Bill Bain

Bain – From Sheep to Standardbreds.

Roxburgh breeder Bill Bain has been involved in animal genetics most of his life.

It just happens that he’s gone from breeding award-winning sheep, to breeding and racing Standardbreds.

Bill is a fourth generation farmer in the Roxburgh district, and prior to retirement farmed five miles south of Roxburgh on a 1500 acre block. He also had a runoff block which backed onto the Old Man Range.

For years he successfully bred Corriedales continuing on with the breed that had been started by his late father Arnold.

“It’s a New Zealand breed that started in the 1890s. Dad started a stud in the early 1940s. When I left school at the end of 1960 I wanted to get into them a bit more. Dad had sixty ewes. I’ve been share farming for the last ten years with the Wilsons in West Melton and we got up to five to six hundred ewes,” he said.

Bain started showing his stock at A & P Shows in the Central Otago area in the early days before heading to the Christchurch shows in 1970.

“In 1971 I took two sheep there and blow me down I ended up getting two red tickets (first prizes). In 1974 there was a World Conference in Christchurch and I took out first woolly sheep at the show and he ended up scooping the pool. And it was also named champion.”

Sheep bred by Bain still go to the shows but are now under his breeding partner’s name of GR and RW Wilson.

In the 1970s Bain also started a Dorset Downs Stud and for fifteen years he held a one day sale on his farm, selling up to 120 rams at each sale.

“I think we were averaging seven to eight hundred dollars. That was really good money for sheep then.”

The high point of those sales was receiving nine thousand dollars for one ram selling a half share in another for ten thousand dollars.

Always in amongst the sheep there were horses which were mainly ridden as hacks on the farm.

“My father had gallopers with Hec Anderton. We always used to make good lucerne hay. I tried to keep it for my rams but he always kept the best for his horses. His best galloper was Harkaway. It only won one race but he thought he’d won the Melbourne Cup I think. He started to breed off her but she had twins and that was the finish of her.”

Arnold Bain was also the first Clerk of the Course for the Roxburgh Trotting Club so there was an early connection to the local Standardbred community.

Bill’s brother-in-law Norman Sinclair who lived at Lincoln, got Bill and his wife Pauline interested in racing.

“He got Pauline and I a horse called Reklaw’s Girl in the early 2000s. She was bred by Merv Walker. We gave it to Alan Parker to train. We took her to her first race meeting and she came home in the middle of the field. At her second start she came flying home and got third. Someone wanted to buy her but I said ‘no way.’ It took 26 starts before she won (laughter).”

In 2001 Bill and Pauline decided to retire from the farm handing it over to their son David. Tragically he was killed in a car accident shortly after. The following year they sold the farm.

In amongst the racing of horses Bill Bain progressed his interest in the breeding side and in 2006 he bought into Presidential Ball mare Onedin Dancer.

“Geoff and Jude Knight had been given this filly to break in by Lynley Stockdale. After she qualified they wanted to put her on the market, so I approached them to see whether they would sell a half share. I finished up buying Lynley out. She (Onedin Dancer) had a lot more ability than she showed.”

She won twice as a three year old before being retired at four at which point they started breeding from her.

Onedin Dancer was well enough bred being a half -sister to Onedin Crusader (the winner of seven here and a further 15 in Western Australia) and Onedin Legacy who’s nine wins included an Invercargill Cup.

Of the foals she (Onedin Dancer) has left, Changeover gelding Onedin Onyx has been the best of her foals, winning six races.

In the years that followed, Bain bought more of the Stockdale’s Onedin line including Washington VC mare Ashanna who had won three races in the North Island for Mike Stormont.

“We won two more races at Forbury that winter then I put her to stud. I also bought the last of the Onedin line Stylish Onedin. She’s been the best mare for me at the sales. Her foals have sold for reasonable money. Her best has been Onedin Mach who won ten here and was sold to America. She’s got a full brother foal to Onedin Mach at foot.”

Stylish Onedin a Stand Together mare won twice. She’s also left a couple of very good race horses in Onedin Hustler which won seven races for Peter Hunter and has gone on to do a good job in Australia winning another seventeen.

After taking horses to the sales and getting moderate returns Bain realised that he had to look at buying into more modern families and in 2009 he sorted out five well-bred fillies at the Christchurch sale and headed north with a $30,000 budget.

At the end of the second day of the sale he got what he finally wanted.

“I was looking at buying a filly that was well bred with a mother that had won races with a good time. I was told not to spend too much so we bought Pembrook’s Delight.”

