THE LAZARUS FILE (2)
THE TREVOR CASEY STORY
Whoever said “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” reckoned without Trevor Casey and the purchase of Lazarus.
Knowing something about the Lazarus family was in fact the key to his sharing in the three way ownership of the champion pacer of the era.
“I had been interested in that family for ages. I tried to buy Tabella Beth (4th dam of Lazarus) with a foal at foot and in foal but was outgunned. That is the Star Galleria branch. So I always took notice of the family at sales. I liked this one. Mark thought it was the best of Brian West’s draft and Kevin Riseley was also in along with Phil and Glenys “
The next step was blowing the budget.
“We priced him at $50,000 but there was hot competition and so we went to $75,000 for him. There was some talk about bringing in a fourth shareholder but in the end it was decided to go with three”
“Kevin and I are also partners in Mach Shard (winner of the Young Guns in 2017) trained by Barry and we went to $200,000 for him.”
Lazarus was actually at the handshake stage of being sold when he was a three year old but Trevor was not prepared to sell his share.
“It was embarrassing at the time but I was determined not to quit him and as a result it did not go ahead. It was awkward but the outcome was good !”
Trevor didn’t want to quit on Lazarus after his reported $4million sale to the US either.
“I wanted to keep 10 per cent and thought I might get that much but they wanted to do it all on their own so I missed out”
Trevor thinks the sale of Lazarus gives the horse a “great opportunity”
“Given the sort of horses he is racing against and there is no Always B Miki this year, he has the chance to establish both his racing and breeding credentials and I think he can do both”
That optimism is underlined by Trevor purchasing pacing mares and fillies at a recent North Island sale.
“I had cut back a little on the mares and here I was buying pacing mares. All the other eight are trotting bred and I had to ask myself why I was doing this.
It might have been something to do with Lazarus being at stud here in the future, yes. But also I have a share in Vincent. I actually tried for 10 per cent of him before he raced but Jean and Bill wanted to to do their own thing and that was fair enough”
Trevor had had an association with Bill Feiss buying into Messini at the right time as he rose to the top for All Stars and with impeccable timing as Messini won on Cup day at Addington first up for the syndicate.
Trevor is a little different too when it comes to his biggest thrill in Laz’s race career.
“The Cups were great and it’s always incredible just to have a runner but for (partner) Kate and I the Inter Dominion in Perth topped the lot. We missed the first round of heats then stayed over for the rest of the time.It was a fantastic atmosphere and to watch Mark peaking him for the Final and the way he won it, especially over there, takes a lot of beating”
Trevor is, one of the most successful owners and breeders in New Zealand and has been for some seasons now, his feats being recognised with a Canterbury Award this year. Besides Horse of the Year etc in Lazarus he is the breeder and owner of the season’s best three year old trotter, Winterfell. Even Trevor, not a man to avoid a chance and a challenge in racing was surprised to find the youngster in the nominations for the Dominion Handicap in November.
“I never thought Mark would nominate him at this stage. A four year old has never won it and there must have been very few to have started in the race (maybe the only one was his own mare Escapee in 2012) But he said he thought it could be on and he is the one who knows.
Trevor has never won a Dominion Handicap which adds to the excitement. His near champion trotter, Stent, who won over $1.1m from 30 wins mostly for Colin and Julie De Filippi and a Rowe Cup but never managed a Dominion win.
Trevor has also raced top pacers from the Barry Purdon stable in a syndicate which also includes Kevin Riseley, Sky Major and Maxim being the best known.
The essential list of requirements for his racing and breeding interests,- courage, enterprise, savvy, a little spare cash and a lot of luck- are also part of his highly successful business career.
That started in a Takeaway bar near Kumeu in the 1970’s at 19 when he first fell in love with harness racing.
