Otautau dairy farmer Bruce Tapper's auspicious entry to thoroughbred training ranks was further highlighted at Riccarton on Saturday when Five Kings impressively won a 65 benchmark 1200 metres.
The horse credited him with his second Riccarton owning success behind Southern Sav and his first as a trainer at the Canterbury Jockey Club's headquarters.
He and his wife Karen, who shifted south 20 years ago from Matamata to convert a sheep farm to dairying, epitomise the valued contribution to southern racing of Waikato dairying folk.
Kelvin Tyler is another Otautau dairy farmer from Waikato who now trains a big team at Riverton where he lives.
Tapper, who took out a training licence last June, has gained three wins this season since first starting any horses at Winton on September 18 with Five Kings (two) and Alyssa Belle. Arista and Alyssa Belle have also gained seconds.
''The environment for farming is better here at Otautau than Matamata because of the more prolonged October to April flush of grass,'' Tapper said.
He and his wife have 20 horses, including 13 racing stock, five broodmares and two yearlings. Two of their producers are in foal to Cecconi and Duelled.
''My wife Karen is also a genuine racing enthusiast and our many purchases forced my hand to take up training,'' he said.
''I have had to bite the bullet and get a training licence to be able to afford it all.''
He was earlier involved in racing in ''a small way'' at Te Poi near Matamata, also in dairying and pig farming.
While living in Te Poi, he and his wife gained a prestigious part-ownership success in the rich 1983 Easter Stakes (1600m) at Ellerslie with Clear Gold (Grant Cooksley), trained by their co-owner and close Whakatane friend Ian Morton.
Sons Kieryn, Hayden and Aaron are meaningfully involved in family farming pursuits. Aaron assists his father on a 300 head milking unit and Kieryn runs the bigger 600 head milking shed. Another son Heath is a Matamata accountant.
Racing was now Tapper's hobby as he didn't enjoy golf and fishing.
''I also sold my launch because the upkeep on it cost about as much as running three horses. I pace work our horses at home and fast gallop them at Winton and Riverton tracks.''
His Southland background in racing traced to All Bluff, a sole purchase in 1993 who won a race from Gareth McRae's Riverton quarters.
Tapper's more serious approach to racing was forged at the Otautau Hotel where he enjoyed a beer on Friday nights.
On one occasion there he met racing identity John Carran who, with Michael Pitman, had leased Foneeleven from Leo Molloy and offered him a quarter share that he accepted. The horse won several races for trainer Pitman and later others for clients of Ross Beckett.
Karen and Bruce Tapper brought three yearlings home from a 2010 Karaka Sale where they and Pitman selected them. Pitman chose Southern Sav and Bruce picked out Ruby Red and Five Kings.
Pitman has gained four wins from 10 starts with Ruby Red and two with Southern Sav, raced in partnership by the Tappers with Carran.
''We went back to Karaka this year and bought seven yearlings, now broken in by Ross Beckett, and to be trained by me,'' Bruce said.
Ascot Park trainer Sally McKay earlier won races with Pinchanapunch and Lowenbrau for the Tappers.
''My sons were not requiring me full-time on the farms and, to keep myself busy, I needed to challenge myself and racing was a suitable outlet for those aspirations,'' Tapper said.
''All our fillies have been named after our granddaughters and Five Kings was named after our five grandsons at that time and a sixth has followed.''
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