Introducing Roger O'Neill
For two farms to work simultaneously - 144km’s apart – it takes collaboration and communication and while the recent growth at Westbury Waikato has enabled a robust team it, was pertinent to complement our Karaka team with the same strength which we have gained with the recent employment of Roger O’Neill. Roger joins the Karaka team as a senior member of staff providing day to day support and planning, bringing vast knowledge of the thoroughbred industry and a great attitude that inspires the team to work to the best of their abilities.
The opportunity to work with horses started at the age of 12 while his uncle trained a handful of horses at Trentham. Roger mostly recalls one the more successful runners at the time a Prince Echo gelding named Tui’s Mana who impressed with eight wins and placed up to fifth in a further 35 races. Roger eventually moved into his first role on a stud farm in Otaki call Ashford Park Stud before returning to the racing scene where he would devote the next two decades.
Roger admits he’s been lucky with the opportunities his career has presented him, having left New Zealand at the age of 19 to work for some top trainers in Australia. He started out under the watchful eye of Brisbane trainer Bruce Brown where he began his education of everything there is to know about Australian racing. Roger eventually became Bruces’ foreman of two years before moving to the stable of highly recognised trainer John Hawkes which provided an abundance of knowledge in the training ranks and horsemanship skills, leading to a role with Australian trainer Gerald Ryan. Roger’s fondest memories while in Australia is working with Lonhro and Commands before commencing stud duties.
His move back home to New Zealand provided Roger with his next big opportunity, working in Cambridge for Shaune Ritchie, and it wasn’t long before Roger became foreman for Shaune for the next 7 years. Their success together saw triumph in two New Zealand Oaks, victory in the New Zealand Derby with Volksraad gelding Military Move, the iconic New Zealand Cup, and multiple Group wins.
Roger eventually tried life outside of racing but his passion for the thoroughbred drew him back and working at Westbury was another opportunity he could not pass up. An experienced horseman in his own right, the role has given him the advantage to learn more about breeding, with ambitions to produce quality horses in the ring before they progress onto the track while building a strong culture within the Westbury team.