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Pretty Nippy 'Marea Alta' (Montjeu - Semper Fidelis) Takes Home The Gold Cup

Training stakes winners isn't unusual for Central Districts NZTBA member Mark Oulaghan, neither for that matter is owning them, but owning a stakes winner and having it trained by another trainer is a whole new experience.

Oulaghan and his mother Pam, also a NZTBA member, bred and race the listed Taumarunui Gold Cup winner Marea Alta (Montjeu [IRE] – Semper Fidelis) and she is trained for them at Wanganui by Alexander Fieldes.

"We are delighted with that win and the great job Alexander has done with the mare. We knew it was a family that needed time, and we decided to treat her accordingly. After giving her a couple of preparations myself I could see that she would be better suited to a small stable and to working on the beach," said Oulaghan.

"Alexander is an old friend and he had trained the first foal out of the mare and won a race with her so it seemed a good idea to give Marea Alta to him, and the rest is history.

"He looks after his horses really well and he only has about four in work at any one time so she gets more special attention than she would in my stable where she would be one of about 25.

"I knew she had speed, and she was always pretty nippy. I had her in work two or three times and last winter she had a run at Foxton and didn't cope with the soft track so I turned her out again. She came back stronger and ran a slashing second at Wellington, but then did nothing for her next couple of starts so I decided she would be better suited to a change of environment."

The change of scenery obviously worked as Marea Alta won a maiden race in April, had a couple of placings in May, and then in June starting a winning streak which resulted in the Taumarunui Gold Cup being her fourth win on the trot.

The Oulaghans bred Marea Alta from their Grosvenor mare Semper Fidelis who they raced to win 10 races including the group three Trentham Stakes. She in turn was out of the Alvaro (GB) mare Miss Alfie (ex Torina) who was a half sister to the good Central Districts winter galloper Goliath. He won 10 races including the listed Presidents Handicap at Trentham, before turning his hand to jumping and winning a further eight races.

This family has also produced the group one Auckland Cup winner Spyglass and the group one AJC Epsom winner Iron Horse.

"We bought the grandmother (Miss Alfie) and raced her to win three races before sending her to stud. She left one other winner besides Semper Fidelis and that was Enterprize (by Prized [USA] ) who won four races.

"When she retired, Sempler Fidelis went to Electronic Zone(USA) and produced Pixie Goes to War, whom Alexander won a race with, but is now playing polo somewhere. I was a little undecided about her next mating but quite liked the look of Black Minnaloushe on paper, so I ventured up to a stallion parade at Windsor Park.

"When I saw Montjeu he was such a magnificent looking individual, he really impressed me so we decided to spend the extra money and send the mare to him. It took a little time but it looks like it was worth it."

Since then Semper Fidelis has produced a filly to O'Reilly, a colt to Gold Centre (USA), a filly to Perfectly Ready (AUS) and yet another filly to Mr Nancho.

"After all those fillies we decided to leave her empty. We seem to have so many horses around us at the moment we didn't mate all our mares last year, and I don't think we will mate them all again this year. Semper Fidelis will go to stud but I am not sure where."

Mark and his mother have five broodmares, and lots of youngsters, as they tend to breed to race.

"We enjoy it and have a lot of fun, but every now and then you have to pull back. It's too expensive to breed them all every year," he added.

The mares, foals and the other young horses are all kept on a 30 acre block owned by the Oulaghan's just out of Palmerston North, whereas Mark's training establishment is closer to the Awapuni track.

Mark grew up in Woodville where his father was the local veterinarian and spent a lot of time with horses as a youngster. He was involved in pony club and competed in the show ring.

"When I was old enough I started riding work and worked for Eric Ropiha when I could. From there I took out an owner trainer's licence and raced a few with Dad, and everything has progressed from there."


- Michelle Saba