YEAR: 2016

CHRISTIAN CULLEN - Champion Racehorse & Sire

As a racehorse, he was incomparable. Pure elegance and power wrapped up in an eguine machine. Simply the best.

But when Christian Cullen's career is remembered in 30,50 or even 100 years it's hard not to imagine that it will be the indelible mark he left on the breeding scene of New Zealand that will be most freely recalled.

Like some of the best to have graced studs around the country, Christian Cullen has been a trailblazer. He came at a time when harness racing needed a pin up, a commercial stallion who could mix it with the flashy lads being brought in from America - a true blue Kiwi to keep things kicking.

Lordship left his mark, Sundon left his but Cullen was a whole new ball game. A bucking of the trend if you like. He became the most sought after stallion in the country and further afield, his progeny fetching big prices at yearling sales, his service fee skyrocketing to almost unheard of prices and his demand growing by the month. Cullen was a revolutionary on the New Zealand breeding scene. For 14 years he's been on, or at least near to, the top of the pile when it comes to stallions down under.

And Ian Dobson has enjoyed every minute of it. As far as owners go, Dobson could be best described as a run-of-the-mill owner before Cullen came along. He had enjoyed moderate success. Raced the odd horse but nothing that would compare with what lay ahead. One day and one nod in the direction of a striking colt changed Dodson's life. Paul Bielby was the person who pointed Dobson in the direction of Cullen. They say that the real good horses have a presence about them. They hold themselves in a way that can be different to any other horse. And Cullen did exactly that. Dobson purchased the horse on the spot. Gave a share to his trainer at the time, Brian O'Meara and the rest, from a racing perspective, as they say, is history.

Once his racing days were over, Cullen's impact as a stallion was almost immediate. Dobson initially knew nothing about the breeding side of the business but he was constantly informed that the only logical option was to stand the horse at stud. After buying O'Meara out of his share for a six-figure sum. Initially he began breeding while still racing, with semen collected from the property of O'Meara. Standing for $6,000, a high price at the time for a first season stallion, Cullen struck a snag when nothing he was bred to in the North Island got in foal, resulting in just 46 covers in his maiden season.

From that crop however, the success was incredible. He left Born Again Christian 1:51.2($133,130), Likmesiah ($427,965), Roman Gladiator($318,022), V For($208,777), Chris Riley($306,732), Conte De Christo($246,703), Dudinka's Star($106,580) and C C Mee($101,949). Almost every one had the Cullen "look" about them. That same presence he himself held as a young horse. An enticing possibility for trainers and for breeders.

It was arguably his second crop that produced the best results though. From it came New Zealand Cup winning mare, Mainland Banner. Purchased for $9,000 by retired Ashburton farmer Ian Sowden, her ability was recognised early on as she made a big impression around Mid Canterbury at workouts and trials. The similarities between her and her sire were remarkable - something that later moved legendary race caller, Reon Murtha to describe her as "Christian Cullen in a skirt."

Dobson was obviously enraptured by the then filly as well. So much so he went and forked out a six-figure sum to purchase her unqualified through the advice of his then trainer, Robert Dunn. She would go on to win 17 of her 21 career starts, including the New Zealand Trotting Cup - earning close to $700,000 in the process and is now a successful broodmare having left five winners from five foals to the track including Harness Jewels winning mare, Rocker Band.

Others to arrive from Cullen's second crop included; King Cat Anvil($918,191), Molly Darling($575,150), Mighty Cullen($574,945), Classic Cullen($451,660) and Whambam($407,299). That particular crop saw 108 foals with 58 winners - by far not his best in terms of foals to winners but it did produce some of his most prolific sons and daughters.

Cullen's third crop was modest. He left 34 winners from 59 foals, Pay Me Christian - an incredibly fast son, was the best of them.

Then came a very strong crop where 136 foals produced 72 winners with Gotta Go Cullen($1,173,343), Chausettes Blanche($329,250), Cullens Blue Jean($289,056), Fergiemack($230,653), Spicey($162,014) and Charles Bronson($127,255) at the top of the pile for stake earnings. Dobson was back in the action again too, purchasing Gotta Go Cullen - realising the strapping colt had stallion potential.

Jewels winners; Kiwi Ingenuity, Lizzie Maguire and Ohoka Arizona came the following year and in the same year he went to the next level when it came to his progeny at the yearling sales. At the 2008 PGG Wrightson Australasian Classic Yearling Sales at Karaka, Christian Cullen's yearlings averaged a stunning $89,000(24 yearlings). With 9 $100,000 plus yearlings being sold, Cullen was the sire of 8 0f the 9, including the two $200,000 plus sale toppers. At the Christchurch Premier sale, his 34 yearlings averaged just shy of $64,000, with Cullen setting a modern day record for a yearling colt with the sale of Tuapeka Mariner for $250,000. In the two premier yearling sales combined, Christian Cullen sired an unprecedented three $200,000 plus yearlings, 10 $100,000 plus yearlings and 20 $50,000 plus yearlings. In Melbourne, Christian Cullen also topped the APG Yearling Sale with a $100,000 colt.

Those results, coupled with some serious interest from further abroad, saw whispers around Cullen heading to America to stand for a season and Dodson was inundated with requests from breeders from the other side of the world. Prospective clients came down to see Cullen and Dobson in the flesh and also spent a fair amount of time inspecting some of his progeny. They were concerned about the declining gene pool and Christian Cullen was even a well known name in North America. Eventually Ian went to America and hosted a number of top breeders and at the end of the evening had approximately 80 mares booked, however after all the arrangements were made and the stallion sent to America, there was the worldwide financial crash and as a result only about 20 mares ended up getting served. He stood for US$10,000 in that season and although he only produced 26 live foals, 17 of them were winners and his mark is still prominent in America with a large number of Kiwi pacers sold there and performing well.

All Tiger 1:49.1s(401,238), Royal Cee Cee 1:49.3f ($996,432), Mighty Cullen 1:50.2($574,945), Classic Cullen 1:50.4, King Kat Anvil 1:52.4h ($918,191) and Lightning Raider 1:52.4($403,559) have all performed with distinction in the States and Cullen's most prolific son of recent years, Christen Me is headed there as well now.

