Jovial Hawkes Bay racing identity Johnny Frizzell has always been a fan of jumps horses, right from the time he was a youngster competing in the show ring.
It’s therefore no surprise that racing and breeding Tittletattle, the upset winner of last Saturday’s Grant Plumbing Wellington Steeplechase, was a great thrill.
“She’s a little beauty isn’t she?” enthused Frizzell, who bred the Faltaat mare with his late wife Jan and is now a small shareholder in the Chase A Fox Racing Syndicate who race the mare with another well-known jumping family the Duncans and her trainer Dean Cunningham.
“It was a great thrill, I’m only sorry that there is no longer a Great Northern Steeplechase over the Ellerslie hill as she is so dour.”
Tittletattle proved too strong for her rivals winning the distinctive figure-eight steeplechase by 17 lengths from the favourite No Tip. Interestingly it was the rising 10-year-old’s maiden win in her 32nd start and the 50-year anniversary of the Wellington Steeplechase being run on the figure-eight course.
“She’s out of a mare that was a dour stayer,” Frizzell recalled. “We decided to send her to Faltaat as I had always wanted to go to him, and we thought he might inject some speed.
“She missed the first time then we got Tittletattle. We reared her on the farm at Omakere (east of Waipawa), she’s a lovely looking mare, and I sent her up to David Greene at Te Rapa to train.
“He quite liked her but said she was always going to be dour with not much speed so he sent her home, but I decided I needed to have her out of my sight otherwise I would start breeding from her.
“About four years ago I sent her to Dean Cunningham for one of his jumping syndicates. He started working her and said she was a good jumper but she needed 5,000 metres. I wanted to support Dean so I took a share in the Chase A Fox Syndicate.”
Tittletattle’s dam Regal Swift, who won three races for the Frizzells, traces back to another mare they raced called Indian Swift. She won six races and was out of an unraced Ashabit mare Savana, herself a half-sister to a top race mare in Sind (by Sobig) who won eight races including the WRC Wellington Handicap and became the dam of the Wellington Cup winner Rastes.
“We’ve had a lot from this family, but I haven’t bred anything from it for a number of years,” added Frizzell, who has swapped life on his extensive sheep and cattle farm for a home in Havelock North.
“In fact, I only have one mare now and that is Rosehip (Savabeel-Prickle), who I own in partnership with Mark Chittick from Waikato Stud. I bought her as a yearling and she turned out to be a full-sister to Brambles who won the Queensland Derby. We have her daughter Briar racing here at Hawkes Bay this week.”
The winner of two races including the St Leger Trial at Otaki, Rosehip is one of a handful of horses Frizzell is involved in. The most exciting of them is the reigning New Zealand champion jumper The Cossack, who he races with his good friend Peter Grieve, his son Doug and co-trainer Paul Nelson.
The Cossack’s 13 wins include a virtual clean sweep of the country’s feature hurdle races –the Great Northern twice, Grand National, K S Browne, Waikato, Wellington and at his most recent start earlier this month, the Hawkes Bay Hurdle. Plans are now to head to Australia next month to contest the Australian Grand National Hurdle, something that Frizzell is understandably quite excited about.
“My only regret is that my wife Jan passed away nine months ago,” he added. “She loved the horses just as much as I do and she is not with us to see all the success, but she did get to enjoy The Cossack last season.” -MIchelle Saba, Raceform