“I was a mate of JImmy Cole’s and I went along to the Sunday morning trials at Kumeu. I became a big fan. I sold raffles, joined the committee and even did some race calling though I don’t think I was that good at it”
“The takeaway business was virtually a day time operation in those days with restrictions on hours and it wasn’t open at weekends which gave me time for other things. It was early hours making sandwiches and pies during the week but Sunday was free”
Trevor even took out a trainer’s licence to prepare trotter Speculate in the mid 1980’s.
“He won a non tote at Kumeu for me and ran a few placings but I gave training away after that”
He had his first horse with Mark in Chequered Flag raced with Neil Pilcher when Mark and Tony Herlihy were operating their own barn as part of the Roy and Barry tea
One of the factors in giving up training was a change of career. Trevor’s father died suddenly and Trevor took over management of his business at Casey Motors, a Toyota dealership.
“We did well and Toyota was a great brand but I actually hated it. I wasn’t a car salesman. After three years we sold to Northwestern Motors another Toyota dealership and I can’t say I was sorry to leave”
Next Trevor hooked up with Neil Pilcher in the Inter Island Transport business.
“I had told Neil from time to time that if he ever wanted a partner I would buy into the business and then came the option of doing it. It was part of the deal that I came down south to Christchurch in about 1994.”
Trevor remembers putting his gear in a trailer float to come south but the trip was interrupted when a call came through that a young horse at Te Mania Stud in Parnassus was injured and needed urgent attention.
“I remember Jo Wilding’s face when she saw the setup the horse was going into but we got him on and it all worked out in the end”
“ Neil and I were partners for around 10 years then he bought me out. Neil ran a good business and I have followed his general principles which I supported at the time.
Basically I took a year off and then through Peter Edmonds became interested in a Lone Star franchise. We set up one at Northlands and then Manchester St and when the Bush Inn possibility came up because the Cobb and Co licence had expired it was too good to pass up”
It wasn’t easy, though it worked and then the earthquakes a few years later changed everything.
“We sold Northlands, the Manchester St site was toast and we sold out of there. However when it was rebuilt and ready to go we bought it back and Karen Prendergast and Darryn Maffey manage that for us and do a great job.
While we had our setbacks the earthquakes effects gave the Bush Inn franchise a big boost and we extended it to cater for the demand. “ Trevor said.
Then the decision was made to establish another Lone Star outlet in the Spitfire mall development adjacent to the airport.
“It is different in that it is an all day business catering for breakfast where it does really well starting at 8 am. We have been very pleased with the progress so far. We are also in the final stages of establishing a Lone Star at Alexandra Park and it is a superb site right on the edge of the track next to the 2200m start. Matt Hooper is involved and we expect to open in May next year at the latest”
“I am just about finished then though possibly we would consider establishing an outlet at Rolleston. That would definitely be the last one”
Trevor tends to dismiss his business success lightly by setting great store by his staff.
“Good people attract other good people and good staff people are everything especially in this business”
Trevor bought a property at Prebbleton close to Nevele R stud and has extended the original acreage to cater for more and more horses. He gives a lot of thanks to his partner Kate Marriot an experienced horsewoman and former driver, for her efforts with the horses.
“Kate has her own property of 7 hectares at West Melton where we base the mares and she spends a lot of time with the young ones. That really is a great help.
She is also a good judge of the horses. You can’t keep them all even the fillies and her judgment is a great asset to our decisions”
Trevor’s business acumen reflection comes when assessing programmes for his horses not being afraid to suggest a more ambitious course of action to his trainers -something not as common in racing amongst owners as it once was. But there is a sentimental side too.
He sent Sky Major to America for former All Stars foreman Duane Marfisi to prepare a programme which proved initially successful. But having reached his mark Trevor has gone to the expense of flying the stallion back to New Zealand rather than leave him to his fate far from home. He will be available for stud work this season.
Trevor says his stunning success with trotters is really a matter of happenings as much as intention.
