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Kelt Capital attracts best possible field

New Zealand's richest race, the $1 million Kelt Capital-sponsored Ormond Memorial 2040m G1 at Hastings tomorrow has attracted the best possible field, missing only Darci Brahma, who has now embarked on an Australian campaign.

It's also a field which displays the diversity of New Zealand's breeding industry. Seven of the 15 starters are raced by their breeders, either by choice or necessity: Kristov, Kerry O'Reilly, Pentane, Sculptor, Lilakyn, Seachange and Legs.

Five runners (Balmuse, Mikki Street, Sir Slick, Cedar Manor & Wahid) were purchased from New Zealand yearling sales, at prices ranging from $30,000 to $61,000. Rags To Riches was a $22,000 weanling sale purchase by Eamon Cleary who tried, but failed to re-sell him as a yearling, and now races him with Denny, Lyn and Mark Baker of Hallmark Stud. Mr Cleary, an Irishman, also part-owns Shamrock Star who, like Hurrah, was sold privately.

Fourteen stallions, seven of them shuttles, are represented in the race and the Darley-owned Cape Cross is the only sire with two runners: the favourite Seachange and Mikki Street. Waikato Stud has the best representation among currently available sires, thanks to Kerry O'Reilly (O'Reilly) and Legs (Pins).

Five starters were bred by studs, rather than private individuals or farms: Legs (Waikato Stud 2001 Ltd), Seachange (The Oaks), Wahid (Trelawney Stud Ltd), Cedar Manor (The Fairdale Trust) and Balmuse (Jim Wallace, Ardsley Stud).

Phillip Stevens (Kristov) and Peter McKenzie (Sculptor) share the distinction of being breeder, owner and trainer of their runners, while Kevin Myers, Graeme Nicholson and Graeme Rogerson co-own and train Balmuse, Sir Slick and Cedar Manor respectively. Ralph Manning is the only trainer with two runners: Rags To Riches and Seachange.

The Awapuni and Matatmata training centres have supplied three runners each: Kristov, Kerry O'Reilly and Pentane from Matamata, and Mikki Street, Cedar Manor and Shamrock Star from Awapuni. In all,six starters come from north of Taupo; eight from the central region, and one,Hurrah from the South Island.

Apart from its recent status as New Zealand's richest and one of its most competitive races, the Ormond Memorial has a distinguished, if fractured history. First run in 1920 to honour leading Hawke's Bay owner, breeder, administrator and politician John Davies Ormond (1831-1917), the race was held until 1930.

A long hiatus followed, until the race's renewal in 1955, when it was won by the outstanding Redcraze, and a year later by Syntax. Picaroon won it three times, in 1960, 1961 & 1963, and Game, the much-loved hero of Hawke's Bay, won three successive runnings, 1969-71. Other notable winners have been Duty Free, La Mer, Commissionaire, Lomondy (all two-time winners), Balmerino, Castletown, Veandercross and subsequent Cox Plate winner Solvit.

However, the most memorable Ormond Memorial may still be the 1925 match race between the ten-year-old Gloaming and the brilliant galloper The Hawk, fresh from a stunning, seven-win Australian campaign.

Gloaming, bred in Australia, owned by George Greenwood and trained by the great Dick Mason, had won 56 of his 66 starts in a series of campaigns on both sides of the Tasman, including the 1922 Ormond Memorial. He was the unquestioned champion of his time and lined up for the final race of his career in front of a huge crowd at Hastings.

The Hawk, ridden by Hector Gray, forced the pace in front, with the aim of cracking Gloaming, in the hands of George Young. However, Gloaming knew how to take, and apply pressure better than any horse, and it was The Hawk who cracked, and Gloaming who closed out his career in glory. He is one of only four horses inducted to both the Australian and New Zealand Racing Halls of Fame. Fittingly, the marquee organised and hosted by the Ormond family at Hastings tomorrow has been christened the Gloaming Enclosure.


- Susan Archer