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A Close Up with Shelley Hale

Close Up downs Aide Memoire (rail) - Pic ex Trish Dunell

Close Up downs Aide Memoire (rail) - Pic ex Trish Dunell

Cambridge horsewoman Shelley Hale is currently on cloud nine, revelling in the glory of the Group One win by Close Up (Shinko King[IRE]) the gelding she bred, trains and races with Robin Stent and the Noel and Alison Johnstone Family Trust.

“It’s the ultimate prize to get a Group One, it’s a huge buzz, you get involved with horses and you battle along and then everything comes right all at once,” enthused Hale who was still fizzing days after winning the Group One Tarzino Trophy at Hastings.

“So many people have called to congratulate me, and there has been lots of interviews it’s quite incredible.”

Close Up is an eight-year-old gelding and has now won 10 races for Hale and her partners. Such was the quality of the field in the Tarzino Trophy this year that even thought at his last start, he finished a sound second in the Group Two Foxbridge Plate, he only obtained a start in the race on Saturday morning following a scratching.

He is the sixth foal of the Exploding Prospect mare Regelle, herself out of the winning Mr Illusion mare Pipe Dreams (ex Muy Alto by Grosvenor), and was his sixth winner. He is a younger brother to the Hong Kong Group Two winner Thumbs Up, and the multiple winners Two Up and Sum Up, and an older brother to the Group Two Manco Easter Stakes winner Seventh Up. While Next Up’s foal number eight, also by Shinko King, is just commencing his racing career.

Regelle’s fifth foal Straight Up, by Handsome Ransom(AUS) was a winner in Singapore, and her only filly foal from 10 foals is a two-year-old by Tavistock. Her last foal is a colt by Burgundy.

Regelle was trained by Stu Dromgool for Noel Johnstone and Robin Stent who had purchased the filly bred by NZTBA Life Member Jeanette Broome at the yearling sales. Droomgool felt he wasn’t getting the best out of the filly so he thought jumping might improve her or be where her future lay, so he decided to give her to Hale, whose partner at the time was the former good jumps rider Ross Elliot.

“It was one of the best days of my life when she walked through the gate with Stu’s blessing – he still rings me to congratulate me when one of the family wins - and a few days later Noel and Robin walked up the drive and we have been best mates ever since,” recalled Hale.

“Ross taught her to jump. He said to me she’s not much good at jumping but these guys are really nice chaps let’s give her a start and see how she goes.

“Well she won first up at Rotorua, then ran second at that course, and then won again at Hawera. It was a magical start for us. She won four races in total before she retired, and then we decided to breed from her.”

For her first mating Regelle went to Kingdom Bay and produced Son of a King who won two races. For her next mating, Hale had a free return service to Shinko King who just happened to be standing around the corner from her Marychurch Road property.

“When Shinko King commenced at stud he was just around the corner at Lee Martin Road, and we sent a mare. I liked him on type, I liked that he was by Fairy King(USA), he had a good race record, and he was convenient being close by. We sent a mare and she didn’t get in foal so the next year we sent Regelle”. 

“She was quite a big mare and  I was a bit worried that we might have got a clunker of a foal, but the first one was Thumbs Up and we went back five more times after that. Close Up was actually a small foal, and I didn’t break him in until he was nearly three. The Tavistock filly out of the mare is not unlike him so I will be patient with her.  It’s the luxury we have of breeding and raising them ourselves, if they need more time we can give it to them,” she said.

For the record Thumbs Up won a total of eight races. He won three in New Zealand and following a placing in the Group Three Manawatu Classic he was sold to Hong Kong where his five wins included the Group Two Jockey Club Cup and the Hong Kong Group One Hong Kong Classic Mile, he was also second the in the Hong Kong Derby.

Sum Up won six races and was placed in the Group Two Waikato Cup and the Group Three Rotorua Cup twice. Two Up won two races and Seventh Up has won seven including the aforementioned Group Two Manco Easter Stakes.

He along with Close Up and Next Up is one of half a dozen horses that Hale is currently working on her Cambridge property with the capable assistance of her son Mathew, who is helping on the farm while he decides whether he wants a future in the thoroughbred industry.

“He has grown up with horses and although for years I have told him working with horses is not a way to make a living I have started to see lots of opportunities for young people in the industry now. There are scholarships and training opportunities available and talented youngsters can make a go of it in the industry. He’s 18 and he’s keeping his eyes and ears open while he thinks about what he wants to do. It’s been lovely to have him home and working with me though,” she said proudly.

As for Hale’s introduction into the industry, as a horse mad girl who got her first pony at four, she almost fell into it when she left school and took a job at Windsor Park Stud.

“I went there for a year to decide what I wanted to do with my life and stayed for 10 years,” she recalled.

“It was a great learning opportunity, it was in the mid 80’s about the time that the stud began its expansion. I loved working with the yearlings, and graduated to breaking in and pre training and got my trainers license while I was there, training a few horses that weren’t suited to mainstream stables”.

“But after 10 years I had bought my first piece of land and wanted to move on. I worked for Logan Insurance in Cambridge for a few years but when I got busy with the horses I gave up full time work to concentrate on that.”

And now it seems with a Group One winner in the bag that all that hard work is finally starting to pay off. - Michelle Saba