Kevin Schuck

Just One Schuck

Invercargill Jeweller Kevin Schuck can thank a handful of slow gallopers for his switch to Standardbreds and hence his love of the straight out trotter.

Schuck was born in Dunedin and has a mix of European blood running through his veins. His grandfather was born in Austria and he also has German and Dutch ancestry. Maybe this explains his love of trotters.

His father Bill, was in the New Zealand Police force for over twenty years and the family moved to Invercargill when Kevin was about eight months old. He attended St Patricks Primary School before heading to Marist Primary and then on to Marist College.

At the age of thirteen his father got him an after school job with local jeweller Russell Coats and Kevin has been in that industry ever since, even though he initially didn’t have an interest in jewellery.

“Dad had a real interest in antiques, trying to make the odd dollar here and there, wheeling and dealing. I really wanted to have something to do with wildlife like being a wild life ranger. But after a few years working for Russ I thought ‘I can do this.’

Coats and Schuck eventually became partners in the jewellery business and also in a host of other ventures over the years.

“We’ve had a go at a few things. Coatsy and I had a go at farming possums – that failed dismally. I’ve had goats and reared calves.”

As an twenty year old Kevin Schuck bought fifteen acres at Longbush just outside of Invercargill and that lead to his involvement with horses.

“I had some money put aside to put in some drainage tiles. I didn’t know the front end from the back end of a horse. Russ said ‘would you like to make a bit of money’ so we put $600 ($300 each) for a place on a galloper. It was the first bet I ever had. It paid $2.40. For the next week and a half I didn’t leave the Northern TAB thinking this was an easy lark. I was just betting on their names and form. After a week and a half I‘d earned $600 to $700 but after that, it all went pear shaped and has been ever since. ”

Kevin also worked in The Gold Room on the West Coast for seven months in the late 1980s and one horse he vividly remembers at the time was Besta Kara which won three races for Bill Cummings and a further six for Doody and Kevin Townley.

The Gold Room was owned by Rhett Robinson who owned a mine in the area and turned gold nuggets into jewellery.

“After I left he got into breeding in a big way.” Robinson and his daugther Fiona bred Village Green under the Aird-righ Bloodstock Limited banner. She was by Tuapeka Knight out of Totara Road and won three races.

They also bred from Village Green with her best foal being Indy Village which was by In The Pocket and won seven races when trained by Robbie Holmes.

The first horse Kevin owned was a galloper called Mr Jay Jay (Palatable – Miss Jumbo Jet) which was trained by Longbush trainer Kelly Thompson. Mr Jay Jay had three starts for an 8th, 6th and 15th before breaking a leg at the trials.

One of his next ventures in the galloping game was through his brother Stephen who had a bit to do with local trainer Cecil Beckett (trainer of Wellington Cup winner Ed).

“I ended up buying Ravensdale off Cecil. Dad and I went halves in her and we bred a couple of Codeenes. We also bred a colt called Fast Forward which Cecil wanted to buy but Dad and I hung onto it. I ended up swapping a car for Dad’s share. I gave him a Mitsubishi Tredia Turbo for his half. He drove the car for about 15 kilometres before the turbo blew up. He was very sour about that and probably still is.”

Ravensdale was by Grey Gull out of Game Girl.  Fast Forward won once, at Gore in October 1994. Trained by Lenny Casey who shared in his ownership he was sold to Macau for $25,000.

“To be fair galloping was not my go. In general if you want to get to the top in galloping you have to go to the top sires which cost more. That’s why I got into trotting.”

Thus Schuck switched gaits.

His first Standardbred winner was pacer Barbed Wire; a Majestic Chance gelding out of Lively Air which ended up winning four races from Murray Brown’s stable. The horse’s first win was at a Southland OTB trial in December 1991 when driven by junior driver Richard Stevens.

Kevin’s interest in trotters started to develop.

“Because there’s less of them you’ve got a better chance of getting a winner. The game has changed now, they’re going that quick. Going back twenty years you just needed something that could just trot all the way and if it stayed down you’d generally get a cheque. That’s changed and they’ve got to have speed now. That’s the French and American influence coming through.”

The first trotter he raced was Dean’s Pride which was bred by John Lischner who initially trained the Game Pride gelding. His only win in twenty five starts was for Murray Brown at Forbury in January 1991 driven by Henry Skinner.

