Francesca Brady has committed her life to horses 

By Duane Ranger 

Francesca Brady’s PhD about animal welfare and racing industry issues runs deeper and longer than any normal degree, or degrees. 

Francesca Brady

The Wellington (NSW) – based 57-year-old is married to 10-times Group One winning New Zealand horseman Neil Brady (see the accompanying NZSBA story on the 78yo). 

She has been studying for six years now and is working hard for standardbred and thoroughbred participants. 

“I want to be a voice for the invisible grass-roots workers in the racing industry. I worked with horses for 35 years, more recently  employed by some of the elite stables and studs both in  New Zealand and  Australia. 

“My study focuses on both humans and horses: worker occlusion and equine agency. In other words, bringing to light the dedication of industry workers in the face of welfare claims that racehorses are subject to cruelty, and examining the ways in which horses do or don’t have a say in what we do with them. 

“Rehoming is a big issue, too.  Racehorses are generally treated like VIPS, thoroughbreds in particular, living a life of luxury   But what then? Equestrian pursuits ought to be viewed as ‘different’ rather than ‘preferable’ to racing for numerous reasons. 

Brady said she was fascinated with all aspects of animal and horse life – from conception to death, but admitted she was a ‘dressage and thoroughbred girl’, married to one of New Zealand’s most memorable and successful horsemen. 

In fact, it’s no fluke that the Brady-bred Caulfield won the fifth race at the Hawera meeting on the 3rd February. 

The 4-year-old Sir Lincoln gelding and driver Zev Meredith won the first of five heats in the 2023 Hygain Revell Douglas Memorial five-race series on the Hawera grass.

Francessa and Ocean Park in 2014

Caulfield is co-owned by the Racer Pacer Again and Racer Pacer Now Syndicates, and is trained by David Butcher. 

Francesca and Neil combine their wealth of equine knowledge when they study breeding crosses, and it was no fluke that they put Cosi Bella to Sir Lincoln – breeding from Sandy Yarndley’s powerful Burgundy Lass (Noodlum – Nancy Iola – Black Fury) line. 

“I love standardbreds and was very proud to breed another  winner with Neil. That was the gelding’s third win now. We are still breeding from his family. That family is our only connection to harness racing, but we want to breed on. 

“We both watch the sport very closely and have some  nice foals out of Cosi Bella, a granddaughter of  Burgundy Lass,” Brady said. 

That 1984 unraced mare left 15 foals between 1990 and 2008. The second of them – Il Vicolo (1991 Vance Hanover colt) won 31 of his 53 starts including two New Zealand Cups. 

“The foal after Il Vicolo, the unraced Butler B G mare, Sparkling Burgundy, also left the Auckland Cup winner Gotta Go Cullen (2003 Christian Cullen colt – 24 wins & $1.1m), so we knew how rich the genes were. 

“Neil bought Sparkling Burgundy, when Gotta Go Cullen was at foot. 

“Soroma was the seventh foal out of Burgundy Lass. Even though she was unraced, she was a half-sister to a two-time New Zealand Cup winner and Neil was rapt when she came up for sale,” Brady said. 

But Soroma was plagued with bad luck, her foals, one after another succumbing to illness or injury. We nearly lost her when she first foaled for us, the Astreos colt dying without drawing a breath. We sold her after we bred Cosi Bella. In turn Cosi Bella has left three foals. 

“We have this fella (Caulfield), a 2-year-old Raging Bull filly (Celestine), who has just gone to Cran Dalgety in Canterbury, after having been broken in by Peter Ferguson.   We believe she has potential. 

“And Cosi Bella has a Locharburn colt at foot. We leave her empty every second year. 

“Some of the best racehorses have been missed or are first foals. It works for us, but most of all it suits the horses more. It allows the dam to be a mother and the foal to develop on her,” Brady said. 

When studying the pedigree of the Burgundy Lass family, Brady noticed that Soroma had no Meadow Skipper blood.  

“We went with Changeover to ‘kill two birds with the one stone’ injecting Albatross and Direct Scooter in one generation to blend with Falcon Seelster. It modernised the pedigree rapidly. 

“We are still tossing up as to who to breed Cosi Bella with next breeding season.  Cosi throws big foals. Celestine is really tall so we have to be careful with height and bone (Caulfield). We think Raging Bull and Locharburn have crossed well with ‘Cosi’, as Christian Cullen bred so successfully over the Rosehaven family through both Burgundy Lass and Black Watch.  

“Close relations include Gotta Go Cullen and Stunin Cullen. We may breed to another Direct Scooter line stallion such as Captain Crunch or outcross to  Always B Miki. 

Brady said Cosi Bella has been housed at a boutique agistment farm at Te Awamutu with Heidi Richardson since the couple left New Zealand, after spending just over two years here from 2014-2017.  

“We returned to Australia after I suffered a traumatic brain injury and a fractured ulna. Post-Concussion Syndrome followed, the vertigo, tunnel vision, tinnitus, brain fog, and migraines eventually easing after twelve months.  

“Unable to recover my peripheral vision – eyes in the back of my head – I knew that I couldn’t return to my career and had to start over. I completed a Bachelor of Arts (professional writing and publishing) with First Class Honours which paved the way for my Doctorate. 2023 is my sixth straight year of study. Two to go.  

“I’m also the newly appointed Secretary/CEO of the Wellington Race Club which has its biggest meeting in March with the two-day iconic Wellington Boot Carnival. If I can get myself down to the track early enough, it’s a joy to watch the thoroughbreds gallop, but I don’t much like the early morning hours anymore. 

“I worked at high-end thoroughbred studs like Trelawney, foaling down and overseeing their wet mare division, and managed Wai-Eyre in 2015 during the peak breeding period. I also managed Graeme Rogerson’s spelling operation.  

“In the off-seasons, I did stints racetrack strapping for Te Akau at Matamata, and in the South Island, worked for John and Karen Parsons. Even though I’ve also worked for astute Australian trainers like Patrick Payne, and Andy Gath, Neil has taught me more about racing than anyone else. 

Footnote: It was Caulfield’s third win in 24 starts since he started his career with a third at Cambridge Raceway on January 20 last year.