Not many owners can claim to have won a New Zealand Derby, a New Zealand Messenger, and a Four Year Old Emerald. And to have had two consecutive sales toppers at the yearling sales, but that’s what Stu and Pauline Gillan of Lochiel have achieved.
The Derby, the Messenger and the Emerald were all achieved this season with two horses – Eamon Maguire and Sheriff.
It’s been an outstanding racing season for the couple who not only have shares in Sheriff and Eamon Maguire, but also in Thefixer, English Rose and Motu Top Mach. And between them all this season they’ve won thirteen races and stakes of $418,548.
The Gillan’s sales toppers as yearlings were Titanium in 2013 and Bollinger in 2015.
Stu doesn’t come from a racing background, but he says his interest was developed at an early age.
“My father enjoyed his five bob doubles. He’d put the doubles on and listen to the first leg and normally miss out. Then he’d go to the pub and talk about what happened. He didn’t go to the races a lot. He went to Wingatui and Waikouaiti on News Years Day. I used to have bets (pretend) with my father and pick horses I could pronounce,” he said.
Listening to the wireless in those early years also heightened his passion for the industry.
“I remember as a nine year old running home from school to hear the 1954 New Zealand Trotting Cup which Johnny Globe won. We were all fans of Johnny Globe. He was a lovely black horse.”
Stu was educated at Kings College in Dunedin and loved sport. That’s where he met Phil Creighton. As teenagers they played cricket together for Albion and rugby for Pirates.
“I loved rugby and cricket but I was bloody hopeless at playing them. I also played squash for years.”
In later years he also refereed rugby in Southland. “I really enjoyed that because all you do is look after yourself while if you’re coaching you’ve got twenty guys you’ve got to try and get on the field. I got to know the Browns (Southland trainer Murray Brown and his brother Bevan).
Stu met Pauline in 1970 after he was transferred to Invercargill to work for New Zealand Insurance. He subsequently worked for a number of different companies before setting up his own accounting business.
“I worked for the Permanent Building Society, then got offered a job with John Harrington of Harrington and Partners. After five years the company merged with Forrest, Burns and Ashby. I was made redundant and Pauline talked me into having a go on my own. It’s good to be able to work on your own and be independent.”
As an accountant he doesn’t have big flashy companies on his books, preferring to deal with the southern farming type.
“I’ve got good smaller sheep farmers. I don’t have any dairy farmers because they owe too much money,” he chuckled.
Pauline has been the receptionist at the Southland Hospital Children’s Ward for the past twenty six years and is also an ardent netball fan, having followed the Southern Steel and Sting since the franchise started in the old Invercargill Centennial Hall. She and her good friend Bronwyn Queale, also from Lochiel, were often first in line when it came to getting their seasons tickets.
Stu’s first yearling purchase was in 1975 when he bought Scottish Hanover colt Pierce Scott for $3,000. It was out of the Thurber Frost mare Heather Frost.
Pierce Scott started eighteen times for three different trainers; Hamish Hunter, Stu Campbell and Noel Creighton, without banking a cheque.
“He was hopeless. Anyway the guy that bred him Roy Adam who is a Life Member of the West Australia Trotting Association, was so disappointed with the price he got (for Pierce Scott) that he took the mare home in foal (to Lumber Dream). That foal was Preux Chevalier.”
Preux Chevalier went on to win forty one races in just fifty six starts and $791,331. His wins include an Interdominion Final in Melbourne, a West Australian Cup, NSW Miracle Mile and New Zealand Free For All. The one that got away!!
Stu’s first winner was in 1995 when Mocca Magic, which he raced with Phil Creighton, won. She was by Vance Hanover out of the Local Light mare Mia Mocca. Trained by Greg Hope, she won another race before becoming a broodmare. Creighton and Gillian bred from her for a number of years and her best foal proved to be Angela Gold (In The Pocket) which won two races here before heading state side. She won a further twenty two races there, recording a best mile time of 1-53.0.
“Phil gave me a share in her (Mocca Magic). She won at Forbury Park driven by Ricky May. Phil gave him fifty bucks and unbeknown to me I gave him fifty as well. Ricky didn’t say no to either.” (Laughter).
So the breeding bug had begun.
“Over a few years Phil bought three broodmares that I had shares in. 1981 was our first sale and we took a filly up to Christchurch. He’s had two or three in the sales each year ever since and I’ve had an average of one. We never made any money for many years but by selling them it kept the pot boiling.”
Gillan also bought at the sales, purchasing a Bettor’s Delight colt Match Point at the 2011 Yearling Sales in Christchurch. He was out of the lightly raced Badlands Hanover mare Clijsters. Her second dam Vicario was a half-sister by Soky’s Atom to New Zealand Cup winner Il Vicolo. Vicario was a very good broodmare leaving Stunin Cullen the winner of the Hunter Cup, Great Northern Derby, Ashburton Flying Stakes, Sires Stakes Final, as well as twelve other races with total stakes of $1,493,716. Vicario also left Coburg (10 wins).
