Guptill not Crazy after all!

29 November 2020

Crazy storms home to clear maidens at Alexandra Park

by Brad Reid

When most people reach retirement, they do so with a view to winding down and taking things a bit easier.

Auckland breeder and owner Trevor Guptill is the exception to that rule.

At 75 years young, the Glen Eden man is a competitive sprinter with a few New Zealand records to boot.

“I’m a master’s athlete and have travelled the world competing in my discipline of sprinting,” he said.

“I played a lot of rugby when I was younger. I had to give it away because I suffered from Asthma quite badly. They didn’t have products like Ventolin back then!

“When I was about 65, we were looking after the grandchildren and one of them went for a bit of a wander. I chased after him and afterwards realised I can actually run a bit.

“So, to give me something to do in my old age I took up athletics. My focus is primarily on the 60-metre sprints where I hold a couple of New Zealand records and have some medals from meets around the world,” he said.

Guptill’s love for running stems from an overwhelming desire to do things on his own.

This was a mitigating factor 40 years ago when his love for the horses led him to take out a training license despite having no family involvement or background in racing.

Guptill embodies the ‘can-do’ attitude that puts many a young person to shame.

“I started with the horses because I wanted to do it myself as that is what I like to do. I always followed the horses when I was younger: I went for trotting because I could sit in the cart and work them where I wasn’t capable of doing that with a galloper,” laughed Guptill.

“Being up at Dairy Flat, I would have to wait a week if I wanted to see a farrier, so I learnt to shoe horses myself,” he said.

Guptill purchased his first standardbred from a sale run by Charlie Hunter (ONZM) with the mare destined to become his first broodmare.

Frosty Jawa (1973 Gentry-Frosty Morn) had won two races when Guptill acquired her in 1980 – he managed to pick up two more wins and five placings whilst in his care.

He started breeding from her in 1981 and despite 10 years at stud and eight live foals, none of the progeny from Frosty Jawa would make it to the races.

It was around this time that Guptill decided to change tact and try the other gait.

“I bought a trotting mare called Speed Queen (1977 Game Pride – Jeepers Creepers) at a sale from Charlie Hunter,” he said.

“I went into the trotting gait because I had the time to do it myself and because the stallion services were a lot more affordable. It seems to have gone the other way now where with frozen semen and European blood becoming available, but you’re not racing for European stake money,” he said.

Speed Queen was a half-sister to eight race winner Kenwood Song (Crockett) who ran second in the 1981 Rowe Cup behind No Response, was second in the 1982 Rowe Cup behind Stormy Morn and second to the same horse in the 1981 Interisland Stakes.

Speed Queen was no slouch either winning six races, with the sole group race she contested being the 1984 Rowe Cup in which she finished eighth.

By the time Guptill purchased Speed Queen in 1979, she had already had four foals which included a Count Bay filly by the name of Elizabeth Bay.

She had one start for a 10th placing prior to Speed Queen being served by her new owner.

By the time she had foaled a Pernod Eden filly for Guptill by the name of Skeekee Weekee, Elizabeth Bay was a three-race winner which included a 2700m New Zealand record for three-year-old fillies from a stand.

She would later that season win the now defunct Group Three Cambridge Trotting Stakes and eventually emulate the deeds of her mother by running in the 1994 Rowe Cup won by Diamond Field. She would also win 4YO New Zealand Trotting Mare of the Year.

While no superstar, Guptill was able to take the half-sister he bred to the races under his own tutelage and the pair of them headed to the birdcage twice in 9 days, almost 15 years since his last training win with Frosty Jawa.

“Skeekee Weekee had two wins in a row at four and then she bowed a tendon. She wasn’t going to make the top grade. It looked like she would pick up another four or five wins comfortably. She had no speed at all, but she would fight to the death,” chuckled Guptill.

Guptill took three further foals from Speed Queen without much luck and is still ruing what might have been with the second filly he bred by the name of Speed Princess (1991 Gee Whizz II).

“She was the best-looking horse I ever bred, and I can remember thinking if she is half as good as she looks, she will be a superstar. She had trouble breathing though and the surgeries stopped her from showing her best.

“I’ve had a couple from the breed that have looked absolutely amazing and then they have had an accident or gotten ill and died. The ones that look the best seem to always have something go wrong with them,” he quipped.

Guptill persevered with Skeekee Weekee at stud and like his previous endeavours with Frosty Jawa, was left scratching his head.

Five live foals with none of the progeny ever making it to the races.

“The second foal, Coffee Queen (Earl), broke in like she was going to be alright and could trot a bit, but she hitched at the back and I was running out of time and gave her away as a hack.

