Taranaki farmer looking on the Brightside in retirement

After more than half a century of milking cows, Edwin Sheather decided he needed to pick-up a hobby to keep him occupied outside of tending to his beef cattle on his 58-acre property.

The Taranaki farmer happened across one that could prove to be nearly as lucrative as slicing up his Taranaki farm – breeding thoroughbreds.

“I have given up milking cows after 50 years of doing that. I have only got 58 acres left as I am one of those mongrels that have cut their farm up and sold lifestyle blocks off,” Sheather quipped.

“You have got to keep doing something and I think I would die if I moved to town.”

The 75-year-old had developed an interest in racing and had success as an owner over the last decade through Go Racing – racing the likes of Group Three winner Passing Shot (NZ) (Swiss Ace), Group Two performer Charlestown (NZ) (Myboycharlie), and Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) runner-up and now sire What’s The Story (NZ) (Savabeel).

“My first horse was Charlestown and he won a few,” Sheather said. “I had 10 percent of Passing Shot and he was a pretty good horse, he won 11 races, and I had a five percent share in What’s The Story.”

While he had a growing interest in racing, as a farmer, Sheather said he was more drawn to the breeding side of the industry.

“It is a hobby and I have always been a bit more interested in the breeding than I have the racing. I guess being a farmer and having always bred cattle, I was naturally drawn to breeding,” he said.

In his retirement, Sheather became a student of thoroughbred pedigrees and took great interest in New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sales at Karaka every January, and their fortnightly sales through their online subsidiary gavelhouse.com.

He kept close tabs on gavelhouse.com but resisted the urge to bid until one day an unraced Tavistock mare in-foal to his former racehorse What’s The Story caught his eye.

He succumbed to temptation and under his nom de plume of Steady1, Sheather placed his first bid on a horse and came out on top, securing Lilahjay (NZ) for $3,000.

While she had already produced a Hong Kong winner in Will Power (NZ) (Power) at the time of the auction, Sheather’s purchase has turned out to be a masterstroke.

Not only has Will Power gone on to win a further seven races to date in the competitive Asian racing jurisdiction, but another of her progeny, Mr Brightside (NZ) (Bullbars), has put her well and truly on the map as a broodmare after winning the Gr.1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) in autumn before returning in superb fashion on Saturday when winning the Gr.2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) first-up for trainers Ben and JD Hayes.

“I have been following what has been happening on gavelhouse for quite a long time. I saw Lilahjay and I looked at the pedigree and I thought ‘that is a pretty good horse, I wonder how much she is going to cost?’,” Sheather said.

“I did recognise a couple of names back in the pedigree like Gurner’s Lane, being a Melbourne Cup (Gr.1, 3200m) winner way back.

“I knew (her sire) Tavistock was a pretty good stallion, so I thought I would have a bid on this one. I saw she was in-foal to What’s the Story, which was quite funny.

“I rang up Haylie (Martin, Gavelhouse.com General Manager) at gavelhouse and said I would like to bid on her and next thing it (website) told me that I was the winner.”

Sheather said he has gained immense enjoyment from watching the deeds of Mr Brightside across the Tasman.

“It has been super fun,” he said. “There is always something interesting with having a horse like Mr Brightside and also following Will Power in Hong Kong has been great.”

Initially planning on bringing Lilahjay back to his Taranaki property, Sheather began to think otherwise after the progress of Will Power in Hong Kong.

“I am a retired farmer and I thought I would get a horse to put in the front paddock, but then Will Power started doing well in Hong Kong and I realised I didn’t know much about horses and she could be a bit too valuable to be with an amateur,” Sheather said.

“I rang up Peter Westend (Norwegian Park principal) and said I am not too sure what to do now and he said she could stay there.”

Westend stood What’s The Story at the time and Sheather had great enjoyment telling him about his involvement with the horse.

“When I went to see Peter he was telling me about What’s The Story,” Sheather said. “I told him I had five percent and went to Randwick and watched him run in the Australian Guineas and I was at Ellerslie when he was beaten a lip in the Derby, and I was there when he broke down when we had great expectations to go back to Australia the next year to go to bigger races in Melbourne with (trainer) Stephen McKee.”

