It must now be close to two decades ago that two keen young lads mucked out the boxes and drove work for their then youthful Pukekohe based boss in Todd MacFarlane, the latter relatively fresh from his tutorage under the experienced eye of Roy and Barry Purdon.
The two lads, Chris Gillies and Clint Mackay ( my son ) got on that well that soon the relationship extended to further family members on both sides.
Whilst Chris was shortly after to return to Cambridge, Clint has remained with Todd to this current day.
But distance was not a stopper when through my own two years working at Linden Park Stud, Pukekawa in 2002-3, I had singled out a couple of pacing mares running in a herd which had not been tried and were at least four years old.
Both were owned by Greg Corbett from Lurnea, New South Wales, whom I had the good fortune to meet on one of his frequent visits to New Zealand. Greg operated a large and successful second hand office furniture business in South Western Sydney and loved talking standardbred pedigrees.
And so began the Gillies / Mackay racing partnership as I was able to secure firstly Nullabor Song and then Cool Service which got us launched on the front foot.
After these two horses came a succession of useful pacers for us to race together which Chris had managed to acquire by keeping his ear to the ground including the likes of The Ledge, Can't See A Thing ( he actually only had one eye ) and Lofty Brogden.
By now we had multiple photos on the wall ( we even won two races on the same programme one evening at Cambridge ), attended the races regularly, and were beginning to think the game "wasn't too hard" even though we were not winning out of turn.
But it was from here on in that things were about to take a sudden change.
From memory it was 2010 when I took a phone call from Chris saying there was a well-bred young trotting filly for sale in the Harness Racing Weekly that was from the Martina H Family, a two year old that was big, had been prepped but needed another year to mature before becoming a racehorse.
This was a Family that breeder Kevin Marr had kept full control over but on this occasion he had too many filly's around him so was prepared to let her go.
She was advertised cheap at $2000. Chris said we had to move quickly to get her and we agreed to go 50/50 so a quick call to Chris's brother Owen ( who worked for Derek Balle where the filly was domiciled ) and we had her secured for less than asking price.
Sometime later Derek ( who trained Nullabor Song for us ) told me he could have sold Daniela H four times over and for more money than what we paid. But we were in first and got the chocolates.
At Chris's suggestion, since we had to wait a year, we put her in foal as a two year old with the intention of racing her after having the foal.
Derek Balle knew the Lang's from Victoria when he successfully campaigned Miami H at the Breeders Crown so was able to arrange a package deal of 7 mares to Skyvalley of which we became one.
When I went out to Woodlands Stud where she foaled a filly in 2011 the foal was anything but what I was expecting.
With Daniela H being 16.2 hands and a big mare and knowing Muscles Yankee ( sire of Skyvalley ) could leave quite coarse bone I was not expecting a petite very fine boned filly. Far from it.
All I could put it down to was that our dark brown bordering on black filly had thrown to Skyvalley's damside i.e. Chiola's Lass who was not very big herself.
We named this filly Valle De La Luna ( Valley Of The Moon ) and whilst racing and showing extreme promise with three good placings in her first few starts she did succumb, not unexpectedly, to ongoing tendon and suspensory issues that led to her premature retirement.
Upon having her first foal, we had Daniela H at Woodlands Stud to be mated with Pegasus Spur.
As Daniela H was by Dream Vacation out of a Sundon mare Justine H ( a full-sister to Martina H ), Chris had been told several times by his mare "Dixie" ( trainer John Dickie ) that any mare with Sundon close-up in her bloodlines, it would be foolhardy going to any other stallion than Pegasus Spur based on their personal experiences with the ill-fated Paramount Geegee and also the courageous Speeding Spur.
So to Pegasus Spur did we go and our resultant foal was literally a cross between an elephant and a giraffe. A colt, he could not have been more different than Daniela H's first foal.
We named him Whips N Spurs and we had to wait for him for a long time before he debuted but in a few starts he snaffled two wins at the "Ribbon of Light" ( Alexandra Park ) for trainer Derek Balle.
I recall rival trainers including Todd MacFarlane saying "what a magnificent animal he is" when he was parading around in the birdcage at Alexandra Park.