Back home, Cullen's sixth crop produced the outstanding Stunin Cullen who was a winner of the Sires' Stakes Final as a three-year-old and won close to $1.5 million during his career. Also from that year came Group One winners, Lauraella and Rona Lorraine.

His seven-year-old crop produced 145 foals for 86 winners headed by Franco Emirate($326,830), Royal Cee Cee($996,432), Meredith Maguire($226,167) and Gotta Go Harmony($205,909) before Easy On The Eye($315,650), Statesman($306,632), Hands Christian($263,930), The Muskeg Express($111,331) and Ohoka Texas($174,342) came the next year.

Christen Me hailed from Cullen's next crop alongside Franco Nelson - both multiple Group One winners before Lacharburn, Libertybelle Midfre and All Black Stride came the following year.

What is obvious from these listed horses is Cullen's ability to leave a good horse each year. And while the numbers might have dwindled in recent times, there has been no shortage of good ones still stepping out onto the track as well as those from daughters of the super sire.

Three times he was named Harness Racing New Zealand's Stallion of the Year and on three occasions it took the might of Sundon to lower him from the title. From just over 20,000 starters in 10 seasons at stud, Cullen has produced more than 2,500 winners in New Zealand with his Australian statistics just as good. Stake earnings, from just New Zealand, sit at over $33 million while world-wide they would at least double that.

After the humble breeding beginnings at O'Meara's property, Christian Cullen found his niche at Wai Eyre Farm where Dobson's unforgettable lime green colours made the Cullen brand recognisable on the worldwide stage. In 2013, when Cullen's fertility issues really began to raise their head, Dobson moved Cullen to Nevele R Stud in an effort to rejuvenate the stallion's career. Then in the 2015 and 2016 season Cullen was shifted to Dancingonmoonlight Farm in North Canterbury.

The move came for two reasons, one more final effort to try and raise fertility levels and also to find a place where he would likely retire. Under the watchful eye of Farm Manager Trent Yesberg, Cullen has been given every opportunity. To put the issues Cullen has been facing in layman's terms, Cullen's sperm do not swim in a straight line which makes it very hard for them to make their way to the required destination. All number of tests and ideas have been undertaken but at 22 it would appear as though the body is finally saying enough.

So early this year, after a long amount of time spent thinking and deliberating, Dobson decided to call time on the stallion career of the horse who made him one of the most well-known men in harness racing. A horse who took him all over the world, gave him so many thrills and a couple of heartbreaks too.

Fitting of the champion status he has so rightly earned through, Cullen will enjoy retirement with all the modern luxuries. He's got a big paddock at Dancingonmoonlight and is rugged and fed each day as well as regular farrier work. Two-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winning, Monkey King is there to keep him company from the safety of the other side of the fence and there's still a plethora of people who drive into the property and one of the first questions they ask, whether they are harness racing inclined or not, is whether or not they can grab a picture, or have a look, at Christian Cullen.

And considering it has been 17 years since he last raced, it would seem the pulling power of one of harness racing's greatest champions, as a racehorse and as a stallion, is still just as strong as ever.

Credit: Matt Markham writing in Harnessed Apr 2017


YEAR: 1998

Dan Campbell & Christian Cullen

If you'd seen Dan Campbell on Tuesday, you'd think it could've been a day at the Sunday Trials. Not a hint of a smile gave the show away. Not a wink or a blink to the waiting nation. Later, efficient, practical, calculated comments. Nothing to suggest this occasion was a beat up from any other. But it was.

Aged 26 and with the physique of a jockey, Campbell was the coolest dude on course after winning the $350,000 DB Draught NZ Cup with the Michael Jackson of the track, Christian Cullen.

What the pair lacked in ringcraft and experience they made up for in brilliance, verve and total faith in each other. As Tony Abell, the President of the Metropolitan Trotting Club, said later: "Christian Cullen was always going to be the one to beat. It was stamped so clearly, so indelibly in the lead-up racing. It is a huge thrill for a horse of such inexperience to win a race like this."

Like trainer Brian O'Meara and part-owner Ian Dobson, Campbell had no doubts that Christian Cullen had the stamina to stay the trip as well as the best and better than most. Speedy horses such as Master Musician, Our Maestro and many others have failed when hurt turns to pain in the final gasps of two mile at Addington. Christian Cullen was not one of them, neither was Iraklis who refused to give up the chase. But Campbell was honest: "No he'd had enough by the time he'd got to the post. I thought he would have to do the work he did, but when, I didn't know. He was pretty lucky the way it turned out, because I was able to give him a good breather once I got to the front. Breather! Not for the others. Christian Cullen flew the 3200m in 4:00.4, which equalled the race record shared by Luxury Liner and Il Vicolo.

He clipped along in front, with dainty, feathery steps, but all of them quick and bold. He had Iraklis outside him for much of the last lap and Roymark and Franco Enforce behind him. On the corner, where the levels of class were apparent, it was down to just the two, the old champ equalled by 10 metres and the new one.

Ricky May, who had won the race on Iraklis the year before, knew what he was up against. "We were going as good as Christian Cullen was going, but the ten metre handicap was the difference. I thought for one wee minute on the turn that we had him but then he kicked on." Trainer Robert Cameron had the evidence on his watch, halves, quarters, sectionals, telling figures ... his 3200m in 3:57.5, final 2400m in 3:00, last half in 59.7, final quarter in 28.41. Good enough to beat 13 but not number 8, the dashing bay with the regal carriage.

The Wayne Francis owned pair Franco Enforce and There's A Franco were third and fourth. Both had nice runs near the pace and did the best they could. The others simply did not get close enough for long enough to breath on the leaders.

Many of last year's supporters of Iraklis had seen the new bright light and moved onto Christian Cullen, backing him down to less than double the money to win. They were everyone's quinella when the pedigree kings drew swords 300 metres out. That was when May thought he had his name on it. Briefly, as he said. Still Iraklis was a game and gallant rival. He didn't give ground; he didn't make it. He gave the crowd a finish they'd come to see. It was not a classic finish of its type; more a matter of two great horses showing the way to 13 good ones. The margins were a length and a quarter and seven lengths.

Just past the post, I could've sworn I saw Dan Campbell smile.

