The thoroughbred industry lost one of its most passionate supporters with the passing of Emma Evans recently.
An enthusiastic and popular breeder and owner, Emma was literally born into the industry having made her arrival amidst the excitement of her mother and Aunt May winning a race at Avondale with their horse Pine Park at odds of 172 pounds.
Her grandmother raced horses as far back as the 1920’s, an interest she passed to her daughters May Wilson and Phyllis Hamilton (Emma’s mother), and it’s an interest that Emma has passed to her own children Danielle and Robert.
It was from her Aunt May that Emma inherited a number of horses in the mid-eighties. One of which was Pine Street (Saraceno [GB]- Divine Chat) who although unraced, did leave a legacy through her first foal May Be Great (Crested Wave[USA]) named in honour of Aunt May.
A winner of two races, May Be Great went onto leave eight winners from 11 foals and provide Emma with plenty of thrills including her first stakes winner in Kiwi Kid (Kreisler[IRE]) the winner of the listed ARC Lindauer Guineas and his younger brother Greatthings Happen who was Group One placed in the Beyer Classic.
May Be Great’s first foal Label Basher (Conquistarose[USA]) won three races before going to stud and producing the Group One Captain Cook Stakes winner Dezigna (Volksraad[IRE]) who won 11 races in total and was Group One placed on nine occasions. His younger brother Izonit was also a stakes winner winning the Group Three Manawatu Classic before being sold to Hong Kong.
Fascinator, a daughter of Label Basher by Spinning World(USA), was the winner of eight races before producing the winners Nailed It and Matamata Cup winner Deals in Heels. Another daughter of Label Basher, Multi Tasker, won five races before leaving Watch This Space a winner of nine races including the Group Two Japan-New Zealand International Trophy, and three other winners.
Through her deeds Label Basher was given the honour of Broodmare of the Year at the Auckland Branch of the NZTBA’s annual awards in 2007 and two years ago Evans was nominated for Owner of the Year at the New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards. Emma was an active member of the Auckland Branch of the NZTBA and didn’t hesitate to sign up for Gold Membership when the NZTBA was fundraising in the early 80’s.
It was not long after marrying Emma that Mick caught the horse bug and shared her passion and raced some good horses before he passed away in 2017. To them it was a great social and leisure activity and they made some great friends and had a heap of fun over the years following their horses to the races.
They kept all the horses they bred to race and won quite a bit, but that was always ploughed back in to keep the other horses going. Emma basically never sold anything through the sales, as she didn’t think the pedigrees of her stock were good enough but now when you look at the winners on paper and throw in the black type they have won, they may well be up to Karaka standard.
Family friend and retired stud master Ron Chitty, whose first memories of Emma were as a child on the hill at Ellerslie with her mother and Aunt May, has a different opinion on why Emma never sold a horse.
“She was always frightened she might sell the wrong one,” Chitty said, which was exactly the type of comment she would make with her wicked sense of humour.
“If she had five colts, she would want to race them all. There wouldn’t be many owners around today like Emma that always had six to eight horses in work at one time.
“She certainly had a knack for naming them as well, she would come up with some wonderful names with funny connotations.”
That was evident with all of Label Basher’s progeny having ‘fashion’ related names, and all the progeny of Gia Maria, another mare she bred from, being named after television programmes. Nothing Trivial (Elusive City[USA]-Gia Maria) won 10 races while Outrageous Fortune by Volksraad(IRE) won eight.
“Emma was a very loyal person and very generous,” recalled Chitty,” she helped a lot of people out in the industry over the years by giving them a start or a job looking after her horses. She loved her horses and she loved a challenge and it’s incredibly sad she is no longer with us.”
Horses were a huge part of Emma’s life and in her younger years she even held an Owner/trainer licence. Having land not far from her Howick home she was familiar with all her stock and their idiosyncrasies, she knew about their temperament and other traits and was mindful of how to get the best out of her mares’ progeny, and was rewarded with some great winners along the way.
Emma was a person whose company was always enjoyed, whether it was at the races, trials, stud tours, or social gatherings. She loved to talk about her horses, especially over a glass of wine, and there will be many with fond memories and will miss her company. -Michelle Saba, NZTBA