But like Valle De La Luna, so too was Whips N Spurs to develop ongoing leg issues that were to curtail his return to the track despite his immense talent.
We then let a third party breed a foal from Daniela H. She was put to Monarchy and had a filly which we were told had some temperament issues and whilst tried from the Todd Mitchell barn was never to grace the racetrack.
After a brief financial breather for the partnership, Chris was keen to go again and we decided to go back to Skyvalley in 2015 and see if we could get a foal that perhaps threw to the paternal side of his pedigree.
But even the best laid plans can run amuck, and at the last minute ( the day before serving ) Chris was told that they could not get Skyvalley semen to him in time for insemination.
Chris phoned me in a mad panic saying he needed to order semen that day and who else could we go to where we could get semen in a hurry.
I said "leave it with me for half an hour and I will come back to you".
Quickly grabbing the Stallion Directory for that season and rushing through the "value stallions" I noticed that Master Glide had some of his best progeny success in North America from Dream Vacation mares so a decision agreed, the semen ordered same day, and the next season we had a sizeable Master Glide filly which Jan Gillies named Slippery Mistress for us.
After several preps because of growth spurts, this impeccably mannered now four year old mare acquired her qualifying ticket on 19 December 2020 for trainer Todd MacFarlane and we finally now have another racehorse.
I already have her mate selected should she one day trickle towards the breeding barn in the Haras De Trotteurs stallion Volstead ( a sublime mating on paper ).
As part of my previous work for Queensland based Trump Bloodstock which included a service entitlement to Sebastian K, Daniela H foaled us "her best foal yet on type" in a colt we have named Sebastian Montoya, so different from all her other foal's being far more short-coupled and of average size. Now a three year old, he has had a couple of preparations at Todd MacFarlane's and according to Ian Hilliard ( who likes him ) he has shown Ian that he has "a lot of bottom to him". We have high hopes for him and do not intend to rush him.
If nothing else, the "trotting game" as opposed to the "pacing game" has taught us that you need a whole new level of patience.
In 2019 we tried to get both Daniela H and Valle De La Luna in foal, serving them both with the Trump Bloodstock stallions, firstly Sebastian K and then promising new stallion Centurion ATM ( from the direct maternal family of Sundon and a juvenile performer in similar vein to Muscle Mass ).
Surprisingly, Daniela H ( who normally gets in foal first serve ) did not hold to either stallion but her daughter Valle De La Luna did take to Centurion ATM and we now have a dark brown bordering on black yearling filly ( the only one by this sire in New Zealand ) that is built like a tank, although like her mother, not overly tall.
She remains on the lush pastures of Milan Park in Cambridge, where Jan Gillies currently works, mixing her daily life with her thoroughbred paddock mates but time will come soon where we will need her to realise what true life is all about.
Rather than leave Daniela H out in the paddock at the Gillies' Cambridge property ( on the Cambridge - Te Awamutu Road ), we have loaned her to Dr Lee Morris at Equibreed for use as a surrogate mother so she can maintain her maternal instincts in the interim should we decide to breed another foal from her as she is still only 12 years old.
For the moment, it will be Training Fees over Stud Fees as we see what we have got with these young ones but be rest-assured that if any start showing promise then out will come the cries to "breed another" such is our wonderful game.
I once told the Gillies' the wonderful s tory that the road they now live on just outside of Cambridge was once known as the "Swamp Road" which was surveyed back in the 1950's by my late Uncle, Owen Cooper Mackay, a huge Tauranga based yachting enthusiast who sailed many ocean going races as a valued navigator. Owen regularly sailed on a vessel Mata-a-Tua and he later became a considerable shareholder in the yacht Ceramco New Zealand.
As if this was not significant enough in the Gillies / Mackay partnership, I worked for 17 years for BP New Zealand at the same time as Don Gillies had worked for the same company for 35 years without knowingly crossing each others path. Don is now well into his eighties but has been a keen member of the Gillies / Mackay racing and breeding partnerships. Small world.
Premier Pedigrees was born out of Ken Mackay's passion for horse pedigrees to offer a very affordable pedigree matching service and valuable recommendations to new and existing Australian and New Zealand clients for both thoroughbred and standardbred mares.