“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – HB breeder Merv Martin

By Duane Ranger

They breed them real tough in the Hawkes Bay – and not just their standardbreds!

Mangleton (Hawke’s Bay) breeder Merv Martin and his racing partner, Tracy Cadwallader, copped Cyclone Gabrielle square on, when it hit New Zealand on February 12.

Hawke’s Bay Breeder Merv Martin

Their 70-acre farm, nestled under the Kaweka Ranges 45 minutes inland from Hastings is home to several standardbreds and hundreds of beef bulls.

“It was horrible all-right, just way too much rain, and we are still feeling the effects of it. Some six months later, the 45-minite trip to town now still takes an-hour-and-a-quarter.

“We went seven days without power, five without any communication, and were completely stranded for six weeks because the bridge which accesses eight farms locally, was washed away,” Martin said.

As for the couple’s racehorses horses, broodmares, stud bulls and cows, they were treated like babies by Cadwallader, and survived Cyclone Gabrielle with her one-to-one care.

“What Tracy did was phenomenal – life saving even. She has always been so kind and caring with the horses. She is the horsewoman (trainer). I just pay the bills (stablehand).

“But jokes aside, it was a bit scary for a while. We were stranded and the only way out, was across the river. Tracy’s 8-year-old daughter had to travel via a tractor through the water to get to school,” Martin said.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he added.

He said his farm wasn’t too badly damaged, but sadly his six racehorses missed a lot of work.

“The farm survived. It will just take a lot more work – just like our horses. They missed a lot of training, and we are still miles behind.

“Even going to the Manawatu Trots is going to be difficult because our main road to Palmerston North is closed, so we have to go the long way via a back road to get there.

“In saying that the Manawatu Harness Racing Club has also been very supportive,” Martin said.

“But in all this you know who your friends are. Helicopters brought in food and necessities, and the community was also great providing the same.

“A lot of animals were stranded. We were lucky,” Martin said.

Cyclone Gabrielle: destroyed train tracks, causing flooding next to the Hastings motorway.

One such animal that was fortunate due to Cadwallader’s around-the-clock care, was the Mach Three – Ciccio Star (Soky’s Atom) broodmare, Thebestamancanget.

The 15-year-old unraced bay produced her first winner when Busload Of Faith got up by a head in race four at Alexandra Park (Thursday 3rd August) – the Macca Stud Maiden Pace.

The 3-year-old Always B Miki gelding is trained by Tony Herlihy (MNZM) at Ardmore and was driven by his foreman, Tony Cameron.

It was Busload Of Faith’s first win in five starts for his owner – Mrs K D McMurtry of Auckland. He has also finished third three times since his debut at the same venue on May 26.

“We sold him for $25,000 at the National Standardbred Yearling Sale in Auckland two years ago.

“We have only bred one other foal since him because we like to breed from our mares every two years.

“Thebestamancanget has also left us a Captain Crunch yearling filly named Cover Me In Sunshine. She’s still on our property and needs a lot of work. It’s just so tough getting to the trials, but hopefully she will also make a 3-year-old like her older half-brother,” Martin said.

“The mare was served by Sweet Lou is November and she is as big as a bull,” he added.

Martin said he bought Thebestamancanget at a Breckon Bloodstock All-Age Sale in late 2018.

“She was in foal to Always B Miki and Busload Of Faith was born in October 2019. I bought into the family because I liked the breed the Ciccio Star and Spirit Of Venus line. I was also aware that Thebestamancanget’s one of her early Hardwood Breeding Syndicate foals had performed well both here, and abroad,” Napier-born Martin said.

Foal two (of eight), the 2013 Art Major gelding Vasari (1:52.1), won five races here, and 25 more in Australia and the United States ($266,042).

Martin, who breeds show bulls and formerly dairy cows, said the 2005 Live Or Die – Falcona (Falcon Seelster) gelding, Protocol, was the best standardbred that he had bred.

“He won four races here, and then one more in Australia. He was actually the first horse that I bred as well,” Martin said.

When Martin purchased Thebestamancanget, he also bought 9-year-old Somebeachsomewhere – Angela Patron (Holmes Hanover) unraced mare, Holdon For Tonite.

“She has left us a 2-year-old Sir Lincoln filly named Rainbow Dash and is in foal to Lather Up. We are also breeding from Kate’s Rocket (2003 In The Pocket – Kate’s First – Holmes Hanover two-win mare).

“Her mother Kate’s First won an Auckland Cup (1997). Her daughter is in foal to Captain Crunch. That will be our first foal from Kate’s Rocket after she left eight foals for her previous owners.

Asked how he got into standardbred breeding; Martin replied:

“It was just a natural progression from breeding stud cows and bulls. We have always had horses on our farm. It’s something I really enjoy doing.

“I love the pedigrees and doing the homework and Tracy is very good with them. We like to breed every two years from our mares. That way the foals can be with their Mum during the important early months,” Taradale High School-educated Martin said.

Footnote: Cyclone Gabrielle hit New Zealand on February 12, with areas of the upper North Island experiencing widespread power outages and property damage as the outer edges of the cyclone swept the country. More than 225,000 homes lost power as conditions worsened through February 13 and 14.