Champagne Celebrations with Julia-Rose Hayes

14 Jan 2022
Auckland Thoroughbred Racing

With just days away from the 2022 edition of the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million so, in anticipation of welcoming a new group of owners to the ‘million-dollar-race club’, we grabbed a few minutes with Julia-Rose Hayes (nee Ellis) – part-owner of On The Bubbles, ahead of his tilt at back-to-back Karaka Million wins.

Keep reading to find out what it’s like to own a Karaka Million winner (hint: it calls for Champagne!).

Julia-Rose and husband, Hamish, at last year’s NZB Karaka Million



You’ve been involved with the Karaka Million for many years now, firstly as an Ellerslie employee, then as a result of your involvement with Te Akau Racing and now (after On The Bubbles’ win last year) as a winning owner.

Can you describe what it’s been like being involved with arguably the most exciting raceday on the calendar in all of those facets? The Karaka Million has a special place in the hearts of many Ellerslie employees, but to be an owner must take it up several notches?

It’s indisputably the best night on the racing calendar. Obviously I have such a soft spot for this event having worked for Ellerslie in the past. I also have huge respect for New Zealand Bloodstock and what it brings to the industry, from the sales through to its race sponsorships, the pinnacle of which is Karaka Million night.

It’s an unbelievable race meeting, definitely a unique experience within New Zealand racing.

The Karaka Million 2YO is something you dream of being part of when you invest in a racehorse and we invested in On The Bubbles with friends.

Can you imagine how we felt when we won?!

Being involved has also brought us a new group of friends and we have great fun together supporting our boy.

We all have On The Bubbles hats and really make a lot of noise on raceday. Our horse has brought a whole new group of people into my life as well the huge thrill of winning.

I did pay for my kitchen thanks to that race too! It’s pretty exciting.


“It’s an unbelievable race meeting, definitely a unique experience within New Zealand racing.”



Julia-Rose and On The Bubbles a mere moment after his million-dollar win

Can you describe what it feels like to have a horse running in a $1million race as an owner? And how it felt to win?

Because I have been involved in racing for so long, I feel like I am cool, calm and collected and I don’t often get nervous at all. Not even when we are running in a Group One! But the Karaka Million just has such a unique feeling, we couldn’t sleep for weeks leading up to it. I had my first night last night dreaming about if it will happen again.

As for how it felt to win – just a lot of excitement. It’s almost indescribable because you just think how can there so many people who have been involved in horses and racing that I have met, and that not everyone gets the gift of the thrill you get of owning a Karaka Million winner? It’s just so special.

You’ve had shares in horses before, but what drew you to On The Bubbles? Was the goal always to purchase something that was a Karaka Million hopeful?

Yes definitely, we love the New Zealand Bloodstock sales. Jarrod Smith – who’s in the horse – and my husband Hamish loved the dam.

They also loved Brazen Beau but they especially loved the mother, More Bubbles.

We also quite like a first foal of a mare and he is More Bubbles’ first foal so that attracted us to him. My father David Ellis, who bought the horse, is also a big fan of first foals and we just thought this is it and let’s go for it.

What is On The Bubbles like as a horse? Any personality quirks?

To be completely honest, he’s a bit of a hater and a bit of a biter. But like they say, he might not be the nicest of nice but on raceday he’s got his head down and his mind on the job and that’s what you want.

When his day comes to retire he will retire at Te Akau Stud and live the rest of his days out with me, alongside three-time Group 1 winner Gingernuts, who won the Vodafone New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie.

How did you celebrate after the Karaka Million win last year?

I don’t know if that’s appropriate for such a public forum! Let’s just say we were on the bubbles all night long. With the sales on the next day I can safely say we went to bed when the sun came up to then get up to go to the sales, so it was an experience.

On The Bubbles is favourite for the 3YO race at 2022’s event. Do you think lightening can strike twice for the Te Akau team and emulate Probabeel’s double? What would that mean for you personally?

I think understanding racehorses personally, I know what it would take for a horse to achieve the double. It takes a very special horse. The only other horse to do it, Probabeel, was also bought by David and trained by our stable. She is the reigning Horse of the Year and Champion Sprinter/Miler and has achieved huge success at Group 1 level in Australia.

On The Bubbles had throat surgery about six months ago and so the whole story about his return to racing, let alone being the favourite for the Karaka Million 3YO Classic, is pretty exciting.

It’s been a really long journey, he was on the 2000 Guineas’ path and then had the surgery so we just feel so privileged to have him back, and he’s proving highly competitive.

He’s a top seed at the moment in the stable and it’s everybody’s dream to have a racehorse like him.

What makes the Karaka Million raceday special for you?

The reason it’s such a special raceday for me is because of my involvement with the Club, as well as my family involvement.

Auckland Thoroughbred Racing will forever be my favourite Club. I always joke that my funeral will be at Ellerslie, I’ve told that to everyone I know.

Having worked there and having such a close association with the staff, I know what goes into a raceday like this. Every time I’m at the Karaka Million I just know how much hard work has been done behind the scenes. I also just love a twilight race meeting.

There are always a lot of internationals (prior to COVID-19, of course) and glitterati.

Everyone in racing is there, all the staff come up, everyone catches up. It’s racing’s number one night to party in the year. There’s just something really special about it.

Some of On The Bubbles passionate owners


With a colourful group of owners in On The Bubbles with you – can we expect some great reactions should he cross the line first? Who do you think will be most excited?

Definitely my husband, Hamish Hayes. When On The Bubbles won the 2YO he did a fist pump like I have never seen before, I definitely didn’t get anything like that when he married me!

It’s such a cool group of owners, a lot of them are from out of town so everyone is coming up and making a big weekend out of it.

I’m sure we will be ‘on the bubbles’ all night long once again – very proud to have named that horse too.


“I’m sure we will be on the bubbles all night long once again”


If one of our readers out there is considering getting involved in a racehorse, what’s your advice for them?

Come see Te Akau Racing – we will look after you. We have actually won the last five Karaka Million 2YO’s in a row!

What I really want people to understand, especially our age group, is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot to be involved. A lot of people can get put off when you see someone buy a $700,000 colt. Not every racehorse has to cost that much, OTB [sic] was $90,000. Melody Belle was $57,500. Everyone can be involved in racing in a small way so don’t be terrified of the ongoing costs, there is a share for any budget.

With a small share you can have as much fun as you do as if you owned the horse outright.


“What I really want people to understand, especially our age group, is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot to be involved.”


And if we have some fence sitters to haven’t yet committed to the Karaka Million ticket, any words of wisdom for them?

I would push them off the fence into the racecourse because everyone needs to be coming.

It’s a night you will never forget!

L to R: Georgia O’Sullivan, Bridgette O’Sullivan and Julia-Rose

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