Winning in Blackie’s blood again

The exciting filly Joy Anna (Mark Hills) providing trainer Mark Blackie with a well overdue win.

The exciting filly Joy Anna (Mark Hills) providing trainer Mark Blackie with a well overdue win at Te Aroha last Sunday.

Once racing is in your blood it’s there to stay.

Just ask Cambridge horseman Mark Blackie, who ended a drought of almost 20 years on home soil when debutante Joy Anna scored an impressive win at Te Aroha last Sunday.

It had been 19 years since Blackie had toasted one of his wins in New Zealand and 16 years since he saddled up his last runner on home soil. Back then, in that 2001-02 season, he had to settle for a fourth from eight starts.

At Te Aroha he was back on deck as a trainer and saddled up his first two runners, Shesallraaj and Joy Anna.

Shesallraaj finished third on debut behind decisive winner Ferrando in the third event, then a race later Blackie finally relived the taste of success when Joy Anna raced up to expectations in the NZ Farmers Livestock Ltd 1000.

Joy Anna started as an odds-on favourite on the strength of an impressive trials win at Te Teko early in the month and with Mark Hills again in the saddle she produced a replica of that win, working to the front and clearing out over the final stages. Though it wasn’t a six-length margin as had been the case at the trials, she did it easily, scoring by two lengths.

Blackie got a real thrill from Joy Anna’s win, and not just because he is also a part-owner of the Iffraaj three-year-old filly.

“It was great to see my grandmother’s colours winning on Joy Anna,” said Blackie. “I’m loving being back training. Once racing is in your blood you can’t get rid of it.”

Blackie’s grandparents enjoyed many thrills in racing. His grandfather, Dave, raced a host of top-class gallopers including the 1949 Auckland Cup winner Swanee, Dixie and Lord Foxbridge.

Blackie began his training career 26 years ago and trained his first winner in the 1991-92 season. From limited numbers, he enjoyed his most success in the 1995-96 season when notching five wins, highlighted by his sole black-type win, with Santa’s Kingdom in the Listed South Island 2YO Championship at Riccarton.

Santa’s Kingdom won three races for Blackie and a further three when trained in the South Island. The Christmas Tree gelding was responsible for the last of Blackie’s New Zealand wins (at Stratford in December 1997) until Joy Anna put him back on the winner’s list last Sunday.

Jazz Band, a winner of five races, and Code Red (two wins) are the others who contributed to Blackie’s total of 10 training successes during the 1990s.

Blackie later tried his luck in Samoa, being a private trainer with five New Zealand horses. “I was there for nine months and trained six winners,” he recalls. “The first horse I lined up over there won.”

Stints working at Hamilton Airport, then for Courier Post (firstly in Hamilton then Rotorua) helped Blackie earn a living, but he was soon enticed back into racing, including a stint working with the stallions Echoes Of Heaven, Mr Nancho and Ekraar at Linwood Park.

Having again whetted his appetite, Blackie approached Wentwood Grange’s Dean Hawkins looking for horses for a few friends to race.

“I had five or six people interested and we got Shesallraaj off them (Wentwood Grange) then Dean asked if I’d be interested in another Iffraaj filly they had. That was Joy Anna,” said Blackie.

Blackie gathered the group of friends and associates together and formed syndicates to race Shesallraaj and Joy Anna. And now Blackie’s team of two has swelled to four with the inclusion of a trials-placed Tavistock gelding and an Any Suggestions filly.

“I’ve got 16 new clients together and have been approached to take a few more horses,” said Blackie, who divides his time between training and working at Harvest Grains. “It’s working out well.”

Joy Anna is the horse who could put Blackie on the map, but the horseman isn’t rushing the promising filly.

“She had a foot infection two weeks after the Te Teko trials and we were lucky to get to Te Aroha,” said Blackie. “She’s a nice filly who should appreciate a better track.

“She’ll go to Te Rapa on September 30 for a three-year-old 1200 and I’ll see how she does before deciding what to do with her.”