YEAR: 2009


As breeders, Keith and Bevan Grice virtually own the NZ Trotting Derby. The Ashburton-based brothers have bred the winners of four of the last nine Derbies: Dependable in 2001, Shirley Temple (2007), Doctor Mickey last year and now Ima Gold Digger, who took out Friday night's Paul and Pauline Renwick-sponsored Group 1 with another powerhouse display of square-gaiting.

The Grice's affinity with the prestigious event is all thanks to Janetta's Pride, and the continuous stream of winners she's left to Sundon. Three of the aforementioned quartet share the same set of parents, while the 'odd one out' Doctor Mickey is a son of their full-sister Jo Anne - which all signifies quite an amazing 'nick'.

Making the occasion even more memorable last Friday night was the fact that it was also Bevan's birthday. "Yes, somebody said that - I was trying to forget about it," quipped the sprightly 78-year-old. "But this is a great thrill, and the best birthday present I've had in years. To think that the mare's now left three Derby winners and the dam of another one - it's unheard of. We have been breeding for some sixty-four years, ever since we were at school, and something like this just blows you away. I couldn't believe Ima Gold Digger's time either; that's the sort of time the pacers do."

Ima Gold Digger won this year's 2600m mobile Derby in 3 17.4, slicing nearly two full seconds off the previous NZ Record held by Flame Up which had stood since the latter set it in the very same event a decade ago. It was Ima Gold Digger's third national mark this term, and will safely secure him the 3-Year-Old Trotter of the Year title come August.

What amazes the Grices even more about Janetta's Pride and her Sundon stock is that they bred two full-sisters to the same stallion, numerous times, and "never got anything". "That's the funny thing about breeding though," Bevan said. "We first sent Janetta's Pride to Pernod Eden, and then Chiola Hanover, but the foals came to nothing. Then she just clicked with Sundon. Vivian Leigh was another by Sundon out of her that had talent too. Lindsay Kerslake was one of the last to train her, and he reckoned none of his pacers could match her for speed. She just couldn't get near the barrier."

Following on fron Ima Gold Digger is Spin Doctor, a 2-year-old full-brother, and Rugged Cross, a yearling full-sister, but the stream of Sundon foals out of the Gee Whizz II matron comes to a halt after that. A couple of seasons ago Janetta's Pride was covered "two or three times" by her favourite stallion but didn't 'take', so she went to Monarchy instead - and last year she missed again to the son of Arndon, and is currently carrying a Thanksgiving foal. "Her Monarchy filly is a yearling, and steps around the paddock as good as anything you'll see," Grice enthused. "So we will be getting her broken in early, like we do with most of our horses."

As for Janetta's Pride, she is now 20 but showing no signs of needing to slow down. She juggles between her two owners' properties, depending on wherever the best paddock is at the time. No prizes for guessing whose court she'll be visiting again next breeding season. "I think she was sixteen when she foaled Ima Gold Digger," Grice said. "But I have maintained for years...if you're breeding from an older mare, they've got to be in a nice paddock on their own with good pasture. Otherwise they tend to compete with the younger mares for feed, and end up not nourishing the foetus."

Although it's their success with trotters that puts the Grices in the spotlight, they breed from just as many pacing mares as well; their hoppled heroes in recent times include the likes of Indian Giver, Wiltshire, Parasite, Pretty Dollybird and this season's Kindergarten Stakes winner El Nino. "We put thirteen mares to stud last year," Grice said, adding that they've bred more at times in the past. There's about a dozen other mares out in the paddock which are all in foal as well, but we're in partnership with Michael House on those ones. It's a hobby for us, and we breed to lease. Everybody's got to have a hobby, whatever walk of life they're from - because if you don't, you'll die of boredom."

Credit: John Robinson writing in HR Weekly 1Apr09


YEAR: 2010


Ima Gold Digger threw the cat among the pigeons for tomorrow's Dominion when he bolted away with the Group 1 NZ Trotting FFA in national record time at Addington on Tuesday. With the likes of Leighton Hest, Stylish Monarch, One Over Kenny, Master Bomber and the speedster King Charlie all handily drawn on the front line, and the most money of all still coming for Raydon, this race looked too big an ask for Ima Gold Digger from the outside of the second line. But the way things unfolded with a hectic tempo up front, the event actually panned out pretty well for him.

Ima Gold Digger saved energy early by settling well back and Todd Mitchell had him in the three-wide train with cover starting the last lap. Ima Gold Digger was thus a fresh horse when the leading division were beginning to get the stitch, and he bounded clear early in the run home to score by four and a half lengths in the end. The improving Idid It Myway, from the outside of the front line, finished best of the rest, shading Stylish Monarch, Master Bomber, Raydon and Leighton Hest.

