The Rak’s Of Rakauhauka
In Southland, Woodlands thoroughbred breeders the Dennis Brothers use the prefix “The” when naming their horses and just down the road at Rakauhauka, Standardbred breeder Brendan Fahy has made famous the prefix “Rak” when naming his horses.
Horses like Raksdeal, Rakarebel, Rakarazor and Rakarolla have been to the fore recently but there’s been a few Raks over the last 30 years starting with Rakauhauka in 1985.
The prefix Rak has been tagged with his children’s nick names, precious stones, parts of their stallion’s names and cars. Sometimes it takes a bit of working out.
Brendan Fahy has been involved in harness racing for a long time as an owner, breeder and administrator.
His father was part of the Cead Mile Syndicate which raced the Canny Scott mare Royal Twinkle which won five races for trainer Brian Gliddon. She ran fourth behind Ar Miss (dam of Armalight) in the 1972 New Zealand Oaks.
“I use to go to the races as a kid with Dad. My uncle Bill Murphy lived opposite Andrew Sellars and later on I use to go to the races with Andrew with horses like Sassenach and Stampede and Zabadak. I actually named Zabadak,” said Fahy.
His background is farming – although it’s not as fulltime as it used to be. He’s reduced the size of his property from 450 acres to 250 acres, selling some off to his children and running a few mainly beef cattle and his horses. He also lease’s land to local growers who grow tulips and root vegetable like carrots and turnips.
“My accountant said it was a good thing to be doing.”
Although he was interested in racing in the early days he soon became interested in breeding so he in 1979 he headed north to the Christchurch sales.
“I went up and bought Sentimental Belle. It had to be by Lumber Dream out of a U Scott mare. There we’re four horses in the New Zealand Cup the previous year on that cross. She was only a wee dot. I thought I’d get her for a song but as it turned out she was the second highest filly of the day.”
Once paid for, local transporter and former jockey Ronnie Weaver, bought the filly to her new home in Southland.
“Ronnie carted her home. Dad was at home and didn’t know that I was having a decent old splurge at the sales. Ronnie got her out of the float and said to Dad – it doesn’t look much for ten grand does it!! Dad nearly fell over backwards.”
Sentimental Belle was trained by Hamish Hunter and started eleven times for a handful of placing.
“She never won a race because she had a bad training accident.”
She was soon at the court of popular stallion Smooth Fella and her first foal was name Rakauhauka.
“We got $20,000 for him at the sales and he was sold to the Treuer brothers. I think that was one of the highest prices yearlings to come out of Southland at the time. The Aussie couldn’t pronounce Rakauhauka so they changed it to Sentimental Fella.”
He won 28 races in Australia.
Two years later Fahy bred what he potentially thinks was the best horses he’d ever bred. She was by Admiral Halsey and named Rakamo.
“She was only a wee wee thing. Clark was at Winton at the time and I gave him a half share to train her. We went to the workouts one day and she reared up at the start and fell over. He gave her a few days off and she came back and qualified really well.”
She had her first start at Wyndham in March 1990 beating Diane Score by two lengths running a mile in 2-02.6.
“Then Vinny Knight came over especially to drive her at the Winton trials and as a two year old filly she won the free for all. He bought her for $50,000 for Pacers Australia. She went to Melbourne. At her first start (at Moonee Valley) she raced the best fillies. I think they had a hell of a punt on her. She led and at the quarter she was only a length ahead but at the finish she was 25 metres in front. She raced the colts and beat them. She had the most potential of all the horses I’ve bred.”
Rakamo broke down as a young horse and ended up with Peter Walsh in Sydney.
“I met him at the sales one day – he said she wasn’t very big mate but she was the best. She won a few races for him in Sydney.”
She has also been successful as a broodmare leaving Hy Royale (Lotsa Clout) the winner of 20 races, $263,564 and the 2009 Group Two Governors Cup at Gloucester Park, Confinement (Safely Kept) 14 wins and Sokyamo (Soky’s Atom) 11 wins.
“Funny enough Clark (Barron) got an email from a fella in Aussie the other day wanting to know if there were any of her bred still around.”
Early on Fahy also had some success with Sentimental Belle’s full sister Sentimental Reason whom he bought later.
