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Old Friends Share in Group Two Honours

It all started with a couple of mates in Paengaroa, a farming district just out of Te Puke on the way to Rotorua, who had a bit of syndicate going and an interest in racing.

One was Brian Shannon a dairy farmer, and the other a kiwifruit orchardist Warner Bowyer and last week the pair bathed in group two glory when their gutsy Pins gelding Pinsoir won the Group Two Aussie Butcher Concorde Handicap at Avondale.

According to Warner Bowyer the breeder of Pinsoir, he was lucky enough to fluke racing Variety Star, the dam of Pinsoir, with Brian and it's been a whole lot of fun ever since.

"I didn't know a lot about racing when Brian suggested I take a share in Variety Star (Famous Star- Licorice Girl). Just after I got involved he took me to Matamata to see her trial and meet Paul Duncan. We arrived just as she came down the straight to win the trial – I thought this is pretty easy, what happens next? Well then we went to Ellerslie and won a race, and then another at Te Aroha and later in the same season another at Ellerslie, she was a pretty handy horse.

"Anyway she nearly died from colic and went to stud - after a couple of years she was out on Brian's farm and he wasn't planning on breeding from her so I asked if I could put her in foal. I roped in another mate Mitch Grafas who knew a bit about horses and we set off to Matamata to find a suitable consort.

"At Waikato Stud we looked at Sudurka, O'Reilly and Pins, Mitch was set on O'Reilly and I wanted to go to Pins, Mitch relented and Variety Star went to Pins and produced a colt, then didn't get in foal to Sudurka.

"When he didn't sell at the Ready to Run sale, Mitch sold his half share to Brian and his wife Heather, and along with my wife Helen we now race the horse."

The Bowyer's and the Shannon's naturally sent the horse to Paul Duncan to train as he has trained for both parties over the last 12 or so years. Bowyer's record with Duncan is 16 horses for 14 winners, and he is full of praise for the Cambridge trainer and his ability with all types of horses.

Pinsoir has now won six races – five of them over 1200 metres, and was an unlucky fourth in Seachange's Group One Telegraph Handicap at Trentham last January, a race he will be aimed for now with a tilt at the Group One Railway on the way.

Harking back to Variety Star, her third foal Chickilicious by Stark South was bred by Brian Grafas – Mitch's son – and is raced by a syndicate that includes him and Warner Bowyer. Her next foal is a two-year-old Pins filly Pin Etoile and she has a foal by Colombia at foot all bred by Brian and Heather Shannon.

Brian Shannon is unsure where he will send her next but it may well be Pins.

It's rather ironic that Pinsoir is such an out and out sprinter given that her third dam Matangi Lass (Bucaroon- Cadenza) is a full sister to one of the top stayers of the 1970's Royal Cadenza. He won both the Auckland Cup and the New Zealand Cup over the ultimate staying distance of 3200 metres.

Brian Shannon recalls how he came to have Variety Star.

"My uncle Alex Soutar lived in Matangi just along the road from Fred Phillips, and he bought this Bucaroon filly out of Cadenza, whom he named Matangi Lass and she won one race, of course her older brother by a year turned out to be Royal Cadenza.

"Anyway when it came time to breed this mare I suggested he send it to the new horse in the district Sir Tristram – but he ignored me and sent her to Licorice Stick (Biscay) and she produced Licorice Girl, who won five races all over ground. He always promised me a loan of the mare and that was how I bred Variety Star (Famous Star) she was a tough race horse and she has thrown that into Pinsoir.

These days Brian is retired and living at Papamoa and he and Heather are enjoying the thrills of racing a good horse.

"We are having lots of fun with Pinsoir it was so exciting winning a group race, we were all just so happy and laughing you couldn't wipe the smile off our faces," he said.

"It's been a great week, so many people have called to congratulate us, I think half of Te Puke backed him, all the locals follow him, I'm surprised he paid as well as he did," agreed Warner.

- Michelle Saba