Pink For Diamonds Day

Pink For Diamonds Day

Bruce Stewart

27th April 2022

Waianiwa owner Robert Symon likes to get glammed up when he heads to the racetrack and this Saturday for Diamonds Day won’t be any different.

“I’ve got a fairly large wardrobe (twenty shirts, adds his wife Sharyn) with pink or striped shirts.”

Robert and Sharyn run a 220 acre deer farm at Waianiwa in Western Southland.

Joes Rock winning in pink at Wyndham

“I’ve been a hunter gather all my life, so I had plenty of swandris. When I go out I like to be tidy. If I can’t be number one at least I can look it,” he added.

The pink mirrors his racing colours which he inherited from this late father Russell.

“Dad designed them, and he liked colours that were easy to see. When he retired from racing he handed them over to me.”

Russell’s best horse was Alert Fulla. He and Robert bought Alert Fulla’s dam Berry Hanover mare Ovette from Merv Day.

“I remember going to the Balfour equalistor meeting and she ran dead last. I said to Dad‘s… if that’s racing, I want nothing to do with it’ so I got out.”

Alert Fulla went on to win the 1990 New Zealand Messenger and became the fastest horse of that time to leave New Zealand, running a mile in America of 1-52.

Despite the shaky start Robert Symon got the bug and his first foray into harness racing was in the early 90s when he sent Brown Miss to Son Of Afella. The resulting foal was Sonny Brown which won his first start for Robert and trainer Russell at Winton in February 1995. He went on to win eight other races.

One of the first horses Symon bought was Buster Me. He was by Live Or Die out of Camtastic mare Three Mothers and was bred by Kevin Fairburn. He won five races for Symon from Bryce Buchanan’s Leeston stable.

“Terry and Glenys (Chimel) ended up taking over Bryce’s property, so I formed a relationship with them. If I was looking for a horse, I’d ask them to keep an eye open and it just went from there.”

Over the years the Symons have bought many horses on Terry Chimel’s recommendation, including Buy Chevron Direct and Franco Tai.

“I decided to take a punt on Franco Tai and sent him to Aussie after he won seven races here. He went to Amanda Turnbull. She had him a fortnight and he reared up and fractured a pelvis and had to be put down. He was one of my favourite horses. He won the Kaikoura Yearling Sales Aged Handicap.”

Symon also rates Nek Time as one of the best horses he’s raced. She won eight races from just twenty five starts. Her wins in New Zealand included the Group Two Southland Oaks and Listed Harness 5000 at Addington while in three starts in Australia she won the Gold Coast Oaks and the Group Two Queensland Oaks. She won the Symon’s $159,270.

Nek Time with Dexter Dunn after winning the Southland Oaks

Winning connections with Robert and Sharyn Symon on the right

Thrill is another horse Symon raced successfully.

“We bought him fom Robbie Holmes. He was a small Christian Cullen horse who won three races for me and was running a lot of fourth and fifths. Terry thought we should move him on, and we sold him to Australia.”

Thrill (renamed Heza Thrill) went on to win another thirty six races racing including his first seven. He also had success in America, running his best mile in 1-49.2.

And then there was the big one that got away!!

One day Robert received a phonecall from Chimel saying he had a horse he was going to trial and buy for him, if the Australians didn’t buy him first.  It was by Tintin In America.

“I said I wasn’t that keen,” said Robert. The Australians beat them to it anyway, but the horse was Shartin and she raced in Australia and America. She was named the 2019 USA Dan Patch Horse of the Year and won forty six of her sixty eight starts, banking over 2.5 million dollars.

Symon has tapped into some good families but the timing hasn’t always worked out.

He bought a full brother to Harley Earl, by Artsplace out of the Badlands Hanover mare Memphis Melody.

Named Forrest Bobo he won once but didn’t prove to be as good as his brother which won ten races. Not deterred, Symon bought the mare’s nineth foal Memphis Tennessee which has now won ten races and over $150,000 and represents the Symons in the Regent Car Court Southern Country Cup Final on Saturday. But born on either side of Memphis Tennessee are quality mares Delightful Memphis, the winner of eleven race and Stylish Memphis who has won fifteen.

“Memphis Melody was bought late in life by Wayne Higgs who put her in foal to Bettor’s Delight and got these good horses. That’s racing.”

Memphis Tennessee and Terry Chimel after winning the Supremacy

Fast forward to this Saturday and Russell and Sharyn have Joes Rock and Snow Robyn in the $50,000 Group Two Nevele R Stud/Macca Lodge Southern Oaks and Memphis Tennessee in the Country Cups Final. All were selected by Chimel.

“Terry told me this horse (Joes Rock) had a lot of speed, but he said it would have more opportunities in Southland racing the fillies and mares than up at Addington. That’s the sort of guy Terry is. Not many trainers would tell you that.”

Joes Rock winning at Wyndham for Blair Orange

Snow Robyn winning at Winton with Nathan Williamson

Both Joes Rock and Snow Robyn are among the top qualifiers for Saturday’s fillies feature but Robert’s not getting too carried away.

“Aardie’s Express is a very good horse and will take a power of beating, and there’s Play Philly, but Joes Rock is not to be underestimated and we think Snow Robyn will be good over the 2700 metres.”

The Symons have tasted success in both the Oaks and Supremacy before, with Nek Time winning the Oaks in 2016 and Memphis Tennessee winning the Supremacy in 2019. Both horses were trained by Terry and Glenys.

“I’ve been in the game long enough to know what you want and what you get can be two different things.”

As for the future, the Symons are breeding from Nek Time and they have a two year old filly named Nek Delight with Winton trainer Lauren Pearson.

“She’s slightly on the smaller side. Some Bettor’s Delights are, but she does everything right. She’s been turned out and we’ll have a go at some of the two year old races at the end of the year. It’s painfully slow breeding. You’ve got to hope they have four good legs and then they’ve got to be able to run. With buying them you eliminate that by paying a bit more.”

Regardless of the outcome on Saturday the Symons will be in the pink.