Australian stable the new horizon for Te Akau

By Dennis Ryan

7 Jun 2023

Australian stable the new horizon for Te AkauMark Walker, along with Te Akau Racing founder David Ellis, is looking forward to opening an Austral

Te Akau Racing partners David Ellis and Mark Walker have taken challenges in their stride over the past quarter-century and now they’ve added an Australian base to their list.
On Tuesday Ellis confirmed that New Zealand’s dominant training and syndication operation is ready to expand into Australia with the establishment of a base at Cranbourne, some 40 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. While Te Akau-trained horses have over the past 20 years successfully raided lucrative races on Australia’s eastern seaboard, this will be the operation’s first permanent base across the Tasman.
“It’s been a plan for a while to take Te Akau to the next level and we’re now in a position to confirm our new base at Cranbourne,” Ellis told RaceForm. “Obviously New Zealand remains important and a major part of our whole operation, but Australia is such a fantastic opportunity for Te Akau and our owners.
“As well as what Australian racing has to offer our current clientele, we’ve also had approaches from breeders in Australia and New Zealand to train their horses.
“It’s a win for everyone – for owners already on board with us, breeders who we’ll continue to buy off at the sales as well as those wanting to get involved with us and of course for Te Akau itself.”
Victoria and New South Wales were both considered, however the more Cranbourne was investigated, the more compelling it was to be Te Akau’s Australian base.
“The facilities would be the best I’ve ever seen at a training centre anywhere in the world,” Ellis said. “The Cranbourne club has been very welcoming, and even though we had other approaches from Victoria and New South Wales, it wasn’t a difficult choice to decide on Cranbourne.”
Walker has worked alongside Ellis since his late teens, taking out his trainer’s licence in 1997 and winning five premierships before relocating to Singapore in 2010 And adding another four trainers’ titles there. His initial stint at Te Akau’s Matamata base included a record 108 wins in his final season, while more recent incumbent Jamie Richards established a new benchmark of 160 wins before taking up an offer to train in Hong Kong.
With Walker back at the helm since April last year, Te Akau’s domination of the trainers’ premiership has gone to yet another level, with a current season tally of 186 wins (a lead of 98 over closest rival Stephen Marsh) and New Zealand stakes nudging a likewise unprecedented $8 million.
Multiple domestic Group One winner Imperatriz added the Gr. 1 William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley in March, and she will be the natural headline act when the Cranbourne stable, initially comprising 20 boxes, becomes operational in late August.
“Imperatriz winning the William Reid was a highlight of my season, while the others were Leaderboard’s Wellington Cup and Tokyo Tycoon winning the Karaka Million,” Walker told RaceForm.
“Imperatriz will target the big Melbourne sprints, and having proven she can handle The Valley, the Manikato Stakes on Cox Plate day is an obvious target.
“Tokyo Tycoon will stay in Matamata for the first half of the season and everything with him will be aimed towards the Karaka Million 3YO before we consider sending him over.
“Just what the early Cranbourne team will look like has yet to be decided, but I’m looking forward to getting it going. We’ve had plenty of experience travelling horses to Australia – what works and what doesn’t, that sort of thing – but we’ve got a lovely team of proven and developing horses to choose from.
“I plan to head over later this month for three weeks to get everything in place, and to begin with at least I’ll be dividing my time between Matamata and Cranbourne. We’ve got a very experienced foreman in Scott Lucock going over, and Sam Bergerson, who will be my training partner from the start of the new season, has a very good handle on things at our Matamata base.
“We don’t envisage our Matamata numbers changing at all and it won’t just be one-way traffic – I can see members of our Aussie team coming back here for races that we think will suit them.”
Ellis, well-known for not missing an opportunity to expand the Te Akau base, is shortly tyravelling with his wife Karyn to London for Royal Ascot week, and won’t be holding back in sharing the news of his operation’s new horizon.
“Our current team includes what I would describe as the nicest bunch of young horses we’ve ever had in Matamata, I’ve just bought a quality filly in Wolverine to syndicate, add the horses that will come through our Cranbourne stable, and I’m also keen to entice owners from Europe to join us.
“Australia has so much to offer, that’s well known when you see the success that northern hemisphere horses have had there over the past few years. Combine that with the stakes increases we’re anticipating in New Zealand with the Entain deal, and everything about our future is just so exciting.”