Lilahjay foaled a filly by the stallion, who turned two-years-old at the start of the month.

“She is in Peter’s paddock at Cambridge ticking over and growing,” Sheather said. “I don’t think she is going to be a two-year-old from my untrained eye, but we will just let her grow and develop.

“She has been broken-in and ridden, she may have a go in the autumn – I have got to find a trainer for her. She looks like she is very correct, and she is a nice-looking filly.”

In Sheather’s first foray into breeding, he sent Lilahjay to Darci Brahma, with the resulting foal currently being prepared by Landsdowne Park’s Dave Duley for next year’s New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales.

“I know another guy in racing and he said we will ring this pedigree analyst, a breeding man from Palmerston North,” Sheather said.

“His preference was Preferment and Darci Brahma. I chose to go with Darci because he is getting old. Being from a farming background, I said he is a proven sire, he has got nothing left to prove, whereas Preferment is young and will be around for a long time so I can always go that way later on.

“She is a lovely filly that is going to the sales and is being prepared by Dave Duley.

“I didn’t know anything about him other than he happened to be on the sales coverage one year when I was watching it.

“I looked at some of his videos from last year’s sales and thought he did a good job, so I thought I would ring him up and see if he wanted to do my one.

“He rang me yesterday and said they have done x-rays and they are all clear, so she is going ahead.”

Sheather will welcome a full sibling to the yearling in the coming months, with Lilahjay having returned to Darci Brahma after missing to Rich Hill Stud stallion Vadamos last year.

“She went to Vadamos and didn’t hold. She has a few issues but Peter nurses her,” Sheather said.

“He had trouble the day she came back on again, I don’t know if it was a misunderstanding but she ended up at The Oaks Stud and got in-foal to Darci again.

“Next year she will have to have the year off so she can get back to square one again.”

While Sheather has been enjoying a great ride with his first broodmare, he doesn’t have any intentions of adding to his breeding numbers in the near future.

“It has all been fun – a bit of a hobby that has got out of hand,” he said.

“I will just stay with Lilah, she is enough for me at the moment. I will have the What’s The Story filly and hopefully she will produce me another Darci Brahma (this breeding season).”

In the meantime, Sheather is enjoying watching Mr Brightside race in Australia and he is hoping there is plenty more instore for the son of Bullbars this spring. – NZ Racing News

Versatile horseman House claims gavelhouse.com Newcomer to Training Award

Michael House’s decision to add a thoroughbred arm to his training operation has reaped rich rewards, earning the gavelhouse.com Newcomer to Training Award for the 2021-22 New Zealand racing season.

Among trainers who operate a stable in their own right and have held a thoroughbred licence for fewer than five seasons, the award honours the trainer who saddles the most winners during the New Zealand racing season. It was won by Peter Didham in 2020-21, and Jamie Richards and Andrew Carston in the two seasons preceding that.

House is no newcomer to training racehorses, having been credited with over 600 winners in a long and highly successful career in harness racing.

But he first took out his thoroughbred training licence towards the end of the 2019-20 season, and his two full seasons of training have netted nine winners – seven of them in 2021-22.

“This award is a lovely recognition for myself and for my team,” House said. “I have a great crew around me, and the success that we’ve had is something that we can all take a lot of satisfaction from.

“Our results last season were pleasing. We’ve really only got Industry-day horses at the moment, rather than Feature or Premier ones, so it’s been about trying to stay away from those better days and pick out the right races. It’s always satisfying when that plan comes off.”

House also paid tribute to gavelhouse.com, not only for its sponsorship of this award but also the boost it has provided to South Island racing.

“To me, gavelhouse.com and the Riccarton Park synthetic track are two of the biggest things to happen in South Island thoroughbred racing in recent years, and also two of the biggest things for our future,” the Prebbleton-based horseman said.

“I’ve already bought a number of horses off gavelhouse.com, and I’m also an outstanding underbidder! It’s been obvious in recent times that a significant proportion of our horse population in the South Island is made up of horses bought through gavelhouse.com. It gives stables like ours an opportunity to access a much wider range of horses than we would have ever had before, and in price ranges that are affordable. It’s been a game-changer for us. Every Monday night sale on gavelhouse.com is an unmissable event for me, and I’m very grateful for it.”

