“Breeding is my passion” – Gael Murray

By Duane Ranger

Renowned Canterbury trotting breeder, and yearling specialist, Gael Murray, has quickly made a name for her pacing mare – Orlando Star.

High respected Canterbury horsewoman, Gael Murray

The 2014 Somebeachsomewhere – Star Of Isis (American Ideal) mare’s first two foals finished first and third in race four – The Faulks Maiden Pace – at Addington Raceway on Friday, %th May and the winning one placing 3rd in the big race of Friday night..

Two-year-old Vincent colt, an $80,000 yearling purchase – Bronson – won on debut. His 3-year-old full sister, Joan’s Rising Star, was less than half-a-length back in third.

Mark and Nathan Purdon train Bronson near Murray’s property at Rolleston. Natalie Rasmussen did the driving for owner, Jean Feiss of Melbourne.

Joan’s Rising Star, who sold for $17,500 to Kerr at the 2021 Yearling Sale in Christchurch, is trained by Paul Kerr and Tim Williams did the driving.

Bronson, who is regarded by many, including Murray, as above average, also impressively won his two trials at Rangiora in April.

“I’m proud to have bred these siblings, breeding is my passion. I’m a trotting girl really and have always bred trotters, so to get that result was quite special.

Bronson – the day before heading to the 2022 NZB Standardbred Sales

“It was pleasing to get $80,000 for Bronson at the Sales, that’s by far the best price I have sold one for. My previous high had been a couple in the $30,000s, all trotters.

“The whisper is that Bronson is above average. It’s very pleasing that he’s at one of the best stables you can get,” Murray said.

“I’m not too far away from them,” but for how long, who knows?” the 49-year-old added.

By that Murray meant her lease was expiring on her farm this winter and she had to look for alternative accommodation and land.

“My lease ends in a couple of months after 10 years, and it’s uncertain times. We foaled 130 mares here this season and without this farm we may not be able to continue foaling outside mares. A bit sad really, you get to know the regular mares so well and I wiIl miss them!

“I’ve only got two mares of my own. Orlando Star and Successor (2007 Sundon – Springfield Lauren – Armbro Invasion) and they are my biggest concern,” Murray said.

Murray said she was gifted Orlando Star by Jimmy and Sandi Curtin. She said she foaled Orlando Star’s mother for them – the eight-win, 2008 American Ideal – Star Of Tonight – Road Machine mare, Star Of Isis. “I remember Orlando Star being born, Star Of Isis chose the exact time I had to get my son to school to start foaling,  we were a bit late to school that day!

Orlando Star and Successor at Gael Murray’s property

“By sheer luck, Sandi asked if I wanted her as she had finished racing.

Sandi had just had a leg operation, so I was helping them out for a couple of months I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I’m obviously very grateful to them for that gift!

“Orlando Star has always been immature and taken a long time to grow. Now that’s she’s eight I think  has finally become a horse. .”

However, Murray said Orlando Star still isn’t the easiest breeder.

“What she produces is superb, but getting her in foal has been far from easy. She’s in foal to Vincent again, she missed first to Lazarus. Absolutely no blame to the stallion, she’s a mare that makes us work for each and every pregnancy.

“I have a Bettor’s Wish weanling out of the mare, who was born in October. He is another cracking colt, she definitely produces good lookers.”

“This fella is sure to attract attention at next year’s yearling sales. He’s built like a tank. Solid as, with great conformation,” said Murray.

She said Bronson was a standout foal and yearling, made a statement from day one.

“I was over the moon when I got $80,000 for him and also very happy with $17,500 received for Joan’s Rising Star, being the first foal from a non-winning mare” Murray said. I think she had two Manawatu starts for a sixth and a seventh (May 2018).

Born in Christchurch, Murray was brought up on a sheep farm with stock horses in Parnassus in Hurunui District. Educated at both Cheviot and Riccarton High Schools.

Gael with Dad Max and son Harry on Max’s 80th birthday.

“I worked with gallopers when I left school and in 1993 John Shaw introduced me to standardbreds, and I never looked back.

“Apart from Orlando Star and my trotters, another reason why I love breeding so much is my other mare – Successor.

“She was the filly that was orphaned at birth, and later left a New Zealand 3yo Trotting record holder and Group 1 winner in 2017. He was foal three and his name was  named Heavyweight Hero (by Muscle Mass).

“I’m just thankful Successor survived. Her dam got peritonitis a couple of days before she was due to foal. Successor was born soon after, but we couldn’t save Springfield Lauren

“Successor never went on to make it as a racehorse though. She was a bit of a tart. I think the last time she was in a cart she tipped her driver out” Murray said.

Murray said Successor was served by Propulsion in November and has a Propulsion weanling filly, as well as a 2-year-old Muscle Mass filly named Origin that Murray has retained.

Successor’s 3-year-old Muscle Mass gelding, Fight For Freedom, is also promising having won his first of three starts for Woodend trainer, Bob Butt.


With Gael’s lease on her current property coming to an  end she is on the hunt for her next base.
If anyone knows of some land with a house, or land with outbuildings to lease in the Selwyn, Canterbury area please get in contact with Gael – gael.m.m@xtra.co.nz