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Don and Wendy Pye's homebred wins the Matamata Cup

Winter racing can be a dull affair but this past winter a tough little winter galloper has appeared on the scene that has been a pleasure to watch - Atom Cat (Traditionally- Gatestopper).

And probably no one has got more pleasure out of seeing him win five races in eight starts this winter than Don and Wendy Pye who bred him and now race him.

Both were on hand at Matamata last Saturday, when he won the listed Matamata Cup, and what made it even more exciting was that they were enjoying the hospitality of their trainer Graham (Richie) Richardson.

"Isn't it great," said a delighted Wendy as she hoisted the cup above her head, for all to see in the gazebo at Matamata racecourse where Graham and Rochelle Richardson were hosting over a hundred stable clients.

"I knew it was a good omen when he had the number five saddlecloth as it's been a lucky number for me, and it's the number Cyclades carried in the Melbourne Cup."

Cyclades (Alleged Dash-Iris La Bonga), a winner of nine races including the Wellington Cup, is probably the best horse that Don and Wendy have bred and raced up until now, and according to Don this family is still one of the five families that they breed from.

"It was a great win, he's a tough little horse, there is not much of him, and no one really wanted him as a youngster. We couldn't give him away and I'm glad we didn't," he added.

"Richie said he would take him and try him and if he was no good he would find a home for him as show horse or hunter, and now he has won eight races.

"He was the second foal out of Gatestopper (Carnegie), a mare out of our good mare Normandy River (Karensky – Defy). The first foal was by Zerpour and was a squib, then this fellow came along and he wasn't much better. One stud master suggested I dump her if she was going to leave such small foals. However she was from quite a good European family so I was a bit reluctant, but I left her empty for a year.

"Anyway the first foal by Zerpour won, so I bred from her again and she has a three-year-old colt by Don Eduardo, also with Richie, who is trialling this week. This year she has dropped an Elusive City colt and has been served by Iffraaj.

"I'm a big fan of Mr Prospector line stallions, and this mare worked with Traditionally so hopefully she will cross well with Elusive City and Iffraaj.

"Gatestopper was unraced. She had ability but initially wouldn't go into the barriers, so we sorted that out, then she wouldn't jump from the barriers, so she went to stud. She is a half sister to Normandy Boy (Zabeel) who won five races for us and ran second in a New Zealand Cup, and Rivatar (Star Way) who won three and was third in the Desert Gold Stakes.
"Their mother Normandy River won three races and was second in the 1000 Guineas. She has had seven foals to race and they have all won. Her last foal, a filly by Any Suggestion is going to the yearling sales in January.

Iris La Bonga, the dam of Cyclades and Argon (Kaapstad) who is a winner of three currently racing at the moment, has ceased breeding but left a filly foal by Viking Ruler last year, and Don and Wendy are breeding from her daughters Inktomi, a winning full sister to Cyclades and Saint Iris(Grosvernor).

Another member of this family, Tackytu (Kilimanjaro) out of Civic Pride(One Pound Sterling) a half sister to Iris La Bonga (Inviting – Cookernup) is a promising young stayer in the Pye's racing team. According to Don the horses in this family don't mature until they are about six.

"Labasso's (Bassenthwaite – Dancing Maid) family is another that we still breed from – she won four races and is from the same family as Waikiki, and Love of Mary, her daughter Learnalot (College Chapel)has left a couple of winners including Speedalot who won a Herald Cup at Caulfield. Unfortunately she broke down, and has gone to stud and produced her first foal this year - a filly by Gonski.

Sunshine Gold, a daughter of Zabeel and the smart mare Talent Scout (Danzatore – Encore), a stakes placed half-sister to Miltak, is another in the Pye broodmare band. She has had two to the races for two winners, one of which, Sungirl (Kilimanjaro), is due to Elusive City. Sunshine Gold – who was named after Wendy's hugely successful publishing company Sunshine Books - has left a couple of nice colts to Elusive City as well.

Don and Wendy are also breeding from descendants of a mare they purchased in the 80's, Miss Trendy (Coober Prince – Miss Personality), most of whom they have raced. Miss Trendy left a handy horse in Cash Order, a winner of five races, who was trained for the Pye's by David Miller.

"We tend to race most of the stock we breed, although in the last few years we have managed to sell some nice colts, and also got a few sold in the East. We have five trainers that we use - Richie (Graham Richardson), David Miller, Cydne Evans and Vivienne Kaye in the North Island, and Kevin Hughes in the South Island.

"This industry has been good to us. We have had a tremendous amount of fun going racing and meeting people all over the world. Every one who has a passion about racing is the same - it doesn't matter where they come from or what walk of life they come from, it's a great leveller.

"Wendy has made some great contacts in the publishing world and I have met some very famous people at the races in England, Ireland and America, and to think it started with an interest in punting, which lead to shares in a syndicate, then onto a broodmare and now this large band of bloodstock," said Don.

Don also went on to pay tribute to all the people that care for their bloodstock at Haunui Farm in Whitford and nearby Normandy Farm at Brookby.


- Michelle Saba