The Matamata stable of Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott is preparing to welcome 25 to 30 horses back into the stable over the coming week, with boom three-year-old Dragon Leap not far away from a return to training.
If there is a silver-lining to the lockdown period, O’Sullivan believes the additional time to mature for the son of Pierro, can only make for a better horse next season.
The Hermitage Thoroughbreds-raced gelding has won three of his five starts to date, including the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) and Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m).
The step up to 2400m in a brutally run Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) proved a bridge too far, with the classy youngster outstayed when finishing fourth to Sherwood Forest.
“Dragon Leap will be back in fairly soon,” O’Sullivan said. “It was always planned for him to go up to Hong Kong as a four-year-old, but I understand that is still to be decided.
“We will prepare him for the spring and hopefully if he comes up well enough, we could look at taking him to Australia and campaigning him there.
“We will probably kick off and have a race here and just see how we are going, but it is still undecided as to whether he ends up here, Australia or in Hong Kong.”
A champion jockey, turned trainer, O’Sullivan believes Dragon Leap is the best horse he has had anything to do with since he took out his trainers’ license.
“He is our big flag bearer and has shown that he has got way above average ability,” he said.
“He is definitely the one. He has only had the five starts and his campaign was cut short. We were looking at taking him to Brisbane to have a tilt at a couple of races there, but that wasn’t to eventuate.
“I think long-term for the horse, it is probably the best thing. He has been in the paddock for a while and there is no doubt that he is only going to improve and mature with time.”
O’Sullivan’s base in Matamata has often been a launching pad for horses racing abroad, including a number that end up in the care of his brother Paul, who has been training in Hong Kong since 2004.
He and training partner Andrew Scott will look to gradually build from an initial winter team when training resumes on Tuesday as New Zealand comes out of a full Alert level 4 lockdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“There is a little bit of uncertainty out there, but we will bring back the horses that don’t mind getting their feet wet when they’re out there racing and a few of the young ones that we are educating,” O’Sullivan said.
“We are still not in any great hurry at the moment, but we will start to get them in from Tuesday.
The New Zealand racing industry is responsible for generating more than $1.6 billion in value-added contribution to the New Zealand economy.
In total, there are in excess of 58,100 individuals who participate in the New Zealand
racing industry as employees, participants or volunteers and O’Sullivan believes the government needs to assist the industry to maintain a large volume of jobs.
“Like everybody else, I am very hopeful,” he said.
“The hardest part is that with everything that has happened and the government having to shove out money for wages, I just hope that someone is there to give the racing industry some money so that we have some stakes to actually race for.
“I think that’s the biggest question. When we do come back, what are the stakes going to actually look like and whether it is actually viable to be honest.”
O’Sullivan has relished the break from racing, putting the time to good use maintaining his farm.
“It has been great,” he said. “We’ve had some really good family time and we have been able to achieve a few things, even though they’re nothing to do with racing.”