Christian Cullen, almost in the mould of a spaceage horse being by super sire In The Pocket, gave part-owner Ian Dodson something to sing about afer winning the Cup on Tuesday. Dobson, who said he had a "nice collect" on futures betting, arranged for brother Andy to compose a tune and write the lyrics for a song about Christian Cullen. The result of this effort was sung by John Grenell in the birdcage after the presentation of the Cup. It says "Cullen, Cullen, Cullen" quite a bit which is pretty much the way songs go these days, but it is safe to say the issue might only be found in selected libraries.

Dobson was always bullish on Christian Cullen, from the time he asked Brian O'Meara to train for him. Letting the O'Meara eye do the finding, Dobson paid $15,000 to Paul Bielby for a three-quarter share in Christian Cullen as a yearling, was sent back to buy the other quarter for the same amount, then watched O'Meara nuture his vast potential. O'Meara has not let Dobson down. The horse is little more than a neophyte, earning $724,925 from only 20 starts.

Christian Cullen becomes the sixth 4-year-old to win the Cup, following Lookaway (1957), Lordship (1962), Stanley Rio (1972), Inky Lord (1982) and Il Vicolo (1995). "I have found the pressure very hard, yet I've always been confident in the horse, in Brian, and in Danny. I felt the pressure come off after the Flying Stakes, and now what he has done today has silenced a few critics," he said.

Dobson was born on the wrong side of the tracks during the Depression years. He was reared by foster parents who gave him a wonderful life. He was prudent during his early working years, telling his wife Doreen to resist the big spend; she could fill her wardrobe with fine things if she wanted to later on. It was not until he was 47 that he took the cover off the jam jar - he once bought a factory making jam covers - and bought his first horse. Later on, he stepped into the fast lane, outlaying big money for the galloper Royal Creation who won a million, and since then he's been sitting in the Merc.

He was thrilled that their daughter Lyn Umar was able to join them, flying in from Auckland the night before, and he has always welcomed the company of those genuine harness racing enthusiasts. He was just as keen telling everyone afterwards that the Christian Cullen - Iraklis quinella was good for racing.

We'll sing to that, Dobbie.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in the HR Weekly


YEAR: 1998


Great races usually involve more than a superlative performance from one horse, and by the time the 1998 NZ Cup rolled around, there were only two horses on everybody's lips - the 'defending champion' Iraklis in the red, white and blue corner and an upstart young challenger in Christian Cullen in the light blue and white one. They had met for the first time in the Ashburton Flying Stakes, where Christian Cullen had delivered a telling blow, but the injury-troubled star still had to make it to the post and there were many rating the great stayer Iraklis just as big a chance, even with a 10m handicap.

Brilliant northerner Agua Caliente, winner of the Taylor Mile/Messenger double the year before, had gone amiss with a breathing issue in mid-October, but the likes of such quality performers in Anvil's Star, Anvil Vance, Brabham, Franco Enforce, Kate's First, Surprise Package and There's A Franco hardly raised a mention, such was the hype around the 'favs'.

Anvil's Star was a 7-year-old and in his last campaign in NZ, having already won over $400,000. He was beaten less than a length when Il Vicolo won his second NZ Cup, and a fourth at Kaikoura where he was beaten a head and two noses showed he was still a force to be reckoned with. Anvil Vance was a year-younger son of Vance Hanover who had also won over $400,000 for trainer Barry Purdon. He had been placed twice in both the Auckland and NZ Cups and won that year's Easter Cup in 4:04 over Happy Asset and Franco Enforce.

Brabham was an 8-year-old winner of over $600,000 and also coming to the end of his career for Mark Purdon. He had been beaten a head by Kate's First in the previous season's Auckland Cup, and a devastating finish to win the North Shore City Stakes by three lengths in a NZ record 3:20.3 (MR1:59.3 for 2700m stand) showed he was in as good a shape as ever. Franco Enforce was a 5-year-old and had won nine of his 16 races starting the season. He had won the Sires Stakes Final by a nose over Franco Hat Trick and Lavros Star in a 1:57.5 mile rate in his third lifetime start, and was beaten a nose in Bogan Fella's NZ Derby before winning the Queensland/Australian Derby double in grand style. Resuming the previous February with three wins at Addington before a third in the Easter Cup, there was little fuss for Franco Enforce to qualify for the Cup with wins at Motukarara and Addington going into Ashburton. A sound fifth there didn't hurt his Cup prospects at all, although the 'OK Bye factor'was soon to rear its ugly head.

Kate's First was also a 5-year-old and the splendid stayer had won the NZ Oaks in 3:13.1 and as a 4-year-old the Auckland Cup in 4:01.2, both records. Surprise Package was starting to get a bit long in the tooth as a 7-year-old, but had won that year's Hunter Cup when 10 of the 14 starters were either NZ-bred or trained, or both, and banked over $700,000. He had only resumed at Kailoura, so was a bit of an unknown package going into the Cup, but class always has and had to be respected.

There's A Franco was a 6-year-old and had won 11 of 24 races starting that season, having missed her 4-year-old term through an injury. She had been placed in four races going into Ashburton, where she was a close and solid sixth, and as one of four mares starting in the Cup that year, also gave them a high card in a strong hand. Holmes D G, the winner of four Derbys the previous season, had been brilliant when resuming in the Kumeu Stakes in late October, but Barry Purdon opted to bypass the Cup and wait for a return bout with Christian Cullen in the FFA.

Thus, while Agua Caliente and Holmes D G were not there to challenge for the north, and there was the usual amount of 'padding' to make up a full field, it can be seen that this was a good Cup field, even without Christian Cullen and Iraklis.

Iraklis had been Horse of the Year as a 4-year-old after blowing away Brabham in the Junior FFA and NZ Free-For-All, where he also dealt to the dual Cup winner Il Vicolo, before winning the Miracle Mile in a race record 1:54.2 and finishing third in the Inter-Dominion at Globe Derby Park. The previous season he had again been unbeatable in the spring, winning twice at Addington, the Hannon and Ashburton Flying Stakes before winning the Cup, although the half-head over rank out-sider Smooth Dominion was a bit scary for those who had made him the odds-on favourite and shortest price winner in the history of the event. On the comeback trail as a 6-year-old after going amiss the previous December, Iraklis had looked just as good again in romping away in good company at Addington and again winning the Hannon inpressively, and a pending first showdown with Christian Cullen loomed at Ashburton.

