Taplins strike a blow for themselves and Deep South racing

By Dennis Ryan

12 Aug 2021

Taplins strike a blow for themselves and Deep South racingKerry Taplin and Kozzi Asano with their Winter Cup winner Ritani

A Deep South victory in the first feature flat race of the season is by no means novel, but for Isla Bank couple Ian and Kerry Taplin it was special.
On the opening day of the Grand National carnival, 20-to-one outsider Ritani repelled a strong northern challenge to give her trainers their first stakes race success in the Gr. 3 Winning Edge Presentations Winter Cup.
Ritani was one of eight Southland-trained starters in the 18-horse field and became the third winner in the past six years from that part of the country after the Kelvin Tyler-trained Timy Tyler in 2015 and Tommy Beckett’s Miss Three Stars the following year.
Southland-born Kerry Taplin first became known as a jockey and then trainer under her maiden name King. She initially trained solo before being joined in 2013 by her Taranaki-born husband Ian.
As a jockey apprenticed to then Invercargill-based trainer Ross Beckett, Kerry rode 56 winners before increasing weight and a desire to travel eventually saw her switch to training, and her tally in that role now stands at 170 wins.
“I rode mostly around the south and maybe if I had been prepared to travel further afield I would have done better,” Taplin reminisced when RaceForm caught up with her earlier this week. “I rode a winner at Riccarton and while I never won any feature races, I did finish second to Noel Harris in the Winton Cup.
“I still haven’t forgiven him for that,” she joked.
“My weight got up towards the end of my apprenticeship and I even rode a winner from six rides over jumps, but then I went to Melbourne, where I worked for Theo Howe and learnt a whole lot more.”
Following a family tradition, Ian Taplin became involved in racing when growing up in Hawera and went on to enjoy the thrill of part-ownership with his father Syd of the big winners Tapildo and Bunker. They raced Tapildo with Laurie Laxon, who by that stage had moved to Singapore and left the training to his Karapiro-based wife Sheila.
Tapildo credited Laxon with her first Group One win when she won the New Zealand Oaks. That was in early 2001, the same year that saw the historic first official Melbourne Cup victory by a female trainer, courtesy of the mighty Laxon-trained mare Ethereal.
After being transferred to Singapore, Tapildo credited Laurie Laxon with one of the first of many big Kranji wins in the Raffles Cup.
In 2002 Bunker, who Syd and Ian Taplin raced in partnership with Trevor McKee, won the Gr. 1 Bayer (Levin) Classic, Gr. 3 Hawke’s Bay Guineas and Listed Ryder Stakes.
Ian Taplin moved his dairy farming operation to Southland nearly 20 years ago and shortly after became acquainted with his wife to be. They’ve been life partners for 18 years and training partners for the past eight, in which time they’ve prepared 53 winners, most often with horses they have either fully or part-owned, and a significant proportion of them home-breds.
Their Winter Cup winner Ritani is different, however, having been secured late last year for her broodmare potential off the Gavelhouse online auction platform. As a well-related four-race winner by Makfi, she was good enough buying at $16,000, but that outlay has already been repaid many times over with five wins for the Taplins.
“We have a grass and sand track on the farm here at Isla Bank as well as having access to the beach down on the coast at Taramoa – that’s where Bill Hazlett’s horses used to do a lot of their work – and also the Winton racecourse, where we have use of the course proper,” said Kerry Taplin.
“That way we can mix their work up and give them plenty of variety, which has really suited this mare, she really has thrived on it. After we got her going she was giving me such a good feel and I remember saying to Ian that I thought she might be up to a good win or two.
“Going into the Winter Cup, Tappy’s One was the horse of ours they were all talking about after his Oamaru Cup win, but that was a good effort for her to finish third and the way she had been working since I was really confident.
“With all the build-up there was a lot of pressure going into the race, but I did say to someone on Saturday don’t be surprised if we quinella it.”
That dream result failed to eventuate when Tappy’s One got well out of his ground and ran home late for fourth, but the absolute joy of Ritani’s win was clear for all to see in the Riccarton Park birdcage.
“As the race unfolded I could see that Tappy’s One and (race favourite) Justaskme had the job ahead of them they were so far back, but Kozzi (Asano) had the mare in the perfect spot tucked in behind the leaders.
“It couldn’t have worked out better for her and she was there to take the run when it presented itself. It was just fantastic, we’re still smiling,” added Taplin. “That’s not going away in a hurry.”
The Taplins are parents to three boys – 17-year-old Jack, 13-year-old Charlie and surprise late addition, two-and-a-half-year-old William. “We wouldn’t be without them,” says their mother, “we’re a great family unit and the boys are into their racing.”
Ritani is raced in partnership with fellow Isla Bank couple Gavin and Selina Forbes, whose friendship began with their respective children’s involvement in taekwondo classes. “Gavin and Selina have been good friends for a long time now, but to begin with they had no involvement with racing, then when we bought Ritani we suggested they come in for a small share.
“The way it’s worked out they can’t believe their luck, they’re having a ball along with the rest of us.”