“I struck up an association with Bruce Negus and told him I would like to buy a good horse. He said he knew of a very good trotter that had just been qualified by Kevin McLintock for his father Maurice. She was a little black filly and showed a lot for both Bruce and later on Mark. She ran second in two Inter Dominion Trotting Finals one to Special Force and the other to Lyell Creek. We sold her and she went to America. She came back here and had two fillies but both of them died”
“So I bought a full sister, Niarney, who didn’t show much on the track. I sold her first foal (colt) to Brian O’Meara and kept the second who was Pocaro a terrific winner for us (including a Harness Jewels at 3) . She left Missandei who beat High Gait in the 2yo Jewels and also a maiden we have showing some promise in Kings Landing as well as younger ones.we have.
Niarney also left Springbank Sam a dual Jewels winner for the Smith family and I bred Daenerys Targaryen whose name troubled a lot of people (it was the early days of Game of Thrones) who won the Redwood Classic for us in Australia and who we have in foal to Muscle Hill.”
A number of the trotting mares were bred in partnership with Gary Allen and Ken Barron but one way or another ended up with a keener Trevor for breeding purposes. Gary bred Belle Galleon but Trevor raced her in partnership, with Colin and Julie De Filippi and Bruce Negus as trainers. He raced her first foal, Stent, the winner of 30 races. He also raced Arya from the mare who won the Breeder’s Crown 2yo Filly Trot and the Victorian Trotting Oaks. Stent won everything except the Dominion Handicap a race Trevor hopes Winterfell can feature in this November.
Una Bromac, whose career was affected by a club foot but who was still successful was another canny buy -and sale. After Escapee (Sundon) she left Sansa Shark (Angus Hall) retained for breeding and Winterfell before being sold on.
Escapee was one of the more sensational three year old trotters of her time. Placed in the two year old version of the Jewels after winning a maiden at Forbury in a throw at the stumps to get into the $100,000 feature, at three she won the Trotting Oaks and both (northern and southern) editions of the Trotting Derby and at 4 ran second in the NZ Trotting FFA to I Can Doosit. Escapee and her first foal Exit are members of the Casey bandWanna Play who quinellaed the Filly Sires Stakes with Arya in her year ,is another retained for breeding and has a Love You youngster and is in foal to Kadabra.
Kadabra ? Therein lies a story.
“He’s the leading trotting stallion in Canada but he only had semen available here one season about six or seven years ago. I made inquiries of Graeme Henley at Alabar and rather surprisingly they still had some straws available. So we will see how that turns out”
Trevor had another stroke of luck one day when Bruce Negus arranged a trial of a Falcon Seelster pacer Bob McArdle had for sale and Trevor went along to watch the rising two year olds. . Bruce trained the trial partner which held its own with the Falcon Seelster.
“I don’t want that one I want that one” said Trevor pointing to Bruce’s filly
As Caps Off she caused a huge upset in the NZ Oaks beating the near champion filly Tupelo Rose for Trevor from Bruce’s stable. Trevor later raced her in America in partnership before returning her for breeding but “It was a 38c dollar then which made it good coming in but not so good going out”
Like his former partner Pilch, Trevor sells on the basis there is something in it for the next bloke.
“Neil lived by that and I have followed his lead. Pays off in the long run”
But, until Lazarus, his biggest break with pacers had been joining Neil Pilcher and Cheryl Rasmussen in the ownership of Waikiki Beach one of the best moneyspinners in All Stars history winning $970,000 from 38 starts in Australasia.
Selected by Mark Purdon in Australia, Waikiki Beach, his career perhaps understated in New Zealand, won his first 17 starts in Australia and 21 of his first 22 including four Group Ones. He won the Breeder’s Crown at both two and three and the NSW Derby, breaking 1.50 when second in the Chariots of Fire at Menangle. He is still racing in the US.
Trevor for a time had him on a par with Lazarus and enjoys relating how for once the old racing line “he’s good but I’ve got a better one at home” as proven all too true !