Iraklis had opened the $2.75 favourite with Fixed Odds for the Cup and Christian Cullen was at $4.75, but a lot was about to change. There was a nagging doubt that the In The Pocket entire would both remain sound and take the next step to Cup class, given that he had already twice gone amiss on the eve of Group 1 assignments.

He had looked a budding superstar from the time he won his first two races as a juvenile - the first such race in the South Island at the Cup meeting in November by five lengths and a 2600m M0 stand in January by six in 3:18.6. The Welcome Stakes and PGG Sales race proved mere formalities, but after getting a knock to a tendon in the week leading up to the latter, a week later he had to be withdrawn from his Sires' Stakes heat and the rest of the season. In the spring he won the Rising Stars, but was beaten in his other four races going into the Sires' Stakes. Christian Cullen was too strong for Holmes D G on that occasion however, and on the final night of the meeting, against mostly open class horses, he convincingly downed Anvil's Star and Brabham in the $100,000 Round Up 1950.

That controversial late withdrawal from the Miracle Mile over a supposedly contaminated swab when Chokin had already found the task as a 3-year-old so overwhelming and an unlucky third in the Great Northern Derby followed, and then Christian Cullen was on the sidelines again when the NZ Derby was run and also won by Holmes D G, who would be 3yo Pacer of the Year by virtue of also accounting for the Victoria and NSW Derbys. Resuming in August with two wins over Good Mate in intermediate company from a handicap and the Superstars from 20 metres, set the stage for Christian Cullen's first clash with Iraklis.

Adding fuel to the fire in the pre-race hype - it was pretty much the Cup field - was the fact that Ricky May had opted off Christian Cullen after winning the Sires' Stakes, in light of the pending clash with Iraklis in the Miracle Mile. The drive went to O'Meara's 25-year-old stable foreman Danny Campbell, who had earlier worked for Cameron and been the regular driver of Iraklis going into the 1996 Cup Meeting, only to be replaced by May. May could hardly be blamed for being faithful to the horse who had won the Miracle Mile and NZ Cup, but now Christian Cullen was coming back to haunt him. There must also have been a nagging doubt in the back of his mind that Christian Cullen would not be around for long at all. In the decade prior, O'Meara had had a host of top pacers including Naval Officer, Really Honkin, Trident, Tuapeka Knight, Bold Sharvid, Tight Connection, Reba Lord, Hey Jude and Spirit of Zeus, and for one reason or another, none had made it to the start of a NZ Cup.

When the dust had settled at Ashburton though, any doubts remaining existed in the minds of Campbell's rival drivers to the effect of 'how on earth are we going to beat this horse?'. May was the first to move and had Iraklis in front passing the winning post the first time, but stalking them were Campbell and Christian Cullen and they smoked past soon after. Campbell stacked them up a bit on the turn and Christian Cullen sprinted them home; try as he might, Iraklis could make no impression at all. Christian Cullen had been timed over his last mile in 1:53.5 (58.4, 55.1) and finished 2/10ths of a second outside Master Musician's national record of 2:57.8, set in winning a Kaikoura Cup from 15 metres. He hadn't raced for seven weeks and O'Meara believed the run would improve him.

And as if that was not enough, Christian Cullen trialled over 2400m at Ashburton a week before the Cup and beat There's A Franco and Iraklis by six lengths in an unbelievable 2:56.8 - a mile rate of 1:58.5 from a stand. The stage was thus set for not just a two-horse race, but a two-horse war.

'Cullen' had firmed in favour dramatically with the 'bookies,' but Cameron and May were not lying down even though Iraklis would have to concede 10 metres - the two miles of the Cup tended to be a great leveller and Iraklis was a great stayer. May was happy with his drive without being overly confident, but O'Meara and Campbell were quite bullish. Anvil Vance, third at Ashburton after following the first two around and never leaving the fence, and Tony Herlihy were the third choice but at double figure odds, ahead of Brabham, Kate's First, Franco Enforce, Anvil's Star, There's A Franco and Surprise Package - the rest were just there to get in the way.

As the big Cup Day crowd began to fill every vantage point in the stands, the growing 'hum' from anticipation and chatter increased exponentially as the race approached, and then before you knew it they were off! Roymark and Franco Enforce showed out early and as they settled, Christian Cullen was well back but Campbell was about to seize a three-wide cart into the race, and Iraklis had only the wayward Aussie visitor Hilarity Lobell behind him.

'Cullen' was in command shortly after the first lap had been covered at the 1900m, and when Campbell then eased the speed a bit, around came Iraklis to sit at his wheel for the last lap - this was what the people had come to see. Seemingly jogging down the back, Christian Cullen dropped Roymark passing the 400m and Iraklis dropped on to his back, hoping for a slingshot late in the piece. Iraklis was travelling well and May briefly entertained the idea of upsetting his nemesis and the $1.90 shot, but Christian Cullen "kicked on" and never really looked in danger of defeat.

Just as at Ashburton, Iraklis could get to Christian Cullen's wheel but no more, and the margin was again a length and a quarter. If there had been a mid-race breather it hadn't been for long - Christian Cullen's 4:00.4 equalling Luxury Liner and Il Vicolo's race and track record. Iraklis had gone terrific and was gallant, being timed post to post around the field in 3:57.5 as they came home in 28, but the 10m and Christian Cullen were the big difference as they finished seven lengths clear of Franco Enforce and There's A Franco.

For Christian Cullen it was his 14th win from 20 starts, and he was of course just just getting started. Soon to follow and fall were the Free-For-All over Holmes D G; that spine-tingling Miracle Mile and a magnificent Auckland Cup performance in 3:59.7 in what was a memorable two months. Christian Cullen would go amiss again that season after winning on the first night of the Auckland Inter-Dominions, but it had been an unbeaten and glorious 12-start campaign and he would be an overwhelming choice for Horse of the Year in a season where Courage Under Fire remained unbeaten in 22 races and won six Derbys.

