It had nowhere near the same value as the Group One success she covets, but popular owner Pam Brindley was nonetheless thrilled to play her part in New Zealand’s first ever synthetic track race.
Brindley is the owner-breeder of Champagne Princess, who booked a unique place in racing records when she charged to a five-length win at double-figure odds in Wednesday’s Magnum Industries 1550, the opening event on the Cambridge Jockey Club’s Inaugural polytrack raceday.
The five-year-old Bachelor Duke mare is trained at Matamata by former jockey Darryn Weatherley and was ridden to victory by his son Sam, which for Brindley meant just as much as the actual win.
“Darryn used to ride for Geoff and I and like everyone involved with our horses, he and his wife Louise and their family have become great friends,” said Brindley between the horde of well-wishers that followed yesterday’s momentous occasion.
“When I woke up this morning it did cross my mind how wonderful it would be to win this first ever synthetic race, but I would have been happy just to finish in the first five. That’s my approach whenever any of my horses are racing – just as long as they do their best and come home safe, that’s what means most to me.”
While a glass of bubbles was in order during the post-race celebrations, Brindley admitted to not being tempted by Champagne Princess’s +2250 tote odds.
“I never back my horses, that’s just the way I am, it’s more about coming along to see them race and enjoying the day out.
“This is what gets me out of bed in the morning; I love my horses and I love the people in racing.”
Thoughts of her late husband are never from Brindley’s mind.
“I’m where I am today because of Geoff, but sadly he passed away seven years ago and never got the chance to enjoy it with me. At his funeral I said that I would breed him a Group One winner, and that remains my goal.”
Brindley, a key figure in establishing and sustaining the promotional organisation FLAIR (For Ladies Advancing the Interests of Racing), still lives on the Whatawhata lifestyle block west of Hamilton that she shared with her husband. That’s where members of her racehorse string take time out from training and she continues to enjoy the daily routine entailed with their agistment as well as caring for broodmare and retired former racehorses.
Her trainers of choice these days are Darryn Weatherley and Te Awamutu-based Keith Hawtin, the latter being the original trainer of Champagne Princess before he recommended passing her on to Weatherley.
“She was having problems with tying up after her work, so Keith suggested sending her to Darryn, where she could be trained from the paddock,” Brindley said.
“Earlier on he thought she was an Oaks filly and didn’t want to lose her, but to his credit he felt that would be best for her.
“Keith still has six of mine, including Money Trail, who I rate the most under-rated and most honest horse racing. He’s also training two siblings to Champagne Princess – Heart Of Gold, who finished second in a trial at Cambridge on Tuesday, and Champagne Lola, a two-year-old who finished third in her first trial earlier this month. I’ve got another two-year-old that I really like called Loose Money, he’s by Turn Me Loose and has also been placed at the trials.
“I would love to see Money Trail win at least one more race. He’s already won six and if he wins another that will make him the most successful horse to win in our colours.”
Brindley hasn’t lost sight of the promise she made to her late husband, more so since receiving a phone call last spring after Champagne Princess’s dam, the Volksraad mare Champagne Lady, produced a colt by Almanzor at Wentwood Grange.
“Dean Hawkins rang me and said ‘I think you’ve got your Group One winner.’
“He’s an outstanding foal, so I’m hoping Dean is right. Champagne Princess is in foal to Contributer and she’s booked to Cambridge Stud’s new stallion Hello Youmzain.
“I might be getting on a bit, but I’m hoping I’ll be around long enough to enjoy a few more days like today.”