Trevor seems to have an extraordinary run of luck breeding to the right trotting stallion at the right time. Any trotting breeder will tell you that is a difficult thing with so many options available most of them good options on paper. Also fashions seem to change season by season.
“I don’t make any special study of pedigrees. I just watch what seems to work and go off that. You are never going to get them all right and it is a lot harder now than just going to Sundon”
Many are by frozen semen and that is not usually cheap, either in stud fee or in other costs.
“I use Gael Murray and her veterinarian for mine and we have had a good strike rate. But it costs another $2000 on average on top of the fee so any good results are more than welcome”
Part of being a successful owner is being realistic.Dracarys a former All Star who won the Leonard Memorial, was not considered quite up to the best of her age in the stable. Trevor sent her to Perth was sent to Perth where she won her first five races including the Group 3 Sky Bracelet.
More recently Trevor bought a share in NZ Cup aspirant Eamon Maguire.
“Initially I offered to buy half of him but Graeme (Anderson) thought it was only fair to offer a greater share to the other owners after a half-owner sold out, which was fair enough. So I ended up with 35 per cent and that’s all good. I asked Natalie about him and she talked of his high speed. Whether he is a real stayer is not proven but he has the ability to go a long way.”
“You get a special thrill winning with one you’ve bred but I just like to have all round racing interests and I am quite happy just doing that. Though a Dominion Handicap one day would be nice. It would be something to do it with a four year old too”
Come in Winterfell. But, to top the Lazarus experience, it will need to be huge.
More Lazarus stuff below or
A LOT MORE OF THE GOOD THAN THE BAD -THE PHIL AND GLENYS KENNARD STORY
To be both a successful owner and, as important , a happy owner, learning to surf the waves of success and still ride out the undertows of disappointment is the most essential skill of all.
Phil and Glenys Kennard have had great joys from the former and and shown true sportsmanship in the latter. There is no better example than their association with the superstar pacer, Lazarus.
The highs were extreme highs such as the two New Zealand Cups; the Inter Dominion Championship, the Classic wins;the Hunter Cup etc.
The lows were typified by Lazarus racing below peak in the Miracle Mile, the one major race that eluded him. And then there was when the time came to say goodbye.
“It is fair to say we didn’t want to sell him” Glenys says frankly.
“We have always been in racing for the racing. We don’t breed horses and when our horses have reached their mark we like to pass them on for better opportunities overseas
But with Laz while it had been a great story, we felt the story had not ended. Realistically you probably only get a horse that good once in your life. We would have been happy to race him perhaps for another season. But our partners did not agree and so we had to say goodbye.
I’d be lying if I said I have really got over not being able to see him race again here”
The situation was a sensitive one because for a long time there was one leading offer on the table.
Then, almost at the last minute, there were two.
“The first offer (from Alabar) had several options involved some of which suited what we were looking for “ Phil says
“The second offer which came to us really on the day when a decision had to be made, was better financially but without those options. Mark recommended it to us. It is the give and take you have in any partnership”
The Kennard partnerships have been a byword in modern harness racing with enduring success over a decade unequalled locally in the field of racing syndication.They have won well over 60 Group One races, quite an incredible feat.
Partnership racing usually requires leadership steeped in racing knowledge. Phil and Glenys don’t put themselves in that category even quite yet, never mind when they started out.
“I have so often said it is a team effort people probably get sick of hearing it but it is literally true” Phil says He knows, he runs his real estate business the same way.
People management skills make things work everywhere and the Kennards have scored in spades with them in harness racing in spite of an early lack of expertise.
“Our introduction to ownership came through a horse called Idle Bromac (early 2000’s) ” Glenys recalls.
“It was through a Blue Blood Syndicate. Robert Dunn trained him and he had some success before going up north”
“We enjoyed the experience and then we were approached by Michael House to race a horse with him which we did. This led to a much bigger step financially we weren't expecting but we were keen to get involved and went along for the ride”
The Kennards have clear memories of the scenario.
