Norvall celebrates a special Group One first

By Dennis Ryan

29 Dec 2021

Norvall celebrates a special Group One firstGroup One-winning trainer/jockeys Rogan Norvall and Lance O’Sullivan share a light moment with Gra

“I told Ashvin how I had done it on Veyron and if things worked out there wasn’t any reason he couldn’t do the same.”
Former jockey Rogan Norvall joined elite company when the hardy veteran Tiptronic scored an all-the-way win in the Gr. 1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.
Nearly two decades have passed since Zimbabwe-born Norvall arrived in New Zealand as the winner of 50-odd races in his home country. When he retired from the saddle in 2019 he had added another 197 wins, including three at Group One level.
Since then the 45-year-old has been part of Richardson Racing, initially as stable foreman and for the past two seasons as the training partner of long-time Matamata horseman Graham Richardson. Between them they’ve prepared 27 winners, the most recent two of which made for a red letter day at Ellerslie last Sunday.
Bonny Lass, last season’s leading two-year-old filly, got the ball rolling when she bounced back to form over 1200m with a gutsy win from the outside gate. Carolina Reaper and North Of Havana then chipped in with meritorious second and fourth placings in the hotly contested Stella Artois Championship Final, and then the coup de grace, Tiptronic’s Zabeel Classic victory.
That was the O’Reilly gelding’s second Group One success, to go with the Herbie Dyke Stakes he won at Te Rapa in February 2020, and for Norvall it meant admission to the exclusive club of jockeys who have both ridden and trained the winner of the same Group One race.
All three of his elite wins as a jockey came on the same track – Ellerslie – riding the same horse – Veyron. The first of those on the Linda Laing-trained chestnut was the then Gr. 1 Manco Easter in April 2011 and the combination made it a double in the same race a year later before adding the Zabeel Classic on Boxing Day, 2012.
Of all the horses Norvall threw his leg over, Veyron was the standout and nearly a decade later any discussion of the big gelding known by his stable name Jethro evokes a broad smile.
“He was a mighty horse and I’ll never forget him, we had some wonderful times together,” says Norvall. “He loved to roll along and he led all the way in the Zabeel Classic after they left us alone and we were able to dawdle through the middle stages.
“I let them come up to us on the turn but my bloke had plenty left and when I said go he just cruised clear to win by nearly three lengths.”
Memories of that race were revived on Christmas Eve when Norvall bumped into Ashvin Goindasamy while doing the social rounds in Cambridge, obviously aware the Mauritius-born 23-year-old was booked for the Zabeel Classic ride. His only previous raceday ride on Tiptronic had been earlier in the month in the Gr. 1 Captain Cook Stakes at Te Rapa, finishing hard into third after having to clear traffic.
“I told Ashvin how I had done it on Veyron – led and dictated – and if things worked out there wasn’t any reason he couldn’t do the same,” Norvall said matter-of-factly as he joined the dots between big wins.
With Norvall holding the fort at home on Boxing Day, his senior training partner refined those instructions with a slight variation on the Veyron tactics.
“I said that if he was allowed to lead by himself, to stack them up and then put the pressure on at the 600,” added Richardson. “He’s such a genuine old horse, I knew he’d keep going.”
The plan worked a charm as Goindasamy was allowed to set a moderate pace on Tiptronic and then push the button well before the home turn. With all of 300m to run it was clear the weight-for-age 2000m was in the bag and Goindasamy had the luxury – albeit with a $400 fine attached – to stand high in the irons and salute well before the post.
While that was the young jockey’s first Group One win, it was Richardson’s seventh in a 30-year training career that began as understudy to Mike Moroney. For Norvall it was the ultimate in matching the likes of fellow Matamata trainer and Hall of Fame jockey Lance O’Sullivan, who has ridden and trained the winners of three Group One races – again all of them at Ellerslie.
“I’ve had the good fortune to ride and train the winners of the Derby, Auckland Cup and Easter and it’s great to see Rogan do the same in the Zabeel Classic,” O’Sullivan said earlier this week, unable to resist a jibe at his long-time mate Richardson.
“I’m just not sure how Richie is going to take it when I remind him that not only will he never be able to match me on that score, but now Rogan’s got one on him too!”
That’s standard banter during any training session at the Matamata track and something that Richardson is well conditioned to absorb.
“Yeah trust that Mouse, typical of him,” he grinned. “I’m just happy for everyone involved and it’s great for Rogan, he’s earned his stripes well and truly now.”