IN Racing
Collett clan Sydney bound
Richard Collett’s move to Sydney is well under way, with his Pukekohe stables on the market and horses booked to fly out at the end of the month.
NZ Racing Desk | July 19, 2022
Photo: Trish Dunell

Trainer Richard Collett’s move to Sydney is well under way, with his Pukekohe stables on the market and a number of horses booked to fly out at the end of the month.

Collett is returning to Warwick Farm, where he had boxes in the middle of last decade, only this time it will become his only base. He has obtained 22 boxes, most of which had been used by Clare Cunningham, who is engaged to Collett’s son Jason, a leading Sydney Jockey.

Cunningham is spending less time training now she and Jason have a young child.

In preparation for his move, he has put his 4.4 hectare property in Buckland, near Pukekohe, on the market. It is due to be auctioned on August 10.

“I took seven or eight horses over there and they raced well; we won races on each of the four city tracks in Sydney, and provincial tracks. I enjoyed the racing there, there’s no question about that,” Collett said.

“I was keen to get back but it’s taken a while to sort out our affairs here. We’ve subdivided our property and you can’t do things like that overnight, we had to release as much value out of the property as we could, and also tidy up a lot of other bits and pieces. Covid also put things back a bit.”

Also heading over with Richard and his wife Judy are their daughter Natasha and her husband, jockey Andrew Calder, along with their three children.

“With Jason there with a child and with Alysha there as well, and with Natasha and Andrew and their three children going there as well, it was a family decision,” Collett said.

“Andrew and Tasha have sold their property, but I’ve got two properties to sell here.”

Along with the obvious draw of the higher prizemoney and the family reasons, Collett said the difficulties of surviving while Auckland was locked down due to COVID-19 was also a factor.

“I found it personally very hard, the restrictions we were put under in the Auckland area, and I know Andrew and others felt the same thing,” he said.

“It also makes you worry what could happen again.”

Collett will be taking 11 horses over to Sydney, which are due to fly out on July 31.

“The horses we are taking over are either up in the ratings a bit or are untried young horses,” he said.

“Clare’s going to keep a couple of her horses going, but eventually we’d like to operate with around 20 horses there.”

Collett has trained 688 winners in his career in New Zealand, including 27 black type races. He said the horse he had the fondest memories of in recent times was Cog Hill, a multiple group winner of 11 races and more than $640,000.

Cog Hill eventually returned to Collett’s property, where he died about three months ago aged 21.

“He was a great horse. He spent a bit of time doing dressage in the Central Districts after he finished racing but he came back to us. He was 21 and just died in his sleep,” he said.

Collett said he had enjoyed his time in New Zealand and was able to make a good living from his thoroughbred business.

Though he was pleased at the improvements made in the Auckland region to get bigger prizemoney for horses, he said his biggest concern about the situation he was leaving behind was with how difficult it was for young horse trainers to get started.

Property prices in the Auckland area, and the relatively low prizemoney, was a challenge, and he felt the best way forward was for the industry to move to an Australian-style model where more horses were boxed in rented on-course stables rather than having to be prepared from a separate property.

“New Zealand racing clubs have been slow to grasp that no young trainer can afford to set up on their own properties now for the cost in the northern region. It’s too dear,” he said.

“Byerley Park has had stabling on course and has had good numbers, but property in the Pukekohe area is just too expensive. That’s probably had a bearing on the number of trainers we have up here.

“If a young trainer knows he just has to rent stables and pay the rent once a month, and they’ve only just got to have a house initially, then they can get going, whereas in the situation I have, you have to have a float, you have to get a property, and there’s a lot up front before you start off. It makes it hard for young people to keep going.”

Given that problem, Collett said he was particularly pleased to hear that Matamata Racing Club had bought the former Wexford Stables property which had been used recently by Valachi Racing.

“That’s great foresight for Matamata Racing Club – they’re thinking about retention of numbers, of trainers, and helping them out, having stables within walking distance of the track.”

Richard Collett Warwick Farm Clare Cunningham Jason Collett Judy Collett Andrew Calder Alysha Collett Cog Hill Byerley Park Valachi Racing Matamata Racing Club Wexford Stables