Oysters and Horses - a great mix for Willie and Karen Calder

Southland branch NZTBA member Willie Calder makes his living as an oysterman and doesn't often take time out in the oyster season but last weekend was the exception as he wanted to go to Riccarton to see his filly Asavant (Zabeel-Pins'n'Needles) take out the Listed Warstep Stakes. "On Friday I was up at 4 a.m to go fishing, I put the catch in the chiller, and at 5.30 in the afternoon headed to Dunedin with my daughter Anna to watch the Highlanders play rugby. Early the next morning we drove up to Christchurch to watch the race," said Calder, the second generation owner of the oyster boat 'Argosy' and Bluff based 'Direct Fish and Oyster.' "We didn't notice the long drive home on Sunday, and besides at this time of the year I couldn't afford to have a big night! I was back at work Monday morning, shucking the oysters we got on Friday! "We have had a bit of a wait with this filly but our luck has come right at the right time.She has had no luck, start after start she got herself into the wrong place, or had bad draws. She drew 18 in the Oaks and used up a lot of petrol early to get handy and she still ran a reasonable race to finish seventh." Asavant went into the Oaks on the back of a maiden win over 2000 metres at Riccarton, four weeks later she followed that run with a second over 1600 metres on that same track in the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance stakes. Seven days on again at Riccarton she relished the extra distance and triumphed in the Warstep. The Zabeel filly had her first start in October and for the season has had 13 starts recording two wins, and seven placings. Asavant is the first foal of Pins'n'Needles, a Pins mare raced by Willie Calder and his wife Karen, and like her mother is trained by Karen and John Parsons at Amberley. Pins'n'Needles (Pins[AUS] – Raining) was the winner of six races including the Group Three White Robe Lodge Stakes, and the Listed Timaru Cup. She was also second in Sir Slick's 2007 Group One Thorndon Mile and like her daughter drew 18 in that event. "Asavant is a carbon copy of her mother, they look the same and both race the same, always running on from the rear, she's a little pocket rocket." Calder purchased Pins'n'Needles as a yearling from the South Island Sale in 2002. He inherited his passion for racing from his mother, and grandfather, and for a time continued breeding from their good mare Dark Eyes a winner of seven races. "I decided I wanted to buy a nice filly, so I selected 10 two-year-olds and two yearlings from the South Island Sale catalogue. On the Thursday before the sale John Parsons and I inspected the 10 two-year-olds and he dismissed the lot. He said what about the two yearlings you've marked do you want me to look at them? "They were in another barn about 200 metres from where we were and I said maybe we shouldn't worry – after all he had rejected all my other selections. Anyway he said no come on we may as well look while we are here. "He proceeded to inspect them and told me to buy them both; they looked like they would both make racehorses! So I came back to the sale and did just that. When the Pins filly was knocked down to me for $6500 I said to my wife Karen, quick get up there and pay for her in case it's a mistake and they cancel the sale – I was expecting to have to pay a lot more for her. "I'm a big fan of Pins, I saw him race in Australia, and I thought I couldn't go wrong buying a Pins filly out of a Centaine (AUS) mare. The other filly was well bred too she was by King's Theatre (IRE) out of Lady Whispers (AUS) a mare who had won in 10 in Australia and she cost me $4,250. "That filly was named Usher, she had a paddock accident and didn't make it as a racehorse. I bred a Bachelor Duke colt out of her and she has since died.' Pins 'n' Needles is out of the Centaine mare Raining, who had already left a stakes winner in Coup Fieldes (Carolingham[AUS]). She was a winner of seven races and was third in the Listed Newmarket Handicap. Her half brother Force The Pace (Red Tempo) won the listed Matamata Cup and four other races. As mentioned previously Pins 'n' Needles was a pretty smart racehorse winning six races, and when it came time for her to go to stud there was no question as to who her first consort would be. "I always said if I had a mare good enough to go to Zabeel I would, and if we were lucky enough to get a filly I would keep it so I did. He is the best sire in New Zealand by a country mile. Her next foal was a Keeper (AUS) colt and he sold at Karaka for $120,000 last year. John Size has him in Hong Kong and he is called Keep-A-Pin. "She then missed to Darci Brahma, but had a Sahkee's Secret colt this season, which will go to Karaka next summer, and she is back in foal to Darci. Pins 'n' Needles lives up at The Oaks and Rick and his team do a wonderful job looking after her. "I was a little undecided about where to send her this season, then all of a sudden Darci Brahma starting with a couple of winners in Australia, then Artistic won the Bonecrusher, so I decided to go back to him. I'm rather pleased I did now. After having no luck in the breeding game with the mare his mother raced, Dark Eyes, Calder purchased a mare called Ingresea (Beaufort Sea [USA]- Ingres) and bred a couple of foals out of her, Oyster (Waikiki Star[USA]), and Willywince (Gaius [IRE]). "I raced Willywince, he was a great horse, and he won seven races, he ran second in the Grand National Hurdles, but unfortunately broke down before he could show his true potential as a steeplechaser. Oyster won one race and I send her to stud. Her first foal Bluff (Sandtrap[USA]) won four races and has gone to stud, and I am racing Kilpatrick (Keeper) and Au Naturel (Spartacus [IRE]). "Kilpatrick has been placed about a dozen times, and Au Naturel has won three and he ran fourth at Riccarton last Saturday as well. I have also got his full brother Shooter at home, and he will go into work again soon. He is her last foal. "But low and behold after I sold Ingresea she left Cat Shmea who was stakes placed and she left the Group One Goodwood Stakes winner Velocitea. That's racing I guess!' However with the listed win in the bag, and with the oyster season still in full swing its back to sea for Willie Calder. Back to doing the job he has done for 37 years, the same job he has done since he left school, but now while he is out fishing on the Argosy he can dream about his Zabeel filly Asavant and taking her to Australia to take on the Aussies.

- Michelle Saba


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