Ryder Having A Ball
Invercargill plumber Trevor Ryder is having a ball, especially at present, racing his quality gelding Swamp Major with some good mates as well as breeding from a select group of well-bred mares.
His interest in harness racing began in the 1990s when Diamond Field was racing out of the Alan Beck Winton stables.
“A friend of mine, Geoff Mollett was in the syndicate that raced him. He worked at Mico Wakefield and my company dealt with them. I started going to the races. From there Geoff and I with some other friends raced a filly called Black Rain,” said Ryder.
Black Rain was well bred, being by Vance Hanover out of Cassel’s Dream. Cassel’s Dream’s second dam, Vandette was by Great Evander which left handy horses in Van Forbes (6 wins), Van Garrison (6), Cassel (8) and Heidette (9).
“She (Black Rain) didn’t fulfil her promise. Went out raging favourite in both of her starts and was quickly named blocked drain.”
The lack of success didn’t put the group off and they commissioned Beck to go to the yearling sales where he purchased Franco Cuisine which was by Andrel out of the Overtrick mare Chateaubriand.
“He had a lot of potential but was involved in a smash at Invercargill where Beckie was catapulted up in the air. He never came back quite the same after that.”
Franco Cuisine ultimately won three races from thirty six starts.
Ryder said at that point he really got the racing bug and was keen to go up another notch. Star Of The Ball was identified as a yearling that Ryder and trainer Gareth Dixon were keen on buying at the Auckland sale.
“I wanted to get up into that premier racing – two and three year olds racing. I thought I’d have a crack myself at buying at the sales. I got a lot of help from Peter Lagan and Sandy Yardley. Peter gave me a list of five or six yearlings and at that particular time I met up with Gareth (Gareth Dixon). We weren’t sure whether we would get her as we thought she might be above my limit.”
Gareth Dixon was a Southland boy. His father Ken ‘Fast Track’ Dixon was also a plumber.
Star Of The Ball by Presidential Ball out of the OK Bye mare Star Fleet was duly purchased. Ryder particularly liked the fact that Black Watch was on the pedigree page.
After racing three times at two, Star Of The Ball won her first race at her second start as a three year old at the Franklin meeting at Alexandra Park.
“At that point I can remember Gareth saying that she could be one of the top three year old fillies in the country that year. Unfortunately along came Molly Darling, Foreal and Mainland Banner,” he said laughing.
Star Of The Ball won four of her eighteen starts as a three year old including a heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series at Ashburton running the 1609 metres in 1-56.1.
“We also qualified for the Breeders Crown and that’s a trip I’ll never forget. We met John Caldow, Gavin Lang and Chris Alford (Aussie harness legends). We had a night out with a meal and few drinks and a few more drinks. She ran third in her heat and was a very unlucky sixth in the final.”
Star Of The Ball ended her racing career having won eight races and was sent to Christian Cullen. The resulting foal was named Mervynstar after Ryder’s father who had passed away that same year. He was prepared for the sale by Top Notch Lodge and offered at the 2007 yearling sale in Auckland.
“There was a bit of a rumour around that we might be surprised by the opening bid. It opened up at $150,000 and I just about fell off my perch. He ended up at $220,000 which was a pretty special start to the breeding game for us. It was the top lot of the sale.”
The horse was bought by Clive and Rona McKay and raced out of Michael House’s stable. He was renamed Two Twenty.
“He had potential but had breathing issues and he had a couple of operations.”
Two Twenty won once in sixteen starts.
The mare’s second foal by Bettor’s Delight was named Merv. He recorded four wins here before heading to Australia.
“Because of the handicap system there was nothing really left for him in Auckland after that. He was racing against C6 and C7 horses and it got too hard. I raced him with good mates Alan and Joy Lindsay and Scott and Sue McCrea.”
He was trained for the partnership (Tad Syndicate) in Australia by David Thorn and only started six times, but won four races.
Ryder says members of the syndicate were lucky enough to be in Australia when he was in career best form.
“The races just happened to be on the same night as the All Blacks were playing Australia. He won at Menangle in 1-53 flat which was quite good five or six years ago and the All Blacks beat Australia. That was a good trip.”
Star Of The Ball’s third foal was Macha (Mach Three). He was sold to clients of Ken Barron’s stable for $40,000 and qualified as a three year old when running second behind Arden Rooney at Rangiora. He was then on-sold to Australia and won eight races fairly quickly including a heat of the Victoria Derby beating Bit Of A Legend and Ohoka Punter. Ohoka Punter went on to win the final. Macha also ran second to Alta Christiano in the 2013 West Australian Derby.
