The Solitaire can add grin to brothers' faces

JAMIE SEARLE
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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Southland racehorse owners the Dennis brothers are hoping for a change of luck after a fortnight from hell.

It could happen today with their classy mare, The Solitaire, competing in the $200,000 New Zealand Stakes in Auckland.

The brothers - Ray, Tony, Martin and Joe - train a small team of horses at Woodlands.

They have some of their more talented horses with Mosgiel trainer Steven Anderton and occasionally race others from North Island stables. Anderton trains The Solitaire.

During the past fortnight the brothers' luck took a turn for the worse. Their Invercargill rider, Amber Edmeads, ended up in hospital after a race fall at Cromwell and their valuable broodmare The Grin and last-start winner The Force had to be put down.

"Things haven't been too good . . . hopefully, it'll come right this weekend," Tony said.

Edmeads fractured a vertebra and suffered facial injuries in her fall. The Force, trained in south Auckland by Stephen McKee, had a twisted bowel.

"The Grin definitely had colic and it looked like a twisted bowel. There could have been a blockage in the bowel," Tony said.

"It's not the way you want to see a horse go, especially one that's been good to you."

Seven of The Grin's progeny have sold at the Karaka yearling sales for a total of $1.4 million. The Hong Kong Jockey Club bought one of her colts for $510,000 in 2007.

The Grin's second foal, The Jewel, raced by the brothers, won 11 races and $620,000.

"The biggest knock we've had was losing The Pixie [in the 1970s]."

The Pixie broke a leg and was put down two weeks out from foaling. A caesarean was performed to save the foal but it lived only a couple of days.

Topliners The Twinkle, The Fantasy and The Dimple were all out of The Pixie.

"They were winning big races at the time she [The Pixie] died," Tony said.

Tony and Ray formed a partnership to become owner-trainers in 1960. Martin and Joe joined the partnership two or three years later. "You had to be 21 [to own a horse] back then and Martin and Joe weren't old enough when we started off," Tony said.

jamie.searle@stl.co.nz

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- The Southland Times

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