But there could be no excuses - Ima Gold Digger had circled the field and trotted the 2600m mobile in 3:13.3, a 1:59.6 mile rate and almost a second inside Romper Stomper's race and New Zealand record of 3:14.2 set three years ago. This was not a day particularly conducive to fast times either, with a blustery easterly making things difficult both on and off the track. What Ima Gold Digger also did is prove his previous 1:56.7 mile win at Ashburton over Dr Hook was no aberration either.

The 5-year-old Sundon gelding has been with Michelle Wallace at Waiuku since January, but he has been with her husband Bernie Hackett at David and Catherine Butt's Woodend Beach stables since the start of October. Wallis joined in for Cup Day, but co-owner and previous trainer Allan Georgeson was absent because "the crowd was too big". Georgeson's wife Lorraine and daugther-in-law Jan were on-hand to accept the spoils.

"He has thrived since being down here, but I think the recent improvement is simply about the fact that he is maturing all the time," said Hackett. "He could get a bit nervy at times before, but he is a much more relaxed horse now. And I daresay we'll see Allan here on Friday now," he added.

Ima Gold Digger, the fourth Group race winner from the broodmare gem Janetta's Pride, following on from prior Sundon foals in Dependable, Jo Anne and Shirley Temple, was of course the outstanding 3-year-old of his season. He won the NZ Trotting Derby, Sires' Stakes and Great Northern Trotting Derby in consecutive starts before coming up short when third at the Jewels, and then resumed in the Trotting FFA won by Speculate last year.

By January he was with Wallis and Hackett in order to get enough 'points' for the Jewels at Cambridge, but he ran into I Can Doosit and Dr Hook there. "He was third or fourth best 4-year-old last season, but he's come back much stronger this time in. After this week we'll take him back home for Christmas racing in Auckland, and then I guess we'll be back here for the Inters."

Glamour mare One Over Kenny got things right on this occasion, but still disappointed in dropping away badly in the run home. "She is over last season's quarter crack problems, but she might still have some other foot issues," said owner Lex Williams. "But her main problem today was the simple fact that she hasn't had the racing to be going any records, and now we have a very short turnaround to the Dominion," he added.

With Springbank Richard, Dr Hook, I Can Doosit and Sovereignty entering the fray for that, and Ima Gold Digger no longer underestimated, the $200,000 Dominion is looking an enthralling and wide open contest.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 11Nov2010


YEAR: 2010

Keith & Bevan Grice

Keith and Bevan Grice have been breeding from the family of Captain Peacock for 51 years.

Captain Peacock (Live Or Die-Enchanting) won the NZ Derby in April and is engaged in the 3-Year-Old Emerald at Cambridge on Saturday. The Grices also bred Ima Gold Digger (Sundon-Janetta's Pride), a leading contender for the 4-Year-Old trotters section.

Phil Kennard, a Christchurch part-owner of Captain Peacock, is also in the ownership of Major Mark, a contender for the 2-Year-Old Emerald. Kennard is in the GAPMAD Syndicat who race Captain Peacock in partnership with the brothers Grant Ball, of Christchurch and Darren Ball, of Sydney, and Warren Wyllie and Richard Boon, of Christchurch, from the Ladbrooks stable of Dean Taylor. Mark Jones is the driver of Captain Peacock. Others in the GAPMAD Syndicate are Michael and Gerard Dawson, of Oamaru, Alister Strachan, of Oamaru, Angela Mowbray of Methven and Des Aitcheson, of Oamaru.

Captain Peacock is the first foal of Enchanting who won her first start when trained by Taylor and driven by Jones. That was a race for 3-Year-Olds at Motukarara in December 2003. Grant Ball was in the ownership of Enchanting (Sands A Flyin-Go Anna), who was put to stud after being unplaced in a further five starts. "She was badly conformed," recalled Taylor.

He had become involved with the family when he trained her dam, Go Anna, to win four races in the mid-1990s. Go Anna died in 2003 after leaving four foals. She left another filly, Lancashire Witch (by Tinted Cloud), the winner of three races. Go Anna was by Dancing Master from Kerry Khan, by Noodlum from Lady Barbara, by Lordship from Barbara Del, by Armbro Del from Coo Doo, by Morano from Lady Dimp, a Nelson Derby mare the Grice brothers began breeding from in 1959.

They bought her from their cousin, Len Grice. Their uncle, Jack Grice, owned and trained the 1952 NZ Derby winner, Rupee. Another uncle, Ben, owned and trained Haughty, winner of the NZ Cup in 1942 and 43. Lordship won the NZ Derby in 1961 and Noodlum won the race in 1974.

Coo Doo won the 1971 Welcome Stakes, and other big winners from this equine family include Palestine and Derby, who won nine races in succession in the early 1980s. "Winning the Derby is our finest hour," Keith (84) said. Bevan is 79. "We have always felt that with good stallions and good trainers this family would reach the top. We cannot speak too highly of Dean Taylor," he said. "Breeding horses is our hobby, and we have been at it ince we left school."

Credit: Taylor Strong writing in HRWeekly 2June2010

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