Racing: Judgement on the line

Tuapeka Lodge co-owner Dan Cummings parades Tuapeka Troy to visiting trainers at Tuapeka Lodge near Lawrence. Photo by Matt Smith.
Tuapeka Lodge co-owner Dan Cummings parades Tuapeka Troy to visiting trainers at Tuapeka Lodge near Lawrence. Photo by Matt Smith.
Dan Cummings has seen a few good standardbreds leave his family's Lawrence property in the last 45 years - and he is hoping Tuapeka Troy could be the next. Cummings, his brother, Peter, and their sister, Julie Davie, have four Tuapeka Lodge yearlings entered in the standardbred yearling sales in Christchurch today and tomorrow and the Mach Three colt has impressed Cummings the most.

''He's quite a standout - I think he'll get a lot of attention,'' Cummings said.

''Whether that translates to money, I'm not sure, but I'm sure he'll get inspected.''

The third dam of Tuapeka Troy is Sakuntala, who produced Tuapeka Star, the dam of Iraklis, and Tuapeka Vale, who foaled dual New Zealand Cup winner Monkey King.

Cummings is a rarity in the breeding world, using his vast horsemanship skills - honed in both harness racing and rodeo - to lunge the horses on a long lead, allowing visitors to Tuapeka Lodge to see a yearling's pacing action.

''I've always done it, right from 45 years ago,'' Cummings said.

''It gives people a chance to look at them in action. You don't want to put a false impression, but you want them to see the horse you've got.''

After 45 years in the breeding industry, Cummings has noticed a major seachange in the stallions used by New Zealand breeders. No longer are the colonial-bred sires fashionable, as the speed injection from North America continues to dominate.

''Fifteen years ago we were breeding to the brother of a champion and he was probably not much good,'' he said.

''And that was 10 years after the champion was a champion.

''Now we're breeding to Somebeachsomewhere and he's got his first crop booming in America.''

Tuapeka Lodge breeds from 10 mares and the aim is to keep a couple of fillies at home for future breeding.

''We hope to get seven or eight in foal each year,'' he said.

While the rolling hills on the Tuapeka Lodge property keep young horses naturally fit, Cummings said a financial decision made early on in the property's existence has been a major factor.

''We've always gone to commercial stallions, so it's cost us a fair amount to breed the mares, but it's resulted in the families being very strong.

''We've kept the costs . . . pretty steady, but we've spent on service fees, always.''