Neil Brady back winning in New Zealand 

By Duane Ranger 

Larger than life, ‘handlebars-down’ horseman of the 1990s and early 2000s – Neil Brady – who won 10 Group Ones, has co-bred another New Zealand winner. 

Neil Brady in his New South Wales home

No, the 78-year-old All Black trialist, North Island representative, and 50 times an Auckland rep (1968-74) is not back in New Zealand, but his 1987 Changeover mare, Cosi Bella certainly is.  

The unraced 9-year-old has left three foals, and the first of them – 4-year-old Sir Lincoln gelding, Caulfield, won the fifth race at the Hawera Harness Racing Club’s meeting on Friday (February 3). 

Brady co-bred Caulfield with his wife Francesca. He is owned by the Racer Pacer Again and Racer Pacer Now Syndicates, and is trained by David Butcher. 

Caulfield was driven by Zev Meredith to accumulate points for the 2023 Hygain Revell Douglas Memorial five-race series at Hawera, Methven and Cromwell, from February 3 to 26. 

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. 

Brady said Cosi Bella had been housed at Te Awamutu with Heidi Richardson since the couple left New Zealand after spending just over two years here from 2014-2017. His wife worked in New Zealand (and Australia) at high-end thoroughbred studs and stables. 

The former Pakiri Beach horseman had earlier left New Zealand in 2005 after becoming disillusioned with the state of harness racing in that country. 

“We have this fella (Caulfield), a 2-year-old Raging Bull filly, who has just gone to Cran Dalgety in Canterbury after having been broken in by Peter Ferguson. Cossi Bella also has a Locharburn colt at foot. 

“Francesca is way too clever for me, but we both know bloodlines well, and together we work hard to get the right cross for our mares. 

“For that reason we like to breed every two years. 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. 

“I have learnt a lot of the intricacies of animal husbandry from my intelligent Australian wife,” he added. 

Francesca is in her sixth year of study in animal philosophy, specializing in horses.. and at the same time is a voice for whom she terms the “invisible industry participants” and their concerns. Her story is part-two of this one.  

She also explains why she and Neil got into the Sandy Yarndley Burgundy Lass breed. She is the dam of Il Vicolo, and his younger half-sister, Soroma – who is Caulfield’s grand-dam 

Brady said he had been breeding standardbreds since the 1970s, and said the best horse he bred was the 1998 Live Or Die – Lopez Elect (Lopez Hanover) mare, Elect To Live (1:55.5), even though it wasn’t in his name. 

“I trained, drove, co-owned and actually bred her but there was a glitch in the paper-work and it never went through. She was an amazing pacer, who had several gears.  

“She was a multiple Group One winner (won 19 of her 35 starts), who also banked more than half a million dollars. Right up there with the best I’ve had – and she left several foals after I left including the Queensland stallion Gotta Go Cullect,” Brady said. 

“But Elect To Live was right up there with Franco Ice (1:55), who won  20 races ($616,961),” the Wellington (NSW) resident added.

Elect To Live the winner of the 2002 NZ Oaks and Horse of The Year

The 3YO filly was the HRNZ Harness Horse of the Year for the 2001/02 season. 

The man renowned for his black, white spotted, and orange sleeved coloured silks – in both codes – believes standardbred breeding is way ahead of thoroughbred breeding Down Under. 

“We’ve a got a better choice of quality stallions to choose from than say the gallopers, because of the success of world-wide renowned AI (Artificial Insemination) and ET (Embryo Transfer). 

“If this didn’t happen there’d be no Bettor’s Delights out there. Even though I personally believe frozen semen is too much of a risk, I think the breeding industry as a whole is doing okay. 

“It’s a lot cheaper and more economical to own a standardbred mare and have her served by a quality stallion, than what it is in the galloping game,” said the former dual-coded trainer. 

Even though married to a ‘true-blue-Aussie’, Brady said he was always a Kiwi and would always be proud of that. 

“I haven’t had any association with harness racing for several years now, but I do watch the races closely from both countries. 

“The broodmare in New Zealand (Cosi Bella) and her progeny are my only connection to the sport now, apart from trying to keep up with all the hard working behind the scenes work that Francesca is doing for the industry,” Brady said. 

Here’s some facts about Brady: 

He trained 239 winners ($2.2m) from 18,859 starters from 1983 to 2005. He also saluted the judge 153 times from 1,277 drives ($1.4m) , also from 1983-2005. He won 10 Group One races on both sides of the Tasman. 

He also had 11 starts when he was in New Zealand for a couple of years from 2014-2017, while his wife worked at this country’s elite galloping stables and studs. 

In Australia, Brady trained 51 winners ($552,942), and drove 48 winners, from 2000 to 2013 with his best result being Zen Over Again’s Listed Classic win in the 2008 Aussco Graduate Final, and Watch The Ace’s second in the Group One 2008 NSW Sires Stakes Final. 

Brady played 50 rugby union games for Auckland at fullback and second-five-eight from 1967 to 1975 and one game for the North Island in the 1971 All Black Trial. He played club rugby for Teachers College in Ponsonby and also with Waitemata where his team won the coveted Gallagher Shield. 

For Auckland he played alongside All Blacks, Bryan (BG) Williams, Andy Haden, Peter Whiting, Ron Rangi, Malcolm Dick, Keith Nelson, and Grahame Thorne.