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Gerald Cayford is a man with many levels of involvement within the harness racing industry.
He’s not only a regular race sponsor and a passionate owner and breeder, but he is also currently the President of the Kurow Harness Racing Club, and Vice President of the Waikouaiti Trotting Club.
Gerald and his bus have become a familiar landmark at race meetings around the southern parts of the country, and when he’s not hauling whitebait from the rivers of the West Coast, he’s serving them to industry participants from his perfectly set up house bus.
The bus comes complete with a live trackside feed on tv, food preparation facilities and a well-stocked bar.
Gerald and the bus will be in operation next Sunday when the Kurow Harness Racing Club holds its annual race meeting at Oamaru, and as an owner himself the President of the Club is once again thanking owners for racing at the meeting by offering them a free BBQ complete with whitebait patties.
He says it was only natural that he would gravitate towards racing in some way, shape or form, with his family being keen on the sport.
“My family has always been into racing. My uncle was a professional punter, he never smoked, never drank, but just loved racing. He was based in Dunedin and would drive around all the meetings and trials and follow the form,” explained Gerald.
“Our ownership journey actually started in gallopers. But I had a mate that had horses with Ian Munro who was based in Otematata in the Waitaki Valley, and they suggested I look into harness ownership.”
“The first harness horse that won for us was Affitoeti, who was a syndicate horse that my brother Alex trained.”
“I was actually away at a golf tournament in Nelson when it won. I remember watching it on the tv at the pub and everyone at the pub backed it. I thought if this loses, I’m going to get my backside kicked. But the whole place was just roaring with excitement when it won,” Gerald laughed.
The wins have continued to tally up for Gerald over the years, but despite that he still finds the magnitude of the occasion can affect him when watching his horses compete.
“I actually get quite flustered and uptight when my horse is anywhere near the front turning for home,” he admits. “But if they do win it takes me awhile to wind down. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seven win horse winning, or a maiden win. I still get just as excited every time we get a win.”
“The thrill that I get seeing other people as first time winning owners is just as exciting too,” Gerald explained.
“The other week I was at Forbury and a young lady had just trained her first winner. We took them up to the members bar afterwards and to see that thrill and emotion they were feeling was so special. We couldn’t get a word in for twenty minutes they were so excited. It was just awesome.”
Gerald and his wife Rose have formed a great relationship with Amber Hoffman, who trains the majority of their horses from her Waikouaiti Beach stable.
“We have been involved with Amber Hoffman for a number of years now, we live next door. Amber would be the hardest working person that I have ever met. She just needed an opportunity.”
“She does a lot of work with sore horses, and a lot of people won’t realise that she works with a lot of horses that have problems and she does an amazing job.”
And despite the fact he lives right next door to most of his horses, a bad past experience of the equine variety has led him to be very cautious around the stable.
“When I had gallopers I got bitten badly by one. I had my back turned to it and it lunged out with its teeth and picked me up by the shoulder. So now I am not hands on, I keep my distance from the horses and I’m weary, but I love them.”
Along with ownership, came the chance for Gerald to dip his toe in the water with breeding, to the point where he now has ten mares booked to be bred in the upcoming season.
“I suppose the breeding side was always sitting at the back of my mind,” he said. “I bought Tara Magic in foal from Ray Anicich, and I ended up losing the colt. But she had left Class of Tara who raced here and in Australia and it had won a big race in Aussie so it was a great family.”
“We bred Shez Good out of her, who has won three races for Patrick O’Reilly, and she is going to go in foal this year. And I’ve also got another filly out of her too that I will breed from in Gerrys Girl.”
When asked who might be his favourite horse, a fond glint appears in his eye.
“Heard The Whisper is such a gentleman,” he smiles.
“He’s only had 48 starts and 7 wins, and is lightly raced for a nine-year-old as he’s had so many issues,” explained Gerald.
“Amber Hoffman and Peter Gillespie put so much into the horse to try and get him right. Amber was just so heartbroken.”
“She came to me twice in a week and was really upset, and she said she just can’t work out what is going on with the horse and why she can’t get him right.”
“So I said to her, it’s not your fault. Just find the problem and we will fix the horse.”
So after extensive work with vet Peter Gillespie coming out to film the horse working on the beach, and assistance from a farrier and Amber, they finally found out exactly what the issue was.
“The farrier did some work and found that he has to be shod specially for his feet, he wears a pad and a silicone layer and then there’s a layer that goes over the top. He looks like he’s walking on tip toes but when he flattens out it’s amazing how much he had actually been hurting.”
“So they found the problem and the results were amazing. He’s now gone north to Jason and Megan Teaz and is so competitive up there.”
Gerald admits that the horse has a special place in his heart.
“We’ve had a lot of offers from Australia, but when he’s retired he’s coming back to a paddock at our place. He’s not going anywhere.”
For Gerald his dream would be to just have a horse good enough to compete at the highest level.
“I’d love to have a horse that could run in the New Zealand Cup. I had a friend who had Mighty Silks in the Cup and I just cheered it from the start to the finish, and I wasn’t even the owner”.
“Way back then I thought to myself if could have a horse good enough to just be in a race like that that would be an amazing thrill.”
And when it comes to getting other people involved he can’t recommend it enough.
“I would encourage people to get into ownership, even if it’s in a syndicate as a more affordable option.”
The bigger the syndicates are, the bigger the crowd at the races and the more whitebait patties I get to giveaway!”
“It’s just a great sport. It’s my hobby and I Iove it.”