Davies experience the highs and low of racing

Waikato breeders Jack and Jocelyn Davies will put their first yearlings up for sale at the NZB Standardbred Yearlings Sale at Karaka on Sunday. They will have two yearlings go into the ring, after a mixed few months which has seen some ups and some downs.

By Brad Reid, HRNZ's Breeding Manager .  

Waikato breeders Jack and Jocelyn Davies were in need of a tonic when the blue-blooded Dream Of You (Love You) recently saluted the judge at Alexandra Park.

The Derek Balle-trained trotter upset the more fancied All Stars-trained duo of Wy Fi and Ellaria Sand at odds of 16 to 1 when winning the Harness Million 12 Feb at Alexandra Park Mobile Trot.

He did it in some style, sitting parked for the majority of the 2200m journey and went some way to fulfilling the enormous potential he has shown from the day he was broken in.

He's not the first good horse the co-breeders and owners have raced in their 15-year involvement in our sport, having enjoyed the likes of G1 winners Paramount Geegee and Flying Is. And with several well-bred youngsters on the books it’s unlikely to be the last.

For all the highs the couple have experienced as breeder/owners, their resolve was severely tested when having to say goodbye to Dream Of You’s dam, Paramount Dream (Pegasus Spur), just a few weeks earlier.

“It was just gut wrenching,” said a clearly emotional Jack Davies.

“We went out in the paddock about a fortnight before she was due to foal, and she had suffered an internal rupture from her udder all the way up to her brisket.

"She came down the hill when she heard my voice and flopped down in front of us. When she got up, she was bleeding from in front of her udder and the main artery that feeds the foal had burst and we sadly lost her and the foal,” he said.

Losing any mare to unforeseen circumstances is a terrible situation for any breeder and Paramount Dream wasn’t just any mare.

Hailing from the broodmare gem Paramount Star, (Sundon – Karanero) she was a half-sister to a breed the Davies know well, having first got into racing on the back of her full brother, three-time G1 winner Paramount Geegee.

She was also a half-brother to G1 winner Paramount King and G3 winner Paramount Queen (both by Love You) as well as a full sister to Paramount Faith, the dam of G1 winner and rising superstar, Muscle Mountain (Muscle Hill).

Compounding the terrible outcome was that the foal Paramount Dream was carrying was going to be her first filly. Her extremely valuable bloodlines would have carried on to future generations.

“It only happens to the good ones,” rued Davies.

“We were pedigree Jersey breeders and had a very well-credentialed breed of cattle capable of producing around 6000 litres of milk a day. We knew very well from our involvement in that side of rearing animals that with livestock you also have dead stock, but it doesn’t get any easier,” he said.

Perhaps without the lows, the highs could not be reached and given the ride the Davies have been on over the last decade and a half since getting into harness racing it’s a story well worth telling.

“About 14 years ago my younger brother Eddie who had been involved in harness racing for many a year came to us and said it’s time you got an interest off the farm and get involved in racing.

“I didn’t end up going in on that particular horse, but my wife Jo did and I ended up having just as much fun as she did following his career,” he said.

That horse in question was Real Deal Yankee who was one of the first seven live New Zealand foals by Dream Vacation which also included the likes of The Ultimate Galleon (2YO Trotter of the Year) and Leighton Hest (4YO Trotter of the Year) as well as 13 race winner, Savona, dam of Hambletonian winner Valloria (Majestic Son).

Real Deal Yankee would win his first three two-year-old starts before winning the Hambletonian at three and running third in the NZ Trotting Derby. He ran second to Leighton Hest in his 4YO Ruby and second later that year (2009) to Speculate (Sundon) in the NZ Trotting FFA.

It’s fair to say the Davies had a bit of fun following Real Deal Yankee who won 11 races and $175,572 in stakes and wasn’t turning down the next opportunity he had to get involved.

“Jo and I ended up taking 50% of a yearling and 40% of one the following year, they were Paramount Geegee and Flying Isa (both by Pegasus Spur) and we had a hell of a lot of fun with those two,” he said somewhat understated.

Paramount Geegee was a gun from day dot, winning his first six starts at two (including G3 2YO Trotting Stakes and Listed Sales Series Final) before losing his unbeaten streak in the 2YO Sires Stakes final to Kylie Ree (Monarchy).

In the 2YO Ruby at Cambridge he galloped off the mobile and gave Kylie Ree and the rest a 100m start before putting up a herculean effort to run fifth. He would put that aberration behind him and head to Victoria where he won the G1 Breeders Crown final a few months later.

