When it comes to Sleepy Tripp, not much has changed in three years. As a foal he was almost impossible to catch in the paddock, and these days his rivals on the racetrack have trouble getting near him too. That sheer tenacity was again on display at Addington last Friday night, when Sleepy Tripp kept all challengers at bay and won the $300,000 Christian Cullen NZ Derby.
Bred and raced by Pleasant Point's Terry and Adrienne Taylor, Sleepy Tripp was providing the couple with one of their most cherished moments in life when he took out the Group 1 event last night. So they must shudder at the thought that they could have easily sold him early on. "He was a little bugger," Terry recalled. "He would always keep at least an arm's length away from you, his mother was the same. Of the four horses we bred that year, I remember thinking he would be the first to go."
The Taylors had been dairy farmers in the Bay of Islands and Whangarei for 30 years, where they also had a Jersey Stud. Shifting south at the turn of the century in search of cooler weather, they originally settled in Oamaru before purchasing a 350 acre beef farm at Pleasant Point in 2001. They opted for a lifestyle change soon afterwards though, selling off the bulk of their new property but leaving themselves with enough land (50 acres) to run a few cattle, build a new home, and pursue one last passion which had been only a dream up until that point - breeding racehorses.
"Adrienne had been my 'right-hand man' on the farm all those years," Taylor said with a smile. "And you can get a bit sick of it (the lifestyle) after a while. We are both in our seventies, so we decided we may as well sell up and enjoy ourselves."
Terry and Adrienne have always enjoyed going to the races, and when living up north they tried to get along to Alexandra Park "whenever we had the time". Now that chance to breed some horses had finally arrived, they were going to need some broodmares, so Terry started attending Mixed Sales and picked up the odd mare here and there. Admittedly knowing very little about harness bloodlines, the Taylors stuck to the basics and what they remembered from three decades of dairy farming - plus the advice of a learned friend: that producing quality stock was "ten percent breeding and ninety percent feeding".
Some good luck never goes amiss either though, and in this regard you would almost think that the Taylors were blessed with the 'Midas' touch, because just about every one of the of the dozen or so horses they have bred since they began has either won or been sold overseas - and their good fortune started right from the word go.
One of the first mares they purchased was Sleepy Tripp's dam Fancy Fitch, outlaying $1200 to secure the daughter of Fitch II and Happy Widow from a mixed sale when she was in foal to Mystical Shark. "There's a bit of a long story about her," Terry said. "When she came home from the stud after giving birth, she had the wrong foal on her; there had been some sort of mix up in the paddock, and the foals must've swapped mothers. The horse turned out to be Franco Smoothie (Holmes Hanover-Smooth Performer), and he won a couple of races for us before we sold him to the States. The Mystical Shark foal out of Fancy Fitch never even made it to the trials, and actually ended up dying."
The Taylors then bred Fancy Fitch to Live Or Die and she produced Dead Or Alive, who won races at two, three and four here before they sold him to Australia in May last year. Waiting in the wings at the same stage was Fancy Fitch's then 2-year-old by Courage Under Fire, the Taylors choosing to stick with Nevele R because "they'd been good to us", and he was named after the famous American speedway driver Sleepy Tripp.
Broken-in by Maree Price, she had thought enough enough of Sleepy Tripp early on to suggest that the Taylors go straight to the top and ask Mark Purdon to train him, and after joining the roster at All Stars Stables he had caused a few headaches there as well. "He was a bit silly," Purdon said. "He'd shown a bit of speed at two, but he wasn't coping mentally with the work as we were stepping him up. He was too fierce, and just wanted to run all the time. He'd rear up at the start on occasions too - just hypo, really." Purdon and training partner Grant Payne had pretty much ironed out Sleepy Tripp's idiosyncrasies by the time he debuted at Addington towards the end of October last year, and after being sent out a red-hot $1.60 favourite he won with a leg in the air despite being three-wide and parked throughout.
So emphatic was the victory, even a reinsman the ilk of Mark Purdon was left reaching for superlatives. "He really impressed me that night," Purdon said. "It wasn't just a good maiden win. Tim (Butt) had lined up one with a bit of a reputation, but we'd sat outside him and beat him easily. I thought then that he'd be able to step up to the better 3-year-olds."
Such a display of raw ability hadn't gone unnoticed by the talent scouts out there either, and within days Purdon was on the phone to the Taylors with the news of a six-figure proposition. "Mark rang and said he'd received a big offer," Terry said. "But we didn't need the money, and I remember thinking that if someone else thought he was that good - we may as well keep him." Neither his trainers or his connections could've predicted a NZ Derby victory within six months though, but Purdon is now adamant that Sleepy Tripp's going all the way to the top. "He's gone to another level again. He's just got that 'all-rounder' quality, and definitely looks like a Cup horse in the making."
