It is with considerable regret that we learn of the recent passing ( early March ) of Tony Parker and our condolences certainly go out to his wife Anne and the wider Parker family.
He will be sorely missed in particular by the North Island harness racing family.
Tony spent nearly 60 years working as a Veterinarian, the vast bulk of those years as a specialist Equine Vet and a very good one at that.
He was good at all aspects of veterinary work but a real specialist in the area of soft tissue trauma.
His rapport with horses was special just as it was with fellow humans.
Tony was easy-going and a gentleman and both horses and humans responded to this.
I first met Tony when working on the forecourt at BP Bombay back in 1999.
At the time Tony and Anne were living in the Bombay Hills and so we were his local service station for filling either his wagon or fuel containers for another weekend's work at home or their lease block.
That lease block was from memory a 120 acres in Bluff Road at nearby Pokeno and housed Tony and Anne's great passion away from veterinary work.
This passion was breeding and raising Standardbred horses.
The Bluff Road location was rugged rolling to steep hill country and is best known today as the location for all the cellphone towers immediately South of the Pokeno township and can be viewed easily from the State Highway 1 motorway.
It was this Bluff Road property that illustrated a lot of the basic fundamentals of maintaining a boutique broodmare band and adhering to Tony's philosophies of how young horses should be bred and raised to succeed in the future as racehorses.
Feed them well on good ex dairy pasture which was contoured and ideal for bone and muscle development and raise them in small groups akin to their natural herding instincts and behaviours.
Horses of the calibre of Sharp And Telford, Hunka Hickling and Taihape Tickler were raised on such pastures.
Sharp And Telford ( Butler BG ) was one of the Parker's first big success stories bred from one of their foundation mares in Tardina ( Berry Hanover ) after whom Tony and Anne were to name their properties, Tardina Farm and Tardina Stud.
One of the things I personally really admired about Tony was that he started out with a very modest broodmare band and remained loyal to it despite the fact that it was a long way away from what today would be deemed a Commercial broodmare band with associated black type race performance.
Tony enjoyed the challenge of developing his own "black type".
It is here that Tony was also a realist but remained fiercely loyal to his band of what was then predominantly pacing broodmares.
Tony did his "due diligence" when seeking an appropriate stallion for each mare and was always looking for a "value" stallion so he was certainly highly aware not to "overbreed" any of his mares.
They would have to "put their hand up" of their own accord to earn the right to a better regarded stallion.
It was all about trusting his processes and due reward would come.
As an example here, I have a good friend who I first met in the very early 90's in our days living in Ramarama but now a Pukekohe based owner/trainer in David Shorter.
Dave has just finished racing his well-performed mare Rowan Countess and was on the lookout for a replacement young horse. He had a previous association with Tony and may have leased the odd one from Tony and Anne previously.
Dave rang me one Saturday asking me "Do you want to come for a ride?". I agreed not knowing where we were headed or what it was all about.
We ended up at Tony's leasehold property in Bluff Road where Dave was headed to look at Tony's young horses to either buy or lease one.
I must say that I was very impressed with the condition of each of them, of which there were a number, but one in particular really stood out. Dave and I were in total agreement.
She was a filly out of La Reine.
When it came time to "talk turkey" and Dave said that he liked the Miles McCool filly and could he lease her as quick as a flash Tony's wife Anne replied in a nice manner "Oh no, we have promised that one to Barry ( Purdon )".
Dave never did go home with a "done deal" that day but did do some business with the Parker's at a subsequent time.
That filly went on to become Reine Elizabeth winning several races for Barry before being exported to the United States to continue her racing career.
In 2005 I became Nomination Salesperson for the Supreme Stallions operation owned by New York based Joe Muscara and administered here by his NZ Agent in John Curtin ( now of Harnesslink fame ).
The stallions were shuttled from North America to Double E Stables near Christchurch under the umbrella of Michael House as Studmaster.
Spearheading the stallion lineup was the Meadowlands Pace winner Mach Three, a son of Matt's Scooter,
Mach Three was also later to be voted as one of the Top 10 best-gaited pacers of all time in North America.
Tony had enjoyed increasing success in his breeding operation through previously "stepping up" a few of his mares ( only if they had earned it ) to National Bloodstock's top sire Soky's Atom and now it was time for Tony and Anne to take another leap of faith.
Mach Three was introduced to breeders' at NZ$7500+gst so this was going to test " another leap of faith".