That year was in fact the beginning of the end of Christian Cullen's racing career, but all that really meant was that it would signal the start of an equally if not more sensational one at stud.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 2Aug06


YEAR: 1998

Christian Cullen winning the NZFFA from Holmes D G

Holmes D G followed the path of Iraklis when finding Christian Cullen unbeatable at Addington on Show Day. A game and courageous run by Holmes D G was recognised but it failed to bring success in the Air New Zealand Free-For-All.

Out first from the 2 gate, Christian Cullen set all the pace and Holmes D G was left doing the hard yards - as driver Barry Purdon suspected he would - outside him. Christian Cullen then sped in from the 800m in 54.4, the fastest official last half recorded in a race in New Zealand, and Holmes D G didn't let go, finishing only half a length back. The underrated Happy Asset finished strongly from near last on the outside to be three quarters of a length back.

Trainer Brian O'Meara now has his sights set on the Miracle Mile, over 1760 metres, the race he was withdrawn from by the Harold Park club stewards last year. He believes Christian Cullen could handle the trip in a 1:52-1:53 mile rate. "After that, we will step back and look at things from there," he said. O'Meara has always maintained how good Christian Cullen is if he is allowed "to roll along". "And people didn't know how tough he is. He loves his work, too, although he was a little tired after Tuesday's Cup," he said.

Christian Cullen and Iraklis are New Zealand's only Miracle Mile contestants at this stage, though Anvil's Star could earn a place if he wins one of two Quantas Springs at Harold Park. Holmes D G was invited, but will not be going. O'Meara is hoping to fly Christian Cullen to Sydney next Wednesday. Iraklis, who missed the Free-For-All, is there now, having left on Sunday.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZHR Weekly


YEAR: 1998

The Second Five Syndicate with the Derby trophy

Before the Smokefree New Zealand Derby much of the talk was who would run second to Holmes D G. In reality, that is exactly what happened. Holmes D G took the lead off Motoring Anvil after 600 metres, proceeded to run it hard, and kept the squeeze on. Totally dominant from the time of Christian Cullen's exit, Holmes D G forged clear at the turn, leaving the others to scrap and scrape for the minor money. Annie's Boy was the only chaser to charge with any real dignity, finishing from the back and very late for second. From last, where he must have been eight lengths from Holmes D G at on stage the gap was less than three lengths.

Holmes D G ran the 2600m in 3:11.1, a New Zealand record which would have raised a sweat even on Christian Cullen. He gave trainer Barry Purdon his third Derby win, coming after Kiwi Scooter in 1992 and Ginger Man in 1994. As good as they were Purdon rates Holmes D G a bit above them. 'I think he's better...the perfect racehorse really. Kiwi Scooter was a great stayer. I mean he won the Derby sitting parked for the last mile. Ginger Man had the speed, but wasn't tough," he said.

A 3-year-old half-brother to Giovanetto, a Cup horse and now at stud in Southland, Holmes D G was bred and trained initially by Murray Gray. He was from Bella Ragazza, a mare Gray claims is the worst horse he has ever trained. "She didn't want to be a racehorse, and I probably would not have bred from her but my partners did," he said. Besides leaving two outstanding horses and a useful one in Economizza, Bella Ragazza is the dam of a yearling colt by Soky's Atom, and is not in foal this season. She has left eight foals, all colts.

Holmes D G raced once for Gray, running second in a race at Forbury Park to Enter Hurry Zone. One of those impressed with this performance was Invercargill trainer and former Purdon employee, Tony Barron. As it happened, prominent Australian owner Terry Henderson also heard about the horse and arrived on the scene much the same time as David Sixton, John Hart, John Ede and Katrina Purdon. Four became five, in fact the Second Five Syndicate, which is already well into the black after buying Holmes D G for a sum just over $100,000. His earnings, from ten which include the Great Northern and Victorian Derbys, have how topped $300,000. All three classics have been won in identical manner, in front, rolling along at a good clip, but always in control. "He felt strong all the way," reported Purdon. "He really felt as though he was enjoying it," he said. Purdon said Holmes D G would have one more race this season, the $A100,000 New South Wales Derby on May 8, and then be given a spell.

While the Second Five Syndicate is only just over a year old, the principals have been Purdon clients for 12 years. They started with Volarco, a son of Vance Hanover and Via Volare who won a couple before being sold and racing in Australia. Next came Kenwood Don, a useful winner and sold after winning five from eight. They stepped up a notch for their next purchase, spending big money at the time for Montana Vance. He didn't let them down, getting to Cup class. They purchased The Sweeper before the biggest score of them all, Holmes D G. As owners, and enthusiasts of harness racing, Purdon rates them A1. "The good thing about them is the support they give. There's always an entourage. They all went to Australia, to watch them in the Derby, and they are here with all their families tonight," he said.

The syndicate also has a Falcon Seelster yearling filly they bought at the sales, while Henderson expects a big run from his galloper Doreimus in Saturday's Sydney Cup.

Credit: HRNZ Weekly


YEAR: 2010


In The Pocket, the stallion bred by Brittany Farms in the USA who came to New Zealand in 1993 and revolutionised our harness racing breed has died. The outstanding son of Direct Scooter and Black Jade who won $1,537,473 on the race track in the US pacing 1.53.8 as a two-year-old, was put down at Wai Eyre Farm in North Canterbury and is buried there.

In The Pocket (23) leaves behind an outstanding number of top horses to carry on his legacy in New Zealand including siring sensations Christian Cullen, who set four New Zealand records and won 22 races including the the New Zealand Cup, and the pocket rocket, Courage Under Fire, who won 34 races including 6 Derbys.

But it doesn't stop there. In The Pocket is also the sire of many, many more standouts including Changeover, Winforu, Tribute, Bella's Boy, Light And Sound, London Legend, and London Pride, aswell as the speed queens Tupelo Rose and Under Cover Lover.

He is the sire of more than 600 winners in New Zealand and Australia with combined total earnings of more than $26,500,000. While in North America he has also been and an outstanding siring success with such standouts as Sanabelle Island (1.50.8 $1,660,526 57 US wins) and Crew Cut Zach (p4 1.51.4f $1,006,055, 53 US wins) sired by him.

