IT Business Analyst, Gwen Johnson, breeds her first winner with her first starter 

 By Duane Ranger 


First-time breeder and Auckland business analyst, Gwen Johnson, has called on her IT and data analytics skills to produce her first winner at her first attempt. 

Gwen Johnson

After having no success in galloping syndicates, the 59-year-old switched codes in 2018. That’s when she started researching pedigrees and broodmares, reviewing the broodmares for lease forum on the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Association website. 

“I researched all the top pedigrees using among others the Classic Families website and their research on the New Zealand and Australian standardbred and then using the Top 10 families, a 2003 In The Pocket mare named, Star Of Heaven, stood out. 

 “I contacted Rosslands Stud (Papakura) where she was located and after talking to Glen Harwood I was gifted the mare for free. That was amazing, and the best possible introduction anyone could get to harness racing. 

“Both Rosslands Stud and later Woodlands Stud, where she stood as a broodmare, have been absolutely brilliant. I was new to the industry, and I was welcomed with open arms by both studs,” Johnson said. 

“Glen was amazing. He not only gave me the mare for free, but gave solid advice with it, because I was, and still am very new to this industry,” Johnson said. 

Star Of Heaven, who was out of the 1995 Dare You to (Spaxton Rebel) seven-win mare, Close To Heaven, only ever had one start for Gareth Dixon when fifth at Alexandra Park on February 6, 2007. 

She was then put to Sands A Flyin, and then had seven more foals before being given away to Johnson. 

“I couldn’t believe my luck. I put her to Sweet Lou in late 2018 and she left a an unraced 3-year-old gelding named Delta Kilo.  

“Andrew Bublitz (Cambridge) bought him off Gavelhouse in June 2020, and two weeks ago he leased him out to Kenny Tarrant (Papakura). Kenny also trained and is now breeding from Starry Star (Star Of Heaven’s sixth foal),” Johnson said. 

Then came along Johnson’s first breeding success with her very first starter –  the 2020 Downbytheseaside filly, named Seasidestar. 

That 2-year-old bay, who is trained by Steve and Amanda Telfer at Papakura, won race nine at Alexandra Park Friday July 14th – the Franklin Vets Fillies and Mares Maiden Pace.


Seasidestar paced the 2,200m mobile in 2:51.9 (mile rate 2:05.4). She got there by a head thanks  to a lovely Maurice McKendry (MNZM) drive. 

“I love her and am so grateful to the Telfers and Maurice for the win. She will be my broodmare one day. I’m still looking for another mare at the moment, because sadly we lost Star Of Heaven two days after Seasidestar was born. 

“Apparently it was not related to the birth, but I was so sad because she was a beautiful mare. Seasidestar is nicknamed ‘Halo’ because she was born on Halloween under a blue moon,” Johnson said. 

“I thought it was just lovely and very appropriate that she won her first race on Matariki Day,” she added. 

Johnson said Star Of Heaven had earlier given birth to two foals, which then had good success in the United States. 

They were, foal two, 2010 Jereme’s Jet gelding, Hot Spot, later renamed – Yayas Hotspot, who won 36 races ($731,136) in Australia, including a Group One and runner-up in the 2017 Hunter Cup. He then won a lot more races in the United States where he recorded a 1:50.9 mile. 

And foal five – the 2014 American Ideal gelding, Ideal Star, who won four races in New Zealand, 23 more in Australia ($252,677), and is still winning at Harrah’s Chester. His best mile is 1:49.4.  

Johnson said she had always loved horse racing and was introduced to harness racing via her sister, Trish, about 20 years ago when she bred standardbreds. 

“Then I joined a few gallopers in syndicates, and something always went wrong, or the horse was no good. I’m so pleased I switched codes,” Johnson said. 

Born in Wellington and educated at St Mary’s College, Johnson came to Auckland in 2015 to work. She is a self-employed business analyst currently working for New Zealand Post.

Johnson’s fur children

“I enjoy working away from a Government orientated city and in Wellington there isn’t any harness racing, so that’s a couple of reasons why I relocated. I live in the CBD,” said Johnson. 

Johnson has two ‘fur-children’. They are a Chi-shi named Cooper, and a Schnoodle named Missy B.