But Tony loved Mach Three from the "get go" and was one of the very first breeders to sign up on an introductory offer of two services to Mach Three for $12,000+gst. He signed the Contract at the Alexandra Park races one Friday evening where the Special Offer was debuted.
This was to be a life-changing decision for both Tony and Anne not that they were to know it at the time.
Had this decision not been made at the time then there may never have been an Auckland Reactor bred, a horse the Parker's were to subsequently sell for $4 million, the price only dreams were made of.
And he was from Mach Three's very first Southern Hemisphere crop!
It is also in this area that I found Tony unparalleled as a breeder, perhaps only the Grice brothers coming close.
Tony was a mastermind at successfully blending old traditional/colonial bloodlines found in many of his mares with the modern/contemporary bloodlines of the stallions coming out of North America. This is one area where he excelled and met with great results and great success.
Commencing their breeding exploits in the 1970's, today the Parker's have been responsible for breeding the winners of 400 races from some 130 horses.
Another of their foundation mares, the 7-win mare Tudoress ( Tudor Hanover ) left Atomic Lass as her last foal.
It was Atomic Lass ( Soky's Atom ) that was to become the dam of Auckland Reactor, he incredibly being her 11th foal.
Tony was also to dabble briefly in stallions, standing the homebred Tay Bridge ( from the famed Rosehaven family of the Yarndley's ).
Whilst still in my role as Nominations Salesperson for Supreme Stallions I was to receive a phone call one day from Tony.
He asked if I could "call in to see him at the farm on Saturday" as he had something he wanted to discuss with me.
This really "put the wind up my sails" as it left me questioning myself for a couple of days as to "What possibly could I have done wrong?".
By now Tony and Anne had moved on from their Bluff Road leasehold property to a new property a fraction further South in Mercer Ferry Road, Mercer.
True to formula, it also was an ex-dairy farm.
Rather sheepishly I turned up on the Saturday at the stipulated early afternoon time to find Tony in his Vet overalls attending to about 4 mares he had tethered in the cross-ties and crush.
It was late in the breeding season ( early December from memory ) and Tony was preparing a mare for insemination which he was doing himself.
His first words to a jittery me were "How many mares has Mach Three served so far this season Australia and New Zealand combined?"
I replied "187".
As quick as a flash Tony replied "Make that 188!", said one of the pioneers of AI ( Artificial Insemination in New Zealand.
I deeply admired the wit in his reply, another one of his great attributes, that really summed up who Tony Parker really was.
I am still unsure to this day if the mare he was inseminating that day was Atomic Lass but if it was then that insemination could well have been the one that was to result in the creation of the great Auckland Reactor and a life changing moment for the Parker's.
We never did really get down to "talking turkey" that day about the real reason Tony requested my presence that day and I can only surmise that it was a little more that just to talk about stallion services to Mach Three but I did have my suspicions.
The Parker's had acquired a larger property ( yes, another ex dairy farm or at least part of one ) in Koheroa Road, Mangatawhiri that they were living at and in the throws of developing into an Equine showpiece and needed a "Farm Manager" at the Mercer Ferry Road property ( which came with a house ). I am of the firm belief to this day that Tony requested I see him to "sound me out".
To cut a long story short I did not take the position on offer ( perhaps to Tony's disappointment ) but current North Island freeze-brander/micro-chipper Gary Hooper did although he did not want to live in the onsite house on offer preferring his own accommodation in nearby Harrisville.
I also believe that only a couple of years later the Parker's were to sell the Mercer Ferry Road property to fully concentrate on their Mangatawhiri property now known as the home of Tardina Farm otherwise also known as Tardina Stud.
In more recent years at the Mangatawhiri property Tony and Anne established growing success in breeding mares from the trotting gait many of which were from their foundation trotting mare Working Girl ( Nevele Pride ) and her daughter Miss Whiplash ( Gee Whiz II ) ably complementing their great achievements with pacing broodmares.
It is gratifying to know that Tony and Anne's daughter Faine Mende has joined the Parker's Mangatawhiri breeding operation in recent years and has vowed to continue on the legacy of Tardina Farm that Tony and Anne have jointly created with their huge dedication and commitment over six decades.
We know Tony will have imparted his great knowledge to daughter Faine and that he will be looking down and still offering advice!
So long Tony, rest peacefully, it was a pleasure and great honour to have crossed paths with you in life.
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.