Black Watch – The Southern Story

Black Watch – The Southern Story

Bruce Stewart

Never having delved deeply into it’s pedigree lines, I’ve always thought the famed Black Watch breeding line was created in the North Island by the Yardley family.

Yorokobi one of the latest stars from the famed Black Watch family – Photo Bruce Stewart


But looking into the history, I’ve discovered the family actually had it’s inception at the beginning of the  1900s, and that it was nurtured by the Duffy family before the Yardleys began their remarkable run with what breeders refer to today as ‘The Black Watch Family.’

This story is about an Irish family that started the legacy, and of two decedents – father Paul and son Brendan Duffy who have recently bought back into the breed and are enjoying it’s success.

“Although the breed has been in the family for a long time we can’t say that our involvement has been totally uninterrupted,” said Paul.

The story begins with James Duffy, Paul’s Great Great Uncle, who immigrated from Co Mayo in Ireland to New Zealand in the late 1800s.

“He spied this mare pulling a dray from Wallacetown to Invercargill. Her name was Regina. He had a gift for spotting animals and breeding so he latched on to her and bred a mare called Regina Belle.”

From there the legacy grew.

Regina Belle left the talented Logan Chief which won the 1923 New Zealand Free for All in the hands of Jack Kennerley. The stake was 750 sovereigns.

“He broke an Australasian record so that was the start of the family.”

Regina Belle left a daughter Regina de Oro. She left Native Chief, which won the 1925 New Zealand Derby.

Regina Belle

Native Chief was a brilliant racehorse and one day he was timed to run a half mile at Addington in 58 seconds. But he had a habit of bolting for his owner in training as a youngster, and he was hard to control in races.

In 1928 he clashed in a flying mile with Great Bingen at the Metropolitan Summer meeting. After five false starts Native Chief led throughout and won by three lengths in 2-04 and 1/5.

Native Chief also won the NZ FFA four years after Logan Chief, driven by Freeman Holmes.

Native Chief

Regina de Oro’s second foal Regina Logan didn’t race, but left a string of winners. Her nine foals collectively won forty three races. Her best performers were Southern Chief (11 wins), Walter Moore (7 wins), Southern Smile (6 wins), Voloma and Southland (5 wins each).

So from Regina came a host of winners over the years and Dillion Hall mare Brown Owl was one of note.

She only left two foals; a colt called Night Owl which won four races in the 1950s and Black Globe mare Rosehaven which won three.

Rosehaven when crossed with Scottish Command, left Black Watch, the winner of fourteen races. Her foals included Tay Bridge, winner of nine, Remarkable which won eleven and her 1987 foal by Mark Lobell, Aberfeldy, who created her own legacy with winners Reba Lord (17) and Megaera (8).

During those early years, after word got back to the homeland, more Duffys immigrated to New Zealand, including Martin, a nephew of James who arrived in 1911.

“He was much more proactive in breeding and racing than Dad was” stated Paul. “I remember Dad telling the story about when Martin got off the train in Winton (he’d landed at Bluff) and his uncle James was there to pick him up with horse and cart. The horse had a new kind of gait which was called pacing, and Martin had never seen or heard of it before.”

James died in the early 1920s and left his two nephews a mare each. James (junior) and Martin Duffy carried on breeding, while at the same time working hard to pay for their interests.

“They dug power pole holes all around Southland and West Otago back in the day.”

Martin actually bred Fledgeling. As she showed no talent as a racehorse she was sold to John Morton of Seaward Downs in 1961 as a replacement farm pony.

Fledgeling was served by Adam Hunter’s stallion Viking Water and when Hunter saw the resulting yearling he leased the youngster off Morton with a right of purchase.

“Fledgling was sold to JT Morton for ten pounds and they bred Trusty Scot out of her.”

1978 New Zealand Cup winner Trusty Scot

Paul Duffy as a boy has fond memories of some of the early horses raced by the family.

“When I was ten I remember Spring Edition (Regina was her fourth dam). They mated her (Spring Edition) to Flying Song and the foal was Southern Song. Dad and his brother Luke raced her in partnership. She was sold to a Mrs Deans (of Cardigan Bay fame) in Auckland. He was later sold to America and went on to win $100,000 back then.”

The brothers also raced Southern Songs older brother Spring Garrison which won eight races. He was trained by Harry Cox before stints with Wes Butt and Colin McDonald.

Over the years the Duffys became well known dairy farmers at Seaward Downs in Southland. Paul’s father Jack started farming there after the Second World War.

“He bought the family farm in 1946 which was 100 acres. Over the years we bought other land around it. Now I live at Edendale and Brendan is on the home farm.”

As a young man Paul’s property was next to his father’s and he often helped his Dad who was always keen to pass on his knowledge of horse pedigrees.

“I’m kicking myself. I was busy dairy farming and we had a Scottish Command mare at home. She never held any foals until we started giving her hormone injections. She had to have one every month so every month I’d go over and he’d tell me the lineage of these horses. It was like that Roots programme on TV and I was too stupid to remember it all. He wrote them all down for me but I can’t bloody find it. Dad knew them horse by horse.”

Over the years there’s been plenty of stories were shared about James Duffy.

“A shearer was telling Dad one day about the old James Duffy. There was a hare running across the paddock and James said he’d breed a dog that would catch that hare. He did. He had a great gift around breeding.”

In those days race horses had to be taken north by train.

“He took a horse from Winton to Auckland on the train. It won and when the horse got back to Winton he (James) was joed out on the floor with a whole lot of whiskey bottles rolling around. He became quite social in his later years.”

In those days there was plenty of skull duggery too.

“There was a mare with a foal at foot that went away to Canterbury to be bred from. They got the word that the foal had died so James Duffy got straight on the train and went up. They could never show him the body. Anyway there was a horse racing later on (that won four races) that they were quite convinced was the foal.”

