Peoples Choice Award Finalist gives owners the thrill of their lives

Undoubtedly one of the most popular and proficient gallopers currently on the New Zealand racing scene is Bulginbaah (Starjo-Lady Tristimus) and as the winner of 20 races he will forever be a part of racing folklore.

His recent win in the Group 3 Foxbridge Plate brought his winning tally of wins to 20, and his stake earnings to just under $600,000. In a career that started in the 2003-2004 season he has had 65 starts for 20 wins, 13 seconds and seven thirds, including the 2003 Manawatu Challenge Stakes and seven listed wins including the Foxbridge Plate twice, the Manawatu Flying Stakes twice and the Wanganui Stakes twice, he has also won the Rangitikei Gold Cup.

Last season as a spritely eight-year-old he was Group One placed twice in the Mudgeway Partsworld Stakes and the Captain Cook Stakes!

Bulingbaah is the epitome of horses that used to be bred and raced back in the days when racing was a sport enjoyed by local communities. The local racing club or hunt club was a social focal point and trips to the local race meeting were often family affairs, and generations of New Zealanders got involved in the racing and breeding game through their family and kept their equine families going the same way.

Even today Bulingbaah is a well known identity in Wanganui and is more popular than his quick witted owner-trainer Ken Cropp.

"People say good morning to him at the track before they speak to me!" according to Cropp, "they bring him little treats and fresh puha but I don't see any coming my way I can't even get led astray these days."
Bullingbaah was bred by Wanganui trainer Cropp who shares in his racing ownership with fellow trainer Catherine Wilson, Janice Pine and Margaret Cropp. He raced Lady Tristimus with her owner Dianne McNaught at that time another Wanganui local.
"Lady Tristimus was one of the better horses I had trained," said the octogenarian Cropp, who unashamedly describes himself as the oldest and best looking trainer in New Zealand.

"Catherine who was my apprentice at the time had won a couple of races on her so I thought I may as well breed a foal out of her and see what happens. Back then Starjo (Star Way-Alijo) was at Waitotara at John and Sue Trumper's and Sue suggested I go there because of the proven Sir Tristram/ Star Way cross and Bulginbaah was the result."

Lady Tristimus is by Tristimus who is by Sir Tristram out of Rose of Hawa, her dam Gypsy Jo is by Frontal from Bal Burka by Old Soldier. This is a non stud book family that has produced very few foals.

Gypsy Jo was owned by Craig Connell and Dianne McNaught and produced two filly foals, Miss Fizz (Zephyrvescent) and Lady Tristimus. Gypsy Jo was one of only two foals produced out of her dam Bal Burka. Starjo is still alive at 27 and was reportedly given extra carrots with his feed after the Foxbridge win.

"Dianne McNaught kept Tristimus and Craig Connell kept the other one, they both won their maiden races at Wanganui on December 22nd 1994 and Catherine rode them both," added Cropp.

"Lady Tristimus is now owned by Dianne's daughter Janine McNaught and languished in the paddock until a couple of seasons back. Last year she and I bred a Royal Gem(Royal Academy-Tiffany Gem) colt who looks a lot like Bulginbaah and Janine now has her in foal to Viking Ruler.

"Bulginbaah is like part of the family here and he is the best horse I have ever had anything to do with. He is just such an amazing animal, he's no champion but he just keeps giving, he's just bloody marvellous and the old bugger knows it too!

"Training him keeps me occupied, even though I don't get to the races that often now and Catherine does a wonderful job with him, she has been there all the way through. We have four horses in work just enough to keep me out of trouble and for Catherine to hone her training skills and be a Mum too. She's got a couple of great kids that call me granddad – it should be great granddad really because I am 81 and a half.

"At my age it's such a lot of fun, I can't begin to tell you what at thrill it is too race him and a thrill that he is a credit to his name."

Bulginbaah is an aboriginal name and the original Bulginbaah was trained by Cropp's great grandfather, in Queensland. Cropp is a fourth generation horse trainer and originally came to New Zealand to ride over fences in 1954.

"I was apprenticed to my father in Queensland and rode my first winner when I was 11. I ended up in Melbourne riding over fences and some friends of mine suggested New Zealand was a good place to ride so I came for a visit. I found it was almost as good as Queensland. I ended up in Wanganui, and settled and raised a family and I have been here ever since.

Cropp's sister Margaret who has a racing share in Bulginbaah still lives in Queensland.

Bulginbaah will race next in the Group One Mudgeway Partsworld Stakes at Hastings and safely through that will contest the Group One Windsor Park Plate the second leg of the Hawkes Bay Triple Crown.

"We have to race him at weight-for-age now as he gets so much weight, unfortunately there aren't that many weight-for-age races in New Zealand, we have to win them while we can. Winning that $220,000 Group One sprint in a couple of weeks now that would be something for an old man to talk about now wouldn't it," concluded Cropp.

- Michelle Saba


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