Bankers Choice caps top week for Waikato couple

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Bankers Choice

A stunning seven length win in the last race on the card at Tauranga on Saturday by the Stephen Marsh-trained Bankers Choice capped a stellar week for New Zealand owners Ross and Corrine Kearney and their broodmare Signorina.

The three-year-old son of Mongolian Khan simply destroyed his rating 65 rivals over 1400m in the hands of Michael McNab just three days after his older Swiss Ace half-sister Jodelin Gal had won over 1200m in similar company at Pukekohe on Wednesday for Te Awamutu trainer Carl Henderson.

Bred and raced under the Kearneys’ Okaharau Station banner, Bankers Choice made it two wins in a row after breaking his maiden status at Matamata earlier in the month.

On course to witness the performance, Ross Kearney admitted he and his wife were still on a high on Sunday morning.

“We’re running around on cloud nine,” he said.

“He’s a horse who has taken some time to mature but he looks like he has figured it out now.

“To get a win was wonderful but to have two in the same week for the mare is just amazing.”

The Kearneys are relative newcomers to the thoroughbred breeding game, having immersed themselves in operating their Okaharau Station sheep and beef farming operation in the Hawkes Bay for 34 years before selling up and moving to a property in Okoroire in 2018.

“We’re originally from Northland where I grew up on a 3000-acre property up there,” Kearney said.

“I think I’ve always had a love of horses as we grew up riding and working with them on the farm.

“When we moved to the Hawkes Bay, we lost touch a little with the horses with technology and the like, which is something I said I’d never do.

“We operated with sheep and beef down there but got involved with racing when we bought a horse called Aimees Gold from Rick Wells in Ruakaka, who is a good mate.

“We raced her and then started breeding from her and it has gone from there.”

From that initial foray into the breeding world the pair now have nine broodmares on board, along with a number of younger horses racing or getting ready to hit the track.

“We’ve got nine mares and six weanlings on the farm, with five of our mares due to foal this season,” Kearney said.

“Signorina, the dam of Bankers Choice is in foal to Mongolian Khan and has a Time Test weanling colt at foot.

“We’ve also got several horses in work including Mistress Minx who won her maiden at Tauranga in similar fashion to Bankers Choice and an Iffraaj filly named Can’t Fault Her, who I think will be going to the Taupo trials next month.”

While the Kearneys are enjoying the success of Bankers Choice, they also know they will be faced with the decision of whether to sell or retain him with trainer Stephen Marsh confirming offers for the horse have been steadily rolling in following his victory.

“That was just a super win, very impressive and totally against how the races had been run earlier in the day,” Marsh said.

“I had expected come the last race his outside draw would be perfect but as it turned out the majority of horses made heavy weather of it out there.

“Michael said he travelled so easily and when he gave him a half slap he just took off and buried them.

“He has had a big rap on him from day one but was a little fragile mentally, but now things have started to click for him.

“The phone has run hot since he won and I expect his owners will have a big decision to make.

“I’m thrilled for them though as they are lovely people and it’s great for them to have a nice horse like this.”

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