Although he is a relatively new name among thoroughbred training ranks, House has a long-standing connection with the code.

“I’ve always been a thoroughbred man,” he said. “Back when I was 13, I started riding work in Reefton for Dennis Cutbush. Through the years that followed, I made a number of road trips all around the South Island, towing his float. This would be 40-odd years ago now, but I had a wonderful time with him.

“There was no such thing as professional sport in those days, so when the time came to choose a career, I decided that I was going to be a racing man. But I ended up turning my back on the thoroughbreds on that stage, because I knew I was too big to be a jockey.

“I went into the standardbreds instead. Peter Jones was the legendary junior driver on the scene at that time, and I thought I could follow in his footsteps and change the world.

“But it was very hard to establish yourself in those days. The reality in harness racing was that if you weren’t related to someone, it was a very, very difficult scene to break into at that time. It may well have been a similar story with thoroughbreds at that stage too.

“But I was determined that I wasn’t going to fail, and I started training some standardbreds and enjoyed a bit of early success.

“Around the same time as each other, both Cran Dalgety and I both went out and started advertising for horses, which I think might have shaken up the establishment a little bit. We both ended up building up big teams of horses and winning a lot of races.

“I also had some great success on the breeding side of things with Roydon Lodge, standing stallions such as the multiple premiership winner Sundon. In terms of Group One winners, he actually sired more than Sir Tristram and Zabeel combined! He never stood for the sort of service fee they did of course, it was more about just getting the bulk numbers. But it was very special to be involved with a champion sire like him.

“Throughout all of this, though, I always continued my involvement on the thoroughbred side of things. I’ve had ownership interests in a number of horses – one of the most memorable was the outstanding jumper Jackfrost, who we had a fantastic time racing along with a great syndicate of owners.

“There was also a mare that I bought in partnership with Sheldon Murtha, called Lady Chanele. She won a couple of races and then became a lovely broodmare that we bred from, particularly with her best daughter Ombre Rose.

“We won multiple stakes races with Ombre Rose and then bred from her as well, and one of the catalysts for me getting into training thoroughbreds was that I really wanted to train some of Ombre Rose’s progeny.

“I’ve now got her daughters by Zacinto and Zed, so I have one from a more speed-oriented sire and one with a bit more stamina. It’s very exciting to have them.

“I’m hopeful now that my future will be along those sorts of lines. But the other factor in moving me into the thoroughbred side of things came from my other business, which is a vet business. My partner in that business has done a lot of work for John Street over a long period of time. I happened to suggest to John that if he ever had thoroughbreds that he thought would be suited to racing in the South Island, he should give me a call. That’s what he did one day, and that’s what really got us underway.

“I’ve got 12 thoroughbreds now, and a number of great people around me – including Nicci Brown and a bloke called Chris Johnson. He’s been a great jockey over a long period of time, and he’s probably reached the stage of his career now where he benefits from the loyalty and the riding fees that I can offer him. In exchange for that, I really appreciate the experience that he brings. We make a good team.

“My thoroughbred stable is growing at a rate that I probably hadn’t really planned on, but at the same time, I’m open to that. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds.”

Currently live on gavelhouse.com is a 61 Lot mixed bloodstock auction featuring youngstock, racing propositions, broodmares and stallion nominations and shares. Bidding is set to close from 7pm (NZT) Monday.

New price highlight for gavelhouse.com Standardbred

In a boon for the New Zealand standardbred industry, Albuquerque will remain in the country despite fierce competition for her from Australia in Wednesday’s gavelhouse.com Standardbred auction.

Herself a black-print winner over 2,400m by Bettor’s Delight, Albuquerque is a full sister to dual Group One winner Alberto Contador and black-print winner Duke of Albany. Already the dam of two to race, both with black-print when catalogued, a smart win in the Gr.3 Helen Pope 2yo Fillies Stakes by Millwood Nike at Ashburton on Sunday was a timely boost.

Hitting her $29,000 reserve on Wednesday morning, spirited bidding drove her final price up to $63,000 to Alabar NZ in conjunction with Victoria-based breeder Harvey Kaplan.

