By Duane Ranger
Whakatane accountant, John Rennie, might live in the harness racing wilderness but the 79-year-old will always be remembered as the man who bred Lazarus’s first New Zealand winner.
Chuffed with Ask Me Lazarus’s three-quarter length victory at the Manawatu Harness Racing Club’s meeting on Tuesday (November 21), Mr Rennie deflected a lot of the credit to the juvenile filly’s Prebbleton trainer, Michael House, and his driving son, Wilson.
“It’s quite an honour really, because I did a bit of homework with the mating, and I rated Lazurus one of the greatest pacers New Zealand has ever produced. Not many pacers win $4 million (27 wins and $4,423,391), and can pace a 1:48.6 mile.
“I was also really pleased for Michael and Wilson, who put so much time into her – yet at the same time never rushed her. She won her first workout in July, and now she has won at her fourth start. I hate thrashing horses, and I’m so grateful they took their time with her,” Mr Rennie said.
“Michael said there were still a few more 2-year-old races for her to attempt before she turns three,” he added.
Mr Rennie said he originally bred his standardbreds under the name: ‘Universal Standardbreds Syndicate’.
“I got into breeding through the Franco Breeding Partnerships set up by Fay Richwhite, and when the other partner quit I set up ‘Universal Standardbreds Syndicate’.
“My good friend the late Bob McArdle was involved with these syndicates. He was the man who fueled my fire to breed standardbreds,” said Mr Rennie who has also owned some nice thoroughbreds over the years, including Japan Trophy winner Captain Moonlight and 1993 Melbourne Cup runner- up, Te Akau Nick.
He said he got into Ask Me Lazarus’s family via McArdle and the 1991 brown Talk About Class – Taimoni (Gentry) one-win mare, Ask Me Later.
“The Universal Standardbred Syndicate bred her, and she was retired from racing after winning one of her three starts, and then we put her to Falcon Seelster in 1997 and Talk To Me Later was the result.”
Talk To Me Later is the grand-dam of Ask Me Lazurus. The 2-year-old is out of Talk Me Later’s seventh foal (of 10) – the 2010 Mach Three nine-win ($84,403) mare, Ask Me Mach.
“Ask Me Mach has left four foals and Ask Me Lazarus is the third of them. She also has a lovely Vincent yearling filly, who is likely to follow the same path as Ask Me Lazarus.
“I just found out from the Stud Farm this morning (November 23) that she has just returned a positive to Lazarus again, so that is heartening,” Mr Rennie said.
He said Ask Me Mach’s first foal, the 2018 Bettor’s Delight mare, Somachbettor, was withdrawn from the 2020 National Yearling Sale in Christchurch and was later trained by
Mike Heenan at Methven. She is yet to grace the racetrack but was seen at the Chertsey
workouts on Tuesday (November 21) where she finished fifth.
Foal two, the 3-year-old Art Major filly, Mach Major, was sold at the 2021 National Yearling Sale in Christchurch to Paul Kerr for $6,000. She has had 10 starts for a win and second for trainer, Kerr.
But Mr Rennie, originally a galloping man, said he was proud to be a trotting convert. He said he got deeper and deeper into harness racing simply because of the people the sport attracted.
“It’s the friendly attitude of the harness racing people that attracted me to the code. Obviously, I also enjoy breeding and racing side of the industry, especially when they are cheaper to race than gallopers – and the stakes are good,” Rennie said.
Talk To Me Later was one of several broodmares Rennie purchased in the 1990s. The others were:
Ask Me Christian (Christian Cullen – Ask Me Later); the 2008 Queen of Hearts runner-up Port Courage (Courage Under Fire – Universal Port) and her full sister Firemadoc; Ask Me Falcon (Falcon Seelster – Ask Me Later); Talk To Me Mach (Mach Three – Talk To Me Later); and Ask Me Christina (Falcon Seelster – Ask Me Christian).
“I’ve had some nice horses from my mares. There have been so many to mention but I think Talk To Me Later’s third foal (of 10) – Talk To Me Courage (1:51.4) – was the best horse from the family, and so far the best I’ve bred. I bred him with Graham Court, and he was exported to Australia as a 2-year-old where he went on to win 47 races ($649,507) and then when he went to America he won a lot more races and about $700,000. He also placed in the Golden Slipper (2006) while in Australia. Santanna Mach has also proved to be very successful and is still racing.
Mr Rennie was born in Pukekohe and from 1950 spent most of his time in Tokoroa where he was educated at Tokoroa High School before going on to Auckland University graduating with a B Com. He has been in Whakatane since 1977.
He is married to Margery with whom he went to Tokoroa High School and Auckland University, and they have two children and two grandchildren. Mrs Rennie is also a partner and enjoys being involved in the breeding and racing of the horses.
Port Courage is the best horse that Mr Rennie has bred.
“Mark Purdon trained her and rated her highly. She also proved to be a very useful broodmare with some of her progeny still to get to the races with an Ultimate Machete colt ready to commence racing.
Lazarus (2012 Bettor’s Delight – Bethany – Christian Cullen) won 37 of his 51 starts and $4.1 million. His Down Under breeding stats so far read (as at Nov 24):
In New Zealand Lazarus (1:48.8), has had five starters to the races, who have had 17 starts between them and have won one race; ran second twice; and also finished third.
Lazarus has had 24 winners from 14 starters in Australia. They have come via the 14 horses, who have now had exactly 100 starts between them as at today (November 24).
The most across the Tasman so far has been the black Freddy Taiba trained 2-year-old colt, Nathan Street, who has won five of his nine starts and has recorded a 1:50.5 mile when winning the Group One New South Wales Breeders 2yo Colts & Geldings Final at Tabcorp Park Menangle on October 29.
Nathan Street is out of the 2011 five-win Somebeachsomewhere mare, Lettucesomewhere (1:56.8). He has so far amassed $133,759 for owners, J. and T. L. Teixeira.
Lazarus’ debut crop of Northern Hemisphere 2yos were impressive and included Handlelikeaporsche $275,825, and Voukefalas $241,088.
The former New Zealand Pacer-of-the-Year who is 15.3 hands, is also a top-10 stallion on both the United States 2yo and 3yo Sires Premierships from his debut crop.
The two sides of Whakatane accountant, John Rennie.