By Dennis Ryan, Raceform
Nobody knows better than Brent and Cherry Taylor the roller-coaster ride that racing can deliver.
Two Illicit’s farewell victory in last Saturday’s Gr. 2 Travis Stakes at Te Rapa was the best possible finale to a domestic season that has contained the highest of highs and lowest of lows for the Trelawney Stud couple.
The Jimmy Choux mare’s Gr. 1 Captain Cook Stakes win was the headline act for the Taylors on a special December day completed by a Waikato Cup win by fellow Trelawney home-bred Cheaperthandivorce. Both mares are trained by the Cambridge partnership of Roger James and Robert Wellwood.
Other highlights for horses carrying the stylised Trelawney colours have included the emergence of Pareanui Bay, who won his first three starts including the Gr. 2 James & Annie Sarten Memorial and finished second in the remaining two. The Taylors’ Australian-based racehorses made a valuable contribution as well, headed by Gr. 2 Matriarch Stakes and Listed Ballarat Cup winner Zayydani and the talented Juan Diva.
But tempering the celebrations have been low-points, in particular the tragic breakdown of Trelawney-raised Gold Watch and the fatal paddock accident suffered by Pareanui Bay.
Gold Watch was part-owned and trained by Cherry Taylor’s 90-year-old father Cliff Goss and together they became the feel-good story of 2021. With a six-win sequence that had captivated the imagination of racing regulars and outliers alike, Gold Watch was the odds-on favourite to make it seven on end in the Gr. 2 Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
But it wasn’t to be. Angling between runners with 250 metres to run, Gold Watch blundered suddenly, dropping his rider Danielle Johnson (who sustained a broken leg) and suffering a lower foreleg injury that left no option but to euthanise the much-loved gelding.
“After becoming such a favourite with everyone as he won race after race, it was just terrible to see it all end like that,” Cherry Taylor reflects. “It wasn’t only Dad and the rest of us close to him, I actually felt so bad for the whole industry.
“After what we had all been through with COVID, here was a horse who everyone had taken to their hearts. Seeing it all taken away like that was just so cruel.”
While less public, Pareanui Bay’s demise was also hard to take, yet another reminder of the vulnerability of the animals at racing’s core. That’s something never far from mind, as the Taylors became only too aware of leading into Two Illicit’s grand final.
“I don’t normally get anxious before a race but this time was different. We had promised her that no matter what, this would be her last race.
“As time has gone on she hasn’t been easy, but thanks to Roger and Robert and others like Rob Hitchcock and his veterinary team, we had been able to manage the wear and tear in her joints. All we wanted was for her to come home safely, so when she won like that and it was all over, I was so thrilled and relieved I couldn’t help but have a little cry.”
Two Illicit has thus been added to the 30-odd Trelawney broodmare band, along with another valuable mare off the track, Vamos Bebe, whose career was impacted by two bleeding incidents. The second of those struck when she was narrowly denied a stakes win in the Hallmark Handicap at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.
Part of the Trelawney model is substituting a resident stallion roster with a wide range of stallion shares and that patronage has proven its effectiveness with excellent sale-ring and racetrack results. Two Illicit and Vamos Bebe have been added to the equation with one surety – that as maiden mares they will be covered by as yet unspecified Australian stallions.
“Each year we send around half a dozen to Australia and it makes sense for maiden mares like these to get their breeding careers underway,” says Taylor. “We also support a wide range of New Zealand stallions, many of whom we take shares in.”
The Taylors have taken a more global approach to one of the jewels in their band, New Zealand 1000 Guineas winner Loire, who they sent to the United Kingdom last year to be mated with the freakish galloper and now hugely successful stallion Frankel. The daughter of Redoute’s Choice is carrying her first foal by Southern Hemisphere time to Frankel and safely through that late August foaling, she will return to him.
“The plan is for Loire to return home once she’s back in foal. We’d love the first foal to be a filly, which we would retain, and if it’s a colt he’ll be sold as a yearling. It’s an expensive exercise – somewhere around $250,000 or more all up – but at the same time it’s very exciting.”
While the local Trelawney racing team goes into recess ahead of winter, there’s still some action in store across the Tasman, starting on Saturday at the Gold Coast, where Savabeel mare Zayydani is in the line-up opposing Zaaki in the Gr. 2 Hollindale Stakes and Snitzel mare Juan Diva is entered for the Listed ATC Cup.
“All up we’ve got something like 35 in the racing team, including young ones that have yet to step out,” added Taylor, “but as Brent says, you need an army to fight a war.”