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Central Otago's Peter Lyon wins his first Group race

With the wool season in full swing, Central Otago shearing contractor Peter Lyon was too busy to travel to Trentham to watch his horse Alpine Heights (Spartacus[IRE]-Alpine Delight[AUS]) win the Group Three Mills Reef Winery Trentham Stakes.

"We are quite busy at the moment, and although I rate him (Alpine Heights) a bit, and he had won nine races albeit against the best in the South Island, they were all picking O'Fille, and even though Karen (Parsons the trainer) was confident, I decided to stay home and watch on Trackside," said Lyon philosophically.

"I don't miss many, but I did have a decent bet, and with the Pitman horse Southern Sav winning, and Karen getting a double with Paraketo winning, it was a good day for the South Islanders.

"This is my biggest win, and probably the biggest thrill I have had since his mother Alpine Delight won the Summer Cup at Trentham in 2003. When you travel a horse north and achieve what you want, it's pretty rewarding.

"I guess now we will have to consider taking him further north now as we haven't got much option except weight-for-age, and there is only one weight-for-age race in the South Island. We will see if he can measure up in the Group One Herbie Dyke Stakes (International) at Te Rapa in early February. Obviously Karen and John are in the groove when it comes to travelling horses to the North Island, so we'll wait and see."

The seven-year-old gelding bred by Lyon has had a pretty interrupted racing career. He won his first race as a three-year-old and had pretty consistent form winning six races until two years ago when he had bone chips removed from his fetlock. Since that operation he has come back and won four more races with the Trentham Stakes being his best.

Alpine Heights is the first stakes winner bred by Lyon and the first foal from the Bluebird (USA) mare Alpine Delight that he raced out of the Parsons stable to win nine races including the Invercargill Gold Cup twice. She in turn is out of Alpine Beauty (Khozaam[USA]- Mount Tryst), a winning sister to Lover's Knot, the dam of the Champion stayer Viewed (Scenic [USA]). Alpine Beauty also left the stakes-placed winner Winning Glory (One Cool Cat[IRE]), and her third dam Mount Tryst (Sir Tristram[IRE]) is a three-quarter sister to the stakes winners Mapperley Heights, Noble Heights and Royal Heights.

As a descendant of one of the New Zealand's best staying families, and with a good dose of staying blood in her pedigree, Lyon decided to look for some speed when it came time to mating Alpine Delight.

"She was a bit dour and lacked a bit of toe, so I thought that Spartacus would inject a bit of speed into the pedigree. He was by Danehill(USA) and had good two-year-old form having won two group one races at two," he said.

Following Spartacus, Alpine Delight visited Black Minnaloushe (USA) and left Alpine Pearl who has won one race. Her next foal by Perfectly Ready (AUS) died and then she went to Keeper (AUS) and produced a colt who is in work with Karen and John Parsons. Another visit to Perfectly Ready produced a filly who went in the wind, and she was followed by a Keeper filly who is now a three-year-old.

She now has a Raise The Flag (GB) filly foal at foot and is in foal again to that stallion.

Lyon is also breeding from another mare he had a bit of success with in Diamond Jules (Kashani[USA]-Diamond Lady), who won eight races out of the Parsons stable. She has a filly foal at foot by Edenwold(CAN) and is in foal to Minstrel Court (AUS).

He keeps his horses on his 40 acre irrigated property in Alexandra where his shearing contracting business is based. However, he often sends his young stock out on to the neighbouring hill country of some of his clients.

According to Lyon, stock does well in Central Otago, even though it is cold. "It's a clear cold, we have good nutrients in the soil and as long as you are prepared to feed the stock well they will do well."

Lyon grew up on a farm in South Canterbury and rode ponies from a young age. He loved to hunt and with his father owned his first racehorse, a jumper, in the late sixties when he was a mere 17. A long gap in the ownership ranks followed and he didn't become involved again until 1995 when he bought three horses by Exattic (USA) (Excelle-Pilferer), and gave them to Melville Coles, a former neighbour in Washdyke, to train.

"They were Leonardo (Exotic Art), Juliette (Marble Arch) and Crushed Velvet (Pingo) and between them they won 17 races and over $100,000, so I was hooked.

"I went to school and I am great mates with Ray Knight, and it was he who suggested I ask Karen and John Parsons to get a horse for me and the second one they got for me was Alpine Delight.

"I have got five in work up there at the moment - Woodyeva (Riveria [FR]-Dame Woodleigh) who has won seven and Seeking Redemption (St Reims-Wisteria Lane) who has won one. The others are unraced and include the Keeper gelding out of Alpine Delight and a Darci Brahma filly out of No Hula No Dance."

Lyon established his shearing business 28 years ago and is now one of the biggest contractors in New Zealand. His business continues to grow despite the fact the he is shearing 50 percent less sheep than he was when he started.

"We would cover 95 percent of Central Otago and some of these farms have merino flocks of about 20 to 30,000 sheep. We are quite important to them so you can see why it's hard for me to get away in the wool season," he said.

Recently Peter Lyon has been the subject of the highly rated doco-drama/reality television series "Shearing Gang" on Prime television. The programme showcases the spectacular Central Otago high country landscape and goes behind the scenes to reveal the tensions, humour,
pressures and expertise of New Zealand's premiere shearing gangs.

Hopefully by the time Te Rapa rolls around the pressure will be off in the high country and Lyon will make it North to see Alpine Heights soar.

- Michelle Saba