In the Beginning
In December 1996, Sharp and Telford, a local pacer owned by A J Parker, P R A Parker, and N I Gillanders and driven by Tony Herlihy won the Auckland Cup. Today the race is run over 2,700 metres from a mobile start but back then it was a 3200 metres handicap race. Sharp and Telford joined the ranks of champions such as Luxury Liner, Delightful Lady, Young Quinn, Cardigan Bay and Caduceus. Sharp and Telford was also the first horse Mark Purdon took to Australia, bringing home both the Victorian and Australian derbys.
To have a homebred horse win such prestigious races was a dream come true for Anne and Tony Parker. Then in 2009, their homebred stallion, Auckland Reactor won the Auckland Cup this time driven by Mark Purdon over 2,700 metres. Auckland Reactor won his first 17 starts in a row – 24 of his first 27 starts and he was the quickest horse to ever reach $1 million in earnings.
In November 2007, he won the Group 1 NZ Sires Stakes 3 year old Final and he dominated another two seasons by winning six more Group 1’s including the NZ Derby for a New Zealand record. He was the New Zealand Horse of the Year as both a three year old and a four year old. His dam Atomic Lass, also owned by Tony and Anne was NZ Broodmare of the Year 2006-07.
Today Auckland Reactor stands at stud at Alabar; however Sharp & Telford retired to Anne and Tony Parker’s lovely breeding farm in Mangatawhiri . A rising 25-year-old Sharp & Telford is still sprightly, kept young by the weanlings he looks after every year.
Anne says that they went through a lot of horses in early stage to find the breeding lines they liked. They bought their current stud Tardina in 2007, where they still located today. Sharp and Telford was bred from Tardina, the namesake of the farm, who was a mare they liked and bought from a clearance sale.
Vision Come to Life
Anne and Tony love to breed standardbreds that win yet it’s the breeding, rather than the racing side of the business that is their passion. They breed pacers and trotters so that others can have the pleasure of owning and racing good horses. They usually only race those horses that don’t sell at the yearling sales each year. An irony is that many of the horses that didn’t sell at sale have gone on to provide further proof of the Parkers breeding capabilities such as Yagunnakissmeornot.
The Parkers have an excellent record of breeding great trotters and pacers but they have also bred some outstanding horses. These horses include Russley Rascal 1:52 ($833,209) and Devil Dodger 1:50.8 ($647,216) to name just two. And Devil Dodger is still racing as an 11 year old!
There is no doubt with horse racing and horse breeding that lady luck plays her part but for Tony and Anne their main focus has been on building a foundation of excellent mares such as Tudoress, Miss Whiplash, Dutch Annie, Dreaming Spires and Floral Barmin. Currently the Parkers have 4th and 5th generation mares at home, some in foal for the 2018 season.
Both Anne and Tony come from families that were fond of the horses. Tony recalls how his family always went to the Friday Trots at Alexandra Park. This was in the days of the 6 o’clock swill so the adults would drink as much as they could, then socialize, gamble, smoke and watch races before heading home. Anne started dating Tony when she moved to Auckland for Teachers College but their parents had always known each other.
Tony still holds his veterinary practicing license and while his early years were spent working with farm animals as much as horses, he quickly became known in the Franklin region as a great equine vet. He was one of the first AI vets in the country back in the day recalling how he would lie along the top rail to serve the mainly unhandled mares in a crush. No scanning back then – it was all luck and guess work. Then the mares would return for the couple to foal them and re-serve.
Originally horses were primarily a hobby. Anne and the children did most of the day-to-day work on their 27 acres in Drury. She recalls that farm work included driving an Avenger car with a trailer (no 4wd then) to feed hay to the horses and cattle, milk house cows, feed calves and manage the sheep.
A move to Pokeno to a bigger farm saw them run more horses and Anne moved into sheep breeding in a large way. A move to Pukekawa meant some time in dairy farming as well as continuing to breed and race as a hobby. The mares graze in a natural environment on well-maintained grass. Foals get to run and play on hills to build heart and stamina. They all get to enjoy Tony’s special feed brews.
Double Delight is looking promising. She is a homebred filly that was sold outright as a yearling and to date has had three starts for three firsts, including the Jewels Ruby 2yo final. Tony describes her as a ‘tough filly’. Numerous other sales yearling have gone on to win both here in NZ and internationally.
So what’s the Parkers future focus for the stud? At an age where they could put up their feet and enjoy the view of the horses from their lounge and feel very satisfied with what they have achieved their goals for the stud have not changed. Anne wants to breed horses for others to race, enjoy and win Group Ones. Tony really wants to breed a top trotter. Their daughter Faine Mende has come into the business as Operations Director and is totally passionate about keeping her parents dream alive. The Parkers have consistently produced some of New Zealand’s top standardbreds from their boutique stud and nothing is about to change for the seasons ahead.