“Dean Taylor trained him (Match Point) for three or four starts and said he was going to take time. Eventually we brought him down to Graeme Anderson to train on the beach. I think the beach work and more aggressive driving by Dexter Dunn helped him. I owned him with John Blakeley who passed away about a year ago. Unfortunately in New Zealand you soon get out of your class and he wasn’t good from a stand so we sold him to Australia.”
Match Point won his first start at Forbury for Taylor and two other races from that stable before he was transferred to Anderson’s stable. He won first up for Anderson at Winton in March 2015. He won three other races before he was exported to Aussie later that year. In Australia he’s won another seven races and paced a mile in 1-51.6.
“That was my introduction to Graeme Anderson. I’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to buy shares in three horses with him since.”
Typical of his accounting background, Gillan has been calculating with these investments. From capital gained from the sale of his high end yearlings he’s reinvested in racing stock that have been up and running and with potential.
That investment money has primarily come from broodmare gem Asabella.
She was bought as a yearling at the 2002 yearling sales by Creighton for about $48,000 and Gillan bought into the ownership.
She was by In The Pocket out of the Smooth Fella mare Bellisimo. It’s the family that has produced Jovial Jennie the winner of nine races and the dam of Happy Hazel which won twelve races including the 1989 Great Northern Oaks.
Asabella was initially trained by Mark Purdon and won just two races.
“She had a bit of speed but lacked toughness. She raced a bit in Auckland over the short distances and didn’t have much luck.”
After her racing days were over the partnership set about breeding from her.
In 2008 they sold Red River Hanover gelding Black Denim to Rob Storer for $27,500. He was renamed Code Red and won six in New Zealand and another six in Australia.
The following year Dave Carville bought the mares next foal Bet On Black for $45,000 and he was renamed as well – Ohoka’s Bondy looked smart at two but was exported to Australia winless. However he ultimately won twenty two races in Australia including the $125,000 Group One Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park.
Asabella’s next foal and first filly Dancing Diamonds was also sold at the yearling sales in 2010 – knocked down to Mark Purdon for $110,000. She was raced by Braeden and Caroline Whitelock. She won her first four races as a two year old and her two biggest wins were in the New Zealand Yearling Sales Series Two and Three Year Old Championship. She won $343,276.
As a broodmare Dancing Diamonds has left two foals of racing age; Rock Diamonds which has won fourteen races in Australia including the Group Two Caduceus Club Classic at Gloucester Park, the Group Three John Higgins Memorial and Group Two Westral Four Year Old Classic both at Gloucester Park. The mare’s other foal is the unbeaten Art Major filly Princess Tiffany. Her five wins include the Group One Caduceus Club Two Year Old Fillies Classic and Two Year Old Diamond at this year’s Harness Jewells at Cambridge.
The following year Trevor Lindsay from Australia bought Asabella’s Mach Three filly Bluegrass Belle for $52,000. She was exported to Australia but never raced.
Things were about to get even better for the Creighton and Gillan breeding partnership.
In 2013 and 2015 they bred the top lot at the Christchurch yearling sales. Both out of Asabella; Titanium was bought by Emilo and Mary Rosati for $170,000 in 2013 while two sales later the same couple bought Asabella’s next foal Bollinger for $200,000.
Since then Robinson Crusoe ($24,500) and Brantley ($35,000) the mare’s next two foals, have sold but are currently unraced.
Asabella’s eight foals when sold at the sales grossed $664,000 that being an average of $83,000 per foal.
“She’s eighteen now and we’re very keen to get a filly out of her to carry on the bloodline. She aborted a Bettor’s Delight filly about eighteen months ago and is in foal to Art Major so hopefully we get a filly at Christmas time. Those sales (Titanium and Bollinger) gave us a bit of money to buy into pacers. Phil had a quarter share in three horses with the Kennards and he gave me a half of his quarter share in all three horses. They all won. Meticulous was the best, he was a nice horse but he had a lot of injuries.”
Meticulous was the first foal by Christian Cullen out of the Falcon Seelster mare Syriana, and she’s from the famed Black Watch family. He was bought by Mark Purdon for $100,000 at the 2012 Australasian Classic Yearling Sales.
“I love the sales. I study the catalogue every night. I’m more of a theory man than being hands on.”
Since then Stu’s had shares in seven to eight horses with Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.
“Thefixer’s been the best. He’s back in work.”
Thefixer has won six of his eleven starts, and won his last two during Cup week last November. He hasn’t been sighted since.
“He got a nail in the foot at Auckland. He came back and raced at Cup Week on both days but then it got infected so we turned him out for two months.”