He would come back at three an incredible force and despite running fourth and second in his first runs resuming, he rattled off eight wins from his next eight starts which included the Listed Sales Series Final, G2 Sires Stakes 3YO Final, G1 Northern Trotting Derby, G1 NZ Trotting Derby, G1 3YO Ruby and the G1 Breeders Crown Final.

“It was pretty unbelievable really,” said Davies.

“In the same season Flying Isa then stepped out as a two-year-old and he won eight in a row.” 

“When they both won the G1 Ruby for their age group on the same day we didn’t think it could get any better than that. But then we got to travel to Melbourne and watch them both win the G1 Breeders Crown finals on the same day and that would be the biggest highlight of our time involved in harness racing,” he said proudly.

The Davies could be forgiven for thinking this racing caper was easy at this point.

Given their success and having retired from farming, the couple decided they would like to purchase a couple of well-bred fillies in 2011. They had already purchased a full sister to Flying Isa a year earlier on their own accord at Karaka.

“When Paramount Geegee and Flying Isa were going alright, I thought if you have a very good pacing and trotting filly, you could make some good money breeding and selling them at the sales. The year before I had purchased the full sister to Flying Isa, Isa Smiling, at Karaka but at that stage she was still purchased more as a racing prospect rather than having any serious desire to breed.

“I gave John Dickie the instruction to purchase Jo and I a filly from each gait and he ended up coming home with a half-sister to Paramount Geegee and a Bettor’s Delight filly out of a well related Christian Cullen mare."

The trotting filly was named Paramount Bliss (Majestic Son) and given the success Dickie and the Davies had had from stock of Paramount Star you could hardly blame them for going back to the well. She was secured for $50,000 with the Davies gifting a half share to Dickie in a deal that would see him do the training at no cost.

‘Bliss’ had other ideas however and the trio soon found the then filly didn’t know whether she wanted to trot or pace and was quickly retired to stud. With their first ever broodmare on the books, this fast-tracked the breeding side of their involvement which sees them today breeding from five mares.

Davies said he never got involved in harness racing with any designs of breeding racehorses but having been successful farmers of Jersey cattle they set about applying the same principles in rearing standardbreds.

“We sold our farm nine years ago, but our son Peter has a 110-acre farm in Taupiri and he said he doesn’t mind having horses at home so he has got really involved. He gets a big thrill out of it and is involved in a couple of our mares now, and just loves going and feeding the mares and young ones every morning and patting them and playing with them.

“We have really just applied the same logic we have with our calves. All our mares and foals get fed hard feed and minerals and they need to be on the plane heading forward from day one,” he said.

Going foal about with Dickie (pictured), the Davies, including their son Peter, bred their first ever Standardbred, Miss Blissful (a Pegasus Spur out of Paramount Bliss). She was the winner of three races in New Zealand before being sold to Australia where she won a further five races and placed in a G1 mares’ race. She has since been purchased by Alabar in Australia as a broodmare.

The second foal by Repeat Love produced Jay Rowe for John Dickie, a trotter who has been threatening to break maidens from his nine career starts to date and looks certain to win a few races at the very least.

The third foal by Quaker Jet is the enigmatic Quik Barbie, trained by Matty White.

“We’ve never had a foal like her to break in, she was a handful and a half,” he laughed.

“She’s got a motor and is a lot more manageable now compared to what she was like as a young horse. You couldn’t even touch her back leg, or she would just about turn herself inside out and try and kick you.”

The Quaker Jet filly inherited some of the precocity of her maternal family. She is one of only three Quaker Jet foals to have raced as a two-year-old with the son of Love You producing some fairly big dour French types from his limited opportunities in New Zealand (38 live foals).

Quik Barbie lined up in the 2YO Ruby last year having won one of the few races she trotted the entire journey on her path to the Cambridge feature. In her resumption at Cambridge as a three-year-old she showed what she is really capable of, smashing a field of 12 at Cambridge on Christmas Eve by 11 lengths with the plugs still in.

“She got colic before one of her races after that and she has been getting treated for stomach ulcers which is why she hasn’t lined up again since,” he said.

“John Dickie sold the next foal from ‘Bliss’ by What The Hill to Brent Mangos at the sales last year for $30,000 but I haven’t heard how he is shaping up.

