Denby Road delivers perfectly scripted win

By Dennis Ryan

4 May 2023

Denby Road delivers perfectly scripted winTrainer Shelley Hale and owner-breeders George and Maryanne Simon celebrate a special Cambridge Bree

In real life it seldom happens, but the script could not have played out any better when Denby Road burst through the pack to win the Gr. 3 Inglis Sales Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes on Saturday.
Perched high above the action in the Te Rapa commentator’s box, George Simon was doing his best to remain composed as the horse he bred and owns with his wife Maryanne loomed into contention halfway up the Te Rapa straight.
“You think about it leading into a race, but you never expect to win, it just doesn’t happen,” the voice of northern gallops told RaceForm as he recounted one of the highlights of his life in racing. “This time though it did. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, coming through a gap one off the fence and then hitting the front – amazing!”
Simon has had the pleasure of calling home closely connected horses before, but this was something else, a flagship race on “his” club’s big annual raceday. A decade and a half on the Cambridge Jockey Club committee, nine of them as president, and a life member to boot gave Denby Road’s win special meaning.
Nor does it stop there. Denby Road carries the colours handed down by Maryanne Simon’s late father Jim Mead, a successful owner-trainer in his own right, and the horse is named after the Hawera, south Taranaki, road where Mead senior livede before moving to the Waikato.
Denby Road’s trainer Shelley Hale has been a close friend of the Simons for years and Saturday’s winning rider was her nephew Ryan Elliot.
“Sam Weatherley has ridden the horse all the way through and the only reason he didn’t ride him on Saturday was because we originally had no intention of running him and her took another ride. But the girls had different ideas,” Simon explained.
“We had scrapped Derby plans after he finished down the track in the Waikato Guineas and gave him some time out. He was coming along nicely enough and it was my idea to kick him off again in a Rating 65 at Te Rapa next Saturday.
“But after he finished second in a trial at Cambridge, Shelley and Maryanne got their heads together and came up with a different plan – they reckoned he should be running in the Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes!
“Right from the start he had shown us plenty, even though he was such a big horse that needed to grow into himself, so in the end we figured this would be our last throw at the stumps to get some black type while he was still a three-year-old.
“Besides, it’s hard enough to argue with one determined woman, but when you’ve got two ganging up against you it’s pretty much a lost cause.
“No, Shelley knew what she was doing, Maryanne backed her and in the end I was happy to run with their idea. It was an enormous training effort – she’s a genius that Shelley – and Ryan followed his instructions to the letter.”
George Simon, a Cambridge stalwart for years, suggests he became president of the Jockey Club by accident rather than design.
“I had been on the club committee for a while and one day after I had missed a committee meeting, one of the past presidents, Alan Jones – Linda’s husband – advised me that I was next in line. That’s pretty much how it happened but I did enjoy my time there, giving something back to the game I love.
“That’s one reason it meant so much on Saturday, and it was great to see another past president, Richard Seabrook, who’s also the club patron, also win a race with Rudyard on Saturday.”
Back at the Simons’ Mana Park property at Matangi, a few kilometres north of Cambridge, Denby Road is having some time out while the next step in his career is decided.
“He’s a big boy at 17.1 hands but one of the kindest horses you’d ever come across,” says his proud part-owner. “Anyone who meets him is intimidated by his size, then he puts his head down and all he wants you to do is play with his ears.”
Denby Road is out of the Align mare Dwandaofu, a half-sister to the best horse to pass through the Simons’ hands, multiple Group One winner and now successful Windsor Park-based sire Turn Me Loose.
“We decided to send the mare to Shamexpress back at Windsor Park after Steve Till and Mike Moran had spent a bit of time in Iggy’s Bar – named after Turn Me Loose. She’s had a chequered career as a broodmare, slipping and missing and just four foals to date, but the only other one to race, Storm To Win, has won a few races up in Singapore and Malaysia.
“We’d love to get a filly as we think Denby Road has it all in front of him – he’s still 12 months away, that’s the most exciting thing.”