Pero wins the Thompson for breeders Des and Kay Fleming

Pero wins the Group 3 Thompson  Handicap at Wellington - Photo: NZTM website
Pero wins the Group 3 Thompson Handicap at Wellington

Photo: NZTM website

Just over 30 years ago Taranaki dairy farmers Des and Kay Fleming, extended their livestock interests into the thoroughbred game.

They were like a lot of farmers, especially in Taranaki who had grown up around horses, rode them as kids, and used them for shifting stock and buying a racehorse or a broodmare seemed like a natural progression.

They outlaid $5,000 for a non-winning Sovereign Edition(Ire) mare Paraonui Princess and embarked on the satisfying journey of breeding racehorses and became stalwarts of the local industry. They are active members of the Taranaki/Wanganui Branch of the NZTBA and Des is a former NZTBA Councillor.

Pero (Storming Home [GB] – Alyssum), the recent winner of the Wellington Racing Club's group three Thompson Handicap, is a descendant of that mare and racked up win number 73 for the Flemings as owners.

Des was on course at Trentham to witness the five-year-old gelding win his fifth race, but Kay was at the other end of the island listening on a scratchy old transistor radio.

She takes up the story:

"About four months ago I decided to head to Auckland for the weekend with my sister-in-law to see the Mary Poppins stage show. We arrived booked into our hotel and sat down to watch the race and the hotel had no 'blimin' trackside, so it was off to the bar and they only had the sports channels.

"Fortunately I had an old transistor with me, so with the aerial up and holding it out the window we managed to pick up a very scratchy radio commentary. Pero was mentioned twice in the running, and then the next thing you know the commentator says 'and here comes Pero and he will win!'

"We were pretty flabbergasted but really excited. It was wonderful that Des was there to see it and he has told me how humbled he was by all the people that congratulated him on the day, and the phone calls and text messages since that win have been quite overwhelming," she added.

Pero is the first foal of the Prized (USA) mare Alyssum, herself a daughter of Kay Row who was out of Paraonui Princess. He is the winner of five races, and has been placed seven times from 19 starts. The Thompson win was his first start in open company, and in a black type race. It was his fourth win over 1600 metres.

According to Kay they selected Paraonui Princess and went to a sale to buy her from her breeder Keith Herbert but she was too expensive, but they both liked the big strong black mare and they went back to the next sale she was in and paid $5000 for her in foal to Habitation.

That foal was Hasty Edition - he was the second of 12, 11 of whom were named and seven of whom won and nearly all raced by the Flemings.

Paraonui Princess's fourth foal was her first serious racehorse. Named Sandboy, he was by Rebec (GB) and he won 12 races and was placed at group two and listed level. However it was his half sister Kay Row by Long Row (GB) that gave the Flemings their first stakes winner.

"Kay Row gave us a lot of thrills. She actually won eight races, but the group three Awapuni Gold Cup she won on protest and you don't feel so elated with a win by default. She has been a super broodmare as well, leaving Billy Quin, who like Pero is named after one of our grandchildren.

"He won five races and was stakes placed before breaking a leg, and then she left Alyssum."

Alyssum also won five races and was second in the listed Canterbury Breeders Stakes, before commencing her stud career. Following Pero, her next foal is Aloe – as well as her grandchildren Kay likes to name her horses after plants and prefers one word names. Aloe is a three-year-old filly by Savabeel and is in work with Roydon Bergerson. She recently won a trial.

Her next foal is a lovely big black yearling colt by Tavistock and she has a Per Incanto (USA) filly at foot. She will be visiting Cape Blanco(IRE). Along with her half sister Torran (Chief Bearheart(CAN) who is in foal to Per Incanto, they are the only two mares that the Flemings will be breeding from this year.

Harking back to Princess Paraonui, she also left the stakes placed winner Denholm (Zabeel) named after another grandson and his full sister Chelse was named after his sister Chelsea.

L'Affaire was another daughter and she left the very good horse raced by the Flemings in Volkaire (Volksraad [IRE]) who won nine races including the group three Churchill Stakes, and was group one placed.

After buying their broodmare Princess Paraonui, the Flemings then set about buying a filly to race and purchased a daughter of Vice Regal(NZ) out of the Sharivari (USA) mare Helen Mary. Named Queen of Peace she won her first race at the local Stratford meeting on New Year's Day in 1986, and it was the first race of the day.

"That was our first winner and we thought it was a pretty good omen winning locally on the first day of a new year. We were still milking cows in those days so it was a bit of a mission to get to the races around that.

"She went on to win four races before going to stud and leaving Zapeace, and I would have to say her win in the listed Let's Elope Stakes in Melbourne would have to have been our biggest thrill," she said.

Zapeace (Zabeel) won 10 races in all including the group three Instrument Supplies Sprint at Waikato, before being sold to Australia. Queen of Peace left four other winners including the stakes placed Irish who won nine. Another daughter Irishina has left a listed winner in Coup Morgan. The Flemings no longer have any mares from this family.

Nine years ago Des and Kay left their dairy farm and built a house in Opunake. They still have the dairy farm just north of Opunake and a 150 acre runoff just south. Each morning Des still goes to the dairy farm before breakfast, and then spends the rest of the day rearing bulls and feeding the horses at the run off. However, not milking cows does allow Des and Kay more time to spend looking at stallions and going to the races, and that doesn't seem to be a bad way to spend your leisure time, especially if you have a horse like Pero to follow.

- Michelle Saba


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