winter.


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