Friend Judy Campbell was bought into the partnership and the Bettor’s Delight filly began her racing career as a three year old.

As a four year old she was in her prime winning five races that season including the $150,000 Group One 2012 Four Year Old Mares Diamond at Cambridge.

“We were rapt just to have one in the race. Pauline and I had just come back from South America. Geoff (co-trainer Geoff Knight) had rung me a couple of weeks before, after she had a run at Addington where she went terrible. They found out she was dehydrated. I rang him when we got into Auckland and he said ‘she’s just worked super.’ Matty was told to go to the front and hand up to one horse (Bettor Cover Lover). It worked out perfectly. I didn’t realise she’d won because we were back a bit from the winning post. Just to get a place for us was good enough. To win we were over the moon. I’m not a big bettor but I got her at fixed odds of 51 to 1. I got enough to shout for the locals when we got home. We took the cup and cover down to the pub. It was a good night for the district.”

Pembrook’s Delight ended up winning nine races before heading to stud. Her first foal by Somebeachsomewhere (named Beach Boy) was sold to Michael House who reoffered him last year at his Ready to Run sale. He remains unsold.

“I spoke to Michael and he said he was going well. He got a bit crook. It took him a long time to get over the sales. He said he’s turned down $50,000 for him. He said they’ll have to pay more than that for him now.”

Her next foal, a filly by Art Major, was bought by Robert Dunn at this year’s sale.

“Although we only got $35,000 for her I don’t think she was too dear at all.”

Her latest foal is another filly by Art Major.

Although he still has a handful of young progeny from his older mares Bain freely admits that the Onedin horses have probably served their purpose and it’s time to move on and head in a more commercial direction.

“It’s probably an old fashioned breed. But if you want to sell at the sales you’ve got to have a bit more background.”

To that end he has recently bought two very well bred mares.

Heart Stealer was bought at the 2013 Australian Classic Yearling Sale for $95,000. He now shares in the ownership with his wife Pauline and friend Doug Gollan.

She’s a five year old mare by Bettor’s Delight out of Fight Fire With Fire. Fight Fire With Fire was trained throughout her career by Mark Purdon and Grant Payne winning seven times in forty four starts banking $151,657.

Heart Stealer is unraced and has a yearling filly by Sir Lincoln.

“She (Heart Stealer) looked good on the sale day but she never grew from the day we bought her. She could have qualified but we decided to put her in foal.”

In 2015 he also bought Change Time which had won seven races when trained by Ken Barron. She’s by Christian Cullen out of Chaanger and as a yearling was bought by Thompson Bloodstock for $45,000. Bain has bred an Art Major filly from the mare.

“We bought her (Change Time) after we sold the Corriedale stud. I gave my grandson Ryan a half share. He’s a qualified mechanic.”

Chaanger which was by Vance Hanover won six races in a limited career. Her claim to fame though was leaving Changeover the winner of 29 races and nearly two and a half million dollars.

Bain has also recently purchased a weanling off Vin Devery which is by Bettor’s Delight out the 14 win Badland’s Hanover mare Western Dream.

“Paul Davies did the deal. He also found Change Time for me. My nick name round here is Bunter so I’ve called this young one Bunter’s Dream. He’s being broken in at the moment.”

Bain has also been a part of the strong group of racing syndicates that Geoff and Jude Knight have set up in the Central Otago area. As well as being part of the successful Central Courage Syndicate he’s also in the Yshearasheep Syndicate which raced six win pacer Christian Ruler and the Gottashearasheep Syndicate which had success with Memphis Mafia. That syndicate’s latest race horse, a two year old by Mach Three colt out of Cap Off called Unloaded, qualified recently.

“I said to somebody that you’re better off having a tenth share in ten horses than having one by yourself.”

Bain was also a handy rugby player in his day playing halfback for Otago Country. He played in the same era as All Black halfback Chris Laidlaw.

“I never played against him. He was too good for Town versus Country games.”

He’s played golf over the years and has won local junior bowls titles. He also recently received a special contribution award for Harness Racing in Otago and is in his last year as President of the Roxburgh Trotting Club

During his sheep breeding days he was President of the New Zealand Corriedale Society and the New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association. After he ceased breeding he was named a Life Member of both Associations as well as the Dorset Downs Association.

After a lifetime involvement in matching rams with ewes, Bill Bain is more than ever carrying that knowledge and experience into breeding racehorses. He’s getting a lot of enjoyment from it and with his recent investment in modern bloodlines, I’m sure there’ll be more success to come.