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Once in a lifetime horse provides greatest thrill for kiwi pair

An association with thoroughbred racing and breeding that started over sixteen years ago hit its highest peak to date on Saturday afternoon when He's Our Rokkii dashed to Group One glory in the Toorak Handicap at Caulfield.

On course to cheer home the four-year-old was New Zealand businessman Costa Feneridis, who along with friend and business associate John Collinson, bred and then raced the gelding in his first three New Zealand outings.

The pair, who have been in business together for over thirty years, accepted an offer by Australian agent Mark Pilkington after the Roc De Cambes gelding had finished an unlucky fourth in the 2015 Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes. The deal saw them retain shares in the horse who was transferred to the Hayes & Dabernig stable in Victoria for his future racing.

Feneridis, who admitted he was making a slow start to his Sunday morning after a night of celebrations, recalled how he and Collinson started their involvement in racing with a bang that saw them thinking the game was a simple one.

"John and I have been in business together for more than thirty years and we both had a passion for racing so it was only natural we would get involved in ownership at some stage," he said.

"The first horse we bought was Shinnecock who was trained by Bruce Marsh and won his first two starts including the Wellesley Stakes. We thought the racing game was pretty easy at that stage."

Shinnecock proved a tidy investment for the pair after he finished second in the $1million Mercedes Super Bonus Classique (now Karaka Million) as a juvenile before being narrowly beaten in the Gr. 1 Bayer Classic as a three-year-old before he was sold to Hong Kong.

"The next year we bought five more horses at the sales and it all started from there," recalled Feneridis.

"Of course we learnt pretty quickly that it wasn't all as easy as it had seemed and we've had plenty of low points along the way but just as many memorable highs as well."

An association developed with Paul Moroney that paved the way for Feneridis and Collinson to purchase British mare Clerihew, the dam of He's Our Rokkii, who set them on their way to their current good fortune.

"We were racing a few from the Moroney stable and Paul had bought the mare from England as a racing and breeding prospect," said Feneridis.

"As it turned out she got injured and never raced so we sent her to stud with her first foal being a filly we named Aluminium Bikerack who won seven races from Michael Pitman's stable.

"She had a few issues after that with a foal dying and then another one going amiss when being broken in. John does the work with the matings and he decided she should go to Roc De Cambes where we got Rokkii who is the first colt we have had to race from her."

Although unsuccessful in his three juvenile starts, Feneridis was convinced the horse was the real deal.

"He didn't have any luck in those races and after he ran second at New Plymouth where he was eight wide in an eight horse field we started to field some pretty big offers for him," he said.

"One of those who contacted us was Mark Pilkington and after the horse ran fourth in the Sires Produce at Awapuni things started to get serious.

"John and I were keen to give the horse the best opportunity possible and the deal Mark was offering meant he would go to a top stable and we could keep an interest in him where as the others all wanted to buy the horse outright.

"One of the main reasons we love racing is the people you meet along the way so to be involved with a great bunch who are now in the horse is just marvelous. He is a once-in-a lifetime horse and we have got to share in that which is very satisfying."

While Feneridis was on-course at Caulfield on Saturday Collinson had to make do with watching the victory on an internet replay from Europe where he is currently helping out his daughter in her equestrian pursuits.

"John's daughter is developing a very promising equestrian career so he heads over to the Netherlands where she is based to help out from time to time," he advised.

"He caught a replay of the race pretty much just after it was run so I'm picking he was just as excited as we were. We have shared a number of texts since then so I'm looking forward to caching up when he gets back."

Feneridis and the rest of the large ownership group involved with the horse will now set their sights on the Melbourne Cup Carnival where the horse is liable to tackle the Gr. 1 Longines Mile on the first of the four-day Flemington extravaganza. – NZ Racing Desk