The Gillans also bought into Titan Banner in October 2015 after the horse had won five races. He went on to win another eleven with Pauline in the ownership and finished his New Zealand career when he ran second to Vincent in the 2017 Auckland Cup.
They also purchased a share in the Art Major gelding Eamon Maguire which had won two workouts and qualified before they joined the ownership.
“At the time he (trainer Graeme Anderson) knew they were all pretty good horses. Titan Banner had won five by then. Eamon Maguire was a two year old that Anderson rated highly and (he rated) Motu Top Mach, which he bought at the sales and said he’d do a good job. I’ve gone in knowing barring injury, that I was going to have some fun.”
Pauline has however been in the ownership of Sherriff from day one, the couple’s biggest winner, banking $186,344. His wins included the New Zealand Derby at Addington.
“He had a few up and downs for six months. He didn’t get the right runs, bled and had to be stood down but he turned a corner.”
Pauline shares in the ownership of the Bettor’s Delight colt with Bob Masefield, Geoff Deakins and Graham Beirne who owns Small Car World Limited.
“We all get on well together and so do the wives.”
Sheriff is from a great southern family with his fifth dam being Witchlight. She was by Local Light and left the smart juvenile Trident which won fourteen races for Brian O’Meara. It’s also the family of Orbell which left Lento, winner of fifteen races. Other good winners from this family include Bella’s Boy (16 wins), Winter Rose the dam of Bettor’s Strike (16 and $890,201) and Venus Serena (16 and $796,397).
Another mare Stu owns is English Rose. He’s in partnership in the Bettor’s Delight four year old with Creighton and Bruce Carter Bloodstock. She was brought by Phil Kennard as agent at the Auckland Sales four years ago for $40,000. She too comes from a stout southern breed. Her second dam English Elegance won five races for Ray Faithful before heading to America and winning another eight.
English Rose has won two races this season –one for Greg and Nina Hope and the other for Tony Herlihy.
Stu has also enjoyed success with thoroughbreds having a small share in Rock ‘N’ Pop.
He won three races all as a three year old, including the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Three Year Old Mile and the New Zealand 2000 Guineas. He won $466,016.80 in stakes over two seasons of racing and now stands at stud at Waikato Stud.
“He was advertised in the Sunday paper. He was by Fastnet Rock out of Popsy who I vaguely remember. She ran second in the Auckland Cup and won the New Zealand Derby. I took a small share in him and was lucky enough to win the New Zealand 2000 Guineas. He went a great race in the New Zealand Derby on a slow track which didn’t suit him, running second to Silent Achiever. The other one I had with Te Akau was a dud.”
Stu says he probably won’t go back to owning gallopers.
“In trotting you know your breeding with Bettor’s Delight and Art Majors. With galloping the breeding is so wide spread with stallions from England, Australia, German, America and Asia. I’m so involved in trotting now I’ve probably got enough on my plate really. I enjoy people that are positive. You get a few kicks in the arse but you bounce back and look forward to the next Saturday. Trotting is a small band and we’re all in it together.”
Stu confesses he’s more into the pedigree and investment side of the industry whereas Pauline does have a better eye for horse flesh.
“She knows more about the fitness and conformation of horses than I do. We’ve got a hack at home. She’s also been pretty loyal. Most wives wouldn’t have put up with the amount of money I’ve been spending but she’s like me and enjoys the people that are involved.”
They’ve been married for 40 years and have three children Geoffrey (39) is a builder in Christchurch, Kane (35) is a farm manager and Abbey (33) a school teacher in Dunedin.
“They’re not that interested. They only want to know when the horses are going to win for when they’re having a bet.”
The Gillans also own Tres Bien Franco which they bought at the 2008 Sale of the Stars for $32,000. She won one race and ran second to Royal Cee Cee in the Group Two Southland Oaks.
“I wanted a partner and an hour before the sale Dean (trainer Dean Taylor) introduced me to Kevin Watson who used to farm at Roxburgh. He’s now got ninety acres at Ladbrook, close to the Taylors. We own her in partnership.”
Once she finished racing they started breeding from her.
“We’ve had four foals from her including Tres Vite which ran second in this year’s Southland Oaks. It was a real buzz.”
They also have a two year old Mach Three filly with Watson named Tres Chic which qualified in 2-49.4 at Forbury Park for trainer Graeme Anderson in May.
The partnership with Phil and Margaret Creighton still stands and from those early days of playing rugby and cricket in Dunedin a lot of water has gone under the bridge for Stu and Phil. With Pauline and Margaret they continue to enjoy the harness ride of a lifetime.
They continue to have high quality racing stock, some up and coming race horses and some quality broodmares.
“We’re eternally grateful to Margaret, Phil’s wife. She looks after all the mares and foals. Phil and I just talk about them.” Long may it continue!