by Chris Tobin
South Canterbury is known for breeding one of the greatest racehorses ever to pound the turf, Phar Lap, and chances of it happening again have just received a boost.
Jon Snow, a top-class group one winning racehorse, has been brought from the North Island to Clearview Park Stud in Spur Rd, on the outskirts of Timaru, arriving last week.
Once the breeding season starts in September, the horse will become the highest credentialed stallion standing in the South Island.
Southern breeders have hailed his arrival as a coup for the South Island.
“There’s been a lot of good horses born and bred here in Timaru,” said Aaron Tapper, who runs the stud with his partner Lacy Stewart.
“It’s known as an old-fashioned breeding ground; hopefully that will continue.”
Jon Snow won $2million in stake money for the Zame family who have agreed to have him at the South Canterbury stud for four years if he performs.
The horse achieved success on both sides of the Tasman, performing strongly in both Sydney and Melbourne group class races, winning four from 23 starts and being placed eight times.
“The breeding season starts on September 1, so we’ve got a couple of months to acclimatise. He’s a pretty calm horse at the moment; once mating starts that can change.”
Ms Stewart is a Game of Thrones fan and Jon Snow being named after one of the show’s characters attracted her interest, then Mr Tapper’s.
“We’ll send our own mares to him, then it’s up to the general public and breeders,” Mr Tapper said.
“There is only a limited quantity of mares in the South Island.”
Mr Tapper and Ms Stewart moved to the Timaru property from Southland in August 2017. They have three sons: Beau (3), Theo (2) and Alby (9 months).
“Lacy lived here and the climate here was better for the horses than Southland. To get a mare in foal, the earlier the sunshine hours are the better.”
The Timaru landscape – with rolling hills and views of the Hunter Hills and alps to the west and the sea to the east – appealed.
“We’ve got roughly 80 horses, racehorses, broodmares and some young unbroken horses. My father [Bruce] owns the racehorses,” Mr Tapper said.
Bruce Tapper also shifted from Southland with his racing team and trains in Timaru.
Two men from Mauritius are employed at the stud: Rahul Beeharry, an apprentice jockey, and Harry Rossick, the stable foreman.
Mr Tapper said he had been around horses all his life.
His grandfather, Hec Tapper, was a successful trainer in Matamata, while his father Bruce dabbled and became more serious after leaving dairying.
Mr Tapper worked in hospitality in Australia for 15 years, mainly in Brisbane and Noosa, and began breeding horses about six years ago.
When not busy at the stud, he has worked at The Oxford restaurant in Timaru.
Clearview Park Stud covers 90ha and, besides horses, also has dairy grazing and runs some cattle.
Mr Tapper hoped there would be a lot of interest in bringing Jon Snow south.
Early indications are that it has been a good move.
“People have been ringing me all the time. The goal is to have the first foals at the Karaka yearling sales in 2021, then the first progeny won’t race until nine months later.”