Bargain bred filly pays massive divvies for Tait 

By Jonny Turner 

Canterbury breeder Donald Tait’s path to victory with Starlight Gazer (Pegasus Spur-Kristal Gazer-Ken Warkentin) is a one of standardbred breeding’s great, heart-warming tales.

Tait and co-owners Wayne Godfrey and Owen Pickles enjoyed a big thrill when Starlight Gazer trotted to a strong maiden win at Methven on Friday for trainer-driver Kyle Cameron. 

Donald Tait with Starlight Gazer and trainer/driver Kyle Cameron 
Photo credit // Ajay Race Images

Tait’s path to the winner’s circle is not only a great one, it is also – like so many others in standardbred breeding – a lengthy and tumultuous one.

The short story is that Starlight Gazer is the result of the mating Tait came up with between a Pegasus Spur service he won in a Canterbury Breeders’ Association raffle and a mare he bought for just $50.

The long story isn’t quite as straight forward, with Tait acquiring Starlight Gazer’s dam Kristal Gazer (Ken Warkentin-Kristalvagen-Sundon) as a replacement for another mare who was something of a breeding disaster.

“I went to the Millburn Farm dispersal sale and I didn’t end up getting anything,” the breeder-owner said.

“After the sale they announced Carl Middleton had passed away at the hospice.”

“Piper Ruby was passed in and I said to Rachel Deegan I would take her.”

“The only reason I bought her was because I didn’t want Mrs Middleton to have to deal with taking the horse back.”

Piper Ruby (Continentalman-Millburn Segil-Armbro Invasion) was unable to add to the impact like many other horses bred by the Middletons have had on the New Zealand Standardbred breeding industry.

“Her first three foals all died,” Tait said. 

“I got Notasbadasilook (Peak-Piper Ruby-Continentalman) out of her and she was the biggest bitch horse I have ever bred.”

“So, I said I wasn’t going to breed from Piper Ruby again and I needed to get another mare.”

“I went and saw my friend Rachel Deegan and said I need to get another broodmare.”

“She said I’ve got the perfect place for you, come to Roydon Lodge.”

“The first one I liked went to Alabar.”

“Then Kristal came up and Peter Lagan said Donald this one is for you.”

“I actually ignored him and after the sale I went up and said I would buy that Ken Warkentin mare.”

“He said make an offer and I made an offer for $50 and she was sold.”

Kristal Gazer is the only New Zealand winner for Ken Warkentin, the American stallion named after the United States harness racing media personality.

The mare was no star on the track after being bred via embryo transfer.

Her dam Kristalvagen (Sundon-Chrystal Rock-Stakhanovite) was stakes-placed before being exported to North America.

Kristal Gazer had left two foals before coming to Tait, including two race winner Mentalist (Majestic Son).

The broodmare made an already exciting weekend even better when foaling a Creatine filly in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Tait was quickly on the scene to check out his new foal at Tall Tree Stud.

Starlight Gazer saluted in her eighth start at Methven on Friday, scoring at massive $44 odds.

Earlier in her career, Tait rated the filly even less of a chance of getting away from a stand.

But the work of trainer-driver Kyle Cameron soon sorted that out.

“This time last year, I honestly thought Kyle would never get her away from a stand.”

“We turned her out until the spring and he talked to his vet to help with her female issues.”

“And he changed some gear with her, too.”

“He has done a great job, I couldn’t speak more highly of Kyle.”

Tait clearly has a passion for standardbred breeding, with the care of his horses a nice hobby outside of his day job in Hornby.

“Mainly I am in it because it is my time out.”

“I have had horses all my life and after work I go there and chill out and muck them out.”

Before Friday’s win, Notasbadasilook had already put a win on Tait’s breeding resume.

The Cantabrian never wanted to give up on the mare and arranged her lease to Warren and Dean Stapleton.

The big striding trotter won her last start at Addington in June.