“She’ll come to Alabar NZ and we’ll sell yearlings from her at Karaka in partnership,” said Alabar NZ General Manager Graeme Henley.

“Her two-year-old filly, Millwood Nike was quite brilliant in winning at Ashburton on Sunday so that gave us the confidence in her as a broodmare. We’re looking forward to following the progress of Millwood Nike.

“With Millwood Nike being by Captaintreacherous, the fact that Albuquerque was in foal to his greatest son in Captain Crunch was also a positive.”

Newly promoted NZB Standardbred Manager and gavelhouse.com Standardbred representative Cam Bray was thrilled with the new high for the site as it approaches the end of its’ third year in operation.

“The site continues to be a valuable tool for breeders and owners to offer stock to a vast buying bench for very little outlay,” said Bray.

“The sale of Albuquerque is a good reminder that quality horses can fetch great prices on the site and we look forward to offering more mares of her calibre to market.”

Entries for the next gavelhouse.com Standardbred auction are due online by 10pm next Wednesday 15 June. The sale will go live at 5pm on Thursday 16 June and will run through until 7pm on Wednesday 22 June.

Group Three win a timely boost for Alburquerque


Millwood Nike’s win in the Gr.3 Helen Pope 2YO Fillies Stakes (1700m) at Ashburton on Sunday was a timely update for her dam Albuquerque who is currently being auctioned on gavelhouse.com Standardbred.

All Stars’ Mark Purdon and Hayden Cullen quinellaed the race which was a special result for stable junior driver Olivia Thornley who recorded her third Group victory.

“I think she is a special filly,” Thornley relayed to Harness News Desk’s Joshua Smith.

“We didn’t get things our way out of the gate with Blair (Orange, driver of Girlshavtime) wanting to hold the lead, but she showed how tough she was and how quick she is when she outsprinted them up the straight; it was pretty special.”

With the win, the daughter of Captaintreacherous extended her unbeaten streak to two and Thornley said the promising juvenile will now get a well-deserved break in preparation for feature races later in the year.

Watch Millwood Nike’s win: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMUwElQiD9c

View Albuquerque’s listing page: https://standardbred.gavelhouse.com/lot/1260/albuquerque

Bidding in the current 14 Lot auction will close from 7pm (NZT) on Wednesday 8 June.

gavelhouse.com graduate Aardie’s Express (NZ) powers to Oaks victory

gavelhouse.com graduate Aardie’s Express (NZ) (Always B Miki) continued her monumental rise when powering to victory in the $50,000 Group 2 Nevele R Stud-Macca Lodge Southland Oaks Final (2700m) at Ascot Park.

The classy filly scored the biggest of her six wins for trainers Steve and Amanda Telfer in a whirlwind seven start career when seeing out her first test at black-type level with class for driver Tim Williams.

Canadian owner Mike Tanev purchased Aardie’s Express for $30,500 as a yearling in 2020 when offered in a gavelhouse.com auction and in the same sale bought her dam Tatijana Bromac (NZ) (Rocknroll Hanover) with an Always B Miki colt at foot while also back in foal to the sire for $47,500.

Tim Williams was delighted to be able to secure stakes-race success for Tanev at Saturday’s Diamonds Day meeting.

“I spoke to Mike a couple of times and he was pretty excited about the race,” Williams said.

“I am just glad we could pull it off for him.”

Aardie’s Express reeled off a sizzling 26.8sec final 400m showing just how strong she can be at the end of the staying test of an Oaks distance.

It should hold the three-year-old in great stead as New Zealand’s biggest three-year-old fillies races approach later in the season.

“There is plenty of bottom to her and she showed that today,” Williams said.

“She has got the makings (of a top filly) and I think time is going to be her friend too.”

With her Southland Oaks mission complete, Aardie’s Express will head to the paddock before she is set for races like the New Zealand Oaks.

“You have got to tip your hat to Steve and Mandy, they put the plan in place a long way out,” Williams said.

“Obviously it is nice when a plan comes together.”

“She is a big girl, too, she is deserving of a good break and she will come back bigger and stronger.”

