Horses and Hounds – Neil Timms has Both.
Southland breeder Neil Timms wasn’t born into harness racing but he was born to be involved.
He went to Primary School in Christchurch, and attended Waitaki Boys in his last year at high school. It was very early, when still at Primary School that he first developed an interest in Standardbreds.
“My Uncle used to farm at Irwell and his neighbour was Gerald Johnson who got horses off Noel Simpson. He had Luck’s Way (Lucky Hanover – Dilly Dally – winner of five races including the 1961 Greymouth Cup) which was one of the first horses ever to be sold to Wales. And he had Thunderina which was a good race mare,” said Timms.
Thunderina left Out To Win gelding Candillo which won seven races in New Zealand before being exported to America.
“I also got to know Cecil and Phil Heywood at Springston. They had an Ayrshire stud and used to train a few. They won the Methven Three Year Old Stakes with Chatterton. We used to go to Addington a bit when night trotting was taking off.”
Chatterton won the 1973 TS Harrison Three Year Old Stakes at Methven beating Eclipse, Mighty Gay and Kotare Legend.
It wasn’t long before Timms started to breed his own horses. In fact he’s credited along with John Burrows, for breeding Landora; the dam of quality mare Landora’s Pride, the winner of 34 races including a Rowe Cup and Dominion Handicap.
Burrows and Timms became friends when they both worked in the Oxford area. Burrows was a hobby trainer prior to becoming the private trainer for Ian Langford who owned Even Speed. Neil tells the story of how he and Burrows obtained Landora.
“I was playing rugby for Old Boys in Kurow and we went back to a mates place, Alex Familton. This horse had just come back from Chertsey. They couldn’t get it to go. I mentioned it to Johnny Burrows who had just sold a horse called Johnny’s Pal to Sir Roy McKenzie. We decided to lease her for the right of purchase of $3,000. She was dual gaited. She could work a mile and a half free-legged in 3-15 and go round the other side of the track and turn around and she would trot. She had a bone growth on her knee so we got that operated on and she went from strength to strength.”
At her first start at Methven in a field of 22 she was unplaced when 17/17 in the betting. The winner was Castleton Pride which later went on to win the 1975 Interdominion Final, being driven by John Langdon.
Landora was retired after winning two races and Timms and Burrows bred Scotty Boy (Scottish Hanover).
At that point Timms went off to America, England and Wales and wasn’t sure when he’d return so it was decided to sell Landora in foal to Game Pride. She was bought by the Allingham family and the resulting foal was Landora’s Pride.
In early 1973 he bought what was to become his foundation mare Lucky Surprise.
“Gerald Johnson said it was a real tough family. We bought her off Fred Barclay who was a possum skin buyer. He used to come down here and get skins off the Gutsells and play cards. He was a bit of a gambler. The first one I bred from her was Jersey Girl (Jersey Hanover). We sold her to Australia. The next one was Keyanau (Key Club). Bryce Buchanan and I raced her. She could run under the qualifying time but would run off the track. I hacked her up in Te Anau – she was my main hack. Then I started to breed from her. The first foal was Kiwi Gold (Knowing Bret) and I sold him.”
Keyanau’s half-sister Orange Queen (Bachelor Hanover) left Queenship (Lordship). She was an outstanding broodmare leaving Lord Hillas (6 wins), Queen’s Advocates (4 wins) Carefree Princess (8 wins), Noble Fella (9 wins), Horatius (4 wins) and Man Of Steel (4 wins). She’s the only mare to leave winners of two of Southland’s premier races; The Southern Supremacy Stakes (Noble Fella 1987) and Southland Oaks Final (Carefree Princess 1986).
Mini Clare (Armbro Del) another half –sister, left smart Gaines Minbar mare Remote which won nine races.
In 1978 Timms ventured to America again consigned to look after 43 race horses that were heading off shore. He travelled with Brian Meale, Peter Bagrie and Charlie Hunter and was away for three months. Included in the shipment were Sly Brewer and Final Curtain.
“Most of the horses were pre-sold. I stayed with Paul Jessop at Hollywood Park. He was training a lot of Brian’s horses. Young Quinn was there at the time. I also took stallions to England on that trip.”
Once back home Keyanau’s second foal, Keyali was sold to Charlie Smaill and Archie Affleck. She went on to win seven races.
“We’d just bought a block of land at Wyndham and that horse paid three quarters of the mortgage.”
Keyali left Kute Jaccka, the winner of 4 races and she is the grand dam of Mossdale Conner which won 12 races including the Taylor Mile in New Zealand record time.
“Every horse that got up and running we sold. I got $35,000 for Keyafella who was also out of Keyanau.”
Keyafella won 30 races in Australia and over $200,000 in stakes.
Other foals from the mare that were sold include Renegade which won 2 races In New Zealand and another 4 in Australia and Mate Of Mine which won 3 and was also successful in America.
One foal he did keep was Aliora (Paulsboro) which won 4 races for Ali Malcolmson and was the dam of Fella I Know.
“I sold him to Kelvin Harrison.”
Two of Aliora’s other foals; Ali’s Home and Ali’s Fella, are two mares Timms is still breeding from.
Also in the early days Timms helped Bryce Buchanan with weaning, mouthing and long reining all his foals.
