Five minutes with... David Ellis

5 min read

David Ellis - Te Akau

TDN AusNZ: Where are you from and what is your earliest racing memory?

David Ellis: I was born in Auckland but for the last 40 years I have lived at Te Akau Stud, 1.5 hours south-west of Auckland, New Zealand.

TDN AusNZ: Which is your favourite racehorse of all time? Why?

DE: I have two answers – with horses I have bred it is Distinctly Secret (NZ) (Distinctly North {USA}), winner of the G1 Kelt Capital S. He ran in four consecutive Kelts, three consecutive Caulfield Cups, two Melbourne Cups and won just under $2 million in prizemoney – he was brilliantly trained by Mark Walker, and 18 years ago that was a big help to me!

It is very difficult to decide the favourite horse that I have purchased but I will choose Avantage (Fastnet Rock). She won the Karaka 2YO Million and then go on to win Group 1 races at 1200 metres, 1400 metres, 1600 metres and 2000 metres, and also be Champion 2-year-old. She is a great example of the quality of horse you can buy at Karaka - I purchased her for NZ$210,000.


TDN AusNZ: Do you have a favourite day on a racecourse? Why?

DE: My favourite race day is the Waikato Racing Club’s dual Group 1 “Legends’ Day” in February at Te Rapa. We enjoy this day so much that my wife Karyn and I have now sponsored the G2 Sir Tristram Fillies’ Classic in perpetuity.

TDN AusNZ: Could you tell us how you got into this industry, about your job now and what you love most about it?

DE: I went to the Ellerslie races on Easter Saturday in 1971 with $12 in my pocket and went home with $80. I absolutely fell in love with the atmosphere, the horses, the whole experience. All I ever wanted to be was a successful sheep and cattle farmer who diversified into horse racing as well. We now farm 4000 acres and run 2300 cattle, 3000 breeding ewes and spell on average 150 race horses. We also spell mares and foals and we break in most of the horses that Te Akau trains, which would average 65-70 per year.

Most of all I love winning races for my owners and witnessing the thrill they get out of cheering their horses home.

David Ellis

TDN AusNZ: Who do you believe to be a value sire for the upcoming breeding season? Why?

DE: Xtravagant (NZ) who stands at Newhaven Park – we have just broken in seven of his progeny and they have really impressed my team.

TDN AusNZ: Is there a stallion that you consider to be under the radar? and why?

DE: Yes, Mongolian Khan – we bought four yearlings by him last year and they have all shown plenty of speed and look real 3-year-old types to my eye. I think they are real G1 NZ 2000 and 1000 Guineas’ horses that will train on to be G1 Derby and Oaks’ horses.

TDN AusNZ: Which stallion, ever, do you think was the best type?

DE: Savabeel is my favourite sire, he leaves brilliant types. Te Akau has had incredible success with them – they really seem to thrive and suit Te Akau.

Savabeel is David's favourite sire | Standing at Waikato Stud

TDN AusNZ: Which new sire (other than your own) do you believe is most exciting?

DE: The young sire that really excites me is Almanzor (Fr). He himself was an outstanding racehorse and the three mares that we bred to him have had absolute stand-out foals.

TDN AusNZ: What was your favourite weanling, yearling or mare purchase this year?

DE: My favourite yearling purchased this year is our I Am Invincible filly out of Berimbau (Shamardal {USA}). I’ll bet my bottom dollar that she can win Group races as a 2-year-old, she’s all class.

$360,000 I Am Invincible x Berimbau filly purchased from Bhima Thoroughbreds draft at Magic Millions

TDN AusNZ: Who do you think is a rising star within the industry? (Person not horse).

DE: This won’t surprise anyone! I honestly believe what our Te Akau New Zealand trainer Jamie Richards (30) has achieved in his career thus far is quite remarkable.

He has only been training for five seasons and has already won 32 Group 1 races and 91 black type races in New Zealand alone. Plus, he has trained four consecutive Karaka 2YO Million winners, with the Karaka 2YO Million/Karaka 3YO Million Classic double this season. He has also won major Group 1 races in Australia with Gingernuts (NZ) (Iffraaj {GB}), Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands), Probabeel (NZ) (Savabeel) and Te Akau Shark (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle {Ire}).

With over NZ$20 million in prizemoney, you can see he is very astute at assessing a horse and brilliant with our people, team and owners.

David with Jamie Richards

TDN AusNZ: What positive change would you like to see in the industry?

DE: Dynamic and innovative leadership that will make the tough decisions which in turn will lead to enhanced returns to owners, which will have numerous economic spin-offs for the industry including employment opportunities for young people.

TDN AusNZ: If you weren’t in this industry what would you do?

DE: I think I would enjoy being a restauranteur!

TDN AusNZ: How are you keeping busy in isolation?

DE: It’s actually been a very busy time at Te Akau Stud educating our young horses and also looking after more spelling racehorses than we usually do. We were well prepared for the lockdown eventuality and had plans in place to move almost all of our horses from our stable to the farm at short notice.

Plus I have our cattle and sheep farm to manage. I am just so lucky to have a world-class team at Te Akau that gives me amazing support.

"I am just so lucky to have a world-class team at Te Akau that gives me amazing support." - David Ellis