NZTBA member Don Gordon wins his local Cup

Hawke's Bay octogenarian Don Gordon has been breeding horses and racing horses for nearly sixty years, and is no stranger to breeding or racing stakes winners. However his most recent stakes winner Survived (Zed – Liberal) is lucky to have done exactly that.

When Survived was born in October 2009 he was so small Gordon didn't think he would survive.

"I decided to foal Liberal (Generous[GB]) – Political) at home to save the $500 foaling fee and got Arthur Ormond around to give me a hand. It was a squib of a foal, the smallest foal I had ever seen; it was not much bigger than a rabbit!

"I said to Arthur I think I will knock it on the head, and he said you can't do that - it's not fair on the mare. It's better for her if she has a foal to suckle - so that is how he survived!

"And to be honest I have never seen a horse improve as much as he has. Each time he has a race he improves, he just keeps growing and improving. John Bary can take a fair bit of credit for that- he is a great horseman. But seriously when he first went to John he would have been lucky if he was 15 hands high. He has improved lengths with each race and grown into a lovely horse," said Gordon, a member of the Hawke's Bay branch of the NZTBA who is probably best known as the owner/breeder of the former champion three-year-old filly Mun Lee (Great Wall- Phareno)

Survived recently became the first three-year-old to win the 2200 metre group three Hawke's Bay Gold Cup since 1977, and he did so with amazing ease, being last on the turn and sprinting down the outside to win by four and a half lengths. It was a great thrill for Gordon winning at the local meeting where he served on the committee for a number of years and always recognized the importance of programming races for fillies and mares.

That win was on the back of a similar gutsy effort he had put in to win the listed Higgins Manawatu Classic – a 2000 metre event for three-year-olds – three weeks earlier. In that event another son of Zed, Usainity, was three-quarters of a length away in second and subsequent listed ATC South Pacific Classic winner Planet Kingdom was third.

Survived commenced racing in November last year, and was narrowly beaten at his first start. He left maiden ranks three weeks later at Hawke's Bay, and in late January took on a top bunch of three-year-olds in the group three Phil Cataldo Wellington Stakes. He over- raced badly and finished a disappointing 10th.

He was freshened slightly and taken to Awapuni in late February and back into rating 65 benchmark class over 1400 metres he won, easing down by one and a quarter lengths. His next start he was stepped up to 1560 metres in a rating 75 event at Rotorua, and he gave his rivals a galloping lesson winning by nine lengths, before heading to the Manawatu Classic.

He has now had seven starts for five wins, and second and the miss in the Wellington Stakes, and his final start for this season will most likely be in the Rough Habit Plate in Brisbane in mid May. Survived will then be spelled and prepared for the Hawke's Bay triple crown in the Spring and if he performs up to expectations there it will be onwards to Melbourne.

Survived is the second and last foal from the Generous mare Liberal who won one race. Her first foal is Quality Street, a mare by Coat's Choice (AUS) who has won one race at Reefton over 1020 metres and holds the track record for that distance.

Liberal herself was out of Political (by Dedicated Rullah [USA]), herself a winner of four races and dam of four other winners beside Liberal. She was the first foal of Secrecy, a Diplomatic Agent (USA) mare who won seven races for Gordon and was placed in the listed Edward Lumley Stakes at Riccarton.

"This is a family I have had since the early 70's when I purchased Phareno (Pharamond[FR]- Centeno), and sent her to Great Wall and produced Mun Lee, and she also produced two other fillies - Secrecy and War Cry (War Hawk II) - that I have continued to breed from.

"Over the years since Mun Lee I have had some wonderful horses from this family and I still have a number of mares breeding on now."

Mun Lee was the Champion three-year-old filly of the 1977-78 season. She won 14 races including the group one Waikato Sprint and the Great Northern Oaks.

Survived may be the best descendant of Secrecy, but War Cry certainly proved her worth at stud.

