Showing initiative has paid off for Victoria horseman Ben Gleeson as he is set to join Te Akau’s Cranbourne operation as assistant trainer next month.
Currently the assistant to Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Danny O’Brien, Gleeson felt the need for change and approached Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis when he heard the Kiwi racing giant was planning to establish a full-time presence in Australia.
“I got to my five years with Danny and I was looking for a new challenge,” Gleeson told SENZ’s Giddy Up With Gareth Hall.
“A couple of years ago, before COVID, I heard whispers that they wanted to open an Australian stable and that had always stayed in my mind.
“After having a think about where I am heading and after five years with Danny, I sent David Ellis an email similar to the way Jamie Richards had approached him at a young age.
“I know Mark Walker also approached David at a young age. I had heard these stories along the grapevine and thought I would follow that.
“Within 24 hours, Mark had rung me and explained to me the situation and that they were setting up at Cranbourne. They said they had people on their radar that they were already looking at, but thankfully I was forward enough, and things went my way.”
Gleeson will see out the season with O’Brien and is excited to take on his new role next month.
“It’s incredible to be joining such an amazing team and hopefully I can do them proud,” he said.
“I have got two weeks left with Danny. I thought we would see off the season that has been and round things out.
“I then have two weeks before I fly over to New Zealand where I will spend a week or so getting to know the stable and Sam (Bergerson), who is Mark’s training partner.
“Following that week, the plan is to have horses over here by the first week of September. That will depend upon the stable being ready at Cranbourne.
“If it is not ready yet then we will have the option to have some horses at Flemington, which Te Akau have had over the years.”
Gleeson said Te Akau will only have a small presence at Cranbourne initially, but that is set to grow, with the construction of further facilities at their complex over the next 12 months.
“At first, we are only going to have a 20-horse barn built with a utility block for all of our feed and gear, and a walker,” he said.
“They are going to fence that off and over the next 12 months the plan is to build another 60 boxes around that.
“In 12 to 18 months, we would hope to have upwards of 80 horses in work out there.”
The headline act for the stable in Melbourne this spring is set to be multiple Group One winner Imperatriz.
“I think Mark and David have been pretty clever with the way they have plotted her (Imperatriz) spring ahead. There is basically A$10 million on offer down here with the races planned out for her,” Gleeson said.
“You are potentially going to be missing the edge of those top sprinters, like Giga Kick. I think it is a very strategic plan.
“Mark said she has furnished and is turning into a big, strong mare. She could even be getting better with age.”
The rising five-year-old mare will be joined by a few supporting acts, which are likely to include Group One winner Maven Belle, Group One performer Campionessa, and Group Two winner Zourion.
“We have gone through a dozen to 20 horses that would be suited to coming over here,” Gleeson said.
“We are just waiting to get their ratings from David Hegan, the chief handicapper. Once we get that we will work out a list.
“The likes of Tokyo Tycoon will stay over there (New Zealand) and race in the spring and then come over here for the autumn.
“The wise plan is to keep the majority of the three-year-olds over there and send some seasoned campaigners over here to hopefully knock over some metro races and let Imperatriz be the star of the show.
“We will probably bring over a nice filly called Zourion, she is a Group-winning filly of Cambridge Stud’s. She might be another banner horse for us during the spring.
“Maven Belle and Campionessa might also be on the plane over, so four quality Group mares there that we will be more than happy to attack the spring with."