Voted stallion of the Year in 1998/99 and 2003/2004 In The Pocket, stood at Woodlands Stud, near Clevedon in Auckland, for many years before being purchased by Ian Dobson in September 2005 to stand alongside his most famous son Christian Cullen at Wai Eyre.

The In The Pocket Syndicate was formed with Darryl Brown, of Wai Eyre Farm, and another prominent Canterbury owner, Noel Kennard, joining Dobson in the ownership of In The Pocket .

Brown said he had a small share in the stallion. It was a sad day for the stud to have to put In The Pocket down. The stallion was 23 and had left a very strong legacy of horses.

Noel Kennard said it was "incredible to be involved with such a fantastic individual."

"He has revolutionised our breed. If it wasn't for him we wouldn't have Christian Cullen, or Courage Under Fire, or any of Cullen's many outstanding sons. In The Pocket was a stunning individual," Kennard said.


Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 8Sep2010

In The Pocket may have passed away early last month, but his legacy is going to be inestimable.

The best sire New Zealand has seen in modern times since Smooth Fella and Vance Hanover, and only to be surpassed by the success of a son, In The Pocket will live long as a sire of commercially successful sires in Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire and now quite possibly Changeover. But his influence and contribution to the New Zealand breeding industry is going to extend well beyond that.

The first shuttle sire to step foot in this part of the world when he arrived in 1993, In The Pocket brought refinement, gait and speed to a broodmare population which in many ways was still old fashioned and often course insofar as types. New Zealand's broodmare population was brought up to speed so to speak by a class horse, but even more important was the outcross factor that In The Pocket brought to the table.

At the time when the pacing population around the world was becoming saturated with Hal Dale and Meadow Skipper blood, as a son of Direct Scooter and a Tar Heel mare, In The Pocket proved the perfect foil - he could be said to be the right horse in the right place at the right time for New Zealand. Now New Zealand has a significant proportion of broodmares by In The Pocket, Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire among others - a much higher percentage than anywhere else in the world anyway - and is brilliantly set up to take advantage of the next round or stage of leading sires or high-profile pacng prospects straight off the track.

The value of outcross blood in a broodmare population cannot be underestimated, so thanks to In The Pocket, New Zealand breeders both individually and collectively have a lot to thank him for. The best present example of this can be observed in Bettor's Delight, a sire with no less than 16 crosses to Hal Dale who was crying out for outcross blood in his mares, and sure enough he has crossed brilliantly with In The Pocket and Christian Cullen mares. It is the speed factor of the Direct Scooter and In The Pocket sire line which is proving so effective and complimentary to the toughness that a sire such as Bettor's Delight from the Cam Fella line can offer.

There was nothing fashionable about In The Pocket's pedigree when he hit the ground in February of 1987, but he was a top class juvenile who won over $1.5m by the end of his 3-year-old season, being second only in performance that year to Horse of the Year Beach Towel. Lou Guida was involved in his ownership then, before George Shaw bought him for stud duties in America. In The Pocket initially stood for two years at Walnut Hall in New York before moving to Winbak Farm in Maryland, a State which allowed him to shuttle, while later he also stood in Ohio.

Before settling into a more permanent home at Woodlands Stud and then at Wai-Eyre in his twilight years, In The Pocket also stood at Vance Lodge in Auckland, at Lantana Lodge and the Stallion Station at West Melton, while also doing a stint at Alabar in Victoria. We can therefore count nine individual farms he frequented during his stud career which spanned two decades, with eight of those years spent doing time in both hemispheres. In The Pocket didn't always get a lot of favours in his life, but it would be fair to say that he has been good - and he was always a lovely horse to be around - to all those who came into contact with him in some form or another.

While he didn't make it as a sire in America without the support of a big stud or syndication after being placed outside of the major breeding States, In The Pocket was an immediate success in New Zealand. Christian Cullen and Under Cover Lover came from his first crop, and they were quickly followed up by Courage Under Fire, Classy Filly and Tupelo Rose among others. Star youngsters such as Light And Sound, Bella's Boy, Lennon, Advance Attack and Tribute would follow before Changeover would prove a crowning glory. The success of Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire as racehorses and as sires is entirely another story.

In The Pocket's record presently shows about 660 New Zealand-bred winners from 1300-odd foals for a winner-to-foals percentage above 50, when 40 percent is an accepted success rate, while he has another 27 Australian-bred winners from the handful of foals he produced each year there. And his North American stats show 537 winners of over $50m, with 169 six-figure winners headed by the super mare Sanabelle Island ($1.6m). In New Zealand, he was a two-time winner of the Sires' Premiership and among the leading sires every year for the 12 consecutive seasons between his first crop racing as 2-year-olds and last season, when declining foal numbers saw him dip out of the Top 10 for the first time. As a broodmare sire he already has well over 200 New-Zealand-bred winners, headed by Bettor's Strike and Tintin In America

It was five years ago now that Ian Dobson along with Noel Kennard and Wai-Eyre studmaster Daryl Brown purchased In The Pocket for what was then a record price, and he settled into a peaceful semi-retirement in North Canterbury alongside his super sire son. There was always a question mark over In The Pocket's fertility, which was probably not all that surprising in his latter years after what he had been through as a shuttle horse, but his last crop will be five yearlings from a book of 29 mares. He has three fillies entered for next year's Sales, but no further foals after four mares came up empty last season.

Brown says the decision to put In The Pocket down a month ago was not a difficult one when he suffered "quite a bad bout of colic. We could have operated to save him, but he was already retired and had had a good innings."

Thus when most sires are looking forward to a new season at stud, In The Pocket has gone to the great breeding barn in the sky, safe in the knowledge that he will be remembered for a very, very long time.

Credit: Shelley Caldwell writing in Harnesslink


YEAR: 2005

Molly Darling upsets Mainland Banner
Christian Cullen's complete dominance of the 3-year-old filly features at Addington continued last Friday night when he sired the first three home in the $100,000 Nevele R Stud Series Final.

Molly Darling simply out-toughed the favourite Mainland Banner, and did it on her merits too, being left three wide and parked outside her over the last 800 metres before crossing the finish line half a length clear in a brilliant 1:57.8 mile rate. Absolutely Brilliant speared between runners late in the piece to grab third, albeit six lengths away, and for good measure Christian Cullen's only other representative in the Group 1 event (Kamwood Cully) ran fifth.

