South Waikato couple Ross and Corrine Kearney are hoping the recent run of form by members of their racing team continues into the festive season.
Under their Okaharau Station entity, the Kearneys’ blue and green with gold star colours have lately been a regular sight in the winner’s stall on northern racetracks.
The Carl Henderson-trained Swiss Ace mare Jodelin Gal has won two of her last three starts in Rating 74 grade, the first at Rotorua in mid-November and again at Tauranga three weeks later.
Jodelin Gal’s year younger half-brother Bankers Choice, who is trained by premiership leader Stephen Marsh, won a back-to-back double in June but was then sidelined with an injury to his tibia (thigh-bone).
That required an operation and recovery period, but thankfully there were no complications and Bankers Choice returned to competition early this month ahead of an impressive win at Te Rapa last Saturday at close to $20 odds.
“It was a worry when he suffered that injury but the vets and everyone did all the right things, so it was a big relief to see him do that the other day,” Ross Kearney said.
“We named him Bankers Choice hoping he might give us the odd payday. I can be a bit of a Scotchman and I’m not what you’d call a punter, but I do enjoy putting money on our own horses and then collecting off them – I think I like that TAB money more than the actual stakes.”
The Kearneys, originally from Northland, farmed the 570-hectare Okaharau Station in central Hawke’s Bay for more than 30 years until 2018, then opted for an easier lifestyle and moved north to a 90-hectare holding in Okoroire, south of Matamata, which they operate as a beef cattle finishing unit.
“Our first horse about four years ago won a race as if it was going to be pretty good but that was it,” Kearney said.
“We had decided to buy some broodmares, which included one called Signorina by the Danehill horse Conatus that we just happened to see walking past at a Mixed Sale at Karaka. We liked the look of her and bought her for $6,000.
“She was in foal to Swiss Ace and the foal she produced is Jodelin Gal, who gets her name from the Swiss word for yodeling.
“People told us that Conatus mares weren’t any good, but we’re pretty happy with what this one has done so far.
“Five of our mares produced foals this year and we’ve got five of them back in foal. The numbers grow around you and we don’t mate them all every year, mainly depending on how late they foal.
“We keep the mares and foals on the farm and do most of the work with them ourselves, although we get a young guy in to help with handling the foals.”
The Kearneys have a yearling colt from Signorina by Little Avondale shuttle Time Test and this spring she produced another colt, a full-brother to Bankers Choice by Windsor Park stallion Mongolian Khan. She has since been covered by another Derby winner, Rich Hill’s Ace High.
Bankers Choice is set to line up at Ellerslie on Boxing Day as a leading prospect for the $90,000 Stella Artois 1500 Championship Final.
“Stephen told us a while ago this was the race he wanted to set him for, so it’s pretty pleasing to see it all come together like it has,” Kearney said.
Jodelin Girl is an acceptor for two races on the big Ellerslie card, the open grade Barfoot & Thompson 1400 and the Rating 74 SkyCity 1200, but barring any rain is more likely to run in the former.
“I’ll leave it to Carl to decide which one he wants to run her in,” Kearney said. “If one of our trainers asks us for an opinion we’ll give it, but otherwise it’s a case of paying them to do the job and leaving them to it.
“All we want to do is go to the races and enjoy ourselves, and it would be great if things continued the way they’ve been going lately.”