Hokuri Railrida (Mach Three) was the next foal. He won two races and is also now in Australia.
“He started with Gareth and the Hokuri Syndicate who are a group of mates who go white baiting with me on the West Coast raced him. We bought him south to Murray Brown’s and on the way down he got travel sickness. Not many horses survive that but we got him racing but he didn’t show the promise he had in Auckland.”
McArdle Star (McArdle) was the next colt out of Star Of The Ball. He was bought for $30,000 by Steve Thompson of Dunedin. He won his first three starts and ran fifth in Have Faith In Me’s 2015 New Zealand Derby. He won five races here before heading to Victoria where he’s won another two.
The next foal was Swamp Major (Art Major).He’s raced by Trevor and his wife Linda, Alan Lindsay, Scott and Sue McCrea, Cleland Murdoch and John Duff.
“Potentially he’s the best horse I’ve owned. He’s hopefully going to be back in work in May and back racing in early spring. He had an accident on the training track leading into Cup week and broke his pedal bone. In the Vero Stakes he was the only one making ground on Lazarus and Classie Brigade. Ken always said he’d like to be sitting in the back of those two horses over a short distance and see what happened.”
Last season as a three year old Swamp Major won three races and was placed six times in only ten starts.
“You can’t keep them all but I like to keep say, every second one and have some fun with my mates.”
The mare’s last foal of racing age is Rocknroll Star. He was bought by Michael House for $27,500 at the sales last year and sold recently in House’s two year old running sale for $75,000. He was bought by Emilio Rosati and has had a name change. He’s now called Times Stride.
Star Of The Ball now resides at Kevin and Bonnie Williams Tall Tree Lodge, is in foal to Art Major and is likely to return to Bettor’s Delight.
“She’s had eight colts in a row and I’m just praying for a filly.”
Ryder is also breeding from Grinfromeartoear mare Selucam. She’s out of Tuapeka Pocket. She’s qualified but is unraced.
“The feedback on her was always positive but she had fetlock problems. Normally I prefer to breed from mares that have had three wins or more but I decided to keep her based on the feedback I was getting from the stable.”
She’s in foal to Auckland Reactor and lives locally at Macca Lodge.
Another mare on the Ryder Bloodstock books is Christian Cullen mare Perfect Sensation. She won three races for Ryder when racing from the Dixon stable in Auckland. Her third dam is champion mare Hilarious Guest.
“I decided I wanted a Cullen filly. She too had quite a lot of potential but she had some back and leg issues. Her first foal died and we had issues with the mare as a result of that.”
Since then she’s produced a Better’s Delight colt called Bettor Sensation which was bought by Colin De Filippi and is owned by Trevor Casey.
Trevor and Linda Ryder also owned a share in Falcon Seelster mare Falcon Flybye. She’s a sister to a host of winners including Flying Pocketlands, Mighty Flying Major and Mighty Flying Mac.
Although they’ve opted out of the mare their names are still on four of her foals, all of whom have been winners. The best is Alotbettor (10) and Fleeting Grin (6).
He also still has a share in Cher’s Magic as a part of The Watch Your Step Syndicate.
Star Of The Ball’s latest yearling Ball Of Art – a full brother to Swamp Major, sold to Barry Purdon for $50,000.
“Depending on our own sale we’ll be looking at getting a Bettor’s Delight filly. I’d also like to get an Art Major filly on board at some stage as well. I’m always looking at the top end. I think the odds are not in your favour if you’re at the other end of the scale.”
Ryder says he likes to look after his mares and not over race them because long term he believes they will produce better foals.
“Gareth did a great job in looking after Star. She only had thirty odd starts and that’s where I like it to be with breeding in mind. I don’t like the mare to be burnt out.
He says he enjoys his involvement in harness racing as an owner, breeder and sponsor.
“I’ve had a ball since I jumped onboard in 1990. I’ve raced a couple of nice mares in Highview Jude (9 wins) and Star of The Ball and now we’ve got Swamp (Swamp Major) and that’s in the space of just twenty five years. I probably enjoy it more (ownership) if it’s in a syndicate.”
So like many southern breeders Ryder is seeing an opportunity to buy into some of the best New Zealand families, gathering around him a small group of well-bred mares. It keeps his passion alive, and combined with racing some of his horses with his mates, it’s the perfect scenario.