“That one’s for you Dad” – Ron McEwan 

 By Duane Ranger

Mr Ron McEwan in his rest home looking at picture 2.

Invercargill breeder, Ron McEwan, sadly wouldn’t have appreciated The Jafa Express’s third win at Wyndham last Thursday (September 7) as much as his family did. 

In fact, every breeding victory the 88-year-old records from here on becomes even more precious than the previous – especially for Mr McEwan’s two daughters – Dianne (Todd) and her younger sister Julie (McEwan-Franks) and his son Wayne McEwan who is also a trainer based in Te Anau. 

Todd, said her Dad resides in an Invercargill Rest-home with Parkinson’s disease. She said he had limited memory recall, but was still the loving Dad, who had loved his family and horses all his life. 

“I recently showed Dad a photo (shown) of himself flying through the air on Phar Lap’s full sister’s foal (Hangover), and when he saw that his eyes lit up. 

“That’s Hangover’ he said. I later checked out the breeding of Phar Lap and Dad was spot on. The great horse did have a younger sister called Friday Night who foaled a colt called Hangover. We are all just so proud of him and what he’s done for us and what he’s achieved in harness racing,” Todd said.

a youthful and daring Ron McEwan flying over the sticks on Phar Lap’s full-sister, Hangover. No helmet required.

“He was a very good trainer, and he could look at a horse and had the ability to tell you if it was unwell. Breeding also became one of his loves,” she added. 

Mr McEwan, his grandson Todd Dallard and his friend Warwick Howie bred The Jafa Express to win Race 4 at Young Quinn Raceway – the MLT Pioneer Tavern R35-37 Pace 

The 6-year-old Auckland Reactor gelding is trained by Amber Hoffman at Waikouaiti, and was driven by Kerryn Tomlinson.  Ron, Todd and Warwick were the original owners were recently joined by Richard Wood, Hoffman’s partner. 

The Jafa Express has now had 26 starts for three wins, four seconds, and four thirds and netted $28,275 in stakes since making his debut-fifth at Winton on November 14, 2021. His two other victories came at Gore on February 20 last year and at Winton on May 27.  

The Jafa Express is the 3rd foal of 4 foals (so far) out of the unraced now 20-year-old black Badlands Hanover – On Duty (Admiral Halsey) mare, Badlands Belle. 

Todd said her father got into the breed via Balclutha breeder, the late Ossie Throp, whom he trained horses for. 


“Dad knew Ossie had a nice bloodline, so he and Julie leased with a ROP a 1987 Admiral Halsey mare named On Duty off him. Then they bred Badlands Belle from her.” 

Throp bred from On Duty’s mother, Ellen’s Glory (1974 five-win Scottish Hanover – Soldier Gal – Garrison Hanover mare), and On Duty was the seventh and most successful of her 10 foals. 

Badlands Belle suffered from back problems and the vet told Dad she would never race or would be unlikely to ever carry a foal, so she went to the dreaded ‘Creek paddock’.  That was part of Dad’s farm and basically where horses spent their final days. He always treated his animals with kindness and hated putting them down.” 

“When she was about five or six, he suggested to his grandson that they have a go at breeding from her and so the breeding journey began. 

“He crossed her with Royal Mattjesty and in 2009 a brown colt named Don’t Die Working was born. He was a horse with impeccable manners. They were like an owner and his dog. This horse would stop and listen to his every command and then act on it.  

“They were one, but sadly the horse died in 2016 after being stabled for 6 months recovering from a pedal bone fracture, when a tree fell on the stable. Dad was devastated because he was promising and had won two of just his 11 starts for Dad and Julie as trainers. It was even more gut-wrenching losing him knowing how much he meant to Dad,” Todd said. 

In 2015, foal two, the Washington VC colt, Undercover Mac, was born. He was owned by Todd, Dallard, Howie and Ron. He won one race with trainer Kirsten Green and was then sold to Gary Hall in Perth where he went on to win another four before injury curtailed his career in September 2020. 

“After Undercover Mac came The Jafa Express (stable name – Ossie). He was a horse with minimal handling as a youngster and we did wonder what may become of him.  Dad was losing his ability to handle any horses due to the progression of his illness, but he was reluctant to say it was time to draw closure on his training career.

Ron McEwan with The Jafa Express at Winton Racecourse about two years ago.

“After a couple of workups, he eventually went to Amber (Hoffman) who gained his trust and get the best out of him.  She has done a terrific job with him. That’s three wins now from a horse that originally spent his early days alone in a paddock and we wondered if he would ever make it to the races.  When he’s not in training you will find him running with stud angus bulls on Howie’s hill farm in Lawrence,” Todd said. 

Badlands Belle has also left a 3-year-old black Washington VC filly named Agent Belle (full sister to Undercover Mac). 

“Her full brother went 1:55.9 at Wyndham and 1.53.0 in Perth, so we are hoping this filly will have the same speed. Amber really likes her, and she will be off to the trials soon.” 

After losing a Sky Major colt in 2021, Todd said Badlands Belle is due to give birth to a Sky Major foal in November. 

Todd believes that her Dad would say the best horse he ever bred was Halford Atom, who was out of a half-sister to On Duty.  He had five New Zealand wins and many more in America.