Tauranga trainer Mark Blackie has had a lifelong involvement in the racing industry and could be in for one of his most exciting seasons, just three years after returning to the sport he loves.
“I was bred into racing,” Blackie said. “My grandfather raced horses in the fifties and sixties. He bred a lot of horses with Trelawney Stud. My Dad carried that on and I started working with the horses right from when I was ten-years-old.”
Blackie always had a love of horses, but when he lost his brother at a young age he sort solace in the animal which forged a path to his training career today.
“My brother died when I was 11, he was 13,” Blackie said. “I lost my mate, so I just turned to the horses and it just evolved from there.”
He went on to work for some top trainers in both New Zealand and Australia and was the strapper for Pencarrow Stud foundation mare Richebourg, the Grand-dam of five-time Group One winner Darci Brahma and Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) winner Ethereal.
“My first job I ever had was for Laurie Laxon and then I worked for Jim Maloney in Melbourne,” he said.
“I worked in Brisbane for a few years for Roy Dawson. I really learnt my trade off him about training sprinters. It was the most I learnt off anybody.”
A dual winner of the Brisbane trainers' premiership, Dawson was also in the top five trainers in the state on nearly 30 occasions.
“Dad always wanted me to come back and train his horses in Cambridge, so I came back when I was about 35 to train for my Dad on his 180 acre dairy farm in Cambridge.
“I trained a few winners, had a couple of Group One placings and trained my first stakes winner, Santa’s Kingdom who won the Pynne Gould Guinness Final (Listed South Island 2YO Championship) in the South Island.”
Blackie took a leave of absence from the sport for a couple of years, recently returning to the training ranks three years ago and could be in for his most exciting season yet with promising mares Le Castile and Joy Anna.
Dalghar mare Le Castile showed a good turn of foot to win two of her five starts last season, while she was luckless in her last-start unplaced effort in the Gr.3 Cambridge Breeders Stakes (1200m).
“It was a great effort in the Breeders Stakes, going back from 1400m to 1200m,” Blackie said.
“She sort of got lost coming around the corner on a wet track and at the furlong she got a bit of interference. She only finished four lengths off the winner with a check and she didn’t really cop that track.”
Blackie said the four-year-old has matured since returning from a spell and will likely resume on her home track in November.
“She has been back in work for a couple of months, and has come back bigger and stronger,” he said.
“We are waiting for the firm tracks, which are only a couple of months away and that’s perfect. She will line-up on November 3 at Tauranga, probably over 1300m.
“We’ll look at getting a few wins out of her pretty smartly and then we’ll look at something around Christmas hopefully.
“She’s going to be a mare that goes well over 2000m. I expect a lot from her and I think she can go to black-type. She’s very promising.”
Meanwhile, Blackie has black-type targets in-mind for Joy Anna this season after the five-year-old mare narrowly missed out on achieving that status when finishing fourth to Savile Row in the Listed Hallmark Stud Handicap (1200m) on Boxing Day last year.
“It was her second start at black-type,” he said. “It was a decent sort of run and Savile Row is no slug, but she didn’t pull-up that great.
“She was still very weak and had three months off. She has been back in work for three months and we’ve had a few little issues with her with one of her cannon bones, but that has all settled down now.”
The daughter of Iffraaj won fresh-up over 1000m at Taupo last season and her trainer is hoping she can repeat the dose when she tackles the Listed Counties Bowl (1100m) first-up on November 24.
“I don’t expect to get her going until November, where I hope to get her fresh-up into the Counties Bowl if she can get a run. She has shown me a lot of ability, she is now five and is twice the horse to what she was.”
Another promising horse that Blackie has highlighted as his stable star is a four-year-old Makfi gelding who was set for a career in Hong Kong after an impressive trial win at Te Teko in April.
“I have got a Makfi horse that I am excited about,” Blackie said. “He failed the vet to Hong Kong. He won his first trial at Te Teko when he was a three-year-old by about seven lengths and ran the fastest time of the day. I’ve sold a few shares in him and I reckon he’s my best horse.
“He’s been back in work a couple of months and he’ll race in November and we’ll target some special condition maidens over Christmas. He can really gallop, he just gets down and boogies. He’s a really talented horse.”
Variety will be the plan for the trios training routine over the next few months, with Blackie set to take advantage of Tauranga’s famed beaches.
“They’ll probably just have a jump out and then go to the races,” he said. “They try 100 per cent and rather than give them a trial I’ll instead give them a few trips to the beach, jump them out, take them over to Matamata and trip them around a little bit like that.
“We go to Papamoa East Beach and they walk in the water for thirty or forty minutes. It’s good for their heads and gets them out of the stables.
“By the time they truck down there and back, they almost feel like they’ve had a gallop. It gets them back into the mindset of happily getting on the truck and going to the races.” – NZ Racing Desk