Breeding thoroughbreds still a buzz – Vela

Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013
Peter Vela
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
TIME OUT: Peter Vela relaxes at home at his Opito Bay beach house on the Coromandel Peninsula.

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The driving force behind the New Zealand bloodstock industry, Sir Peter Vela, says he never loses the buzz he gets out of breeding and racing thoroughbreds.

"It's just the excitement of the industry and trying to do good, breed good horses, enjoy good racing and the challenge of doing something that is very difficult but is very rewarding," he told Fairfax Media.

He has been made a Knight Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) for services to the thoroughbred industry in today's honours.

Vela has been active in horse racing and breeding for more than 40 years, as an owner, breeder and TAB board member.

He runs New Zealand Bloodstock, which is the main seller of thoroughbreds in the country, with its highly successful sales at Karaka, South Auckland, an international force.

He and his brother Philip - who have been major players in the fishing industry - bought Wrightson Bloodstock in 1996 and he said it was one of the most memorable moments of his illustrious career.

"There have been some wonderful moments but I suppose the thing that I'll look back on is the way we were able to buy the sales company which at the time probably needed someone to do that. I look back on that with a fair degree of satisfaction that it was a good thing to have done."

At the time, Wrightson Bloodstock, a subsidiary of Wrightson Ltd, had been running New Zealand's premier yearling sale for 70 years.

Vela set up a leasing and financing business to help breeders buy bloodstock, and in 1998 he set up New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing to promote the country's thoroughbreds around the world.

He also helped sponsored Sir Mark Todd's Olympic efforts and more recently has been a patron for some of the country's most talented jockeys, including Michael Walker and James McDonald, whom he sponsored on a riding stint in the United Kingdom.

Together he and Philip bred and raced Caulfield and Melbourne Cups winner Ethereal.

From his holiday home at Opito Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula he said he was humbled by the knighthood and it would take some getting used to.

"It's certainly not something you ever set out to attain, or consider might ever happen for that matter," he said.

"I'm delighted beyond description but this honour really goes that much further than the first because it recognises your family and friends and schools and universities. Everybody shares a little of the honour and the pleasure."

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Family was a huge part of his success and it was time to reflect on a career that spanned four decades.

"You think of your parents immediately and your family," he said. "You think about those sorts of things, the family who have sacrificed so much and a wife of 43 years who has put up with it all and it's just a great time to reflect."

Vela said the thoroughbred industry had "grown massively" and "changed dramatically" during his time in the business.

His proudest achievement was to look back on being part of the creation of a successful business.

Earlier this year, the brothers split their business interests, with Sir Peter taking over all the racing and bloodstock, while Philip has taken over their fisheries interests.

The Vela family's net worth was reported at $200 million in this year's NBR Rich List.

The brothers founded Vela Fishing in 1976.

The company is now the biggest privately owned fishing quota holder in New Zealand and played a key role in developing international markets for New Zealand seafood.

- Waikato Times

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