Pier delivers dream result for octogenarian owner-breeder

By Dennis Ryan

10 Nov 2022

Pier delivers dream result for octogenarian owner-breederDarryn and Sam Weatherley flank Barry Wright as they celebrate Pier’s New Zealand 2000 Guineas win

At 85 years, retired Auckland businessman Barry Wright is living the dream that everyone who breeds and races horses aspires to.
Last Saturday at Riccarton Park, that dream was realised when Pier won the Gr. 1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas. Sixteen years after Pier’s granddam had broken down as favourite in the New Zealand 1000 Guineas, the Proisir gelding shouldered the same weight of expectation with a dogged victory in the first classic of the 2022-23 season.
The big win was a Group One first for trainers Darryn and Briar Weatherley, the former also sharing in the ownership with his wife Louise, while their daughter is in her first season as a training partner.
“It’s something that I still can’t believe, to be perfectly honest,” Wright told RaceForm after arriving back at his West Auckland home on Tuesday. “On Saturday night we celebrated at the pub over the road – I didn’t realise we had so many friends – and got back to Matamata on Sunday.
“At the track on Monday morning it was more of the same. I love nothing more than getting down to the track to see my horses, but I was almost overwhelming to have so many people say “well done” and really mean it.”
Naturo was the first horse Wright had raced, and what an introduction she was, albeit truncated by bad luck. Trained by John Sargent midway through his 12-year stint in Matamata before relocating to Sydney, the daughter of Postponed won the Gr. 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes at two and her first start the following spring, the Gr. 3 Highview (Gold Trail) Stakes.
After then finishing second in the Sarten Memorial, Naturo was the obvious favourite for the 1000 Guineas, only to suffer a career-ending breakdown but still finish fifth. When she went to stud, she produced fillies by Pins and Darci Brahma, the latter retained by Wright and named La Vitesse.
She was originally trained by Sargent, but when he moved to Sydney, Darryn Weatherley, who had until then acted mainly as a pre-trainer in Sargent’s supply chain, took over training duties and with his Louise joined Wright in the ownership.
La Vitesse didn’t reach any great heights, winning two of her 17 starts, but she’s now the dam of a Group One winner. Her first foal, Proisir filly La Velocita, won three races but had to euthanised after suffering a major leg injury.
That coincided with the race debut of her three-year younger brother Pier at Matamata in late August, and an easy win over 1050m was a telling sign of what was to come. Second-up the plain bay gelding finished a highly meritorious second to age-group marker Dynastic in the Listed Sir Colin Meads-El Roca Trophy at Hastings and he then stepped up with an easy win in the Gr. 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas, which had been transferred to his home track.
For Wright, a month’s nervous wait then followed after the decision to bypass the traditional 2000 Guineas lead-up, the Sarten Memorial on Labour weekend, but his faith in the Weatherleys was confirmed with a brave Riccarton classic victory.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” says Wright. “When things got really tense at the top of the straight my glasses fogged up and for a brief moment I was having trouble seeing what was happening.
“I could see something like seven horses spread across the track and thankfully our bloke was one of them. All credit to the horse and Michael McNab – they dug in and between them they got the job done!”
Wright has John Sargent to thank for pointing him in the direction of Proisir when the former star Sydney galloper was retired to Rich Hill Stud.
“Sarge and I have stayed in touch since he moved to Sydney, and I still remember the time he rang up and said we’d better look at Proisir for our mare. He was trained at Randwick by Gai Waterhouse and from what he had seen of him, Sarge reckoned he was a chance.
“We’ve shared La Vitesse between Proisir and another good Sydney galloper, Contributer, and the obvious horse for her this year is Proisir again.”
Wright has semi-permanent lodgings at the Weatherley home adjacent to the Matamata racecourse and is looking forward to continuing that theme, with a trip to Sydney in the offing as well.
“They’re like family to me and it’s great to see Darryn and Briar, along with Lou, Sam and Paige, having a horse like this in the stable. I’d love nothing more than to see them take this horse across to Australia and see what he can do.”
Pier drew the attention of high-profile Melbourne owner Aussie Kheir after his debut win and the Weatherleys parted with half of their 50 per cent interest, while Wright retained his full share.
“At my age I’d rather be racing a good horse like this rather than take the money,” he says. “I’m planning to keep doing it for a while too. My mother lived to 94 and her twin sister made it to 102, so I reckon I’ve still got a few more years up my sleeve.”