The Whiterig Robyns
Whiterig horseman Ross Wilson has been around horses most of his life and despite wanting to scale down and just be a hobby trainer he still has a racing team of twelve and a band of eight broodmares to look after. The scaling down hasn’t happened yet!
Ross grew up in the Winton district and lived next door to legendary Winton trainer Harry Cox so there was always a chance he’d get involved in the industry.
“My father (Bob), had an old trotter called Palema which was by U Scott. He trained it for about three years and it finally got to the races at Winton. They had a garden in the birdcage in those days. I remember it backing into the fence and the garden. It was a late scratching because they couldn’t get it onto the track. That was his only foray into harness racing. They’re actually his colours that I race in today. I always had it over him. (His father). I said at least my buggers get onto the track.”
Ross’s first horse was bred by the late Eric Butler.
“I used to deal with him through Dalgetys (Stock Firm) and he had horses on his farm. I said to him one day could a get a lend of a mare to breed from. I got an old mare called Mary Bank. I sent her to Lord Butler who stood next door at Harry Cox’s. We called him Will Butler. Dad went in shares with me. I couldn’t get a licence at the time so Harry trained it. It won a non-tote race at Winton and that’s all it ever won.”
Will Butler did run a couple of placings in his forty start career including a second on Easter Saturday at Forbury Park in 1980.
The next foal out of Mary Bank was a Majestic Chance colt called Mister Majestic.
“Eric actually bred it and I saw it one day in the paddock and liked it as a foal. I paid $1,500 with two contingencies of $250 for its first two wins. I won eight races with him and won $20,000 and I sold him for $20,000. In those days my salary was $2,000 per year so it set me up for life really. “
Mister Majestic won a further five races in America and his best mile time there was 1-59.2.
Ross is still breeding from a descendant of Mary Bank. Grinfromeartoear mare Outkast is out of Walk On By whose second dam is Mary Bank.
In the late seventies things got a bit more serious on the breeding and racing front when he met Graeme Edgar from Tapanui.
“I knew Graeme also through my work at Dalgetys. There was a yearling sale in Invercargill in those days and he said to me could I sort out a yearling that could make a broodmare one day. We sorted out a few and had a look at them. As soon as I saw Ryal Robyn I said ‘this is the one’. We didn’t actually know what a sour mean …….. she was. She just sat in the back of the box.”
Ryal Robyn was purchased for $1,200. She was by Nevele Big Shot out of Ryal Faye and was bred by Ross Dynes at Ryal Bush. Ryal Faye was by Light Mood out of Petronella. Petronella later left Knowing Bret gelding Vita Man which won nine races for trainer Ali Malcolmson and owner Ray Anicich. Anicich had a lot of success with that side of the family, also breeding Kelly Dillon which won five, Mathew Lee (15) and Mystic Gold (9) including the 1997 Southland Oaks.
Petronella was by Whipster. Her half-sister Newella (Newport Chief) won six races and was the foundation mare for the late Eddie Hailes of Balfour.
Ryal Robyn was put into training with Les Norman.
“He didn’t get on very well with her at all. We sent her up to stud. Ray McNally was working for the stud at the time and saw her arrive. He didn’t know Graeme but he rang him and said he’d like to train her and ended up winning three races with her.”
Her wins were at Marlbourgh, New Brighton and Timaru.
So in the mid-1980’s Edgar started to breed from Ryal Robyn with her first foal Pride of Robyn being by Lordship.
“One day he said to me, ‘because you did the right thing in buying that mare (Ryal Robyn,) you can get a foal out of her.’ So I went to Son Of Afella and got a filly foal (named Robyn’s Treasure). Graeme said to me ‘what about racing her together’ so we ended up doing that.”
Ultimately Robyn’s Treasure won seven races including the 1994 New Zealand Oaks, and seven days later the DB Fillies Final – both at Addington.
At that point the family was starting to expand and Edgar was breeding from other branches of the family.
“Graeme and I raced a few and he’d give me one mare on the condition that I could get a foal out of it. So I ended up with three branches of the family.”
Ross’s son Chris is also breeding from a branch of the family – Brooke Robyn (Artiscape – Maree Robyn). She’s left El Diablo which won four races here and a further ten in Australia.
“We’ve actually got a two year old by Mach Three. That’s the first time she’s been to a decent sire,” Ross said.
When it comes to breeding Ross Wilson likes to generally stick to a tried and true formula.
“I’ve got a philosophy of breeding to proven sires. Although for the first time this year I’ve sent one to He’s Watching only because I’ve heard good things about what he’s doing.”
Wilson says he doesn’t do a lot of work with the young horses.
“We don’t do a lot with them until they’re two year olds. We break them in as weanlings. We get them back in only to make sure they don’t stick us up. I’ve got a nice American Ideal out of Real Robyn which is the same cross as He’s Watching. It’s the first foal we’ve had that gets around like a race horse. So I’ve sent her back there (to the stallion) because of that.”
Robyn’s Treasure died three years ago after she had a paddock accident in which she shattered her shoulder. The Christian Cullen filly foal had to be hand reared.
Named Bridesdale Robyn, she is part-owned by Wilson and Judy Dillon who was responsible for hand rearing her.
“She wouldn’t drink for a start. I was pulling my hair out but then she started to drink from a bucket. She must have got really hungry. She never looked back and was drinking ten litres a day. Two and a half litres, four times a day,” she said.
Despite being talented, Bridesdale Robyn still has some learning to do.
“She hasn’t got a very good steering wheel at the moment. She’s got a big motor and she’s a lovely horse actually. The only good ones we’ve breed from Robyn’s Treasure have been by Christian Cullen (Robyn’s Cullen (9), Rocking Robyn (3) and Bridesdale Robyn (1). The rest have been no bloody good but often it comes through in the next generation.”
Wilson and Edgar have both named horses after each other. Stanley Ross Robyn named after Ross won two races for Hamish Hunter before being exported to Australia where he’s won another four. He was third in the 2016 Queensland Derby and finished second to Salty Robyn in the Hondo Grattan so it was a breeding quinella for the Robyn breed. Salty Robyn was bred by Tapanui trainer Matt Saunders. He’s by Art Official out of Holly Robyn, a Live Or Die mare out of Robyn’s Treasure. Salty Robyn has won sixteen races in Australia and $214,705 and paced a mile in 1-49.2.
Parnell, which is Graeme Edgar’s nickname, was named by Wilson. He was by Santanna’s Blue Chip but never won a race from twelve starts.
So the eight mares Ross Wilson is breeding from are:
- Robyn Joan (Holmes Hanover-Robyn’s Measure) Her best winner is My Guy Mac.
- Regal Treasure (Holmes Hanover – Robyn’s Treasure) winners include Vo Regal (5) and Robs Ideal (7).
- Von Regal (Village Jasper-Regal Treasure)
- Regal Art (Art Major-Regal Treasure)
- Robyn Maree (Holmes Hanover – Maree Robyn) Robyn’s Bad Boy (8)
- Real Robyn (Real Desire-Robyn’s Treasure)
- Von Haley (Somebeachsomewhere – Vo Regal)
- Outkast (Grinfromeartoear-Walk On By) dam of Jerry Fitz (12) and Mulligan (6).
Wilson says that since Ryal Robyn was bred from in 1985, direct descendants from her have won 317 races. And judging by the passion and commitment Ross has for the harness industry there’ll be plenty of Robyns to come.