Although leading New Zealand racehorse syndicator David Ellis has plenty to celebrate through the success of his Te Akau Racing operation during the 2021/2022 season, one of the lesser known strings to his bow are the numerous achievements he and wife Karyn have secured on the thoroughbred breeding front over the past twelve months.
The pair will head off to Hawaii on Tuesday for a well-deserved mid-winter break with the prospect of returning in August as a strong contender for the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeder of the Year title.
Numbered amongst Te Akau Racing’s 38 stakes wins this season are three apiece by the Ellis-bred fillies Maven Belle and Belle En Rouge including the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) (Maven Belle) and the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) (Belle En Rouge), while five-year-old mare Burgundy Rose, a seven-time winner, was also stakes-placed.
Ellis said there was something particularly special about achieving elite-level success with horses bred and raised at his Te Akau Stud.
“Belle En Rouge winning the New Zealand Oaks is the biggest thrill I’ve ever had in racing,” he said emphatically.
“To then follow that up with Maven Belle winning a Group One as well is something very special and it has given me enormous pleasure.
“Our stable has had another remarkable year with 141 wins in New Zealand, 33 stakes wins here and another five in Australia, while we have also topped the $8 million mark in total prizemoney won.
“We could have the champion two-year-old with Maven Belle and we claimed our eighth New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year with Belle En Rouge and Self Obsession tied for that title, so all in all it has been a tremendous year for us.”
Ellis is justifiably proud of the contribution his Te Akau operation makes to the stallion market both in New Zealand and in Australia with seven former Te Akau Racing-prepared colts now standing at stud.
Xtravagant, Cool Aza Beel and Heroic Valour are based in Australia while proven performer Darci Brahma (The Oaks Stud) has been joined in New Zealand by Embellish (Cambridge Stud) while exciting prospects Noverre (Waikato Stud) and Sword Of State (Cambridge Stud) will stand for the first time during the 2022 breeding season.
“One of the things I enjoy the most is putting our colts syndicate together each year at Karaka and we have had some tremendous success as evidenced by the seven individual stallions who are standing in Australasia,” Ellis said.
“We like to support those stallions with mares and we raise all of our foals on our farm at home.
“Each year we pick out the best three or four and offer them to good clients to race and it is a big thrill to see them come through and perform at a high level like Maven Belle, Belle En Rouge and Burgundy Rose did.
“We have retained shares in the colts who have gone to stud and we try to support them each year with one or two mares from our broodmare band.
“I think we will be breeding from around 14 mares this year which is also very exciting for us.”
One of the bittersweet experiences for Ellis this year is the fact that Maven Belle, Belle En Rouge and Burgundy Rose are by his favourite stallion Burgundy, who he purchased for $1.3 million at the 2010 Karaka Yearling sale and who went on to win seven races before standing for seven seasons at Cambridge Stud before passing away in 2019.
“Burgundy was my favourite horse, the fastest horse Te Akau has ever trained and his passing was a tragedy for the local breeding industry,” Ellis said.
“This year alone he has produced the likely two-year-old of the year (Maven Belle), the joint Filly of the Year (Belle En Rouge) and the New Zealand Cup (Gr.3, 3200m) winner (Mondorani)
“It is a very special stallion who can leave stakes winners from 1200m right through to 3200m, so I think we are really feeling his loss now.”
While breeding thoroughbreds holds a special place in Ellis’ heart, the business of buying and racing horses is in his soul.
“Our breeding operation is very special but having the number one stable in New Zealand is the main priority,” he said.
“Certainly, breeding them, on our scale, is nowhere near as much work as buying and syndicating them, so we are looking forward to seeing the results of our work at the sales come to fruition again this coming season.
“The stable hasn’t got much running around over the next month but come August, Mark (Walker) will have 60 ready to go to the trials and I can’t wait to see what he will be able to produce once spring racing gets underway.”