Sleepy Tripp's now won eight of his 12 appearances and nearly $390,000. After the icing on the cake last Friday night, the Taylors have yet to come back to earth. "It's a huge thrill for us," Terry said. "Some people try for years to breed a horse like this; we definitelty didn't think it would happen so soon."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HR Weekly 8 Apr09
First called upon to fill a seat due to sheer weight of numbers, Jimmy Curtin has again been handed the reins behind Sleepy Tripp for this Friday night's NZ Derby.
Curtin has teamed up with the Courage Under Fire gelding twice so far...in the Sires' Stakes Final on Cup Day last November (when trainers Mark Purdon and Grant Payne sent forth nearly a quarter of the field), finishing ninth - and again last week at Addington, where Sleepy Tripp produced a jaw-dropping performance to win the 3YO Flying Stakes from the parked position after the last 800 metres sizzled by in 54.8.
The Inter-Dominion suspension of Purdon has necessitated a need for Curtin's services once more, and he is the right man for the job. He couldn't recall how many times he has driven in the Group 1 feature race to date, but was quick to add that he had "never looked like winning it" in the past. Things are totally different this time around. "He went super last week," Curtin said of Sleepy Tripp's latest victory and final sectionals.
"I knew we were doin' a bit, especially over that last half, because he was a little flat until I pulled the plugs turning for home - and then he kicked again. The distance of the Derby should suit him; there's no doubt that he has got speed and can stay as well, so he has got a few things going for him. But it's a pretty good field too, and of course it all depends on the draw and what sort of luck he gets in the running."
Luck - all of it bad - kept Sleepy Tripp from being a major player in the finish of the 1950m Sires' Stakes Final earlier this season, but the extra three and a half furlongs of Friday night's contest should ensure that every contender gets their chance. "He never got into the race that day," Curtin said, thinking back to November. "He was a victim of circumstances really though, and was now show at all."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HR Weekly 1 Apr2009
Those who backed the winner of last year's NZ Derby would have probably cleaned up again in the Easter Cup on Saturday night. Because the same horse won both.
Sleepy Tripp emerged as a genuine open class force when he took out this year's $80,000 Stallion Station-sponsored Group 1, overcoming a lengthy enough early gallop to sprint past the more favoured trio of Baileys Dream, Bettor's Strike and Second Wind late in the piece.
It was a rare Easter time double and one achieved as quickly as possible by the son of Courage Under Fire, coming just 12 months since he was on top of the 3-year-old tree after his Derby victory, but it signalled that Sleepy Tripp has now furnished into the horse he promised to be all along.
Co-trainer/driver Mark Purdon didn't think it would be him doing the saluting at the end of the 3200m feature though. "I thought he'd blown it," Purdon said, referring to Sleepy Tripp's uncharacteristic early mistake. "Especially since he was so far from them once he settled. I know Bettor's Strike and Baileys Dream were still behind us when we got going, but we were giving the early leaders a fair start. And we were lucky the way the race panned out after that, getting the one-one behind Bettor's Strike for the last lap and a bit when Bailey crossed to the front."
By his own high standards, Sleepy Tripp had been slightly below his best in the weeks leading up to his first real test in the 'big time'. "His form had slipped," admitted Purdon, citing the race at Cambridge in January where he was beaten into fifth behind Tintin In America as being a point where the head-scratching began. I knew what my expectations of him were, and he wasn't living up to them. The night he ran second to Crystal Star at Forbury, Blair (Orange) said he probably should have won. But he must've picked up a bit of a bug in Auckland, and we've treated him three times since he returned home. Bill (Bishop) is very, very accurate in the blood tests he does, and there was just something lingering in the background. So we just did what we could, and I knew that in time his own system would fix whatever was troubling him. Prior to Invercargill was the first time there were signs his blood was coming right, and this week I could just tell by the way he was in the coat and eye that he was near his best again."
Raced by his Pleasant Point breeders Terry and Adrienne Taylor, Sleepy Tripp has now won 11 of his 25 starts and last Saturday night's victory tipped him over $520,000 in stakes. Three of those victories have been at Group level, with two 1's and a 2 in the cabinet so far, and Sleepy Tripp will give the couple every chance of adding to that when he heads north again shortly for the Taylor Mile and Messenger double-header followed by the Harness Jewels. "He's a lot stronger to sit behind now," said Purdon, comparing Sleepy Tripp this term to what he was like at three. And I'm really looking forward to next season with him, especially since the Inter-Dominions are here too."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 8Apr10