“I remember Wattie Muir walking past and saying to Russ and I ‘there we are boys you’ve had your win.’ Schuck said he and Coats didn’t understand what he meant. However he now says “I saw what he meant. It was his only win. It’s not that easy this game.”

Schuck also raced Sundon trotter Don Pauli which won two races for Brian Norman after stints with Kevin Townley and Alan Paisley. Don Pauli also raced in America trotting a mile in 1-55.2 and winning another eight races there. Schuck also raced Don Pauli’s full brother Son Of Elgin and half-brother Leonard.

Leonard, a Chiola Hanover gelding and the second foal of Elgin Princess, was initially trained by Townley but won his four races for Paisley who shared in the ownership with Schuck and JF Smith. He was exported to Australia and won another four races there.

Elgin Princess the winner of six races was out of Elgin Lady which won five. This family goes back to Desmond’s Pride mare Bettagain whose best two foals were Cee Ar (11 wins) and Tronso (10 wins). Tronso is the second dam of Elgin Princess.

Cee Ar, trained by Roderick DeFilippi, raced in the mid to late 1970s when there were a host of very good trotters including Easton Light, Waipounamu, Screws Loose, Bachelor Tom, Frontier, Edis Nova, Dupreez, Robyn Evander, Castleton’s Pride, Petite Evander and Nigel Craig.

Cee Ar’s best wins were in the 1974 Rowe Cup and the 1975 New Zealand Trotting FFA.

Schuck bred from Elgin Princess from 2004. The mare left Muscle Yankee colt Leave It Alone which won once from twelve starts, Lady Eileen (Armbro Invasion) which was unraced and Mr Mayfly (Earl) which won six races here and a further eight in Australia. He’s still racing in South Australia.

Mr Mayfly was Elgin Princess’s last foal but Kevin continues to breed from Lady Eileen.

Her first foal was the talented De Vito which has won five races and has had stints with Southern trainers Billy Heads and Nathan Williamson. He was then trained in the north by Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett but has since returned to Southland where Robert Wilson will train him.

“There’s always been something niggling at him. He’s a head tosser.”

Lady Eileen has since left foals by Continentalman, The Pres, Angus Hall, Dream Vacation and Bacardi Lindy. The Bacardi Lindy colt named Napoleon Bonaparte was bred by D.R.Beckingsale.

Schuck also ended up breeding from another branch of the family, Elgin Princess’s first foal Sylvia Star.

“Kevin (Townley) offered me a couple of mares to breed from and I ended up taking Sylvia Star. I wanted to go to Chiola Hanover and Kevin had a service to him which he wasn’t keen on using. I leased Sylvia Star off him for one season and bred Cochy Bondhu. I went back to Kevin a few years later and ended up buying Elgin Princess. I must have had too much money back then when I was young.”

Sylvia’s Star has left a host of winners including Constar (7), Mitchell (5), The Promise (6), Lenny B (4 New Zealand and 20 USA wins) War Spirit (2 New Zealand and 4 Australia including the Group One Breeders Crowns for three year old colts and geldings).

During the early years he also bought into trotting royalty with the purchase of Sundon’s Sister – a half-sister by Gee Whiz II to Sundon.

“When we got her home we found out she had a condition called Bog Spavin (soft swelling on the medial surface of the hock joint). Dick Prendergast trained her. She ended up winning one race but she cost a shit load of money. I thought I’d put her in foal to Call Me Now. Kevin Townley leased that foal off me but it died in a thunderstorm, snapping its neck.”

Schuck shared in the ownership of Sundon’s Sister with Russell Coats and two other jewellers Bas O’Connell and Ian Shackley. Her win was at Invercargill in October 1996.

She was exported to Australia in August 1999 but never raced over there.

She did leave Likeaplayboy (Dream Vacation) which won 24 of its 104 starts and banked $96,669.00 for his owners.

Two of Sundon’s Sisters’ daughters have bred on. Springhasprung has left a couple of handy types in Miss Cully (Great Success) which has won four races and Aussie Beach Blonde (Bacardi Lindy) which has won six.

Another daughter Sister Ra has left I’m Princess Sophie which has won 14 races and ran second in the 2017 Group Two South Australian Trotters Cup at Globe Derby.

So in total Schuck is breeding from four: Lady Eileen, Streaming Sunbeam, Overcast and Cochy Bondhu.