House, who had trained “bits and pieces” for the couple, had bought a youngster called Fiery Falcon for just $5500 as a yearling but was the leading supporter of a new concept among standardbreds the Ready To Run sale.
Fiery Falcon had showed rare speed in the trials held before that sale (400m in 26) and promised a good return.
“Michael rang us to say that the horse had brought $200,000 as he predicted -but that he had bought it and was looking for partners to race him” Phil recalls
“It was a hell of a lot more money than we had been up for so far.To be honest we didn’t know what to think”
The always enterprising House -who still trains for the Kennards - went about finding the right people who would be prepared to also take the risk. Sir Roy McKenzie joined and so did high profile owners, Clive and Rona McKay, the Kennards and Michelle House, then Michael’s wife.
$400,000 in stakes later it seemed like a remarkably good idea. Glenys recalls that it resulted in another bonus -getting to meet Sir Roy McKenzie who impressed her greatly. But that was not all.
“Michael said to us this horse is going to be too good for me to train. I am going to ask Mark Purdon (then in partnership with Grant Payne) to train him”
And so another partnership was born.To date the two richest horses to race for All Stars, Smolda and Lazarus, have both been owned by Kennard partnerships.
Soon after Fiery Falcon-later a Derby winner who died at three before the best was seen of him-came the $1m earner Highview Tommy, another $200,000 Ready to Run graduate who was bravely bought by Hazel Van Opzeeland after she had fallen in love watching him in his paddock close by her house before the sale.
She put a considerable amount of money into backing her judgement. Phil and Glenys went into partnership and their luck held. Besides being placed twice in the NZ Cup, he won the Ballarat Cup in Australia and a host of feature races here before going to Woodlands Stud as a sire. He gave the Kennards their second Harness Jewels win on the same day as Fiery Falcon gave them their first.
As if all that was not enough through Oamaru connections- an important part of the story of which more later-Phil and Glenys took a smaller share in a youngster called Captain Peacock who would go on to upset a New Zealand Derby field at Addington
But if it persuaded Phil and Glenys the game was easy- and it hadn’t- they were soon in line for the inevitable reality check.
“We bought a Christian Cullen yearling as a syndicate at the 2008 sales for $100,000” Glenys recalls. The horse was named Christopher Paul and .all went well until the day he took ill at Rolleston. A severe virus causing critical dehydration attacked him and in the end he could not be saved.
“He was not insured so it was a double blow.But I will always remember the efforts the staff including Nathan and Michael put in to save him, Michael wasn’t really into horses at that time but they stayed up all night with him. It was an insight for me how these people truly love their horses. Unfortunately it was not enough to save him”
Another of that batch of youngsters did not live long enough to race either after an accident in pre-training but better news was to follow.
From the sales the following year (2yo of 2010) came another horse for the Christopher Paul syndicate, soon to be known, because of its unusual success, as the “Major Mark” syndicate. That was because the youngster, Major Mark, was the best two year old of his year.
He won in successive starts the Young Guns Final; a Sires Stakes heat at Cambridge; the Welcome Stakes( then Group One); the Sires Stakes Final and the Harness Jewels. While he was never quite as good at three he was an unlucky 2nd to Gold Ace in the Elsu; an even unluckier third in the NZ Derby to Gold Ace and Terror To Love. He later had a durable record in Australia after winning nearly $600,000 here. In all he won 26 races and right on $800,000.
But an earlier decision by Mark Purdon to explore the possibilities of the Australian yearling sales was about to lead to even greater success.
“The pricing was appealing and there were other things that attracted us ” Phil said.
Fly Like an Eagle, another star for the “Major Mark” syndicate boosted the theory with a bang.
He won the Harness Jewels (by a wide margin) and the Young Guns Final at 2,the New Zealand Derby and Breeders Crown in Australia at three and then ran Terror to Love to a neck in the later’s third NZ Cup win. Altogether he won close to $800,000.
