Celebrating the Boxing Day Races: Group 1 glory for Graham

20 Dec 2022
Auckland Thoroughbred Racing

The 2021 SkyCity Boxing Day Races will go down in history for a number of reasons (COVID-19 anyone?!) but it also set the scene for the Graham Richardson and Rogan Norval trained, Tiptronic’s, triumph in the Group 1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic, providing a young jockey with his first taste of top-level success.


We chatted to Graham Richardson, co -trainer of Tiptronic, to learn more about this special horse and what Group 1 success at Ellerslie feels like…


Graham Richardson and Tiptronic at Ellerslie in 2021



You announced Tiptronic’s retirement earlier this week which feels very poignant given the timing of the Boxing Day Races coming up. Will his move to the quieter side of life be a significant change for you? All of the articles I’ve seen to date have indicated that you have a bit of a soft spot for him….

I’ve got a soft spot for most of my horses! Tiptronic is a special fellow, any horse that’s been like him in the stables with so much character will be missed. He’s actually going to go show jumping, I don’t know much about that side of equestrian life but I’ve got a really good lady that’s going to take him for a while to keep him active and young. When he’s finished that he’ll come back to my place, it might be a year down the road it might be two or three, just when he’s ready.

He retired a two-time Group 1 winner which is such an impressive feat. If we think back to Boxing Day last year, prior to his win in the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic, how did you feel leading into the race? Did you think he had a chance? Were you optimistic?

There’s never been any pressure put on me by Tiptronic because everyone has treated Tiptronic, somewhat surprisingly, as the underdog and I just don’t know why. He’s always been such a genuine horse so it didn’t surprise me when he won. Every time he would go out paying $20, $15 – and it never worried me because I just knew he would do his best.

Tiptronic conclusively winning the Group 1 feature on Boxing Day 2021


Obviously Boxing Day was held under Covid-19 restrictions, were any of his ownership group able to be oncourse?

Yes, a lot of them were able to be oncourse in various areas but obviously over the fence. ATR did manage to arrange a photo of him and the group from the other side so that was really cool. They have been a good lot of owners who have had a lot of fun and they were all very understanding when it came to planning Tiptronic’s retirement.

Part of Tiptronic’s ownership group oncourse


Do you know what they did to celebrate after the race? What did you do?!

It was a bit hard being under those restrictions which was unfortunate however I look back over a lot of the winners I have had and it’s always taken a bit of time to sink in. Go home and days later think why didn’t I have a party or get everyone involved – but it’s just who I am. My priority post-race is to go and see if the horse is okay – and I’m sure that’s true of most trainers.

Can you describe what it felt like to watch those final few seconds of the race? He led all the way but faced those last challenges from Two Illicit and Vername.

I’ve got this habit, when it comes to watching a big race, that I go and hide myself away and try and watch it alone. Sometimes I even head over the public stand where people don’t tend to know who I am! There’s nothing worse than having people commenting around you saying “you’re going to win” and it not happening – Murphy’s Law says you always get robbed when that happens!

I can’t actually remember where I watched the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic last year but I saw the horses challenging and, whilst I didn’t start screaming because I’m a bit superstitious, I sat there and screamed under my breath and to see him win was just amazing.


To further add to the specialness of the occasion, it was jockey Ashvin’s first Group 1 win. Can you describe what it’s like as a trainer seeing one of your charges providing as he stated “a dream come true” for a young jockey?

It was fantastic and it was just the perfect ride. Tiptronic was never an easy horse to ride. He used to, and actually he even showed it last start, pull really hard and do things wrong where there’s a risk of him doing damage to himself so he’s not easy to ride in that respect. If you can get him to relax he’s good to go and Ashvin did a great job so I was thrilled for him.

Leith Innes’ first Group 1 was on one of my horses too, Tobruk. He won the Levin Bayer Classic in 1998. That was a long time ago but was a big thrill too – and it’s always a thrill when you see them succeed and Leith has turned out to be one of the best jockeys we’ve had.

Ashvin was very emotional coming back in and it was great as it just showed how much it meant to him.

Ashvin Goindasamy returning to the Birdcage at Ellerslie after winning the Group 1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel


It sounds like he was a bit of a handful from his early days and by all accounts this day. Does he have any quirks or behaviours today that make him a bit special?

He’s just sneaky. He wasn’t a nasty horse, he was just a cheeky little colt. When we gelded him he just changed, his whole attitude changed. He became settled and he changed shape. He was really tiny as a baby and now he’s quite a long, tall horse. There were offers on the table for him as a younger horse but as a syndicate they didn’t want to sell on and I’m so pleased about that. He’s a lovely, kind horse. He’s very human in the sense of if he’s in a bit of a bad mood you just leave him alone. He’d never do anything to harm anyone. He’s a very intelligent horse.

You mentioned he’s off to commence a show jumping career.

He is indeed but I’ve just said he’s never to be sold. He’s still owned by the original owners and when he is retired from show jumping he’ll come back here.

Which raceday are you most looking forward to when Ellerslie resumes?

I just love winning races up at Ellerslie. I’ve won the Sistema Railway a couple of times, obviously the Zabeel Classic and many other races. Probably the race I’d most love to win up there is the New Zealand Derby. I’ve run third in it one year which was a bit unlucky and Derby Day is a great day.

But any of those racedays, any of those races, nothing stands out that I would look forward to more than other races.


It’s just great to be there and it’s going to be neat to be there when racing is back there running for good money.


We can start promoting this industry again and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a tough game as we all know and there’s a lot of young trainers out there so it will be nice for them to have some direction knowing that the stakes are going to be up there and it will be good for owners too. It will motivate them to buy more horses in New Zealand.

Looking to this year’s raceday, I’d love to win the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic again with Defibrillate. Some of my good mates race him and he’s won 11, with 8 of them in Australia, as well as the Balmerino Stakes at Pukekohe on Melbourne Cup Day. It’d be nice to win the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic with him.


Him and Tiptronic will be sharing the same paddock when they retire but hopefully not for a long time! That’s what the plan is, the paddock I’m building will be for the boys.



Defibrillate triumphing in the Balmerino Stakes at Pukekohe Park. He’s on track for the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic on Boxing Day, also at Pukekohe Park.



Due to the track upgrade at Ellerslie, the Boxing Day Races are taking place at Pukekohe Park in 2022.

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