David Ellis' Te Akau here to stay
Leading New Zealand outfit supremo pledges continued support for Singapore racing
Like at his previous nine Singapore visits, David Ellis was recently in town to watch his horses race.
But, on the flight from Auckland this time, the 68-year-old Te Akau Racing principal was worried and in need of answers.
While their flagship stable in New Zealand, where prize money is ironically lower, is thriving, their satellite stable at Kranji is at a crossroads.
Like many racing industries around the world, turbulent times had been brewing at Kranji due to usual suspects like declining betting turnover and attendances.
Then came the perfect storm in 2020 when Covid-19 blanketed the world like a thief in the night.
“This is my 10th visit to Singapore. I came up because I could not travel in three years,” said Ellis.
“I had to see a couple of my important owners, but also to get a feel of Singapore racing.
“We couldn’t carry on like this. With the horse population that has come down from 1,400 to 600, and the number of race meetings that was halved, it was not sustainable.
“We didn’t scale back, though. We decided nine months ago we would keep supporting Singapore, but we needed some answers.
“And I’m glad to say I came away feeling very happy.”
Ellis, who arrived in Singapore last Thursday and left on Tuesday, must have then enjoyed the return flight to New Zealand better.
The promising Charminton making it for the third time in five starts on Sunday was not the only reason for the wide smiles.
“On Monday, I met the new Singapore Turf Club chief racing officer, Dayle Brown, his assistant vice-president, Soo Lai Kwok, and the racing head, Dennis Loh,” he said.
“They may be relatively new to Singapore racing, but I was very impressed how quickly they have come to grips with everything.
“Even if we didn’t get into specifics, there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.
“Tomorrow is very encouraging. I feel energised by what I was told was the way forward.
“It’s all about getting the horse numbers back up. In general terms, things seem to be back on track, it’s all very exciting. We have great aspirations for Te Akau here.
“We’ll buy a few horses to bring up here. In fact, we bought a horse just this week in Sydney and we’ll send him up here.”
With Donna Logan leading, albeit locked in battle with Tim Fitzsimmons (52-51), Ellis is keener than ever to shore up his Kranji squad.
“I was at the races on Sunday, but also looked at the horses yesterday and the way Donna runs her stables in Singapore,” said Ellis.
“I was blown away by how unbelievably well she’s done. She’s got amazing staff and apprentices.”
Logan has done well filling the big shoes of four-time Singapore champion trainer Mark Walker. He left in January to replace trainer Jamie Richards – who made his Hong Kong debut at Happy Valley on Wednesday – at headquarters.
A five-time New Zealand champion trainer, Walker has picked up where he left off in 2010.
“Mark is absolutely flying, he’s currently leading the New Zealand premiership,” said Ellis. “He’s won 37 races, including two Group 1s.
“He’s got Imperatriz running in the Group 1 Arrowfield Plate this Saturday and he’s also got horses going for Group races in Sydney and Melbourne.”