There is a chance of more Australian success for 2010 Victoria Derby winning trainer Bjorn Baker who will make a permanent move to Sydney later in the year.
Baker shot to prominence on this side of the Tasman when Lion Tamer blitzed the field to claim last year’s Group 1 Victoria Derby title.
He will become the latest in a long line of New Zealand trainers to make the move with the New Zealand racing industry in a real lull.
Just last weekend Baker trained the winner of the Te Awamutu Cup, the biggest event of the week nationwide.
The prize for the win? A mega $10,938 NZ, less than most of the handicap events held at any metro track in Australia on the same day.
In fact the entire prize money on offer for the race was $NZ17,500, the equivalent to just $13,587 in Australia.
It isn’t a freak case on an unusually poor weekend either, this was an open handicap event that back in the 1990’s fetched $25,000.
In fact 20 years ago the winner of the race, King Aussie, picked up a healthy $16,250, obviously worth plenty more when you take out inflation.
It’s circumstances like this which are driving away the top trainers across the ditch as they have nearly no choice but to pack up and battle away in Australia.
Baker will leave on July 20th and hopes to be up and running as soon as possible as he has no illusions how much work he needs to put in.
He’ll set up shop in Sydney, a far cry from the quiet Cambridge stable he currently has in Waikato.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Baker said.
“It’s going to be a challenge but at the end of the day you can’t die wondering. New Zealand racing has been good to me. I’ll miss Cambridge, it’s a lovely place.
“In some ways I’m a bit nervous but this is what I wanted to have a crack at.”
Coming across with him will be just four modest performing runners with plans to grow to a stable of 10 after he sets himself up.
That will increase over time though as he parts ways with long time co-trainer and father Murray.
They will train under separate licenses but still keep in close contact should any of Murray’s horses be deemed good enough for an Australian campaign.
“It gives our owners somewhere else to race and particularly at this time of the year when they can race for good money in Sydney,” Baker said.
They’re a family that should be up to the challenge, this season alone they’ve trained three Group 1 champions.
The most important was undoubtedly the $1.5 million Victoria Derby but back at home they also got up in the Levin classic and the Captain Cook Stakes with We Can Say It Now.
Their most recent winner, Hurricane Mickey, also appears a handy type with that being his 10th triumph form 31 starts.
He’d also be a big player in Australia should we get bad weather, so far he’s run 16 times on heavy ground for 8 wins and 6 placings.
There are no plans as yet for him to come across though, the Group 3 Winter Stakes over 1600m at Riccarton booked in for August 6th.
Baker as yet doesn’t know if he’ll have a runner to defend his title in the 2011 Victoria Derby, his horses needed to show drastic improvement to be worthy of a Group 1 start.