IN Racing
First Gear’s Hawke’s Bay connections turn down six-figure offer
John Jenkins | June 01, 2024
First Gear

Turning down a $300,000 offer for a horse can’t be an easy decision but Waipukurau owner-breeder Bill Rose had no qualms about making that call for exciting two-year-old First Gear following the horse’s runaway win at Trentham last Saturday.

Rose, who owns the Derryn gelding in partnership with his brother Murray along with Cole Rose and his partner Maddi Daines, said this week he received a phone call from a person in Australia who wanted to buy the horse for that figure.

“But I turned it down,” Rose said.

“I want to keep him close to home where I can see him race.”

Bill Rose and his family members have bred and raced thoroughbreds for more than 40 years and their passion for the game has never waned. They have raced several good ones in that time and Bill believes First Gear could be one of their best.

“He made that win on Saturday look pretty easy and I think he’s got more to come,” Rose said.

“He’s got a great temperament and seems to do everything so easily.”

First Gear was having his fourth race start when he lined up in the maiden two-year-old race at Trentham and certainly produced a professional performance.

He began brilliantly for jockey Lisa Allpress and was quickly disputing the pace before edging clear of the field crossing the junction on to the course proper.

Allpress was happy to stay hard up against the inside rail and First Gear showed great acceleration over the final stages to race clear for a 3-1/2 length win, under just a hands and heels ride.

One of the best things about the win was that it took Allpress right around to the back straight to pull First Gear up so he obviously still had plenty in reserve.

The victory capped off two good second placings by First Gear, the first over 1200m at Otaki last month and the second behind the highly rated Endued over the same distance at Woodville on May 3.

Rose said the horse has come through Saturday’s win in great order and is now set to back up in today’s Listed $80,000 Castletown Stakes (1200m) at Wanganui.

“Lisa (Allpress) reckons he is one of the better two-year-olds she has ridden and took the colours with her after Saturday’s win so she obviously wants to stick with him,” Rose added.

Those pink colours with green diamonds have been in the Rose family for many years.

“They were our father’s racing colours and so we decided to just keep them going,” Bill Rose said.

The colours have been carried to success by a number of successful gallopers over the years with one the best being the durable Black Ace.

That Roughcast gelding was bred by Bill Rose and had 94 race starts for 18 wins, seven seconds and 16 thirds. He was initially trained by the late Barney Lumsden at Foxton and won from 1200m to 3400m including open sprints, open middle distance races and six over jumps.

He won both the Manawatu Steeplechase and the Wanganui Steeplechase.

First Gear is out of the O’Reilly mare A’Guin Ace, one of the few horses the Rose family have raced that hasn’t won.

But she did record three minor placings from 11 starts and has gone on to be a successful broodmare, having produced six foals to race and all of them winners.

Happy Tav (three wins) has been the most successful while the other winners out of the mare have been Smoken’ Ace, Solar Power, Burlace and Good Point.

Bill Rose said the family are still breeding from A’Guin Ace and they have a yearling colt by Embellish out of the mare coming on and she is now back in foal to that stallion.


Hugely successful Woodville jumps day 

Why couldn’t the Woodville racecourse be developed into a Specific Jumping Centre for the Central Districts?

That was the question trainers, owners, jumping enthusiasts and even racing officialdom were asking after the Woodville-Pahiatua Racing Club staged a hugely successful jumping raceday on the track last Sunday.

Five jumping races, that were supposed to be run at Trentham the previous day, were transferred to the Woodville meeting after the figure-eight course in the centre of the Trentham track was deemed too firm to safely stage steeplechase races there.

Included in the races transferred to Woodville were the $60,000 L J Hooker Manawatu Steeplechase (4000m) and the $60,000 Manawatu ITM Awapuni Hurdle (3000m), with both races providing a tremendous spectacle for the large crowd in attendance.

The Woodville racetrack was under threat of being closed down earlier this year but has now been given a reprieve by New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing for at least the next five years. This is mainly due to the fact that other racetracks in the region are either presently undergoing renovation work or have renovation work planned for the future.

The committee of the Woodville-Pahiatua Racing Club has welcomed the decision and will be endeavouring to do everything it can to see racing continue on the Woodville track.

Plans are already afoot to improve the facilities and amenities at the Woodville racecourse, including a new winning post.

The Te Aroha racecourse is the designated Specific Jumping Centre for the northern region but there has never been one in the Central Districts.

Woodville would be ideal as it is a track that never gets too firm and is central, being not much more than an hour and a half’s drive from some of the biggest training centres of jumpers in the country.

The need for a Specific Jumping Centre in the Central Districts will be made even more essential with the figure-eight steeplechase course at Trentham likely to be no longer in use after next year.

The Wellington Racing Club sold off the centre of the Trentham racecourse to the adjoining Hutt International Boys’ School several years ago and has since had a lease agreement that allows it to use the centre for designated race meetings.

But the Trentham racetrack is set to undergo an extensive renovation in 2026 and it is highly unlikely the club’s lease on the centre of the course will be renewed, with the school wanting to develop more sports fields on that land.

At this stage the Woodville-Pahiatua Racing Club have been granted only three race dates for next season and all of them are Sundays, August 11, September 8 and July 13. But there is every chance that other meetings could be transferred to the venue, such is the unpredictable circumstances surrounding Central Districts racetracks at the moment.

Awapuni-based Mark Oulaghan, a former Woodville trainer, dominated the feature races at his former home track last Sunday, producing not only the winners of the two main jumping races but also taking out the $20,000 Property Brokers Woodville-Pahiatua Cup.

Oulaghan was successful with Berry The Cash in the Awapuni Hurdle and West Coast in the Manawatu Steeplechase and then saddled up Pinkerton to triumph in the Woodville-Pahiatua Cup.

A highly-regarded trainer on the flat and over fences, Oulaghan has enjoyed many successes in both roles and was pleased to have a successful outing close to home.

“It’s always good to win major jumping races, and getting two of those today was nice,” he said.

“I’m a Woodville boy, so it was good to come home and win the Cup here.”

Oulaghan is one trainer that would definitely like to see more race meetings staged on the Woodville track and thinks developing it into a Specific Jumping Centre would be a good move.

“The track is certainly underutilized and there should be more meetings here,” Oulaghan said.

“Besides being a good jumping track it is also a very good summer racetrack as it never gets really hard.”

Oulaghan began his training career in Woodville and prepared the 1986 Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase winner Regal Time from that centre.

Prominent Hastings jumps trainer Paul Nelson also had runners at last Sunday’s Woodville meeting and agrees that there is a need to develop a Strategic Jumps Centre in the Central Districts to hopefully ensure the future of jumps racing.

He said that he, along with other jumping enthusiasts, have walked the Woodville track and said there is room down the back straight to establish at least two live steeplechase fences. But he also has concerns about the future of jumps racing in New Zealand. 

“Unfortunately I don’t know how long jumps racing will last in this country,” Nelson said.

He said there is a negative attitude to jumps racing from New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, which seems to stem from its Chief Executive Officer Bruce Sharrock.

The other problem facing jumps racing is a shortage of jumps jockeys in the country.

The maiden hurdle race at Woodville last Sunday had to be split in two as there were only eight fully licensed jumps jockeys available.

Irish-boirn jumps jockey Dylan McDonagh was supposed to ride but reported to Stewards prior to the commencement of the meeting that he was unwell and was stood down from his rides.

Replacement riders were found for most of his mounts but Metallo had to be late scratched from the Awapuni Hurdle as there were no other suitable riders available.

The rider problem was accentuated when Dean Parker sustained a suspected fractured collarbone when taking a fall in the opening event, meaning he was unable to take his remaining rides on the card.