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Jim Marks - a Group One Breeder

NZTBA Waikato branch member Jim Marks was on course at Te Aroha last weekend to enjoy the racing on New Zealand Bloodstock Breeders Stakes day - the Waikato Branch's flagship race day - so it was somewhat of a surprise when he picked up the NZTBA's trophy for the breeder of the Group One New Zealand Bloodstock Breeders Stakes winner Juice (4m Bertolini-Call Minder).

"I didn't expect her to win. John (Wheeler) has done a fantastic job with her. It was exciting, as she is the first group one winner I have bred, but I was really only there for the day out," said Marks.

The affable Matamata veterinarian describes himself as a reluctant breeder, and much more of a racing man.

"Racing is my passion, my preference. I would rather focus on racing horses and putting my energy into Hinuera Lodge than breeding horses, but you know how it is - you end up with a few and you breed from them."

Hinuera Lodge is Marks' agistment and training farm located in Matamata and the base for successful trainers Vanessa and Wayne Hillis.

He is a partner in Marks Ewen and Associates, one of the largest veterinary practices in Matamata where they have eight vets practicing and most of the work is equine work either with race horses or reproductive work.

As a youngster growing up in Wanganui, Marks would ride his bike up the road to where the 1200 metre start was at the Wanganui race course and watch the horses and that was the start of his interest in racing.

On leaving school, he went to Victoria University in Wellington and studied medicine for a year, which was a pre-requisite to becoming a veterinarian back in the days before New Zealand had a vet school.

"You had to do first year med courses and then apply for a bursary to study in Australia. I passed my first year and completed my veterinary studies in Queensland. I came back to Wanganui and worked at a "vet club" paying back my bursary – that was part of the deal then – and eventually ended up in the Waikato keen to pursue my interest in horses.

"Colin Thompson had a vacancy in his practice and I went to work there, and progressed from there. In those days 75 percent of the work was dairying and there were approximately 220 horses a month in work at Matamata. These days there are around 800, so I guess you could say we have grown with the industry."

Marks soon became an active owner and a successful one at that. His Crested Wave mare Waikiki won back to back Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes in 1990 and 91.

"I raced Young Gaye (St Hilarion- Dash) in the 1990's and sent her to stud and Call Minder was the only foal Young Gaye left so I kept her. She was a good strong mare and she won seven races including a Matamata Cup, so I bred from her.

"Her first foal was a winner - Fogelberg (Danasinga), the next one was Call The Chief (Chief Bearheart) also a winner and looked like being a good stayer but he turned out to be a wobbler so I had to put him down.

"The next foal was Juice and I sold her at the 2007 NZ Bloodstock Carnival Sale for $20,000. She then left Two Tones (Captain Rio), and went to Chianti and produced a colt. I sold the mare and sent the colt to the Select Sale in 2009 where he fetched $13,000.

"I decided to sell Call Minder but wanted to keep some of the family so I kept Two Tones and she won at Avondale late in February. I've got a few mares in partnerships that I breed from, but I don't have a breeding philosophy or anything like that. It's just for fun really, and mainly if I do breed something its usually to race," he added.

It will come as no surprise to many that Auckland branch member Tim Harrison is now the owner of Call Minder. Harrison has a knack for selecting older mares that go on to leave group winners. In fact he owned Dash (Sovereign Edition – Tang) the dam of Young Gaye, and not long after he purchased her, she left the Group Three winner Foromor, a full brother to Young Gaye.

Dash went on to leave the Group One winner Gordon's (Kaapstad) and Dash of Bay (Kaapstad), as well as one other winner. She was a daughter of the Champion filly Tang (Taipan II-Agricolet) and a half sister to the group winners, Schenley Seagars and Lucozade.

In 2007 Tim Harrison went to the Carnival Sale to buy Juice, as he had not managed to breed a filly out Dash and wanted a filly out of this family. He was the under bidder on the filly.

"I really liked her. She was big, strong and bold like Gordon's. I approached John Wheeler on the off-chance there was a share going, but John told me he already had a client for her so I missed out. As fate would have it Call Minder ended up at my good friend Wayne Larsen's farm, Te Runga, to be mated with Chianti, and he knew I loved this family and wanted to get back into to it," said Harrison.

Larsen eventually brokered a deal which saw Harrision buy the mare before Juice became a stakes winner last season.

"So thanks to Wayne I bought her and she now has a big strong outstanding Pentire colt at foot and is back in foal to that stallion. As you can imagine, I'm wrapt that Juice is now a group one winner. I got pretty excited watching her win at Te Aroha," he said gleefully.



- Michelle Saba