Molly Darling's part-owner, trainer and driver Brent Mangos was actually quite humble afterwards, having inflicted the first defeat on Mainland Banner in her eight-start career. "Horses just can't keep winning all the time," he said. "So someone's got to beat them; I'm just lucky that on this occasion it was me. But when Molly Darling's right, she's very, very good. In fact I don't think there is anything between her, Mainland Banner and Foreal," he said.

For Mangos it has been a long, hard road to get Molly Darling back to where she is now, but even if the fickle harness racing public seemed to lose faith, he didn't. The hiccups started after Molly Darling's trip to Sydney in February for the NSW Oaks Prelude and Final, which were the filly's first racetrack appearances since she won the Breeders' Crown Final in Bendigo last August. "Going to Sydney gutted her," he said. "She was probably only eighty percent ready when she went, and afer two big trips and the heat over there she had lost a lot of weight by the time she got home. "So I just backed off, and didn't rush her. That is why I missed the Great Northern Oaks and Sires' Stakes heats - so that we could specifically target these two events in Christchurch. I think she turned the corner the night she won in Auckland prior to coming down for the Oaks, because although she didn't beat much that night she felt like she was starting to come right. And I didn't do a lot with her in the week leading up to the Nevele R Final, but she'd felt good all week at Catherine and David Butt's and never left an oat. I wish the Oaks was next week now, because she just feels that good again."

Molly Darling is raced by Mangos in partnership with Scott Plant, Warren Oliver and Brian Hewes. You couldn't meet a more enthusiastic bunch of horse owners, but over the next few months there are some serious decisions to be made with regards to Molly Darling's future. After a fillies' and mares' event in Auckland on June 10, Molly Darling will either stay here for a heat of the Breeders' Crown on July 15 or cross the Tasman for the Australian Oaks. "Those two races are on the same night," Mangos said. "After that we may well send her to America, and lease her to someone over there for eighteen months or so. It's just that there is not a lot for her here as a 4-year-old mare. She might measure up to the good ones as a five or 6-year-old, but in the meantime she could win a lot of money in the States - and come home with a quick mile time. "It's all about keeping her happy, because if horses are happy they go good - especially mares."

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 25May05


YEAR: 2004

Mark Purdon & some of the Syndicate members

Australia might have an Inter-Dominion 'King' in the form of Brian Hancock, but we've got one of our own too. His name is Mark Purdon, and the race he's become synonomous with is the New Zealand Derby. Purdon won the star-studded 3-year-old event for a staggering seventh time when he and Likmesiah flashed home to nab Winforu on the post last Friday night.

Purdon's Derby dominance began in 1993 when he partnered Mark Roy, and has been followed by Il Vicolo (1995), The Court Owl (1996), Bogan Fella (1997), Young Rufus (2001) and Jack Cade (2002),not to mention the 'furore' over Hunka Hickling when he was beaten a head by a wayward Stars And Stripes in the year 2000.

This year the task ahead looked almost insurmountable, firstly because Likmesiah with saddlecloth 15 had one of the worst draws compared to the guns he was up against. And the picture wasn't any rosier turning for home, because Winforu was about to slip down into the pasing lane having enjoyed a dream sit behind the leader, and Likmesiah was just getting balanced around faltering runners as he prepared to charge for the line.

But as he so often does, Purdon proved that at no time - especially in the big races - can you underestimate those blue silks with the silver stars. "I thought that his draw could turn out to be not too bad a one, because there was always going to be a lot of speed early," Purdon said. "It just depended on how the race panned out, and whether we were going to have to cover too much extra ground. Turning for home I was wondering how wide we were going to have to come, because Colin (De Filippi, driving Roman Gladiator) was going nowhere."

A furlong from home Likmesiah exploded out of the pack, and it quickly became clear that Winforu was going to have a fight on his hands. Purdon timed his pacer's run with the sort of precision that would make your heart sink if you were connected to Winforu, and after some anxious moments it was confirmed that Likmesiah had indeed got to the line first. "He just knows how to sprint like that, because that's the way we teach them at home," Purdon added.

The $100,000 Lion Foundation sponsored Group 1 event was yet another triumph for Likmesiah's sire Christian Cullen. He was responsible for four of the 14 entrants, all being from his first crop, and they included hot favourite Roman Gladiator (10th), V For (8th) and the desperately unlucky C C Mee (7th). Christian Cullen's principal owner Ian Dobson was one of he first to congratulate the Met Two Syndicate members. "I was thrilled for them," Dodson said. "Especially that syndicate though, because I've become fairly involved with some of the members with having a couple of my own horses out at Mark's. I didn't think Likmesiah could do it turning for home, but I think he even surprises Mark because he seems to grow another leg on racenight. The Cullens have got that will to win, all the trainers are saying that to me."

Fifty people will tell you there's no more fun than racing a horse as part of a syndicate. Better if the horse can win, and huge smiles when it's a race like the New Zealand Derby. Most syndicates are made up of people who can't quite afford to race a horse on their own. Or, even if they can, prefer the friendship and fellowship it provides. These are the sort of people who made a lump sum payment of $1,620 and put in $100 a month to join the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club organised, Met Two Syndicate two years ago. They bought three horses. One of them was Likmesiah, who won $60,800 with his trademark late burst to win the New Zealand Derby. His total earnings are $205,517 - a handsome profit from the $15,000 he cost on Mark Purdon's bid as a yearling.

Credit: John Robinson writing in NZHR Weekly


YEAR: 2003


Barely three years since he last set foot on a racetrack, Christian Cullen has stamped himself as a sire of untapped potential. To most he was the greatest pacer they had ever seen, and few doubted that a successful stud career would follow naturally. Principal owner Ian Dobson was certainly confident in his mind. "I never doubted that he would make it as a sire," Dobson said. "Because he is beautifully bred, and he had everything as a racehorse."

Loyalty aside, in all fairness Christian Cullen still had to prove himself in the breeding barn, because quite a few brilliant racehorses have been flops at stud, failing to pass on the same dominant qualities to their stock. And the first season that a sires' babies step out can be crucial. But when the curtain comes down on the 2002/03 term in 10 weeks time, Christian Cullen can hold his head high because his results are nothing short of phenominal.