From 11 foals she produced seven winners four of them at stakes level. Don raced Dancing Daze (Dance Floor [USA]) who won six races including a group two ARC Championship Stakes and was placed second in the group two Sir Tristram Fillies Classic. Along with Waikato breeding stalwart Jeanette Broome, he bred and raced Full Noise (Kaapstad ) and she won, was group one placed, and won seven races including the listed STC Stayers Cup. She has gone on to produce winners.

General Booth (Entrepreneur [GB]) was a winner of four including the listed MVRC JRA Cup and Clay Shot (Clay Hero [AUS]) won five and was stakes placed. An unraced daughter, Cold War (Half Iced [USA]), has left two stakes performers in Sands of Time (Sandtrap [USA]) and Coolross (Rossini[USA]).

Tiffany Rose, another daughter of Pharamond by Sovereign Edition (IRE), not owned by Gordon, also produced three stakes winners Marmalitre, Coutet and Spacecraft and was the grandam of Felenic and Allez Suez.

Gordon was born on the West Coast but moved north with his family at a young age. After leaving Thames High School, where he was good mates with another industry stalwart in Dave Bradford, he took up a three-year cadetship with the Ministry of Works on the Rangitikei Catchment Board training to be a civil engineer.

"In 1954 I was selected to play representative rugby for Whanganui. So I gave up the cadetship to concentrate on my rugby. Then after my CMT (compulsory military training) I moved to Auckland and I played for the Auckland Colts and the Auckland side. When I moved to Thames I played for Thames Valley and again when I moved to Dannevirke I played for Hawkes Bay. I retired injured in 1960.

"I have been breeding horses since 1954 and sold my first horse at Trentham in 1956 it was out of a Foxbridge mare and I sold it to Jack Ryan, a trainer in the Hawke's Bay for 260 guineas. I was a stock agent in Pukekohe at the time and happened to be in Feilding for a ewe sale the following year and he was having a run as a two–year-old so I went to watch him at the Feilding races and he won.

"I had horses with Trelawney and was great friends with Seton Otway. When I was about 25 I looked after the farm while the Otway's went to Trentham for the sales. The first stakes winner I bred was with by a Trelawney stallion. It was by Pride of Kildare (GB) and was called Hi-Minx,(ex Installation). She was raced by Trevor Knowles and was second in the Great Northern Oaks and won the Great Northern St Leger. Trevor Knowles is of course famous for another Pride of Kildare mare in Hi Jinx, the winner of the 1960 Melbourne Cup.

"I had the horses all the way through while I was a stock agent for the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile. Then I became a fat stock drafter, and I still do a bit of that now.

These days the Gordon mares are all based at Little Avondale and he mainly breeds them in partnership with that stud.

"My association with Little Avondale goes back about 28 years, and that is part of the reason I sent Liberal to Zed when he was standing there– after all he was a well bred horse and didn't cost a lot. I usually only keep my fillies to race, but I didn't think he was worth sending to the sales after his poor start, and who would buy a horse by a $500 stallion," he exclaimed.

"Now he's not for sale. A lot of people are trying to buy him but at this stage but I am getting so much pleasure out of him. Horses have given me a lot of pleasure over the years and they keep me out of mischief."


After a year on the hills of Canterbury, Zed will return to the North Island early in May and stand at Grangewilliam Stud, near Whanganui.

On the back of the success of Survived, Usainity and a number of other winners, Little Avondale Stud and the shareholders of Zed have decided to relocate the stallion where he will be more accessible to breeders.

"We are absolutely thrilled to be standing Zed at Grangewilliam," said the stud's manager Mark Corcoran.

"There has been a huge amount of interest and a good response from breeders since it was announced he was coming here, and at $4,000 he is well priced. Sam (Williams) did the right thing by the horse in getting all those mares to him in the first few years and now the progeny are doing the job and that is all you can ask of a horse. Now he is coming back from the hills and I am sure he will do well here."

Hawke's Bay Gold Cup winner Survived - Photo NZTM website

- Michelle Saba


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