Play Philly (NZ) (Art Major) worked hard to find the lead in the early stages of the Southland Oaks.

The NZB Standardbred graduate fought on strongly to run third behind Aardie’s Express.

Play Philly was purchased at the 2020 Christchurch National Yearling Sales from breeder-vendors Denario Breeding.

NZB Standardbred graduate Idealism (NZ) (American Ideal) was also among the feature race winners on Southland’s biggest day of harness racing on Saturday.

The four-year-old produced an impressive front-running performance to win the $27,000  Regent Car Court Southern Country Cups Final for trainer Alister Black and driver Brad Williamson.

Black purchased Idealism at the 2019 Christchurch National Yearling Sale from Studholme Bloodstock’s draft.

Entries for the next gavelhouse.com Standardbred auction are due online by 10pm on Wednesday 4 May.

Two winners at Manawatu to sell Thursday

Five of the 16 Lots have their reserve met flags up in the latest gavelhouse.com Standardbred auction with bidding set to close from 7pm tomorrow (Thursday 31 March). 

With a number of Lots racing last night at Manawatu, there was plenty to be pleased about with Taliesin and Piiki Whara both winners while BenderImmer Besser and Mosaic Art featured in the minors.

The above bar Bender are all trained by Michael House who bought a big team North for the meeting.

“They have all pulled up particularly well and are set to back up at the Thursday meeting,” said House. 

“There is still plenty of upside to the horses we have for sale and a lot of them will suit the Cambridge and Auckland style of racing so this is an opportunity to add to your team while not having to fork out for the extra freight in bringing them up from our base down South.”

Entries due tomorrow night, extra day added to sale

Entries for the next gavelhouse.com  Standardbred sale are due online by 10pm tomorrow, Wednesday 23 March.

This sale will run for a day longer than usual to cater for horses engaged to race on the usual Wednesday closing night. 

“We have been approached by a number of trainers and owners who would like to sell horses in this sale but want to run them at Manawatu on the Thursday night so have pushed closing back a day to accommodate this,” gavelhouse.com Standardbred representative Cam Bray said. 

The next auction will launch at 5pm on Thursday and will run through until 7pm on Thursday 31 March.

Entry into the sale costs $200 + GST for a standard listing and $300 + GST to be included in the email newsletter and circulated via social media platforms.

Contact Cam Bray to discuss your options:
021 737 199   |     cam.bray@nzb.co.nz

Entry deadline looming


Entries for the next gavelhouse.com Standardbred sale are due online by 10am Thursday 15 July.

Judging the quality of the current entries in the sale, it’s shaping up to be a decent catalogue and one worth tacking onto.

This sale will run off the back of a successful last fornightly auction that resulted in an overall sale clearance of 100% and a top price of $6,500 for Bossmaro (pictured below).

The auction will launch at 5pm on Thursday and will run through until 7pm on Wednesday 21 July.

Contact Cam Bray to discuss your options:
021 737 199  |  cam.bray@nzb.co.nz

Picture perfect for your gavelhouse.com listing


We all know too well the struggle of getting the perfect photo of our horses. But how important is it?

A decent photo could be the difference between money in the bank and a horse still sitting in the paddock. It attracts attention and draws in buyers giving them a creditable indication of conformation and type.

If you don’t have a handy photographer friend, or a professional at that, then these six tips and tricks could help you improve your photography skills to get the best photo for your listing page.

  1. Preparation

A little grooming never goes astray. Brush out manes and tails, and brush off any mud or sweat marks.

  1. Consider you background

Highlight the horse, and only the horse. Other elements in your background tend to become a distraction and draw away from the subject so it’s best to find a space with a plain backdrop and not too much happening in it. Keep in mind that a level ground is also ideal.

  1. Standing the horse

Most buyers are looking for conformation photos to help them evaluate the horse. You want to give them a view of all four legs (que the patience and a second or even third helper). The legs nearest the camera should be slightly spaced out and the legs furthest from the camera slightly spaced in. Try and avoid the “three-legged” look.

Stand level to the horse and in the middle of the horse to create a well-balanced photo. The horse should take up at least 50% of the shot.