“Stewart Somerville a long-time friend raced a horse called Armbro Wings. He was going to a presentation in Canterbury and couldn’t get anyone to go with him so I went up with him. That night we meet these people who were selling a full sister to Sentimental Belle. There and then we bought Sentimental Reason. After we got her they rang and said they were meaning to tell us that she was an RH mare. The first foal from her that Stuey and I bred was Bulluraz which was Clark Barron’s first winner as an owner.”
Bulluraz was trained by Ron Barron and owned by brothers Tony and Clark Barron.
Brendan later bred Blotch (Admiral Halsey) from Sentimental Reason.
“She has a great white patch on her stomach. She was a trotter and Stuey wasn’t keen to carry on so I bought him out. I tried to get her in foal up north but I couldn’t so I bought her home. Andrew Sellars use to buy oats off me so I swapped a service fee to Stampede for a couple of tons of oats. So that’s how we got Stands To Reason.”
Another one of her daughters Blip (Oblivion II) qualified here before being exported to Australia. She won three races and left a couple of handy horses in Frame Game (Impressionist) which won 23 races including the listed 2005 Warangal Pacing Cup. Blip also left Deliverthegoods (Sealed N Delivered) 16 wins.
Over the years Fahy has prided himself of keeping up to date with the latest breeding trends and has spent hours looking through stud books and on the internet doing his background research.
“I still keep an eye on the radar (America). I knew every Lumber Dream in the stud book off by heart at one stage. Artsplace seem to be doing a similar job in America to what Lumber Dream was doing back then so when I could get the semen to him I took it and that’s how I bought Raksplace.”
Later when Western Ideal became available he jumped at the opportunity to cross him with Raksplace.
The resulting foal was Raksdeal who was a star racehorse but is now one of Fahy’s broodmare along with Raksplace (Artsplace – Rakamobile), Rakarach) (Son of Afella – Sentimental Belle), Rakabaa (Western Terror – Rakarach), Rakarata (Art Major – Rakarach), Penny Gem (Artsplace – L’armour) and Rakaudi (Holmes Hanover – Rakamobile).
Like all breeders he’s experienced in recent times the unpredictability of the breeding cycle.
“I’ve got seven yearlings. All seven mares got in foal that year which is unusual. The next year I sent six mare away and got one in foal (Sombeachsomewhere filly out of Penny Gem) and then this year I sent all six to stud and the whole lot got in foal again.”
As a breeder he also likes to support those that support the industry in the south.
“My son Nigel works for Alabar so if they’ve got nice stallions or a new one I like I go to them. They’re good sponsors down here too. I’ve also supported Cullen Breeding. They sponsor the awards.”
But he’s always on the lookout for the next best thing in the stallion ranks and two fresh faced ‘boys’ he’s interested in are Shadyshark Hanover and Always A Virgin.
Shadyshark Hanover (Cam’s Card Shark) served 15 mares in New Zealand and in America he’d left 88 foals for 51 starters and 31 winners. He’s currently third in the first season sires.
Always A Virgin (Western Ideal) sired Always B Miki who won the 2015 Breeders Crown Older Horse Pace Champion and Color’s A Virgin the 2015 Breeders Crown Old Mare Pace Champion.
Fahy has a filly by Always A Virgin out of Coughin.
“If you start sending them all to Mach Three, Art Major or Bettor’s Delight you can’t keep going (as a breeder). If they don’t work out (with a new stallion) it’s not costing you an arm or a leg. I sent Penny Gem to American Ideal, Western Ideal, Rocknroll Hanover and Somebeachsomewhere. So I think she’s had a good chance and rather than wait and not get her in foal I thought I’d send here to Shadyshark Hanover.”
Like most New Zealand breeders he has his opinion on why the industry in going through a tough time at the moment.
“We’ve heard for the last thirty years that we have to breed because there’s going to be a shortage of horses. I think there’s a shortage of racehorses. It’s getting so expensive to race horses. I’m not blaming the trainer because you don’t see many trainers driving around in Mercedes do you. Everything has gone up except the stakes. I was looking at the stakes when Rakarach in 1990 and she was racing for six and a half thousand then, that’s twenty five years ago. The costs have probably gone up three fold.”
