Tregea's path of trials and triumph

6 min read
When you breed, race and train your own horses like Steve Tregea, the rollercoaster of success and setbacks is always in motion.

When you breed, own and train a stakes winner like Steve Tregea did with Niccanova (Nicconi) at Doomben on Saturday, all the glory belongs to you.

But Tregea, who owns Windermere Stud on the Darling Downs as well as training at Clifford Park at Toowoomba, knows full well that being that one-man band can also multiply the disappointment.

Successes like Niccanova, whose victory in the Listed Recognition S. took the 5-year-old's record to seven wins from 12 starts, are built despite the many setbacks along the way.

"It’s the sort of industry where any one of those professions (breeder, owner and trainer) can turn up disappointment. You have to be prepared to cop the losses and disappointments along the way. It is a hard road to hoe that's for sure," Tregea told TDN AusNZ.

Steve Tregea

Niccanova is a third generation Windermere Stud product. His pedigree page is not rich with black-type but has some stories to tell.

His dam Dananova (Snippetson) died suddenly and tragically 12 months' ago and a bout of pneumonia almost claimed his younger half-sister. Prior to that, his grand-dam battled fertility issues, producing just two fillies from eight attempts.

"We bought the mother of the second dam, Tarisova (NZ) (Sir Tristram {Ire}) from Swettenham Stud in foal to Danehill. That filly (Danaria) didn’t have many starts. She was a handy mare, was an Eagle Farm maiden winner, then she had two daughters by Snippetson and that's all she had," Tregea said.

"Niccanova's mother had four foals and then she died. She'd been covered by Nicconi and came back and was put in the yard and slipped in the wet and hit her head. She was found dead in the morning with the foal running around next to her," he said.

"Her second foal by Top Echelon, had a bad case of pneumonia and very nearly died."


The rest of the family

Tregea's desire to try and breed another like Niccanova has seen him send Dananova's full-sister Dane Princess to Nicconi, with a colt arriving earlier this spring.

In terms of Niccanova's younger siblings, Vistanova, the Top Echelon filly that almost died, was unraced but is now one of 12 broodmares Tregea has at Windermere Stud.

A 2-year-old by Trusting is being prepared by Tregea, with a racetrack debut unlikely until he is three, while the Whittington foal Dananova left behind is now a yearling and will also be readied for the racetrack when it's time.

Tregea retains all of the horses produced by Windermere Stud.

"We used to breed to sell, but being a small breeder, I found it a bit tough picking the stallions and trying to get a draft together." - Steve Tregea

"We used to breed to sell, but being a small breeder, I found it a bit tough picking the stallions and trying to get a draft together," he said.

"Sometimes we’d sell though Widden or somebody else. Just doing it ourselves I found a bit tough to end up with a reasonable-sized draft for the Coast or Sydney. I just decided I'd breed to train and don’t have to worry too much about commerciality."

Loving life on the farm

While there are peaks and troughs, Tregea, who grew up on a dairy farm at Peachester, loves the lifestyle and wouldn't be doing anything else.

"We've got a property here and I love the rural lifestyle and breeding animals has always been my thing. I've always been a horse tragic. I love the racing. That's how I ended up being involved at all levels," he said.

"I've always been a horse tragic. I love the racing. That's how I ended up being involved at all levels." - Steve Tregea

He limits himself to 12 horses in work, despite having room for 24 horses at his stables on course at Toowoomba.

The stable star

Niccanova, along with Prioritise (Rothesay), is probably the best of them at the moment, but like the rest of the 5-year-old's family, success hasn’t come without drama.

"He's had little issues along the way. Nothing major, but little things that have delayed his racing at inconvenient times," Tregea said.

"He's a bit bigger and stronger, because he's a bit older. He's very good."

"They say you've been patient with a horse that you've got no choice but to be patient with. I don’t like racing 2-year-olds much anyway. He was a latish foal, so he didn’t race as a 2-year-old."

"We raced him as a 3-year old and he's been very consistent ever since."

Niccanova won four of his first five, including the G3 Fred Best Classic at Eagle Farm in his first campaign. He then only had one start in the next 12 months, before getting back to his best again with back-to-back wins at Doomben over the past couple of months.

On Saturday, he benefited from a brave ride from James Orman, who had to pick a needle-eye opening along the rail before surging through to win by half a length.

"That was a hairy moment. We had another horse (Prioritise) that was out four wide in the race and we were watching between the two. I missed some of it and didn’t notice how tight it was until I watched the replay again," Tregea said.

"He's the sort of horse that seems to do everything right. Apart from the little hiccups we've had, when you get him ready for a race, he always does his best."

Future plans

While there were suggestions Niccanova might head to Sydney for G2 Villiers S. on December 15, Tregea is keen not to travel the horse just yet.

"I probably won’t travel him interstate. He'll run in the Lough Neagh S. in three weeks and then in the (Listed) Bernborough S. They will be his only two starts."

Tregea said the likely return of Eagle Farm would prove advantageous for the horse in the Brisbane winter, while he might consider a trip to Sydney with him next campaign.

Wherever he shows up, he will be hard to miss sporting the distinctive red and white Windermere Stud colours that Tregea picked out especially so he could track his horses in the run better.

"I used to have other colours and they were a bit hard to see," he said,

"I always decided that if I ever got serious with the training, I'd pick colours that were more visible. I used to see Mick Price's colours, with the blue and white halves and I found them quite easy to pick out in the race, and it was a process of finding ones which are easy to see."