However his keenest stable rival, Smolda, whom Mark bought almost on impulse after he had been passed in was to prove an even greater success.
“He was the hardest to syndicate” Phil recalled
“Pilch came in because he was a Courage Under Fire and Mark had really liked him and we advertised him for a while on the website with no takers until Marcus (Kirkwood) from Victoria came in with us. Smo turned out to be any owner’s dream”
Smolda didn’t race at two; won the NSW Derby at 3 and was a moral beaten by stablemate Fly Like an Eagle in the NZ Derby (he had beaten him in the Flying Stakes) . He then smashed records winning the Harness Jewels by 5 lengths -in what is still one of the greatest performances in the whole series- running 1.52.1.
He went through a tough patch with joint problems as an older horse before bouncing back to win the Hunter Cup, the Inter Dominion, the Ballarat and South Australian Cups as well as the Bohemia Crystal -after being frozen out of the Miracle Mile field on a technicality. They were all G1 races and he posted sensational times in a number of them, He also ran former stablemate Arden Rooney to a head in the NZ Cup. At $2.55m he is the third highest stake earner from New Zealand of all time. Yet over 6 seasons he only had 68 starts.
From Australia also came Border Control, the year after Fly Like an Eagle and Smolda. He featured something else which appealed to Mark Pilch and the Kennards-he was from an American mare. He went on to add another NZ Derby to the win roster and post a fabulous 1.50.6 mile in the Harness Jewels as a three year old which is still a national record.
They just kept coming, with Follow the Stars another one proving the value of targeting yearlings from American mares at Australian sales (and a "Major Mark" syndicate horse).He won nearly $700,000 from just 23 starts before being sold as a stallion prospect in West Australia.
The winners have rolled in on what seems a magic assembly line- the latest headliners being Heaven Rocks and the likely Two Year old of the Year Another Masterpiece as well as Spankem, TheFixer etc etc. In between there have been a lot of horses who were good by most standards but not quite top class. Many went on to Australia. Knowing when to quit them is a major part of syndicate success.
The Kennards are also members of some Breckon Farm Syndicates which put them in star fillies like Partyon. Beside the mid 60’s total of Group Ones there have been 13 Horse of the Year Awards one being the 2017 Owners of the Year.
Are there secrets to this success ?
Phil and Glenys don’t buy fillies and rarely race trotters though a growing friendship with Ken and Karen Breckon has modified the latter policy.
“There are some great opportunities for fillies but we are not breeders so that aspect doesn’t appeal and, well, fillies can be great value but they can also be more complicated from the racing aspect. “ Phil says
“It is not set in concrete but we prefer to stick with colts for our syndicates”
“We’ve got fairly proficient with the catalogues now and sort out what we like but Mark and Natalie must like them too and the final decision is really their’s”
There is also another secret to forming syndicates.
“It’s political to some degree” Phil says. “Some of our partners like racing horses together so we put them in the same syndicate, some want certain breeds or favourites they liked at the sales. It is a delicate balance because we don’t have more than four shares and in the case of Lazarus just three. Keeping everyone happy is not easy but we do our best and they keep coming back so we must be doing something right.”
The deeds of Lazarus whom Glenys named (“It just seemed appropriate as Bethany was the Biblical home of Lazarus and she was by Christian Cullen. It had 7 letters too” ) hardly need recording here but Idle Bromac to Lazarus is a hell of a journey. How did it come about ?
It’s a long story but an interesting one.
“There was always interest in racing with the family” Phil recalls “ Cup week was always huge at our place when I was young”
Family and friends would arrive up from the south usually just before Cup Day. The whole week was a succession of race meetings, card games, family fun. It made a strong impression."
Phil did that rite of passage for any young harness fan,bunking school to watch the NZ Cup-and getting caught but not reported-but at that stage education was not his top priority.
“I was in the same class as Mike Pero at one stage. The two of us spent quite a lot of time outside the classroom for various reasons most of them because we were just a nuisance. “
At that stage however Phil was a long way from the real estate career which was to become the lynchpin of his success. He wanted to be a farmer.