“We have a Pegasus Spur filly called Miss Bebe from the mare who Matty White and his wife Bridget think is the bee’s knees, so I hope they are right about that. When she was born, I said nobody is having her, she is a lovely filly,” he said.

The second of the two sales purchases in 2011 and the first the Davies had acquired with a view to hoppling was the well-bred pacing filly, Millie Sampson (Bettor’s Delight – Cullen’s Creation).

“She was a beautiful filly who we had a lot of fun racing. She won her first three races as a three-year old but was in the same crop as Venus Serena and Ideal Belle, she did a good job to win eight from her 25 starts.

“Her first foal was Murphys Reward (Somebeachsomewhere) who was trained by Brian and Gareth Hughes.

They also trained Feel The Burn (Somebeachsomewhere – Maheer Princess) for us and she was a nice pacer who gave 110% but she kept brushing her knee the Auckland way round.

“Rather than send her south we sent her to James Rattray to get a mile rate at Menangle where she won nine and went 1.52.0. We decided to plot the same path with Murphys Reward and he won on debut there a week ago going 1.53.5.

“We’ve got one possibly better with Millie’s Creation who qualified as a two-year-old in January and is back at my son’s farm having a short two-month spell. Mike Berger thinks she could be as good as any horse he has sat behind, and I hope he is right,” he said.

The third filly purchased with a view to breeding was at the 2012 sales where Davies doubled down even further on the progeny of Paramount Star.

“I saw the photo of Paramount Dream in the sales catalogue that year and somebody said to me are you going to buy her?

“I decided that if she looked as good as she did in print then that was the next trotter we were going to race.

“We paid $50,000 for her and several others wanted a share, and to be honest we could have sold a few more but we raced her in partnership with Jo’s sister Margaret Plane, Jonathon Hope and Jenny Sutherland,” he said.

Paramount Dream may have lacked the sheer brilliance of some of her siblings, but in saying that she won eight races and was a stakes performed mare having lined up in a Northern Derby won by Speeding Spur with a career highlight likely her fourth place finish in the G3 Greenlane Cup.

“She was a nice enough mare, but she always had a few niggling issues which held her back, she had a will to win and it’s a pity we didn’t get more wins out of her. When her knees started to become a greater problem, I decided she was too well bred to risk any further damage and we decided to start breeding from her,” he said.

Her first foal was a colt by Quaker Jet who brushed a knee badly enough it derailed any hopes of being persevered with.

The second foal was last Thursday night’s impressive maiden winner, Dream Of You (Feb 3).

“My son saw him trotting around the paddock as a young horse and told us to not worry too much about the first foal because it looks like we have a champion in this one.

“Being a Love You you have to be patient I guess, and Derek has always had a lot of time for the horse and we are excited about what the future holds for him,” said Davies.

Jack, Jo and Peter have a yearling colt by Father Patrick out of Paramount Dream who before the untimely demise of the mare was destined for the yearling sales.

The Davies have never sold a yearling at the sales but have decided with the breeding stock multiplying year on year, now was the time to try and get some money back from the breeds they have been quietly developing. They do so under the same banner in which they sold their jersey cattle, ‘Carrondale Farm’.

“We watched Shane (Robertson) and Logan (Hollis) the last three of four sales and were very impressed with the job they have been doing and the way they were presented. I asked him last year whether he would be interested in preparing a few for us and he said watching what you have been breeding, we would love to.”

The couple head to this year’s sales (Karaka, Feb 13) with two catalogued lots, a What The Hill filly from Isa Smiling (Lot 85) and the full sister to the Art Major 2YO qualifier for Mike Berger out of Millie Sampson (Lot 102).

“It’s quite exciting and we would of loved to have the three of them in the sales but once Dream passed away it was an easy decision. We won’t be giving them away but by the same token we can’t keep them all. They’re both nice types and Millie’s yearling is up there with anything in Logan and Shane’s draft, but I might be biased,” he laughed.

Despite being in their eighties the Davies have no desire to slow down. They have a passion for pursuing excellence and with the golden run they have had in all facets of our sport, they are odds on to unearth another gem.

“I said one night at Cambridge that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a $100,000 race or a $5000 race, its just such a huge buzz winning races. It’s an even bigger buzz when you breed them and have spent all the time nurturing and developing them from foals.

“I go out to my son, Peter’s place every day and we are feeding around 14 horses including some of Mike Berger’s and we will continue to do our best to race some more good ones, that’s after all what you do it for,” he said.

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