PIC:Phar Lap the day of his great international triumph at Agua Caliente in 1932 in one of the richest handicaps in the world.It was his only start in North America.He died a few weeks later.


You might think it is a stretch linking All Stars Racing Stables to Phar Lap. I mean Phar Lap died in 1932  when Rolleston was a quiet farming district off the main grid and he never wore a hopple in his life.

Nevertheless a connection is not that distant.

Since Mark widened his activities into training thoroughbreds, the first to be based at Rolleston was Buster Shaw, a War Decree youngster whose mother Udiditagain was stakes placed at Trentham (Wellesley Stakes) from the stable of Kevin Hughes at Riccarton in her racing days. Kevin and wife Pam had also bred her.

Buster Shaw is currently with Mike McCann undergoing his first preparation before Mark sets up his racing operation proper later in the year.

So how do we get to Phar Lap from there ?

Through Buster Shaw’s breeder (with family) Kerry Shaw. Kerry was a well known stock agent,buyer, and equine manager (with PGG) specialising in exotic cattle breeds (Charolais) before extending his equine interests into team leader organising the PGG yearling sales and highly regarded in all fields over many years. He accompanied Mark to the Karaka Sales in January in an advisory capacity. Racing is in his blood.

The  Phar Lap connection is through Kerry’s father,Jim, a successful trainer for many years at Riccarton and Washdyke.

One of five brothers originally from Timaru, all successfully involved with horses,Jim was working at the  Seadown Stud near Timaru when Phar Lap was foaled and for many years he was the only man alive who had genuine personal first hand knowledge of the horse.

Alexander Roberts,a retired farmer,set up the stud and stood Phar Lap’s sire Night Raid there. In his first crop Night Raid left the Melbourne Cup winner Nightmarch and in his second the Melbourne Cup winner,Phar Lap.

JIm accompanied the Seadown yearlings to the  sales (at Trentham then) and while he enjoyed the Phar Lap movie he was never carried away by some of the fancifful stories that followed a legendary racehorse-such as Phar Lap being foaled in a tent because of overloading of the stud facilities.

“He was quite a plain horse,good enough to handle, with a long stride but at that stage really nothing out of the ordinary” Jim would later say.

 “He bought a fair price but you wouldn’t have said he was a bargain at that stage.He didn’t really stand out and was going to need time”

Jim however had a very different opinion of the dam, Entreaty, also owned by Seadown who left many winners.

“A lovely little black mare, real quality. It didn’t surprise me she left a horse like that”

Significantly Sydney trainer Harry Telford,who arranged for Phar Laps’s purchase, was not at the sale,selecting him on pedigree and top horses from the family he had been associated with while in New Zealand.

Seadown Stud was moved to Kaituna in 1929 because of demand for Night Raid and Jim was a leader in moving all the mares and Night Raid north.They travelled on the train to Little River then walked along the road to Kaituna where Roberts had spent a small fortune converting a farm into a stud. 

“We didn’t think a lot of it at the time. It was what we did”  Jim said of walking the most fashionable stallion and mare in Australasia along a gravel road to his new home as you would  with a flock of sheep.

Mr Roberts enjoyed only brief success for he died in 1931. The stud was dispersed and JIm later set up as a trainer at Riccarton. A brother,Ernie, was a fearless jumps rider at the time and another,Jack, was a clerk of the course at Riccarton for nearly 50 years still officiating two weeks before his death at 79 in 1976. Shaw’s Brush at Riccarton is named in his honour. He also officiated at both gallop and trotting meetings in South Canterbury for several years.

Jim trained for prominent  owners with stars of the time like Tess, Vitamise and Sand Bank, to name a few,and  good jumper Border Reiver for his wife Marjorie.But the best he had was My Hero for his father- in law, well known publican, Ollie Watson.

Jim  was however  denied recognition for My Hero’s greatest win, in the 1953 Caulfield Cup  the horse being  under the care of his owner on the brief trip. He was also placed in the Melbourne Cup that year coming from last at the 1200 to run third after winning the leadup handicap,now the Lexus. He was ridden in Australia by Noel Eastwood from Riccarton.

After the meeting Mr Watson lived up to his earlier promise to sell the horse at auction a few days later and he never returned to New Zealand.

No South Island-trained horse has won the Caulfield Cup in the 70 years since.

“My wife was not well at the time and people come before horses” was highly principled Jim Shaw’s philosophic reaction to what must have been a keen professional disappointment.

However the Shaw fascination with racing has survived another generation and Mark is hopeful it can resume on the track as well as off for All Stars in the future.

“He is a lovely horse  to deal with.Top temperament, wants to be with you. I am sending him to Michael (McCann) for his first prep because we have plenty going on at the moment but I am looking forward to training him later”

Maybe not another Phar Lap. But the Shaw name in the story and a Purdon as a trainer are  steps  in the right direction,


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