  1. Natural Lighting

Keep the sun at your back. You want the lighting to fall on the side of the horse to avoid any shadows that could distort it. Avoid using the flash setting.

  1. Avoid using the zoom

As tempting as it is to zoom in when taking a photo from a distance it is better to try and get closer to your subject or crop it later on. Zooming in can make the photo appear pixelated or blurry.

  1. Abundance is key

Take as many photos as you can so you have plenty to choose from to get the best one.

gavelhouse.com listings allow for 20 photos of each Lot plus video footage. Ideally buyers are looking to see a good side on shot of the horse from both sides, a head shot, a front on shot and a hind shot to allow them to assess the correctness of the horse.

Click here for an example of a listing with great photos and if you have any questions or need photos cropped or edited, feel free to call the team on +64 9 296 4436 and in Australia on +61 3 9614 4882 or email them to info@gavelhouse.com

Purdon scores first Group victory with gavelhouse.com buy

A $9,501 gavelhouse.com purchase is proving to be the best decision of young trainer Michael Purdon’s burgeoning career.

When perusing a standardbred.gavelhouse.com auction catalogue last year, the West Melton horseman’s eye was caught by the breeding of Mystic Max, having been a fan of his sire, French stallion Village Mystic.

Purdon duly secured the yearling out of the famed Robinson family, but when it came to selling down shares in the colt, Purdon had no takers.

While it was deflating at the time, it has worked out in Purdon’s favour, with the juvenile trotter now boasting more than $36,000 in earnings after his victory in the Gr.2 Sires’ Stakes 2YO Trotting Championship (1980m) at Addington Raceway on Friday.

“I tried to sell shares in him in the early stages, but I couldn’t get anyone interested. It has now worked out really well owning him outright,” Purdon said.

Starting from the outside of the front-row, Mystic Max was taken back early to take a sit for driver Blair Orange, with hot-favourite Highgrove breaking early.

Orange continued to sit patiently behind his colt until he asked him to improve on the back of Mr Love three-wide down the backstraight.

Mystic Max found clear running room down the home straight and ran over the top of his rivals to win by a half-length over Wy Fi, with a further three-quarters of a length back to Mr Love in third.

While his chances were aided by a breaking Highgrove, Purdon said manners are a huge factor when it comes to juvenile trotters.

“None of these juvenile trotters are really bombproof, they all have their little hitches,” Purdon said. “We were just fortunate enough tonight that Mystic Max put it all together.

“He is nice and kind, and he is showing he is pretty versatile now, with his first win leading up, and tonight’s win coming with a sit.”

The result now evens the ledger between Mystic Max and Highgrove at two wins a piece, with the Gr.1 Montana Food & Events 2YO Ruby (1609m) at Cambridge Raceway on June 6 set to be the tiebreaker.

“It’s very exciting,” Purdon said. “There will be a bit of pressure on him, but it is still a big thrill nonetheless.”

While looking forward to the Harness Jewels, Purdon will savour Friday’s victory, his first at Group level.

“It’s a massive thrill to get that Group win,” he said. “My last big win was a Listed race, the Harness 7000 with Willie Go West.”

Mystic Max’s victory on Friday night was also an important one for his sire Village Mystic, with the Haras des Trotteurs stallion now boasting a record of 100 percent Group winners-to-runners in New Zealand, albeit Mystic Max being his only representative.

Buoyed by the success on Friday, Purdon is keen to get some more European blood into his stable in the future.

“The European blood has always done a good job here with the likes of Love You, and Village Mystic is a son of Love You, so it’s good seeing that bloodline coming through,” he said.

Later on the card, Outamyway filled the coffers of his connections ahead of the Gr.1 Mitre 10 3YO Ruby (1609m) next month when winning the Listed NZB Standardbred Harness Million 1 – Final (1980m).

The Paul Nairn-trained colt set the pace throughout and was able to hold on bravely to defeat Regal Attire by a nose, with a further 1-1/2 lengths back to Leaf Stride in third.

Outamyway was purchased out of White Stables’ 2019 NZB Standard National Yearling Sale in Christchurch for $17,500.

Currently online is a 27 Lot gavelhouse.com Standardbred auction with bidding running through until 7pm on Wednesday.
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk