Manawatu horsewoman Tineke Balcombe came up smiling on her first raceday experience at Matamata on Saturday when Colorado Star won the Listed Matamata Veterinary Services Kaimai Stakes (2000m).
At his previous start the Mike Breslin-trained gelding had broken through for his first win in more than 16 months in the Gr. 3 Taranaki Cup (1800m).
That was the seven-year-old’s first start past 1600m, and he proved it was no fluke with an equally dominant win on Saturday over a slightly longer trip.
“There was no particular reason why he hadn’t been tried over ground until just lately; I suppose it was just that he was still racing well in sprints and miles,” Balcombe said as she and her fellow owners celebrated their latest big win.
“After he won at New Plymouth Mike figured this was the obvious race for him, but when they got all that rain leading up to raceday we weren’t so sure.
“We had gone ahead with the trip north so we decided we may as well line him up. For me it was my first time racing at Matamata, and thanks to a good aggressive ride from Jonathan Riddell it all worked out well in the end.”
Balcombe knows a thing or two herself about race-riding, having saluted the judge 43 times as an apprentice in the late 1990s, although she prefers to downplay that success.
“I enjoyed it but I was no great shakes as a jockey to be fair,” she said. “I didn’t ride for long beyond my apprenticeship after I broke four vertebrae in a fall at Hastings.
“I did recover and had a few more rides, but then I got hurt again and decided that was it, time to find something safer.”
That led to Balcombe training for clerical roles that included a stint in the Manawatu Racing Club office, and in more recent times she has been a committee member of the MRC.
That includes organising club-related functions, while she is also employed part-time in the Central Districts hub doing administrative duties for the collective of lower North Island clubs.
Balcombe, the younger sister of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Chief Operating Officer Darin Balcombe, owns her own property near Palmerston North, which she operates as a boutique equine agistment provider, and her primary focus when it comes to racehorse ownership is her InToWin Syndicates operation.
“InToWin has been going for about five years now and Colorado Star is one of the first horses I syndicated,” she said.
“I got him from Wellfield Lodge as an unbroken three-year-old, and he didn’t race until he was four.
“There are 24 people in total in that syndicate, mostly locals but also a few guys working in the mines over in Australia.
“He’s been an ideal horse for a syndicate like this to race. He always tries his best and is a bit better horse than others might have rated him – he’s won more than $250,000 now and he’s only run out of the money six times.”
Balcombe’s original syndication model was based on shares ranging from five to 10 per cent, but she has modified that in an initiative for Manawatu Racing Club members.
“The club supported me with an idea to promote membership and after three years there are now more than 100 in the pool involved with horses that we race,” she said.
“One that we lease off Haunui Farm is the Iffraaj mare Queen of Spades, who has already won three races and is shaping up well for another campaign with Roydon Bergerson.”
Others purchased for syndication include promising three-year-old Pepeha and another in the Breslin stable, the two-year-old filly I’m A Brazen One, for whom she predicts a bright future.
“I got Chris Rutten involved at the sales this year and we’ve got some really nice yearlings being broken in now, so we’ve got plenty to work with and everything is going well.
“We’ve got horses with Mike (Breslin), Roydon (Bergerson) and Lisa (Latta), and I’ve added another branch to the business putting syndicates together with horses that have been bought by trainers.
“It’s all part of what I do – I genuinely love dealing with people and their horses and everything that goes with it.”
Balcombe and members of the In To Win Elegant Emerald Syndicate that race Colorado Star are now looking forward to a home track feature, the Gr. 2 City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) on April 1.
“It’s a Group Two with a stake of $140,000, so the way he’s been going we think he’s earned his chance – wouldn’t it be something if he can do it again?” Balcombe said with infectious enthusiasm.