Ukrainian colours fly proudly at Pukekohe

By Dennis Ryan

23 Nov 2022

Ukrainian colours fly proudly at PukekoheFlash Mary (Bailey Rogerson) carries Bryan Black’s Ukrainian replica colours to victory at Pukekoh

National pride took on a distinctive blue and yellow hue when Flash Mary scored an all-the-way win on the Counties Cup support card at Pukekohe Park on Saturday.
Flash Mary’s principal owner is Auckland entrepreneur Bryan Black, who had quite a story to tell after the Debbie Sweeney-trained mare’s win. In a New Zealand context the Black family has a long association with thoroughbred racing, much of it based around one of New Zealand’s iconic 1600-metre races, the Easter Handicap.
The mighty little chestnut Shivaree, whose 1981 success in the Ellerslie feature was the last of three Group One victories amongst a total of 18, was part-owned by Black’s father Bob, while his own colours were carried to victory in the 1992 edition by Carson’s Cash. Adding further strength to his family’s ties to the Easter Handicap, Black’s Manco Engineering Group has sponsored the race for the past decade.
Last Saturday’s HR Fisken & Sons 1600 was a far lesser Rating 65 event, but the win by Black’s four-year-old mare Flash Mary was good cause to stir his emotions.
“My colours are the same as the Ukrainian flag, which goes back to my family’s origins in Odessa,” Black told RaceForm. “My great-grandfather Ivan Tchernegopski was born there and became a cattle dealer in his early twenties before he emigrated to England and then to Australia with his brother.
“Ivan ended up in New Zealand, where he bought a farm at Te Poi in the Matamata district. His daughter Nica was my father’s mother and when Bob’s own father died, he was brought up by his grandparents in Matamata.
“Ivan became known around the district as Ike and for ease of pronunciation he changed the family name to Black. Along with his farming interests he was a founding director of the Sunny Park Dairy Company and he served two terms on the Matamata Town Board as well as building the first boarding house there and setting up a service station which is now the Z Energy service station.”
That business was eventually taken over Bob Black after he had qualified as a lawyer in Wellington and then served in the NZRAF during World War ll. While growing up Bob had been told by his forbears that the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag depicted the sky above the country’s vast wheatfields, however the national ensign was superseded by the hammer and sickle with the establishment of the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution of 1917.
“When I decided to get my own set of racing colours, Dad recalled his heritage and described the reasoning behind the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag,” said Bryan Black. “Carson’s Cash carried those colours when he won the Easter Handicap, which was the year after Ukraine gained independence in 1991 when the Iron Curtain came down.
“My sister Sue visited Odessa around 10 years ago, where she caught up with family members still living there, and I have the Odessa Symbol on our mantelpiece at home.”
The Black family’s connection to Ukraine was for many years a personal matter, but that has changed in recent years, initially with the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and even more so with the February invasion of East Ukraine by Russian forces. Odessa, the port city located west of Crimea on the Black Sea, has not escaped the carnage, being targeted by Russian artillery due to its strategic significance.
“As a family we had not really pushed the point about our Ukrainian heritage, but the war has certainly brought it home to us,” says Black, who was inspired by Flash Mary’s Pukekohe win to react to the Ukrainian situation in a tangible way, and decided to donate a percentage of Saturday’s stake to the effort.
“I wanted to make sure it went direct to a worthy cause, so on Monday I went online and made a donation to the Ukrainian fund being managed by the Red Cross. It’s not good what’s happening up there, so I hope my small contribution will be some help for those people.”
On the home front, Black’s time is mostly taken up by his Manco operation, whose work includes major underground rail projects in Sydney. Racing is a leisure pursuit that he shares with family, as noted by his son Logan being a part-owner of Flash Mary and grandchildren amongst the weekend entourage at Pukekohe.
“I’ve also got my Auckland site manager Aaron MacGillivray in the ownership as well as my mate down south, Stu McGiffert, who runs Three Villages Farm near Timaru.”
El Roca mare Flash Mary was stakes placed at both two and three, and is now the winner of three of her 14 starts. Working with his long-time bloodstock advisor Robert Dawe, Black bought another filly by El Roca at last week’s Ready to Run Sale as well as one by Tarzino for $15,000 and $25,000 respectively.
“I tend not to spend a lot when I buy horses, but it’s worked well for me in the past and here’s hoping it will again. I paid less than $10,000 for Flash Mary when I bought her from the South Island Gavelhouse Sale and after Saturday she’s now won more than $100,000.”