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Keeping Up With Gordon Smith

4 September

Few would argue Gordon Smith is one of the industry’s ‘good buggers’! Rugby, racing, beer and a good game of golf are the pillars of the Cambridge horseman’s life and he would not have it any other way.

Gordon has dedicated his life to living on the land, and being born and raised on a dairy farm in the far north town of Dargaville he reminisces his days at the Dargaville races, “I would still consider it my favourite track, Dad was the president for a while and over the years we had some great times there”, Smith recalled. Growing up in an environment where racing was a key factor it was inevitable Gordon would eventually engross himself within the industry through breeding and racehorse ownership.

Upon leaving school, Gordon worked professionally as a stock agent and auctioneer for Allied Farmers before returning to the family farm to milk cows. During this time through the early 90’s, Gordon raced horses with a good group of friends whom he still races horses with today. The picture of his first winner still sits proudly on his wall, Bay Oak (Oak Ridge), who won his first race in 1995. “We had a great association with the Fursdon’s who we still have a lot to do with today”, Smith commented. Throughout this time, the social side of racing was a huge component with regular trips to the Whangarei races being the biggest highlights, “we would take a van load of people over, stay the night play cards, golf and stay up far too late! These days we are in bed by 9pm!”

It was a meeting with the accountant in the late 90’s that gave Gordon the motivation to explore a career change. “I remember the accountant saying to me for the farm to be sustainable you have to get bigger or you have to get out, I didn’t love milking the cows and it was a big time commitment, so I decided I would get out!” Gordon decided the time was now to follow his passion for breeding and racing and he set out to find a suitable position at one of the existing stud farms. “I wrote to all the big stud farms, explained I was keen on the horses and what I could add. I got a reply from Nelson Schick, I went for a job with Peter Setchell at Millfield Stud which I missed out on and also spoke with John Thompson at Rich Hill”. Gordon’s proactive thinking was rewarded when he landed a position with Tim Bodle at the famed Whakanui Stud in 2000. It was a partnership that lasted 15 years with Gordon seeing through some of the stud’s golden years. “Tim had 22 odd mares who were some of the best-bred mares in the southern hemisphere, we regularly bred Group 1 winners and sold yearlings for great money”.

The fifteen or so years spent with Whakanui Stud gave Gordon the opportunity to handle some outstanding horses in the flesh, “we still had Empire Rose on the farm who was a special mare for obvious reasons”. During Gordon’s tenure, multiple Group 1 winners were born and raised on the property with the outstanding producer Monroe Magic (Zabeel) in her prime throughout. “Headturner and Anacheeva were probably the two best horses I dealt with”, said Smith. Both from the Zabeel mare Monroe Magic, Headturner was the winner of the 2006 Australian Derby while Peter Moody trainer Anacheeva won the 2010 Caulfield Guineas. She would then produce the 2014 Manawatu Sire Produce Stakes winner O’Marilyn (O’Reilly).

In 2016 Whakanui Stud underwent significant change, no longer presenting a yearling draft and a significant reduction in mare numbers saw Gordon lease part of the land and set up under his current endeavor, Cambridge Blue Agistment. A strong following of loyal clients has allowed Gordon to continue living his passion and working with horses. “This is where I got into breeding a few horses, and I have a share in Telperion, I’ve got some good loyal clients which makes it all worth it”. Gordon continues to race horses with the same group of ‘good mates’ and points to his two-year-old by Telperion as an exciting prospect, “we largely have the same group of people and Karen [Fursdon] will train, we are excited by the progression and believe he might make a 2YO like his sire”.

We caught up with Gordon at Whakanui Stud’s former property…

What race would travel back in time for?

Bonecrusher vs Our Waverly Star.

Race you would most like to win?  

Great Northern Steeple Chase.

Best horse you have seen?  

Sunline.

Favourite racetrack

Dargaville!

Favourite stallion of all time?   

Pins – So consistent.

Favourite stallion at Westbury Stud?

Telperion – I am a current breeding right holder and have a very nice 2YO in work by him.

Best piece of breeding advice you’ve received?  

“Go to the best stallion you can afford!”