O’Connors produce three Group winners from one mare 

By Duane Ranger 

Former Southland and now Canterbury breeders, Mark and Pauline O’Connor (Denario Breeding), are delighted they paid just $8,000 for the Presidential Ball filly, Shezaball at the 2010 Christchurch Yearling Sales. 

The now 14-year-old, eight-win mare has produced three Group winners from the five racehorses that have so far represented her on race-day.

Shezaball with Captain Treacherous colt foal in paddock – foal to be named Tee Ball

The O’Connors, who only relocated from Invercargill to Lincoln earlier this month, sat on their new Tai Tapu verandah on Saturday morning (March 25) admiring Shezaball in all of her glory, with her Captaintreacherous weanling colt at foot. 

The night before, Shezaball’s sixth foal of seven, the 2020 Always B Miki colt, Cold Chisel, nailed the Group Two Young Guns Cardigan Bay 2-Year-Old Stakes at Alexandra Park. 

Zachary Butcher did the driving for his Clevedon trainers Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan. 

The O’Connors achieved their first six figure Sale when Queensland-based Montana Park Pty Ltd paid $100,000 for Cold Chisel at last year’s National Standardbred Yearling Sale in Christchurch. 

Shezaball’s two other Group winners have come via foal one – the 2014 Rock N Roll Heaven gelding, Rockaball (1:55.1), who has so far won 13 of his 56 starts ($133,608) in Western Australia, including the Group Three Warwick Pace at Gloucester Park on September 24, 2021. 

And foal four – the 2018 Art Major five-win mare ($67,669), Play Philly (1:56.5). won the Group Three Leonard Memorial 2-Year-Old Stakes at Addington Raceway on March 7, 2021. 

“I’m looking at her (Shezaball) from the verandah now as we speak, and she looks absolutely beautiful with her foal at foot. We couldn’t do that at our previous Southland property. 

“The mare is also in foal to Lazarus, which is exciting, because we have heard good things about his stallion career already. We just love her,” O’Connor (Mark) said. We are breeding her on a 50/50 basis with our good mate Owen Shaw. 

Cold Chisel has now won two of his three starts and placed in the other one, and is now chasing down Fake Denario as the best pacer the O’Connors have bred. 

That 2000 Fake Left – Campeche – Talk About Class gelding won eight of his 32 New Zealand starts for Stephen Reid, including the Listed NZ Yearling Sales Series 3yo Pace. 

He then went to Australia and won the then Listed Classic 3-year-old Breeders Crowns in 2004, before heading on to the United States where he finished his career the winner of 35 races ($776,059). 

“He’s still the best we have bred in 20 years breeding. He recorded a blistering 1:48.4 mile in the USA and set a world record for aged geldings. Not many pacers do that,” O’Connor said. 

He said one of Shezaball’s most promising foals was the 2017 Art Major colt called Ivan Major (named by Owen Shaw). 

“He was shaping up to be a very nice pacer for Nathan Williamson and then died of leukemia as a 2-year-old in 2020. That was devastating. So much so our friends and co-breeders Stu and Bronwyn Perkins thought it was too traumatic and opted out of further breeding with Shezaball. 

“That’s the highs and lows of racing, especially when Ivan Major was looking to be a bit special. 

“They also bred Rockaball and the second foal, Ronnie Pickering (2015 Art Major one win gelding). Pauline and I bred Play Philly and Micaitlen Denario (3yo Captaintreacherous filly) before Owen came back on board with Cold Chisel and all subsequent foals. 

“Owen has been a mate for a while now. He raced Shezaball with us along with the Perkins,” O’Connor said. 

Harness racing runs deep on both sides of the O’Connor family. St Kevin’s College educated Pauline, who is a school teacher, is the daughter of Myrtle McCarthy, who in turn is the sister of Jim Dalgety – Cran’s late Dad. 

Southland born, O’Connor was educated at Marist Brothers High School in Invercargill then studied and graduated with an accountancy degree at Otago University. 

His grandfather John (JJ) Burke trained standardbreds in Southland while his father Ted worked on totes at various Southland tracks. 

“I’ve always enjoyed harness racing and had shares in a few useful horses over the years, but the last 20 years have taken on a new lease of life with breeding. We have a capped number of six mares now and Shezaball is the star. 

The other broodmares currently in the Denario Breeding band are: 

  • 2013 Mantis Denario (1/2 sister to Shezaball) – Somebeachsomewhere – Averil’s Atom – Always B Miki filly foal at foot and currently empty. 
  • 2018 All Talk Denario – Well Said – Southern Delight (1/2 sister to Shezaball) – in foal to Captain Crunch. 
  • 2010 Wantapieceofme (1/2 sister to dam of USA stallion Perfect Sting) – Rocknroll Hanover – Armbro Tussle – in foal to Downbytheseaside. 
  • 2019 Wanta Denario  – Art Major – Wantapieceofme – in foal to Always B Miki. 
  • 2016 Georgiana – Bettor’s Delight – Lizzie Maguire – Captain Crunch colt foal at foot and in foal to Always B Miki. 
  • 2006 Goodtogo Denario – Presidential Ball – Dreamo Denario (1/2 sister to Fake Denario) – Fear The Dragon filly foal at foot and not served – mare to be retired. 

O’Connor, who initially worked at Ernst and Young, was the CEO at South Port NZ Ltd in Bluff for 18 years. He is currently a non-executive Director at SBS Bank; Chairs subsidiary SBS Insurance; is a former non-executive Director at Calvary Hospital; a former non-executive Director at Back Country Cuisine; and was a former Chairman of the Assurance and Risk Committee at New Zealand Customs. 

After a lifetime in Southland the O’Connors now reside on a 25-acre (9.9 hectares) property in Lincoln. Nevele R Stud is only 10 minutes from our new location and the team there have been very helpful during the transition period. 

“We have four adult children in the North Island, one of whom is moving to Canterbury shortly with his soon-to-be wife, so that will be great to have them 15 minutes away. 

“Hopefully we can convince some of the others to relocate too, but at least Christchurch Airport makes it easier for us all,” O’Connor said. 

“I have a few friends in Christchurch, and I’m sure we will like it here with our six mares and their progeny, but we will ALWAYS be loyal Stags and Highlanders supporters no matter what those one-eyed Crusader supporters might say,” he added. 

For the record, O’Connor said the Shezaball – Captaintreacherous weanling colt to be named Tee Ball, would be going through the NZB Standardbred Yearling Sale in Christchurch, February 2024.