Ellis’ shopping list is always extensive and rarely does he go home without ticking off all his numbers. To some it would be a daunting task, but to him it’s a passion and the continued success of the operation is constantly recharging his batteries.
He has been relentless in his pursuit of his goals and will likely finish 2018 with more than 60 purchases. If that’s impressive, so is Te Akau’s ability to attract and put new owners into the horses - Ellis is a powerful magnet.
“I’ve bought 57 horses so far this year. That’s right up there with the most.” - David Ellis.
“I’ve bought 57 horses so far this year. That’s right up there with the most,” he said.
“Ninety per cent of our horses have been bought at Karaka, be it the January Yearling Sale or the Ready to Run. I also bought one at the May Sale, a couple off gavelhouse.com, a couple online in Australia, one at the Magic Millions and five fillies at Sydney Easter.
Given the current parlous state of the New Zealand industry, Ellis’ business model is booming.
“When the New Zealand Government said they were going to support racing to get back on track I noticed a lot more interest,” he said.
That’s an understatement with remarkable numbers signing up for a piece of the Te Akau action.
“We’ve got 160 brand new owners already this year, it’s been staggering.” - David Ellis.
“We’ve got 160 brand new owners already this year, it’s been staggering,” Ellis said.
“We’ve got Australian clients and they now realise that the season before last we won races at Flemington, Rosehill, Doomben and Eagle Farm.”
Training for success
Nowhere has success bred more success than at Te Akau under the watch of head trainer Jamie Richards, who won the National Trainers’ Premiership when in partnership with Stephen Autridge with 108 winners in 2015-16 and currently leads the race for this season’s title.
“We’ve won Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 races and Jamie is doing a fantastic job and people want to be part of it,” Ellis said.
“We’ve got unbelievable staff that support Jamie at all levels, the best ever by quite a margin and winning is the best advertisement.” - David Ellis.
“We’ve got unbelievable staff that support Jamie at all levels, the best ever by quite a margin and winning is the best advertisement.
“Horses like Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark winning big races are the best adverts you can have.”
Patriotic buying philosophy
A major part of Ellis’ business plan is to predominantly buy local.
“I’m a big fan of the New Zealand-bred horse and I find New Zealand breeders put the best in at Karaka,” Ellis said. “We want to train the best bred horses and they’re at Karaka.
“I bought eight at the Ready to Run Sale and every share of every horse is now sold.” – David Ellis.
“I bought eight at the Ready to Run Sale and every share of every horse is now sold. That’s all been done after the sale and that’s a record time-wise for us.
“It surprised me and now we’re looking at the passed in horses, I should have bought more.
“My wife Karyn is a very important part of the operation and she does an amazing job looking after the promotion and my youngest daughter Julia Rose looks after the social media. Karyn and Julia Rose make my job easy.
“It is tiring, but seeing such lovely horses that we get to train charges me up.
“When I see the look on Jamie’s face when I’m buying these horses and he knows what he’s getting is great.
“When they go into work and the staff see such beautiful animals they are all excited to be looking after them.” – David Ellis.
“When they go into work and the staff see such beautiful animals they are all excited to be looking after them.”
Ellis hosted 150 owners at an open day on Monday at Te Akau’s Matamata stable, a 12-acre post and railed property near the race track with two barns on the course, providing boxes for upwards of 80 horses.
They prize themselves on communication with owners with a constant flow of emails containing written, image, and video reports, along with a Youtube channel, ensures up to date information through every step of a horse’s career.
Gallery: David Ellis credits the Te Akau staff for their enthusiasm in looking after all of the new purchases
And of course, there is the successful Singapore operation headed by champion horseman Mark Walker.
He won five premierships in New Zealand before the establishment of Te Akau’s stables at Kranji and then won the Singapore champion trainer title in 2015 and in 2018.
Ellis began this year with his annual assault at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sales series at Karaka.
He outlaid a touch under NZ$7.8 million to retain his leading buyer crown for the 13th consecutive year and he’s about to begin preparatory work for the 2019 sale.
“Joe Walls and I inspect them together with Danny Rolston and we’ll probably look at 1050 horses.” - David Ellis.
“Next week we’ll start looking at yearlings. Joe Walls and I inspect them together with Danny Rolston and we’ll probably look at 1050 horses,” Ellis said.
Walls is New Zealand Bloodstock’s Chairman while Rolston is Bloodstock Sales Manager of the company.
“I love going around the studs and most of the studs give us horses to train and support us,” Ellis said.
Times have changed
He has now been scouting for and purchasing thoroughbreds for more than three decades.
“When I first started buying horses 35 years ago if someone had said then that we would get 160 new owners I would have thought they were from a different planet, it is unbelievable,” Ellis said.
Gallery: The farm and facilities of Te Akau
His home base is at Te Akau Stud, which covers 4000 acres, of which 1000 are specifically fenced for horses.
He has been uncompromising in his nurturing of the land to produce pasture second to none. Large paddocks allow all horses to run freely and develop naturally in a pristine environment.
The property is fully utilised for breaking, pre-training, training, and spelling horses, alongside farming sheep and cattle.