Bill Keeler’s mare produces her 185th winner 

 By Duane Ranger 


Bill Keeler, with his extended family

Bill Keeler’s 1988 Vance Hanover mare, Cath Hanover produced her 184th and 185th winners when her great-grandson and grand-daughter, Goma Dale and Elouisa Dale, won in two countries, within a few hours of each other on Saturday 13th May. 

Goma Dale, a 4-year-old Auckland Reactor gelding, proved way too smart on debut in race four at the at Winton. That victory came 15 days after he qualified on the same track, winning impressively by half-a-head. 

Then later that night his big sister, the Chantal Turpin trained, and Peter McMullen driven Elouisa Dale (5-year-old Sir Lincoln mare), notched up her first win in seven Australia starts when she bolted in at Albion Park by almost seven metres in race eight.  

Long-time Makarewa, and now Ettrick-based breeder, Keeler, who is battling prostate cancer, was especially delighted when Goma Dale, an Auckland Reactor – Love Filly Dale – Gotta Go Cullect, easily won race four as the $1.90 favourite. 

“I was there to watch him win. That certainly gave my spirits a lift. It’s not so much the cancer that is causing me pain, but my medication. It’s been so sore I’ve had to come off it. 

“Goma Dale is the first grandson out of a daughter of Cath Hanover (1988 Vance Hanover – Chatter Box – Parlez Vous mare) named Rhonda Dale, who was an unraced I Am A Fool mare. This fella shows a bit of promise and won easily. I always thought the mare would go well in Australia as well. 

“However, you can’t get too carried away Goma Dale has had only one start. All I can say is that he is a credit to Tony Stratford who trains him at Gore. It was also great to have the best driver in New Zealand onboard. Blair (Orange) drove him a treat,” Keeler said. 

Goma Dale went into his first race with 2:02.2-mile rate trial win at Winton on April 28. His winning mile rate on Saturday was 1:57.4 with 56.8 and 28.0 final sectionals. He won easily by two-and-a-quarter lengths. 

“I jogged him around our paddock for 10 months before he raced, and he felt a little bit above average then. He’s still got a hell of a lot to learn yet, but he’s getting wider and stronger with each day,” Keeler said. 

He explained that Goma Dale was the second of five foals out of the 2010 two-win Gotta Go Cullect – Rhonda Dale mare. 

“Her first foal Elouisa Dale won three races for Oreti Beach trainer Kirsten Green before she was sold to Queenslanders, Peter McMullen and Chantal Turpin, on January 25 this year. 

Of the 185 winners that Cath Hanover has left, the best was her fifth foal (of 15) – the 1997 Knight Rainbow gelding Mister Dale, who won eight races here, then 75 more in the United States, including a 1:53.1 mile rate. 

“Mister Dale was the best I’ve bred. He won 83 races, while Erle Dale (1:49) won 45 times in Australia and the United States. He was Cathy Hanover’s 13th foal in 2007 and was by Western Terror. 

“Even though he didn’t breed him Keeler did breed from the younger sister of the 1987 New Zealand and Auckland Cup placegetter, Skipper Dale (1980 Nordel Skipper gelding), who won 18 races. 

“He was out of the 1968 Lumber Dream – Hal Wyn (Hal Tryax) maiden mare, Ngahere, who was a daughter of the Hal Tryax mare Hal Wyn. I didn’t breed him but got into the family via the 1968 Lumber Dream mare and Ngahere by Lumber Dream, and Chatterbox the 1977 Parlez Vous mare.  

“Ngahere was the dam of Skipper Dale. Chatterbox left 1990 Call Back gelding, Jester Dale, and before him his 1986 full-sister Nellie Dale (the dam of Loch Nagar) and Cath Hanover who never really got over a broken pedal bone.  

“I had a choice of Vance Hanover filly foals out of Ngahere and Chatterbox when they were a couple of weeks old and I chose the Parlez Vouz mare and called her Cath Hanover,” Keeler said. 

He explained that Goma Dale was named after a young fella from Eastern Southland whose grandad was Earl Dale, former principal of Makarewa School, and a recipient of a Queen Service Medal in recognition and appreciation of his work in education for youth and the community of the South.  

“He had a heart of gold and a cast iron constitution.” 

Keeler operated the Kaylea Stud for many years and was the first stud he thinks that were the first to use Artificial Insemination via transported semen.  

Keeler was diagnosed with grade 4 prostate cancer two-and-a-half years ago, and now on a good day it “takes twice as long to achieve half as much”. 

“I’m still boxing on with some horses, helping out with the Millers Flat swimming pool – an open-air pool which opens from November to April.  

“I’m the slowest swimmer there but occasionally I manage 1,000 metres, and I’m not sure what is the most beneficial, the swim or the Speights immediately after.” 

After producing Elouisa and Goma, Love Filly Dale has produced a full sister to Goma Dale and is trained by Tony Stratford. 

“She will be ready for workouts one day maybe soon. She’s also left a 2-year-old filly by Fear The Dragon and a filly foal by Captain Crunch and is in foal to Captain Midnight. 

“Rosanne and I are looking forward to the future with the “Dales,” Keeler said. 

Keeler, a lifetime harness racing servant, who owns Kaylea Stud, deserves a break after suffering from serious illness the last year. 

But it takes more than prostate cancer to keep this tough Southlander down. 

In fact, it has been ‘life as usual’ for Keeler, who has been busy farming, swimming, tending to his horses and family commitments. 

“I’m still ‘flat-stick’ on the tractor and I usually swim a kilometre at the swimming pool, but it is closed for the winter. I’m 69 and feel okay. I’m not the type to feel sorry for myself. 

“There’s no use thinking negative thoughts. I’ve got a lovely wife (Rosanne) and family, and still a few horses going around. That keeps me very busy and focussed,” Keeler said. 

The strong-willed Southlander has produced some very nice horses over the years. 

“I’ve been around a while and got many stories to tell. I was actually talking to John French at Harness Racing New Zealand the other day and told me I was ‘Customer Number 7’, so I got back a wee way,” Keeler joked.