“I had no luck with the two foals by Malabar Maple at all. They had a mind of their own and you just couldn’t control them,” recalled Guptill.

Nearing retirement and with the impending sale of his farm, Guptill thought about giving it all away.

“When I got to retirement age my shoulders started playing up. I sort of gave it away a bit and sold my property. I was a bit reluctant to continue with the horses as I was no longer be able to be hands on. I wasn’t so much interested in just watching the horses I own because if I wanted to do that, I can turn on Trackside and watch somebody else’s.

“I kept the Sundon mare Skee Queen because I thought well if I’m going to breed from one, it was her being by Sundon. The other reason she was still there was because I couldn’t bloody catch her!

“I had the crazy idea of giving her one last crack as a race mare.

“I had planned to send her to Derek Balle but he couldn’t take her the day I needed her off the property, so Ken Sefonte recommended that Tim Hall might do it for me.

“I’d been told he was very good at taking horses from other people that had caused some headaches and managed to get them going.

“So Tim broke her in for me. She had got away with everything for so long, she was too smart for her own good!

“Tim reckoned she could trot a quarter in 27 no trouble. But in a workout where she wouldn’t have to go as quick, she would pull up at the 600 or run off the track when she had had enough.

“Being a six-year-old she was quite a big animal. Just when you sorted out something with her, she would think of something else to beat you. I think if we had of got her when she was younger, she might have been quite a nice trotter. As a result I’ve made sure to teach them quietly when they are young.

With Guptill slowly realising this breeding caper was much more of a marathon then his preferred discipline of a sprint, it is a miracle he persevered with the breed.
And although the year 2020 has been for many a year to forget, for Guptill it represents a turnaround in fortunes for his breed and the decision to keep the Sundon mare has paid dividends.

Skee Queen’s first foal by Lucky Chucky produced a Jurassic sized colt by the name of Skee King.

“He was broken in by Tate Hopkins before he went to Ken Sefonte who worked him along. Ken reckoned as a late yearling he was bigger than the stallion Angus Hall,” laughed Guptill.

“We had him grazing for 12 months down in a paddock at Cambridge while he filled into his frame. I thought maybe I will give Tim Hall a call as he was only round the corner.

“Despite his size, Tim said he was doing everything right from day one, so we continued on and qualified him. We brought him back at four where he won at Rotorua, but his recent efforts show that he still needs to learn to race in the field. He’s a massive horse and maybe he needs another year in the paddock,” said Guptill.

Skee King has just the sole win from 14 race day starts and as alluded to above is the type of horse who may still be growing into his frame.

His younger brother and second foal Crazy has wasted no time in repaying the Guptill’s for his patience winning at just his second race day start last Friday night at Alexandra Park.

The son of Crazed came from last and was the widest on the turn where he ran down the more fancied runners in the eight on the card to win by a nose.

“He’s a completely different horse to Skee King. Much more athletic and almost trots like you see pacers go.

“We qualified him in race time more or less, but he has taken a while to come back too it because of his manners. He plays up a lot and Ken Sefonte wouldn’t take him from the breakers because you couldn’t lift his feet up without losing your head,” he laughed.

“After he was gelded he got over that and has turned the corner a bit.

“He is the only male by Crazed that has won in New Zealand.

The son of Credit Winner was available to New Zealand breeders via frozen semen from Woodlands Stud and has produced a handful of nice performers on these shores from just 25 live foals. As pointed out by Guptill, Crazy is his only male winner with the other five all being fillies (and mares).

She’s All The Craze, Sex On Fire and Geena’s Gril to name a few.

Guptill’s change of fortunes on the track has also filtered through to the breeding barn where despite the best efforts of Woodlands Stud, Skee Queen had failed to get in foal for the past three years.

“Woodlands Stud recommended that she go to Blue Blood Equine as they didn’t think she was doing very well in a herd. It’s a lot more expensive but they do fuss over them a lot more and they get treated like pets.

“It was recommended we try fresh semen as she had been struggling to get in foal with frozen, so we served her by Pegasus Spur.

“She got in foal first pop which left us with a lovely Pegasus Spur filly born in late August this year. We tried frozen this year and got her in foal to Orlando Vici first crack also.

You can hear the passion in Guptill’s voice when he discusses the progeny he has bred and the pride that emanates from seeing them do well on the track.

He might be a little biased when it comes to the recent achievements of his two trotters, but after 40 years in the game, few would begrudge him of the successes of Skee King and Crazy.

“When you watch other peoples’ horses race it doesn’t really resonate the same. You see them and think that horse has only won a maiden, but when your own horse wins a similar race it feels like you’ve won an Auckland Cup!

“The trotters are able to run such unbelievable times these days and who knows, maybe the best is yet to come,” he said.