In amongst all the breeding and racing, the cows still had to be milked.

“The family went away to the races one day and Luke who was twelve was left to milk the cows. Luke and a friend from across the road got into Grandad’s pipe tobacco. They were as sick as parrots, and they went to bed. The family got home and the cows weren’t milked. The only thing that saved Luke’s life was that the horse had won.”

In his later years Jack Duffy decided time was marching on and he made the decision to hand over the reins to his son Paul.

“He was running sheep then and I was milking cows. One day when we were making hay he said to me that he didn’t think he’d breed from the mare (Southern Miro) again because he didn’t think he’d be around to see the foals. He was in his eighties. I thought about it for a few days and said to him about going into partnership. He was over straight away with all these catalogues with stallion pedigrees, with a great heap of enthusiasm. We sent the mare to Armbro Raven who didn’t exactly have a long list of winners and we bred this horse called Armbro Rex. He looked like he was completely useless so we leased him out and lo and behold be started winning races.”

Armbro Rex won two races for Edendale trainer Alex Milne.

“When Dad had finished with the mare I sent her (Southern Miro) up to Nyhans’ to be bred to Stortford Lodge for a two hundred dollar service fee, and bred Regal Lodge. He won his first two starts but he went crazy and they couldn’t really control him. He was sold and ended up smashing his shoulder in a paddock accident but he had tremendous speed.”

So Regal Lodge was the end of the early association with the Regina breed but it was not the end of breeding Standardbreds for Paul and Brendan.

Paul used to milk cows for Seaward Downs trainer Ronnie Macdonald who trained more than sixty  winners including New Zealand Oaks winner Chipaluck which Macdonald bred.

“He gave us a mare Chipalong (Apollo’s Way – Chipaluck). Brendan and I then started to breed from that family.”

Chipalong’s first foal for the partnership was Washington VC mare Biddy Mulligan which qualified, but was unraced.

Her second foal, also by Washington VC, was Rushmore which won two of it’s three starts for Branxholme trainer Kirk Larsen before being exported to Australia in March 2008 where he won another two races. Chipalong also left Levi Lowe (2) and Lucy Lowe (1).

They also began to breed from Biddy Mulligan and she’s left three winners; Arthur Lowe, Melina Lowe and Eli Lowe.

Arthur Lowe – Photo Bruce Stewart

Melina Lowe won seven and holds a New Zealand record for mares of 2-53.6 over 2400 metres mobile which she won at Winton in September 2018.

Arthur Lowe won four of his forty eight starts in New Zealand before he too was shipped off to Australia where he’s won another fifteen.

“I was always keen to get back to the old Duffy breed,” Paul said.

In 2010 the Duffys decided they would buy back into the Regina family and they purchased Rockin Cullen from the Ian Dobson dispersal sale. She won her first race for Kirk Larsen at the Invercargill meeting in December 2012 and finished her career having won three races including the final of the
Forbury Park Sprint Series (1200 metres). As a broodmare her first filly by Bettor’s Delight died, but her second foal, a colt by the same sire named Yorokobi looks very talented.

From eight starts to date Yorokobi has won twice and has been placed twice. And like all good horses he’s attracted buyer attention.

“The last one was tempting. We figured you could take that money and use it up racing other horses that aren’t as good. We’ve waited a long time for a good horse, we’re not starving so we think we’ll just play this one a little bit longer.”

Yorokobi winning at the Riverton meeting – Photo Bruce Stewart

Yorokobi with Brendan and Paul Duffy and family – Photo Bruce Stewart

Yorokobi was named by Brendan.

“Our oldest son’s wife is Japanese and Yorokobi means ‘delight’ in Japanese.”

The family farm at Seaward Downs is now 450 hectares (1,100 acres) and Brendan milks 850 cows. The Duffys also have a 174 hectare run off at Otara.

“Alison (Paul’s wife) and I milked 200 for a long time so when you’re doing that and you have a lot of kids, horse racing doesn’t feature high on your list of priorities. It all came in good time.”

The Duffys are also breeding from Melina Lowe and Bettina Lowe (Bettor’s Delight – Lucy Lowe).

They also have shares in Glenferrie Classic a Bettor’s Delight a daughter of New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner. Glenferrie Classic won four races for Burnham trainer Mark Jones. As a broodmare she has left a Rock N Roll Heaven filly which is two, and an Art Major yearling colt.

Glenferrie Classic after her win at Cromwell

At this point Paul and Brendan haven’t put yearlings through the national sales but that could change, as they realise they can’t keep and race all the progeny from their broodmare band.

“It’s something we’re looking to do now. We were too late to enter Yorokobi’s brother by Art Major.”

Their broodmares are looked after at Macca Lodge in Northern Southland but some of the young stock is brought home to the farm.

“We’ve built a few boxes at home and Brendan does a pretty good job in looking after them. It’s also a calf shed which was the reason it was built.”

Paul and Alison have six children – four girls and two boys. Alison is a Canterbury lass and her uncle Lex Stewart raced horses.

“When he was down one day he said ‘if you don’t like someone, give them a broodmare. If you really hate them give them two.”

Alison’s Uncle Harry O’Boyle also raced the odd horse and had a share in Bellam trotter Manlam which won five races.

It was quite a hiatus, but the Duffy name is back in the pages of the ‘Regina’ breed. They’re pretty happy to be there, especially with a horse (Yorokobi) that looks decidedly talented.

Editors Note: Entered in the upcoming National Yearling Sales in Auckland and Christchurch, there are twenty nine yearlings whose pedigree goes back to the Regina (45) family. Twelve are in the Auckland sale and seventeen are in the Christchurch sale, proof that the breed is alive and well in both Islands.