“I know our family is better than it looks on paper.”
My conversation with Dunedin breeder Tom Richardson ended with that quote, but I felt it was fitting to start there, as we trace our way through the timeline of some of his colourful breeding endeavours.
Breeders are well aware of how a pedigree page can be misleading to the reader’s eye.
They don’t take into account the heart breaks associated with livestock and the great misfortunes that are so often attributed with being a breeder.
When tracing back through the family of last Sunday’s Leonard Memorial winner, I found myself impressed with the fact that Tom had persevered with the tail lines of the same family since the late 1970’s.
When success wasn’t so obvious and others may have lost the faith, the fifth generation of his foundation mare put black type on the page that nobody can ignore.
“When I first got involved it wasn’t a family thing. I had a few mates interested and we bought a wee mare called Bonny Saga (1971 m Tempest Hanover - Raven's Whisper) from the clearance sales at Edendale. I think she cost 450 pounds back then and we formed the Fleetfoot Syndicate which raced her”, said Richardson.
She went on to win three races and place on a further eight occasions for the syndicate and with that the man originally from Gore had been bitten with the harness bug.
“I have bred stud sheep and stud cattle and various other livestock through the course of my life and I wanted to breed horses. I felt that was the ultimate challenge to not just breed something with speed or the physical specimen, but something that had the brains and the attitude. The whole gambit. That’s what attracted me to it in the first place really, and it still does.”
The partnership would go on to breed from the initial purchase but without much success. She left two winners from nine foals.
The first foal Tom was to breed after initially missing from Bonny Saga in 1975 was the Smooth Hanover mare, Cheerleader (1972 Smooth Hanover - Granny).
“I bought her and she had a damaged foot and hadn’t raced. She had part of her foot cut away and she was a full sister to a horse called Smooth One who was a very good filly bought by a businessman from Australia called Jack Honan.
“He wanted to buy up as many of that Regina family as he could”, said Richardson when speaking of his mare’s paternal family, that close up had the 1965 New Zealand Cup winner in Garry Dillon (1958 Garrison Hanover). He was the half-brother of Cheer Leader’s grand dam in Regina Lady (1959 My Chief - Regina Dillon) amongst other great horses in the family.
A more recent top horse was Honkin Vision, top two and three year old. He was from Frosty Vision, a half-sister to Cheer Leader, she was by the Dale Frost horse Frosty Dream, and Honkin Vision was by the Albatross Horse, Honkin Andy
“I had initially borrowed the mare off Roland and Mavora Watson from Southland and I got her in foal to Sir Dalrae. He was looking at selling the mare.
“When I heard that, I thought well, if you are going to sell her, I’ll buy her!
“She cost me about half the price of my house at the time, which was about $2500 at the time”, joked Richardson.
But he wasn’t joking, she cost exactly half the price of his Gore property so she hadn’t come cheap.
Her third foal Cruising (1979 Sir Dalrae) was to put the breed on the map when being good enough to run 5th in the New Zealand Derby in 1983 after locking wheels at the top of the straight with 3rd place getter and 1985 New Zealand Cup Winner, Borana.
“We got an offer of $50,000 to send him to America and we decided to take that, as it was a lot of money in those days”, he said.
“Graham Cooney bred one from the mare (7th foal) prior to me who was a full sister to Cruising but she unfortunately died from pneumonia when showing a lot of promise. We bred the mare to some pretty ordinary horses but I bred her back to Sir Dalrae and I got Cademic (1984) who got badly injured as a foal. She was a little small mare and was very tough.
With the Sir Dalrae cross obviously working, Tom was to continue breeding through the tail lines of his original breeding and got prospect Cademic.
“I did most of the work myself with her first foal called Cadeliah (1988 m Cadillac) where I bought her up to Addington to race in the first heat of the Sires Stakes. She had some ability but had tied up on the trip up, and subsequently ran an unlucky 4th.
“I sold her to Bruce Negus and he finished up winning three with her including the Southland Futurity for mares.
“She was a very courageous mare who was small, but had lots of guts and I think she unfortunately died foaling.
The next three foals never won a race but two showed enough ability to make it to the races.
“My brother bred the fifth foal from Cademic and I don’t know if I should be telling you this but he was going through a divorce at the time and named the horse ‘Be Reasonable’.
One can make their own assumptions as to why!
“When I sent him Cademic, I had a deal with him that if he ever wanted to sell the foal I would get first option as to the purchase, whatever she left and I exercised that sometime after.
That foal was Be Reasonable. I leased Be Reasonable to some clients of Murray Gray for whom she won her first start but had an accident or a fall when in the wash and was never the same after.
“She had another four starts but was essentially on three legs. So, then I lent her to Murray to breed some foals out of her and they bred three.