“I used to help them when they went away on holiday when I was living in Te Anau. He was still milking cows at that stage. He was a very astute trainer.”
While in Wyndham Timms also had a brief stint as a stud master standing Stanley Rio for his good friends George and John Noble.
“When they sold their property they didn’t have anywhere for him to go. I said I’d take him. He only covered about five mares a year, he wasn’t the easiest horse to handle. He didn’t like anything in his paddock – birds or anything. When they used to have the A&P Show I had to put him in a box because he’d see the kids with the ponies in the float park near his paddock and put his ears back.”
All the way through this period Timms has had another source of good income – dogs. Like harness racing the interest also started when he was still at High School. He bred both heading and huntaways.
“Some years I’ve sold up to 200 broken in dogs. When I was doing casual mustering I ended up selling a few as well. It got bigger and bigger. I was coming back from the North Island with twenty odd dogs to break in each trip.”
He said back in the day you could get $6,000 for a good station dog.
“A lot of the dogs I buy are broken in and just need finishing. The main market was the North Island where they do stock work 24/7 whereas down here our stock is behind string (hot wire) for four or five months. People haven’t got time to break in dogs these days.”
But lets get back to the horses. Although Timms was having success with his own breed he was keen to look at other options and in 2010 he boarded a plane and headed to Christchurch with Brent McIntyre from Macca Lodge and Gore breeder Paul Pierce.
“We were thinking about buying a couple of weanlings to do up for the sales but they hadn’t been very well done. Luckisaladytonight came up in foal to Christian Cullen. I thought she’d go for 60 grand. She got to 25 so I wacked one bid in and she was knocked down to me. I said we gotta find a bar here. They’d spent seventeen grand on this new stadium complex and it didn’t have a bar – I needed a whiskey!! I had to come home and sell a few dogs and a car to pay for the hind leg and the tail. I sold three hundred ewes and lambs and a few cattle. I got out of it because I sold the foal (Cullen Keefe) for forty eight grand.”
Three of her progeny; Cullen Keefe (4 wins), The Manipulator (4 wins from 8 starts) and Ladys Are Ideal (1 win from 2 starts) have had their successes.
Luckisaladytonight is in foal to Somebeachsomewhere. Her weanling filly by Panspacificflight has been bought by Macca Lodge.
“I send her to good stallions because everyone want foals out of her.”
The Manipulator is one horse Timms is excited about and still has a share in.
“He went through the sale ring but he’d hurt his hind leg in the joint. We had to tell the auctioneers it had been X-rayed and it had been all right but that devalued him. Tony Herlihy bought him and I kept a quarter share. He went up to Tony’s and he couldn’t get him to pace. We got him back to Macca Lodge and Tommy Behrnes (chiropractor) worked on him. He thought he’d got him right but he kept on running off the track. Macca had him ready to go to the workouts. Tommy came back three months later and discovered his hip was out. The one start he did miss (running a place) was because he injured his knee. He was operated on and had to be boxed for three months.”
Luckisaladytonight has also left Well Said two year old qualifier Afterdinnerspeaker which is trained by Ken Barron. He was sold as a weanling.
“He was likely to be a $100,000 horse at the yearling sales. If you get good money before the sales you’ve got to sell. I’ve sold weanlings here for $15,000 to $25,000 but for a real good one you could get $50,000 to $60,000.”
Although Luckisaladytonight is doing a great job, Timms still has plenty of his ‘old’ breed to go on with.
Ali’s Home (Holmes Hanover – Alioro) has left Even Flow the winner of 6 races. Even Flo has recently been added to his broodmare band so Timms has given Ali’s Home to a friend to try his luck.
“Just gave her to a friend of mind Paul Mulder at Woodlands. He’s just started to get into breeding. She (Even Flo) ended up with a quarter crack. She never got over it. She’s going to American Ideal.”
One Ali (Live Or Die – Bo Ali Chip) has Tintin In America and Net Ten EOM colts while Ali’s Fella (Son Of Afella – Alioro) is proving to be valuable leaving Ted West (6 wins) and Sioux West (3 wins).
Onlyali (Badlands Hanover – Ali’s Fella) has Gotta Go Cullect and Gotta Go Cullen fillies and a Net Ten EOM colt, Schapelle Rapido (Mach Three – Laprida) has a Net Ten EOM filly, while Just One Amy (Artsplace – Ali’s Home) has two Panspacificflight colts.
“Just One Amy qualified and then hurt her leg. Malcolm Shinn has a two year old from her by Panspacificflight. You don’t normally hear from him but he’s rung me twice. You usually get a shoeing bill from him but I haven’t. He rates him as good as a two year old that he’s had. He’s trained something like 13 group winners.”
Although Timms usually doesn’t go to first season sires particularly if he’s going to the sales, there’s one stallion he is supporting in Net Ten EOM.
“I’ve got 5 here and they’re terrific looking horses. You couldn’t fault one of them. They’ve got a good balance about them and they’re natural pacers.”
Weanlings earmarked for next February’s sales are colts out of Ali’s Fella and Just One Amy and a filly out of Ali’s Home.
From his downsized property of 20 acres at Riversdale in Northern Southland Timms is kept busy running the farm, a dog motel and feeding his next crop of weanlings. Young horses are enough to keep this breeder happy.