Cochy Bondhu (Chiola Hanover – Sylvia Star) won four races and has left Overcast (9 wins), Coppertone Lad (1 win) and Over The Love (3 wins from just 8 starts).

Schuck says Over The Love, which is by Love You, has shown plenty of potential for Canterbury trainer Ken Barron.

“Another one which I can’t take the credit for is Over The Love. Frank Marrion and I did a one for one swap. I bred Coppertone Lad and he bred Over The Love. Frank didn’t do the paperwork and left Cochy Bondhu in my name so I’m getting all the credit for it (Over The Love) which I shouldn’t be.”

As an owner his most successful trotter to date has been Overcast, a Sundon mare which finished racing this season winning nine races for him and trainer Alan Paisley. She was served by Majestic Son but didn’t hold so she’ll be served by Love You this season.

Overcast after one of her win at Ascot Park – Kevin Schuck is second from the right

Other foals out of Cochy Bondhu are a colt by Dream Vacation called Cochy Malc which Ken Barron bought as a weanling and a Father Patrick colt named Father On Down.

He’s also breeding from Streaming Sunbeam which he brought in 2011.

“After I sold Sundon’s Sister I got a bit more money and thought bugger this I want to get back into that breed. I bought Streaming Sunbeam which was by Armbro Invasion out of A Touch Of Sun. Streaming Sunbeam was a very average horse but had very strong genetics.”

She was trained over a 20 start career by Alan Paisley and Billy Heads and her best two runs were for Paisley – a second and a third.

Bred by Dennis Bennett and Linda Joyce, A Touch Of Sun won five races and is out of elite broodmare Sungait Song the dam of champion trotter and sire Sundon (27 wins), Arnsong (9 wins), Roydon Arnie (9 wins), Sungait Reb (15 wins) and Sunning (8 wins).

Streaming Sunbeam’s foals to date are; Spotlight The Valley (Skyvalley), Danangus Fella (Angus Hall colt) and Steaming Live (Muscle Mass filly).  She’s due to foal to Sundon.

Spotlight The Valley after winning at Winton

Of the four broodmares he’s breeding from he’s most excited about progeny out of Overcast.

“Because there’s a chance we could breed something pretty smart. There wouldn’t be too many mares that have Sundon, Gee Whiz II and Chiola Hanover in their pedigree. Without a standout there’s some still nice racehorses in there and I think the first five or six generations are all race winners.”

With a host of stallions to choose from Schuck says it’s becoming more difficult to match his mares.

“Every year I have everything worked out on paper, then I listen to people and read books and then my breeding theory just goes out the back door. We are spoilt here for what we can get now. There are just so many new stallions coming through and you’ve got to weigh up the cost. You also have the same problem as all breeders have – are these stallions going to be in vogue in two years’ time? Even if you’re not breeding for the sale you still want to try and breed a commercial race horse that if it shows potential you can sell and even as a weanling there’ll be interest from trainers to buy it.”

Schuck has decided to send all his mares to Love You this coming season – at this stage.

“The best value for money, in my mind is Love You. If you look at the rest of the world there’s no doubt that Muscle Hill is up on a pedestal at the moment. If I had the money though Muscle Hill would perhaps be worth a punt.”

Some consideration was given to what he reckons are two underrated stallions in Majestic Son and Bacardi Lindy.

“The thing with my breed is that most of the progeny get better with time. With Love You you can’t beat the statistics. For eight grand you’re getting what was the best in the world. I know it’s not there now but he’s still right up there.”

Although Kevin has been to the national sales as a buyer he’d love to return as a seller but is just biding his time, aware that it’s an exact science.

“If we can get a Love You out of Overcast we’d consider it. They’ve got to be 100 percent correct or you’re wasting your time. Until we get something that’s 100 percent we’ll just have to keep chipping away.”

As a breeder he says the Rowe Cup is the race he’d most like to win but it’s just as big a thrill seeing a horse win a maiden race.

“When I was getting started the Rowe Cup at the time was the prestige race to win as a trotter but there’s so many others now.”

Schuck is one of the few in the south breeding just straight trotters. He’s become a student of pedigree but remains very much hands off when it comes to horses.

“I’d rather walk a cow around. Mike Brown (who was a well know Southland vet) once said ‘if you’re not confident with a horse don’t go near them because you’ll get hurt.’ No one has ever taught me and at 55 I have no desire to start learning now either. Better to stick to my jewellery.”