“I had an uncle farming at Oamaru and I would go down there in the holidays. I loved it down there and I wanted to go into it full time. My uncle was open to an arrangement but in the end it didn’t quite get over the line”
Then there was this young lady he had met. Glenys was Oamaru -born and raised and had recently taken up her first job at the Oamaru Mail. One thing led to another and then the path led back to Christchurch to start a family and accrue some capital for the future.
But the Oamaru area is still in the Kennard DNA. Every summer notwithstanding anything on the business or racing scene the family gathers at the caravan at Omarama for a few weeks of socialising. The caravan is towed home for the winter and back in the spring and after so many years Omarama still remains a highlight of the family year. Another favourite is Mooloolaba where the Kennards can be found in depths of most Christchurch winters.
At first in Christchurch Phil and Glenys worked long hours in dairies including the well known Willowbrook in Spreydon even with the challenge of a young family which would eventually be three daughters, Amanda, Philippa and Hayley. Time for family was always a high priority
“We managed a few dairies and then John Packard asked me whether if he gave me the time to teach me the real estate business I would prepared to put my time into learning it . I decided to give it a try. Betty McAlister was also a great help at that time”
“The real estate game was in the middle of major change. John had just started his own company after being a partner in one of the leading firms. A number of franchised companies came in from Australia virtually all at once and revolutionised the industry. The traditional stand alone companies which had dominated for years were outflanked. John saw that coming”
Like everything Phil and Glenys had done it was “once on, full on”. Phil extended his interest to real estate administration, spent a lot of his spare time at courses and conferences,making contacts, widening his experience and skills and setting up on his own with Glenys the home anchor and chief supporter. One of his crucial decisions was joining up with The Professionals one of those real estate groups from Australia but a collection of independent owners rather than franchise sellers and founded in 1976. Supporting local charities was one significant aspect of the business Phil supported and Kennard Real Estate prospered.
Then he moved gradually at first, into the rental business. At one stage before the earthquakes outside of Government his company was up at the top of the rental business by residence numbers in Christchurch.
“I had a good contact and when Departments were looking for houses or rentals and there was a constant flow in and out I got my chance. It was great repeat business. I sold one house in Hornby three times in a relatively few years. Then we started our own rent portfolio and it went from there. They were mostly standalone houses, though we operated out of blocks as well and we didn’t have a lot of hassles. But the earthquake caused huge headaches with all that was involved and the company is not so big in that area now”
These days Phil might more accurately describe himself as a developer rather than an estate agent . After the earthquakes he moved more and more into buying land and building houses in partnership wth building and business expertise among his partners. Kennards Real Estate is under highly competent managers and has been for some time.
“It’s still a hell of a challenge. People have no idea how complicated this branch of real estate can be . Compliance requirements alone can be a real headache and reading the market and building trends-those sort of things take up time and can be a hassle. But we have more free time at the end of it.”
The Kennards have had a lot of thrills over the years and especially with Lazarus . The highlights ?
“It has to be the New Zealand Cups” both agree
“It would have been a special thrill to win a third one but some things are not to be” Glenys says.
The two successes came after a longer string of “what if ?” placings in the great race than most owners endure. Necks and heads had sometimes robbed them of the big prize. Those memories always added tension to the big day, odds -on favourite or not. They had served their time with the undertows.
Great success over the years has not dulled their enthusiasm. They attend a lot of training sessions and trials always in support of their horses headliners or otherwise.
Glenys fills in for Phil many times but Phil is the more nervous on raceday preferring to be with his thoughts during the race and only letting the emotion flow after it is all over or just about all over
“Every win is a thrill. Even the smaller ones. The biggest ones can keep you awake at night so it is almost a relief when they are over, but if you’ve won it is a unique feeling”
The Kennards are well known for being gracious winners and -if there is such a thing-terrific losers. They know how hard it is to win. Even when you have over 60 Group Ones they remember how it feels when it doesn't quite happen.