“I don’t really know what happened to them, but I got the mare back. She was initially booked in to Jenna’s Beach Boy.” What happened next may have been a kind twist of fate through the cruel misfortune of a plane crash.
The plane carrying the Jenna’s Beach Boy semen from Orange in Australia had crashed killing both pilots and the shipment of semen was lost also.
“I got the call from Michael House bearing the bad news and he asked me if I would take a serve from the new stallion Mach Three. I had sworn that I wouldn’t breed to unproven stallions again, but under the circumstances I agreed I would give it a go.
“I bumped into him a year later at Omakau and reminded Michael he hadn’t sent me a bill for the service! I had a cheque on me, and I paid him on the spot.
“Lady Lozza was the result of the service to Mach Three, and she was an outstanding foal who could have made it as a two-year-old, but we didn’t end up starting her until she was four. She had a terrible habit of rearing and she should have won a lot of races and often trained with a horse called Storm Light (good enough to be G2 placed) who won about 9 races before going to Australia. She had the measure of her on the training track, but we just couldn’t seem to get her right”, Tom said with a tinge of disappointment.
Tom was to lose his appetite for a lot of things with the passing of his late wife and ended up leasing Lady Lozza out for the first three seasons of her breeding career
“I was working up on Saddle Hill at the time and Kim had just sold Mah Sish and he wanted to borrow my mares and so he did.”
After three years of sitting on the sidelines his appetite for breeding returned when he meet his current wife, Loretta. His mares were returned around the same time, and together they decided to send Lady Lozza to American Ideal, to begin the fifth generation in which Richardson was to breed from his foundation mare Cheer Leader.
We arranged through a friend of ours for Simon Roughan to spend a few hours working with this foal, and that turned into a few weeks work at his place. She was such a stubborn little thing at the start, and so determined displaying a tough resolve, even at the age of nine months.
That stubborn wee thing would go on to show some real promise having never been out of the placings in her six outings off Tim Butts property, either in workouts, trials and her first race.
Her name is Lady Chatto, and she took her place as a maiden in Sunday’s Leonard Memorial at Group 3 level. After being sent to the front by pilot Blair Orange, Lady Chatto left the field of quality 2-year-old fillies in her dust to record an easy 2 and ¾ length victory for Tom and Loretta.
In another cruel twist it was to be the first and last foal they were to get out of Lady Lozza, as she was recently put down after a paddock accident carrying nine-month-old full sibling to last Sunday’s Leonard Memorial Stakes winner.
“She won that race pretty comfortably and Tim said she has just bounced round the paddock since. He thinks the race has if anything, brought her forward even more. She is just an extraordinarily well-mannered horse, with a great constitution and very strong for her age.
Whilst on paper, she would appear the best horse Tom has bred, he has raced some nice types in his time, including the purchase and syndication of the first ever No Nukes mare in New Zealand via NZ Bloodstock. Her name was Nukes Emerald (1985 m No Nukes – Emerald Breeze).
“She arrived in utero, and I bought her for $90,000 and we syndicated her for $120,000 at the time amongst 22 other owners in what was the ‘Neither Confirm Or Deny Syndicate’.
“She won her first start at 22 months old under the guidance of Jack Smolenski and went on to race for several seasons in America. I wouldn’t do that again though, it was far too expensive. You pay for the guy who sweeps the floors over there. The whole lot!
The good thing is that the Richardson’s will not have to go further afar then the warm shores of Australia, for an unplanned holiday, to tie in with the plans of their Group winning filly, Lady Chatto.
“She’s flying to Australia to race in the Gold Tiara heat at Bathurst next Wednesday night, which if she wins she will be in the final on the 25th March which is worth $100,000.”
She won that heat even more impressively then her first start given she is still only a two-year-old and had traveled crossed the ditch. Lady Chatto rated a 1:57.5 mile rate for the 1730m journey, the second fastest of the 6 heats on the night. That honour belonged to the ultra-impressive Sweetchillyphilly who won in a mile rate of 1.55.3 and is also unbeaten in two starts. Barrier draws for the final are yet to be released.
The plan after returning from Bathurst will be the Caduceus in Auckland, she will then return to Christchurch, and hopefully line up in the Jewels in June. If all goes well after that, she will fly back to Australia in August where she is eligible for the Melbourne Breeders Crown.
Having owned businesses in several industries including farming, machinery, real estate & land development, the end goal is in sight where retirement and a lot more breeding of standardbreds is on the horizon.
“That’s our main focus now, to enjoy the horses wherever that takes us, and to try and breed as well as we can really”, he said.
Five generations on, looks like Tom and Loretta Richardson has the perfect filly in which to fulfill those future endeavours.