Terri Rae continues to confirm her standing as the “Strike Rate Queen” of leading New Zealand trainers. The former West Coaster has made her mark training a team of less than 20 horses from Riccarton and has constantly had one of the best strike rates.
A double at Riccarton on Saturday with Wekaforce and Capodanno took Rae to 19 wins this season from 65 starters, putting her 17th on the New Zealand Trainers’ Premiership with a strike rate of 3.42, better than any other trainer above her on the list. Only Robbie Patterson has a better strike rate (2.83) of the trainers in the top 50. Rae has had four wins and a second from her last six starters, including a stakes win with Windsor in the Listed Timaru Stakes (1400m) at Riccarton, and six wins from her last 10 starters.
So how does Rae continually manage to achieve such a strike rate? “I’m quite fussy and I don’t like them going to the races unless I think they’ll run well,” she said. “It doesn’t always work out, but that’s racing. “I’m lucky with the horses I’ve got and I ride up to eight a morning in trackwork, so I get a good feel of each one. If I’m not happy with a horse it won’t start. “I knew Wekaforce and Capodanno would run well last Saturday, but I didn’t expect either of them to win. I didn’t think Wekaforce would beat Sensei and Capodanno was fresh-up over 1600m and had a bad draw (13).”
Rae has 14 horses in work and is ably assisted by her long-time partner, Matt Shepherd, a Riccarton lawyer with Wakefield Associates. “I’ve got a good staff, two full-timers and a part-timer, and Mum helps out in the afternoons. We’ve given her shares in two or three of our horses,” Rae said.
It was actually Shepherd who was responsible for Rae’s first winner, French Law at Ashburton on October 17, 1999, after purchasing him as a rising five-year-old maiden through an advertisement in the popular racing newspaper The Friday Flash, which ceased publication after 49 years. “He bought French Law for $5000 and I didn’t even know about it,” Rae said. “French Law was a 29-start maiden from Takanini. We were pretty naive at that time otherwise we’d never have bought a maiden who was that well tried. “We got him right and won four races with him, so it worked out well.”
Rae hails from Greymouth, where she started riding trackwork to help pay for her show hack, and continued to ride trackwork at Riccarton after her family moved to Christchurch. She says she learnt her training skills through riding so many different horses in trackwork over the years and mixing that experience with her “fussy” nature. “I learnt most of it myself, with breathing and heart rates etc of the horses,” she said. “I suppose I picked up so much (knowledge) through riding work and I don’t like taking short cuts. I’m so fussy.”
Rae had no more than four or five horses in work in the early stages of her training career and most of them were discards from other stables. Her big break came when she bought Don’t Say Clang then Hold It Harvey from the Gold Coast. She bought Don’t Say Clang for A$17,000 in 2005 and Hold It Harvey a year later for A$16,000. Don’t Say Clang won 11 races, including the 2009 Listed Christchurch Spring Classic (2000m), and over $250,000 in prizemoney, while Hold It Harvey was a stable star, winning 14 races and almost $730,000.
Hold It Harvey gave Rae her most important win, in the 2011 Group 2 Awapuni Gold Cup, and two years earlier he and Don’t Say Clang provided Rae with a highlight when he won the Group 3 Easter Cup (1600m) at Riccarton and Don’t Say Clang was runner-up. Hold It Harvey also won the Group 3 White Robe Lodge Stakes (1600m) twice and the Group 3 Thompson Handicap (1600m) at Trentham as well as four Listed events and he was second, third or fourth in nine Group 1 events.
What Hold It Harvey lacked in size he made up for in courage and he is now living out his days in retirement on Rae and Shepherd’s 16-acre property at Prebbleton. “He’s special to us both,” Rae said. “He’s here at home being spoilt. “We’re lucky to have the property. We spell them all here and it’s handy to bring out horses for a change of scenery.”
Rae has won 252 races, including 21 black type races, earning over $4.1 million, and she will be shooting for another black-type win when she heads across the Cook Strait with Wekaforce for the Listed Lightning Handicap (1200m) at Trentham on March 14. “That will be her last run for the season,” Rae said. “She can have a break after that and get ready for next season. “She’s done well, winning three races down here.
“As for Capodanno, he’ll have another 1600m at Dunedin then probably step up to 2000m. He’s just needed a bit of time. “We’ve had a few good offers for him, but there’s a lot of first-time owners involved and they love racing him so it looks like he’ll stay here. He could make a good stayer.”