They have also helped shape the modern standardbred yearling buyer. Pooling and matching fellow enthusiasts with money to spend and so retain the personal touch; capitalising on Mark and Natalie’s incredible skills as judges of yearlings; leaving much of the decision making to those who know the most.
So where to from here?
“Mark and Natalie are gradually downsizing and we have fewer yearlings to work with now out there now but we support Michael House and Brad Mowbray and we haven’t lost any of our enthusiasm.” Phil says
“We sometimes have to pinch ourselves that we have had such an incredible run but we know that we couldn’t have done it on our own. It really is a team effort to repeat the obvious and that is the key to much of our success. Let’s hope it keeps working.”
And, just maybe, produces another one like Lazarus.
THE MOST UNDERRATED NEW ZEALAND -BASED CHAMPION OF MODERN TIMES AGGRAVATES AN OLD LEG INJURY TO THE POINT WHERE HE COULD BECOME LAME
2ND RICHEST NZ PACER OF ALL TIME
"HE'D DONE A HUGE JOB AND WHEN THE EXPERTS RECOMMENDED RETIREMENT I KNEW IT WAS THE RIGHT THING. IN FACT I HAD BEEN EXPECTING IT. BUT HE HASN'T TAKEN A LAME STEP AND WE WANT TO KEEP IT THAT WAY" -MARK
"HARNESS JEWELS WIN WAS PROBABLY MY BIGGEST THRILL"- CO-OWNER NEIL PILCHER
Even though he knew what the news was likely to be it was with a heavy heart Mark made the decision to retire probably the most underrated champion he has ever trained after SMOLDA had a leg scan on Saturday. E mails to Phil and Glenys Kennard who are overseas on holidays and a call to Australian Marcus Kirkwood the man who bought into the "yearling nobody wanted" and which changed his life confirmed that the amazing ride was over and "Smo" had run his last race.
"I haven't been that happy with him for some time" Mark said.
"I have been checking the leg most days and I felt something wasn't right this time. He wasn't lame but I wanted to prevent anything like that. We had a scan taken and the recommendation was that retirement was the best option. It's just wear and tear basically "
Mark has had a lot of stars in his time and can be expected to roll with the punches they can bring but Smolda in his own way was something very special.
"He is like red wine this horse" Mark said after his outstanding Inter Dominion win in Perth last year. "He just seems to be getting better with age"
Too true. Even as an eight year old when most stars are out on green grass Smolda was still either whipping the best in Australasia or going very close to doing so.
Yet his beginnings were rather unremarkable and for some reason he "flew under the radar" for most of his career. That is considering what he has done.
(Smolda and friends on and off the track from cuddling up to his great mate and biggest fan Shaun after winning the Methven Cup to doing what he did best-going fast)
Some of his highlights
*Smolda had one of the best strike rates of any recent stars. In his last two years of racing he lined up 23 times for 10 wins and eight second placings all in Group races many Group Ones.. He had 68 starts from three to eight but only had seven starts as a four year old (four wins) when fetlock issues first appeared and the stable opted for a lengthy spell. It worked. The only Kiwi pacer to win more money than Smolda, Monkey King, had close to 100 starts.
*Unraced at two Smolda set a new all-aged track record winning the NSW Derby at three a mile rate of 1.56.3 over 2400m. His second in the New Zealand Derby, beaten a neck by stablemate Fly Like an Eagle is considered by Mark one of his greatest runs. "He had a tough draw and had to do a lot of work and the other horse had a softer run and got the last go. It was a terrific performance"
At the Harness Jewels that season he put up one of the greatest of all Jewels runs burying his opposition at Cambridge in 1.52.1 then an outright national record for all ages. It has been equalled but yet to be beaten on the Cambridge track five years later. This may still rate with Mark and the owners as Smolda's greatest raceday effort