With a mere 46 live foals that are now 2-year-olds, Christian Cullen has sired four winners of eight races and nearly $270,000 in stakes. They are not just winners either, with names like Roman Gladiator, Born Again Christian and Likmesiah amongst the mix. The stallion's crowning glory was last Friday night's $135,000 Garrard's Sires' Stakes Final at Addington. Not only was he responsible for almost half the field with 5 of the 13 starters, Christian Cullen also sired the first, second and fourth horses home - and this is despite arguably the best of them and favourite Roman Gladiator performing well below expectations to finish eighth.

Dobson himself part-owned one of the Cullens - Classy Cullen, who tired to 11th after being left out three-wide in the open over the last 1000 metres. Speaking to him afterwards though, you would have thought he owned the winner. "This is a far greater result than I could have ever expected," he enthused. "To have five horses in the Sires' Stakes Final in your first year is unbelievable, especially since I think there has only been about fifteen to twenty that have actually been in work as 2-year-olds. It was pretty much third or fourth- grade mares that he attracted in his first season too. Cullen has only had two Australian-bred starters this year (Fair Dinkum Lombo and Cullombo) and both of them have won as well. It's been a fantastic season."

Over the moon with their son of Christian Cullen is the 62-member Met Two Syndicate, most of whom were on-course last Friday to cheer Likmesiah home and then crowd into the birdcage to start celebrating their victory. Likmesiah was picked out by trainer Mark Purdon from the Premier Sale for $15,000, which was well under the budget of $25,000 that he was 'allowed'to spend. The gelding out of the New York Motoring mare She's Mighty is the only one of the syndicate's three horses to make it to the races thus far, although David and Catherine Butt's Life Sign colt Danger Sign has trialled attractively.

Having handled just the three juveniles by Christian Cullen this season, all of whom won races and made the Sires' Stakes field, Purdon is understandably upbeat about the In The Pocket stallion's stock. "He has had a magic year," Purdon said. "His progeny are just good gaited, and they want to be there. They are a pleasure to work with. It is probably hard to say whether Likmesiah is the best of my 2-year-olds; Lennon has got the best record but he's not a standout. Likmesiah's trackwork has never been great, he seems to be three to five lengths better on racenight though. There is not much between them, and I am looking forward to next year with Born Again Christian because he will be better over more ground. He has got big potential," Purdon said.

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 21May03


YEAR: 2003


Daniel Campbell had never been happier in his life than the last six months says his partner of the last four and a half years, Gael Murray. Campbell died instantly in a freak accident after being kicked in the chest while handling a couple of yearling fillies at their West Melton property late last Tuesday afternoon. He was 30.

While he was best perceived in the public eyes as the driver who expertly partnered Christian Cullen in his most memorable moments, in hindsight Campbell actually regretted only being recognised by people for that association, and took much more satisfaction from being accepted by his peers for his all-round ability as a horseman. One of those was Bob Cameron, who recently re-employed him to help out in the mornings.

After stints with Bill Denton while at school, Jeff Whittaker and Frank and then Mick Murfitt, briefly entertaining the idea of being a jockey, Campbell blossomed into the country's leading junior driver with the guidance and opportunities from Cameron in the 1995/96 season with a 23-11-9 record from 136 drives for a UDR of .2361. He won the same number of races in his next and last season as a junior, before teaming up with the Brian O'Meara stable and Christian Cullen on 16 occasions (beaten just once in the GN Derby) and 14 consecutive wins. These included the Round Up 1950 over open class pacers Anvil's Star and Brabham as a three-year-old at the 1997 NZ Cup meeting, the Yearling Sales 3yo Open, Superstars, Ashburton Flying Stakes, NZ Cup, NZ FFA, NSW Miracle Mile, Treuer Memorial, Auckland Cup, a still-standing NZ Record mile at Cambridge in 1:54.1 and a heat of the 1999 Inter-Dominions in Auckland before the In The Pocket entire again went amiss. It was a stunning unbeaten 4-year-old season where they won 12 races and $757,675, and every accolade imaginable.

Campbell, known to family and friends as Daniel, and merely dubbed Danny by the media, was later dismissed from the O'Meara stable over personal differences and had since seemingly been on the outer in the industry. But Murray says he did actually prefer being out of the limelight and keeping a low profile. And contrary to suggestions, he had no ambitions to return to the fore as a reinsman. "He would have liked to have driven one more winner for Bob, and just one drive in the US, but he was becoming increasingly interested in breeding and just loved being around the broodmares and working with the youngsters," said Murray.

"He was a lot happier dealing with horses than some people anyway. He loved being around horses, but he accepted that they were also just a job at the end of the day and not your entire life, and he had a passion and dedication for everthing around him," she added. Murray will remember Campell mostly for his spontaneity and generosity, someone who never did things in halves. Whenever he bought someone a present, it was always a really big one. And he always had to do things himself and quickly, even when he didn't really know what he was doing." Murray accepts that Campbell was a shy and private sort of person, and that some probably found him quite hard to get to know at first, but says he had a wonderful sense of humour when at ease.

Christchurch breeder Les Donald, who had got to know Campbell well in recent years and had three youngsters in work with him, agreed that he was often misunderstood. "I was led to believe initially that Danny might be difficult to get to know, but right from the start I found his help, advice and communication to be second to none," said Donald. "What I actually admired most about him though was his honesty and integrity. He would always try and do the best thing by people," he added.

David Whittle knew Campbell from school in the Addington and Hoon Hay suburbs from when they were only seven, and recalls how along with Nigel McGrath the trio progressed into careers with horses. "I think we were about ten when one day we caught this kid throwing stones at horses in Hoon Hay, and we went to sort him out," said Whittle. "We made him go and pick up all the stones - that was Nigel, and we then became mates," he said.

Campbell lost his mother Carmel to cancer in November, 1996, and his father John in September last year. He had trained a winner at Addington in August, 2000 in Nuclear Sight, who was raced by a family syndicate along with friends. Campbell is survived by an older brother Keith and sisters in Karen and Nicola.

Credit: NZ HRWeekly 7May03

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