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Jon Snow - Lord Commander of the Derby

Damian Lane rides Jon Snow to victory in the Australian Derby (Image: Bradley Photography)

Damian Lane rides Jon Snow to victory in the Australian Derby (Image: Bradley Photography)
When Jon Snow(Iffraaj[IRE}-Orinda) won the $A2milllion ATC Derby he became the fourth New Zealand trained horse to win the race in the last five years.

He joined the elite company of Tavago, Mongolian Khan, and Dundeel. He became the tenth New Zealand bred winner in the last 20 years putting his name alongside horses like, Shamrocker, Starcraft, Don Eduardo and Sky Heights.

He also gave Cambridge master trainer Murray Baker his fourth win in the prestigious event.

And for the second year in a row, the Derby winner was raced by a group of first time owners who had purchased their horse from the Karaka yearling sales in the affordable $60-65,000 bracket.

The 2016 Derby winner Tavago was a $60,000 graduate for Craig Oldfield, and Jon Snow was a $65,000 purchase for Andrew Forsman and the Zame Syndicate.

At Royal Randwick the Zame syndicate with their inherent Italian passion were out in full force to cheer home their pride and joy Jon Snow, who has taken them on an unbelievable ride of a lifetime.

Before he left for Australia in the middle of March Jon Snow had only ever won one race, a juvenile event at Taranaki last May. He kicked off his three-year-old year with a second in the Gr.2 Hawkes Bay Guineas, and then failed in the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton. With the New Year came a more mature Jon Snow and on New Year's Day he ran third in the Gr.2 Great Northern Guineas, and third in the Gr.1 Levin Classic before running third in the Listed Karaka Classic. In each of those events he was as close as a half a length away from the winner.

In February he took on the older horses in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes and failed to show his usual final dash, and two weeks later lined up in the Gr.1 Vodafone Derby where he finished third behind Gingernuts and Rising Red.

The ATC Derby was always the ultimate aim, and Jon Snow ventured to Sydney where he trounced a top field of three-year-olds in the Gr.2 Tulloch Stakes on a heavy track. A week later he bounced on to the also rain affected Randwick track and galloped away to an easy three-quarters of a length win.

"It's been quite an amazing time, it's taking a while to all sink in, we are all first time owners and we are all in awe of this horse," enthused Bart Zame who instigated the family syndicate.

"We wanted to race a horse that the whole family could enjoy and get together and have some fun with, and he has exceeded all expectations."

The family syndicate is made up of Mt Maunganui based Bart, his father Tony from Gisborne, his brother Dom from Wellington and his son Geoff from Auckland. In Sydney for the Derby their entourage numbered 18 featuring wives, cousins and friends.

"Basically I had wanted to race a horse for a while, and a few years ago I had approached Bjorn about it and it didn't quite happen," according to Zame.

"I thought we would be able to get together as a family and go to the races for a day out it would be something we could enjoy doing together.

"About two years ago I was out fishing with my uncle Dom who is mad on racing, and he said, what's happening about this horse we are supposed to be racing, and as the yearling sales were coming up I approached Bjorn again.

"Anyway Bjorn said did I want to race a horse in Sydney and I thought that wouldn't suit, we needed something that could race locally, maybe Matamata or Tauranga, so he put me on to Andrew.

"He was brilliant he spent the whole day with us at Karaka, showing us horses, and talking us through everything. We had a budget and we missed out on a few, but as it turned out Jon actually took a liking to my Dad Tony and kept nudging him when we were looking at him, and when he went through the ring he was within our budget. It was an exciting time and it just keeps getting better.

"We had never been to a yearling sale and we came away very excited, after we had bought the horse, a young woman came rushing up to me and said that she had looked after Jon Snow since he was a foal and that was his stable name. He seemed to know his name if you call him Jon he responds, and even though we are not huge Game Of Throne fans we decided to keep the name."

That woman was Angenita Moore, wife of David Moore, who bred Jon Snow with his father Richard at their Karaka property Soliloquy Lodge.

"Angenita names all the foals, and each year she chooses a theme, that year it was Game Of Thrones and he was named after the Jon Snow character," added Moore, who is currently President of the Auckland Branch of the NZTBA.

"This is definitely the biggest Group One winner we have bred as far as prestige goes, we also bred a couple of Sydney Cup winners Gallic and Crosswords, but this is far more exciting. Jon Snow was always a lovely type and we knew he would develop into a nice stayer, rather than be an early horse".

"After he had won his maiden we contacted Andrew Forsman and asked him what he thought of the horse and he highly recommended that we go back to Iffraaj, which we did and we are eagerly awaiting Jon Snow's sibling."

The Moore family currently breed from about a dozen mares who all stem from the illustrious Soliloquy(Sobig-Princess Patine) who Richard raced back in the 70's. She won 13 races including the Gr.1 Lion Brown Sprint and the Gr.3 Avondale Classic. She is the dam of the dual Group One winner Solveig(by Imposing [AUS]), the Group Two winner Soltanto (Tights[USA]) and the Listed winners Quibble (Ruling[USA]) and Reasoning (Grosvenor) as well as five other winners.

To put into perspective her outstanding influence nine Group One, four Group Two, four Group Three and seven Listed winners descend from Soliloquy along with 19 Stakes placed horses.

Harking back to Bart Fame, and his family syndicate. His grandfather Bartolo whom he was named after came to New Zealand from Stromboli near Sicily in Italy and settled in Gisborne.

"My grandfather loved going to the races, and having a bet, and it was always his dream to go to Karaka and buy a yearling, it was a pretty cool thing for my Dad to be able to do. My uncle Dom was the one in the family that was most like my grandfather in having a passion for horses," he said.

"My interest didn't really develop until I started work. My first job was for Tim Harrison, and I would listen to his animated conversations to all his friends about his horses and I slowly started taking a real interest."

It was while working there that the idea for a horse for the family gelled and Bart almost bought into a horse with Harrison a stalwart of the Auckland branch of the NZTBA.

Harrison takes up the story.

"Bart expressed an interest in buying a yearling for their family to race and I suggested they took a share in a French Park two-year-old I had that had already won a trial, and was ready to go. They got all keen and Bart a keen rugby player in those days named him Ntamack after the French rugby back Emile Ntamack," he recalled.

"He invited the family up to watch him trial and the horse only ran third, so they decided against taking their share, and not long after that Bart took off on his OE. Ntamack was a handy enough horse winning seven races and running third in a Counties Cup and fourth twice in the Auckland Cup, and for good measure the horses that beat him that day in the trial were Xcellent and Pentane!

"I caught up with all the Zame family at Ellerslie when Jon Snow ran third in the New Zealand Derby and Bart's mother Pauline thanked me for getting Bart interested in racing as the family was having so much fun".

"She is the first mother that has ever thanked me for getting her son involved in a horse," he added, "usually they say geez Harrison what did you do that for? Bart did say to me that until he had a winner himself he couldn't understand how excited I used to get. But that's the nature of racing you don't know how good it is until you get that winner."

With what Jon Snow has shown this season the Zame family can look forward to that wonderful winning feeling going forward into next season. – Michelle Saba