He also says the export market isn’t the same as it has been in the past especially for the horses at the lower end of the price range.
“Two or three year ago you could qualify a horse and there’d be three or four guys trying to buy it. You could flick that horse off for $12,000 – $15,000 because you may think you have a half-brother at home that’s better. That keeps you going. But now you go to the races and run third in a maiden race and you’re lucky to get anyone to buy it at all. If you’re breeding horses all the time you need to be able to move them on. You get so many horses you’d need to own a station to run them.”
Fahy says you don’t have to breed horses if you don’t want to.
“There’s some real genuine people especially in Southland.”
On the racing front Fahy has always encouraged his trainers to travel and one of his first ventures outside of the province was with Stands To Reason. He won the 1990 Sires Stakes Final at the Franklin meeting at Alexandra Park.
“I think the biggest problem with Southlanders is that they underrate themselves both trainers and drivers. I remember Allan Devery when he was training he wasn’t frightened to have a crack. It also puts the value of your horse up. Sometime you’re judged by the company you run in. Alex Milne said years ago that if you’re not in you can’t win.”
And to prove the point Fahy remembers racing Only The One (Holmes Hanover – Rakamobile) in a heat of the Sires Stakes at Forbury Park against hot favourite Roman Gladiator.
“Someone said you never know. He (Roman Gladiator) could get a flat tyre. It would be the only chance we had. But anyway as it turned out he got two flat tyres and the tyres came right off and wrapped around the rim. We did beat him but not by much.”
Only The One finished sixth and Roman Gladiator was a nose back in seventh.
He’s also took Rakarach north after she won the New Zealand Sires Stakes Prelude at Rangiora. She trekked to Auckland running fifth in the Group Two Ladyship Stakes behind Pocket Queen before running ninth behind Tupelo Rose in the 1999 New Zealand Sires Stakes Championship. The winning time for the 1700 metres was 2-01.7. That time remained a New Zealand record until it was broken by Ideal Belle in 2013 – 14 years later. Incidentally that new record time was set up be a game the Fahy owned Raksdeal.
He also encouraged Ryal Bush trainer Peter Hunter to take Rakarebel to Addington and Auckland.
“He was racing against horses like Beaudiene Bad Babe and Raglan down here so we took him to Auckland. He raced really well up there and I’m sure it puts the value of your horse up when you race against better horses.”
After racing at Addington in April 2011 a training deal was struck between Fahy and Western Australian trainer Gary Hall Senior to race Rakarebel in Australia.
“After he’d won his first two starts over there he rang me wanting to buy him so I sold him.”
Rakarebel won his first eight starts at Gloucester Park and has now banked $336,363.
On the training front, Fahy shares his horses between Southland trainers Peter Hunter and Clark Barron.
“Peter handles all the horses as foals and does a hell of a good job. I use to give him the pick of them and Clark would get the others. Anyway, Pete said that he was such a poor picker that he didn’t care which ones he gets now.”
Fahy provided both Barron and Hunter with their first training wins. Barron trained Best Dressed to win for Brendan and wife Barbara at Ascot Park in September 1989 and Hunter trained Only The One – his first winner at Tuapeka in November 2013.
To date Barron has trained the winners of 30 winners for Fahy while Hunter has trained 16.
The best Rak horses for Clark Barron so far are Raksdeal (5 wins) and Rakalees (4 wins) while for Peter Hunter it’s been Rakarebel (6 wins) and Rakabolt (3 wins).
Alex Milne also trained for Fahy in the early days. Winners including Stands To Reason, Rakarach, Rakeitin, The Porsche, Rakillac, and Sensuous.
So over the years Fahy has built up a strong band of broodmares all originating from Sentimental Belle with the exception of Penny Gem.
So there’s plenty more Raks on the way.
Incidentally I haven’t been the only visitor to Sentimental Lodge Rakauhouka in the last fortnight.
The crew, cast and cars of Pork Pie had been on site filming in Brendan’s sheep yards so here’s what I’m thinking.
Rakaudi already has foal names after cars (Rakarover and Rakabeamer) so will Rakaup or Rakamini be the name of her next foal?
There certainly won’t be a Rakabruce anytime soon.