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Thompson’s passion for breeding still burns bright

Irene and Colin Thompson. - Photo: Supplied
Irene and Colin Thompson.

Photo: Supplied

He may be 93 but Colin Thompson is still in the horse industry in a big way and quite happy to race a horse or two.

Thompson, the NZTBA’s oldest and longest standing member, bred Listed Dunedin Gold Cup (2400m) winner Kilowatt (Shocking [AUS]-Princess Latifah [AUS]) in partnership with his son John, the NZTBA’s current president and Managing Director of Rich Hill Stud.

“He may have taken a while to win a big one, but he has won 10 races and over $230,000 so he’s not a bad horse,” said a delighted and an obviously proud Colin Thompson.

Kilowatt counts the Gore and Tapanui Cups in his tally of wins and is raced by the Carriers Arms (a hotel in Riverton) Syndicate out of Kelvin and Aimee Tyler’s stable. 

Alan Tyler, a member of the syndicate and brother to Kelvin, was John Thompson’s neighbour at Waharoa and took Kilowatt with him when he sold his farm to Rich Hill Stud to go dairy farming in the South Island.

He is the fifth foal from the unraced Flying Spur (AUS) mare Princess Latifah, who has left three other winners. She in turn is a half-sister to American multiple Group Two winner Quest Star and seven other winners. Her grandam, the Group Two winning mare Immense (Roberto[USA]-Imsodear[USA]), is also the grandam of the Champion racehorse and sire Giant’s Causeway (USA) (Storm Cat[USA]-Mariah’s Storm[USA]).

Princess Latifah has a yearling filly by Vadamos (GER), a filly foal at foot by Ace High (AUS) and is in foal to that stallion again. 

“Dad is still very much involved, he has shares in all four of the stallions at Rich Hill,” said John Thompson.

“I still discuss the matings of the mares we own together with him and he loves to talk about the ones he has racing.”

Colin Thompson has been breeding horses for over 50 years but his involvement in the industry reaches further than the half-century mark. He was instrumental in founding the Waikato Branch of the NZTBA and served on their executive. In 1961 he established a veterinary clinic in Matamata to service the local bovine industry though it wasn’t long before it became a leading equine clinic as well. 

Growing up in Papatoetoe on the outskirts of Auckland, when it was still mainly a rural area, Thompson developed an interest in horses and learnt to ride, with his first horse being a retired pacer. He became proficient enough to gain his amateur riders’ licence and was also an active member of the Pakuranga Hunt. 

Justine Sclater, John, Irene and Colin Thompson at the statue unveiling in Matamata. - Photo: Supplied
Justine Sclater, John, Irene and Colin Thompson at the statue unveiling in Matamata.

Photo: Supplied

Thompson always wanted to become a veterinarian and eventually studied in Sydney, graduating in 1953. There was nowhere to study veterinary science in New Zealand in that era and as part of gaining a qualification, graduates had to complete five years at a rural vet club.

For Thompson that meant joining the Matamata branch of the Morrinsville Vet Academy, where he spent four years and another year based in Te Aroha. But it was Matamata where he decided to practice and marry local lass Irene Troughton. They raised seven children including NZTBA CEO Justine Sclater.

Once the clinic was established the Thompson family began their investment in bloodstock, with Colin being involved in the purchase of the successful stallions Battle Wagon, Hasty Cloud, and Zephyr Bay.

“The family were all horse orientated so all the purchases were always amongst the family to get them involved,” Thompson Senior recalled.

Understandably Justine and John never really stood a chance of not being involved in the industry.

One of the first horses they bred was Ruelle who won five races including the Desert Gold Stakes and went on to be one of the family’s foundation broodmares. She was out of Ruve (Oman[FR]-Citril) a mare Thompson part-owned with Dick Holmes, a local stock agent. Ruelle was by Summertime (GB) and was the last foal conceived by that stallion.

Ruelle left seven winners including the Group One placed Summer Devant and was the grandam of the stakes winner Jamaica Inn. Other stakes winning descendants from her include the Champion Australian Two-Year-Old and successful sire St Covet, along with Jennibegood and Noble Clubs.

Over the years the family broodmare band increased, and in 1972 Thompson bought George Walton’s dairy farm, where the broodmares were homed amongst the cows. Over the years he and George Walton would breed and race some good horses together including the stakes placed winner Dancing Queen (Hasty Cloud[GB]-Limond Queen).

He became fully immersed in the industry in Matamata and served as the official Veterinary Surgeon for the Matamata Racing Club, later joining their committee and becoming President in 1988. He was also the official Veterinary Surgeon for New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing. Thompson recalled that he was often called to give expert evidence against the very clients he was assisting to find an edge.

“In the 1990s, when John came back from working overseas and had worked at various studs, we decided to establish a stud farm,” Thompson recalled.

Along with Auckland barrister Alan Galbraith QC they purchased the property at Waharoa now known as Rich Hill Stud with the Be My Guest (GB) stallion Pentire (GB) as their foundation sire.

Fast forward to 2002 and the Thompsons purchased a mare named Sheila Cheval (Mi Preferido[USA]-Silver Shelia), bred by prominent successful breeder Bill Schaare. She was an unraced half-sister to Commander Cheval, a winner of eight races. It was a family that Thompson - who had been Schaare’s vet, was familiar with and really liked.

The first foal they bred was Belle Joie (by Mellifont[USA]) who won six races, then next was Bert (by Bertolini[USA]) who won four races, but it was the third foal by resident sire Pentire that would turn out to be the best horse he and John have bred to date.

Colin and John Thompson doing the rounds when Colin was a practicing vet. - Photo: Supplied
Colin and John Thompson doing the rounds when Colin was a practicing vet.

Photo: Supplied

Called Mufhasa, the celebrated galloper was crowned New Zealand Horse of the Year twice, Champion Sprinter of the Year three times and Champion Miler of the Year twice. He won 20 races, 10 of which were at Group One level. He was inducted into the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame in 2021.

While Kilowatt will never reach the heights of Mufhasa, breeding a stakes winner is still quite an achievement and welcome fillip for Thompson, as is following the achievements of the current Rich Hill Stud stallion roster.

 Shocking (AUS), Proisir (AUS) and Vadamos have been flying the flag high for the stud in the last few weeks with Levante crediting Proisir with his first Group One winner, Lincoln King (by Shocking) winning the Gr.3 Wellington Cup and Dark Destroyer (by Proisir) winning at Group level at his last two starts.

There could be more to come with La Crique (Vadamos) the current second favourite for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand Oaks next month after her impressive win the Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes. -Michelle Saba, NZTBA



 

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