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He's Our Rokkii gives John Collinson and his partners Group success in Sydney

Dwayne Dunn, David Hayes, Dinar Collinson, Costa Feneridis and John Collinson at Royal Randwick
Dwayne Dunn, David Hayes, Dinar Collinson, Costa Feneridis and John Collinson at Royal Randwick

In the mid 90's John Collinson set up a foreign exchange business in Auckland and brought in a couple of mates, Costa Feneridis and Paul Bettany, as business partners.

As it turned out they also shared an interest in horse racing, and soon after delved into racehorse ownership, often enjoying a beer or two discussing their potential champions and where racing would take them.

Fast forward to 2016 and they are the proud part-owners and breeders of He's Our Rokkii (Roc de Cambes-Clerihew[GB]), the winner of the Group Three Frank Packer Stakes and Group Three Carbine Club Stakes at Randwick this month.

Collinson recalled that over the years the trio had put a lot of money into racing, but never looked like giving up. They had horses with various trainers and had success with Highflying, a City of Auckland Cup winner, Danex who was third in the Group Two Sir Tristram Fillies Classic, and the seven times winner Aluminium Bikerack – a half-sister to He's Our Rokkii – as well as a number of others.

"We have had a lot of fun learning about the racing game, and would like to thank everyone who has helped us along the way, we've seen a lot of money going in and less coming back, we have had a few winners on the way, plenty of hangovers, and a few hardships, but still the three of us have kept going," he mused.

After placing fourth in the Group One Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes and third in the Group Three Phoenix Park Classic, Mark Pilkington Bloodstock purchased a half-share in Our Rokkii as he was known in New Zealand and he was off to join the stable of David Hayes and Tom Dabernig, and the trio were heading for the big time.

About 10 years ago the trio were gathered in Collinson's office having a chat and Collinson happened to be reading bloodstock agent Paul Moroney's website, and noticed that he had recently bought a two-year-old filly from the Tattersall's sale in the United Kingdom.

"I said to the boys remember that great champion race mare La Mer that we used to follow when we were at school, and of course they did. Well I said, Moroney has purchased a filly called Clerihew (Lomatis[GB]- Clerio[GB]) and La Mer is the third dam. I reckon we should buy it and it will be our next champion. And they said yeah, yeah while laughing at me.

"However Costa says how much does it cost to get a horse here from the United Kingdom, lets ring Moroney and see what it costs to ship it over?"

So Collinson made the call to Moroney who said it would cost them $23,000 to land the horse in New Zealand.

"Bloody hell says Bettany, my first house only cost $52,000, and I said mine was $54,000 to which Costa added well mine in Wellington was only $35,000. So we adjourned to the Albion Hotel for a few beers to discuss the matter, dreaming of days when leading stud masters would be ringing us wanting our champion mare before deciding to buy the filly for a total cost that was more than our first three houses combined.

"She arrives home and the first call from Moroney was to tell us she should run well as a three-year-old, and the second call was to tell us she had broken down and will never race."

The trio adjourned to the Albion again to discuss their options, and Collinson suggested they should breed from her anyway. Although they had raced a few horses by that stage they had never ventured into the breeding game.

"The boys said to me, we don't anything about breeding horses, and I said I've got a few books at home I'll have a read and get back to you.

Collinson discovered that Clerio the dam of Clerihew, was a Group Three winner in Ireland and dual Listed winner in France, and a half-sister to Bahr (by Generous[GB]) a Group Two winner in England and the dam of the champion English three-year-old filly Nahrain, and another stakes winner in Baharah. She was also a proven producer and the dam of a pretty useful horse in Hong Kong Sirena Ligera by Fantastic Light(USA).

Clerio's dam Lady of the Sea (GB) was winning Mill Reef (GB) daughter of La Mer (Copenhagen II [GB]- La Balsa), and thus a half-sister to the stakes winner Cipriani. Another of La Mer's daughters Loughmore(IRE) made her way to New Zealand and left the Group One Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes winner Little Jamie.

So with Collinson's newly acquired knowledge back at the favourite watering hole, the men discussed tactics and decided to investigate sending Clerihew to Darley to be served by Fantastic Light, thus breeding a three-quarter relation to Sirena Ligera. As it happened Darley were offering free flights to their stallions that year so the boys sent the mare and the career as breeders began.

Her second mating was to Lucky Unicorn, however that foal died, by this time the mare was resident at The Oaks Stud, and on the recommendation of Rick Williams Clerihew, went to Spartacus(IRE). By this stage Collinson's horse mad daughter was attending St Peter's School in Cambridge, and he had also acquired a farm property there.

"My daughter Amy and her school friends decided to name the first foal, and for some reason called her Aluminium Bikerack. Jim Collett trained her and said she was okay but a bit weak, so we leased her to Mike Pittman in the South Island and she started winning, and I started thinking maybe they are good genes after all".

"The Spartacus colt was no good, and we had two Bachelor Duke (USA) fillies before going to Roc de Cambes. The first Bachelor Duke filly was a beautiful filly but unfortunately she had a paddock accident, and following a lot of vet bills and not so happy pub sessions, I got hold of Rick and gave him an earful and told him to send the injured foal, the mare and the weanling over to my place in Cambridge".

"Anyway long story short, the first filly didn't recover and we called the second one Nellie, and she sustained an injury after being broken in and didn't race either. I was a bit rude to Rick but I reckon he's over it now, and I do appreciate what he has done for us in the past," he added.

By this stage Amy Collinson had set her sights on a show jumping career and was studying accountancy as well, and looking after a mare wasn't high on her agenda. Anyway one day her old school friend Sam Logan called her at University and announced that there was now a really nice foal lying in the paddock, so they named it Rocky. She did take a liking to the mare and her foal following that, and according to her father did a great job raising her.

"The pub talk by this stage was now focussing on the latest champion Rocky, on the advice of Sam Logan, I got in touch with Mark Forbes who was just setting up his own place after working at Cambridge Stud, and sent him off to be broken in".
"Eventually he rang me and said I had better give Rocky a name as he was off to the races, so we came up with Our Rokkii. Rokkii is Japanese for Rocky and Roc da Cambes had raced in Japan. As a two-year-old he showed great promise on the track, and was an unlucky fourth in the Sires. We started looking forward to his three-year-old season when Mark Pilkington Bloodstock came calling with an offer of $350,000 for a 50% share".

"Naturally we had to discuss it over a few beers and wines and negotiate a bit more before we struck a deal and Our Rokkii was off to Lindsay Park. Subsequently with a couple of Group Three successes our stories are getting bigger now, along with our dreams."

"Clerihew has produced two fillies to Thewayyouare (USA) and is safely in foal to Charm Spirit(IRE), her youngsters are being cared for by Tony and Lou Cole, and will head to Mark Forbes stable to be trained".

"The journey has been long and we were very naïve, but the costly education has been fantastic, we love the industry, the history, the characters, the thrills, and the hard work put in by everyone involved. We will continue with our education and hopefully the family will continue to improve in our capable hands and I would like to thank Paul Moroney for sourcing Clerihew".

"Also" he added, "I would like to thank all the many trainers, jockeys, vets agistment farms, truck drivers, breakers and handlers, all the studs, and New Zealand Bloodstock, who are trying to turn this industry around, and hopefully Costa, Paul and myself can keep contributing and sharing the dream."

Footnote: Clerio the grandam of He's Our Rokkii also made her way to New Zealand and earlier this year her twelfth foal Alamer (by Alamosa) became her ninth winner and first stakes winner when she won the Listed ARC Trevor Eagle Memorial Stakes.

- Michelle Saba


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