Joanne Surgenor is another former Southlander to make a splash in the competitive Auckland and Waikato thoroughbred racing arenas.
The Winton-born horselover and Makarewa Pony Club rider who also assisted her father John during school holidays when he was studmaster at the late ''Big Bill'' Hazlett's famous Chelandry Stud at Taramoa, is now the Clevedon-based trainer of Pui Pui who has posted impressive back to back wins at Ellerslie and Te Rapa recently.
The 4-year-old mare is owned by racing icon Sir Patrick Hogan, of Cambridge Stud, Peter Walker and Alistair Sullivan.
Surgenor has trained for Walker from his property for six years and her father was associated with him for 18 years, including sharing the ownership of top galloper Bel Air, winner of almost $500,000 on both sides of the Tasman.
Pui Pui has raced three times at Ellerslie for two wins and a second. She has had 10 career starts for three wins, three seconds a third and $29,625 in stakes.
''She is only a wee girl but has a big heart. Next year will be her year,'' Joanne Surgenor predicted of her latest star who is ''a swayback with a dip in her back.''
Her Southland-based aunt Glennis Munro (Avondale), owner of Lautenschlager (13 wins), was one of the first to phone Surgenor after Pui Pui's recent Ellerslie success, followed by an even more impressive win at Te Rapa last Saturday at odds of 14 to one.
Another aunt, Coral Sycamore (Invercargill), is a past stalwart of the Birchwood Hunt. A third aunt in Lynda Pierce (Arrowtown) is a daughter in law of former long serving Southland Times Racing Editor the late Norman Pierce.
Surgenor follows former Southlanders Jim and Richard Collett and their successful children, also Peter McKay, Steven Ramsay, Gareth McRae and Allan Tait as some worthy northern racing ambassadors for their home province.
Surgenor and her parents moved from Taramoa when Mr Hazlett died in 1979 to work for his daughter Mary Dalley's Prebbleton racing operation, taking nine Hazlett broodmares and the stallion Approval with them.
Surgenor rode trackwork for Riccarton trainer Garth Jackson for two years. She was prevented from pursuing an apprenticeship because of weight problems, then moved to Haunui Farm, Whitford, Auckland, with her parents when her father was appointed studmaster.
Surgenor won a six-month NZ Thoroughbred Breeders Scholarship to study and work at the English National Stud and rode work at Newmarket for trainer Henry Cecil. She also worked for the Curragh Bloodstock Agency in Ireland for four months.
Three years work at Haunui followed on her return home before a lengthy period riding track work for a training farm in Japan.
Surgenor returned to New Zealand to ride track work for Hall of Fame inductee Colin Jillings at Takanini for two and a half years, then spent six months as stable foreman on retirement of the famous trainer for his partner Richard Yuill.
Dunstan Stayers Final winner Cross Roads, who went from maiden to open ranks in a year and was third in the St Leger, was the best horse she has trained. The fine sprinter Albercheno (eight wins) and Black Panther, who later raced well for Lee Freedman in Australia, was another favourite.
Legendary All Black rugby flanker of the 1960s Waka Nathan, who was dubbed the Black Panther, raced the horse named after him.
''It was a wonderful privilege to train Black Panther for Mr Nathan...A great man to train for,'' Surgenor said.
- © Fairfax NZ News