IN Racing
Walker sets new benchmark
Te Akau trainer Mark Walker set a national record for wins in a season when Fellini won the NZB Online Yearling Sale On Gavelhouse Plus 1400 for three-year-olds at Pukekohe on Saturday.
NZ Racing Desk | April 09, 2023
Photo: Trish Dunell

Te Akau trainer Mark Walker set a national record for wins in a season when Fellini won the NZB Online Yearling Sale On Gavelhouse Plus 1400 for three-year-olds at Pukekohe on Saturday.

The victory provided the Matamata horseman with his 161st win of the season, including five at Group One level and 31 black-type triumphs.

The previous mark of 160 was set by predecessor Jamie Richards in season 2020/21, and with the best part of four months to go in the season it is likely Walker will reach an imposing tally.

It was the fourth career victory from 12-starts for Fellini, who finished third in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) behind Dynastic and Wolverine.

Ridden by Joe Kamaruddin, Fellini enjoyed an economical run and proved too good despite carrying 58.5kg topweight.

“He’s not a big horse, so it was a good effort to win under top weight and he’s been a consistent horse throughout his whole career,” Walker said,

“It was a lovely ride by Joe, who is in very good form, and the horse really deserved another win. He’s very athletic and a horse that keeps finding the line.”

Walker won five premierships between 1997 and 2010 during his first stint for Te Akau, adding four Champion Trainer titles during 10 years training for the operation in Singapore.

It has been a season of milestones for Walker, who recorded his 1000th domestic career win when Zourion, subsequent Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) winner, scored on debut at Taupo in February.

“New Zealand is always home and I’m happy to be back training here. I certainly don’t regret going to train in Singapore, and financially it was the best thing I’d ever done. It set the family up for life, basically,” Walker said.

“Obviously, with Jamie (Richards) going to Hong Kong it was the right thing to do, coming home to give the team a hand.

“Mirka and our daughter Skyla have settled in well and it’s good being back around a lot of family and friends. It’s been enjoyable.

“And it’s been easier for (children) Zavier and Alexis to come over and visit from the Gold Coast. It’s only three hours, where as it was seven or eight hours to Singapore.

“I’ve always stated that I think the whole game is won and lost at the sale ring door. There has been people that have been able to buy a good horse, but David (Ellis, Te Akau Principal) has consistently done it year in and year out for a long time now.

“It’s been the key to the growth of the business and, obviously, Karyn (Fenton-Ellis), is great at what she does.

“It’s a massive team effort and these results are the culmination of so many people’s hard work and effort.

“Particularly (assistant trainer) Sam Bergerson, he’s got his finger on the pulse of everything and you can’t do it alone that’s for sure.

“Also our racing manager Reece Trumper because that took a lot time spent booking jockeys off my shoulders, especially with so many suspensions, and it allows me more time to focus on the horses.

“But we’ve just got so many great staff that are integral to the operation, including everyone at the farm (Te Akau Stud) as well.”

Ellis is thrilled with the continued success of the operation and paid credit to the skill and dedication of his champion trainer.

“For Mark to have broken the all-time record with nearly a quarter of the season remaining is an incredible achievement,” Ellis said

“There have been some wonderful trainers that have broken records in New Zealand racing, trainers that are simply world-class, and for Mark to break records so early in his career is testament to his horsemanship and dedication to training horses.

“He did it nearly 20 years ago, breaking Dave and Paul O’Sullivan’s record (108 at the time), but to do it again on his way to a 10th training premiership is remarkable.

“Mark started training for Te Akau when he was 24 years old. He’s humble, a great boss to his staff, and done such an excellent job for Te Akau in both New Zealand and Singapore.”