John and Karen Parsons were caught by surprise with the latest milestone in their training careers. When Sitarist, a Road To Rock mare part-owned by Karen Parsons, won the open 2200m at Ashburton last Wednesday she took the prizemoney tally for the Balcairn-based couple beyond $1 million for the season.
It’s just the second time the Parsons have eclipsed the $1 million barrier. The previous occasion was in the 2012-13 season when the star of their stable Final Touch picked up three Group 1 wins – the Captain Cook Stakes (1600m), the Telegraph (1200m) and the Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m) – and went on to land the New Zealand Champion Sprinter Award.
A phone call from their friend, Levin trainer Sylvia Kay, alerted them to their $1 million achievement. “Sylvia rang to congratulate us and that’s the first we realised we’d done it,” Karen Parsons said. “It was a real surprise because when we did it last time we had Final Touch going and good horses like her to take north for the bigger races. But this season we haven’t had those sort of horses to travel so we’ve done it from just racing around the South Island.”
One of the rare trips north was to Te Aroha last winter with the jumper Delacroix, who won and also ran third in the Waikato Hunt Cup Steeplechase (4250m). “We’ve had a nice enough team this season, but had no real standouts like Final Touch,” Parsons said. “I suppose Kiwi Ida and Residential have been the best, but they’ve done all their racing down this way.” Kiwi Ida, a last-start winner at Wingatui in late May, took her record to 10 wins this season and was responsible for one of the Parsons’ two black type wins when taking the Group 3 Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at Riccarton last November. The other black type victory came via the recently retired Residential in the Group 3 South Island Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes (1600m) at Riccarton last March.
The Parsons achieved a personal record of seven Group or Listed races during the 2012-13 season when their prizemoney tally reached $1,127,453, and this term they are eight wins short of their best tally of 60 wins, registered in 2015-16. But they don’t have the firepower in action at present to be confident of setting a new winning tally, though they are sure to better their prizemoney figure of $1,007,133. “It’s a quieter time for us at the moment,” Parsons said. “We’ve got a skeleton staff with some off on holidays and horses out spelling or just coming back into work. “We like to keep our maximum to 30 in work and we’ll soon be back to full strength.”
The Parsons don’t have as much ammunition as most leading stables, but are once again in the top 10 on the New Zealand Trainers’ Premiership which is dominated by northern trainers. They are currently sitting in seventh position, three behind Michael and Matthew Pitman, the other South Islanders in the top dozen.
Like many older trainers, the couple has at times pondered on how much longer they will continue training, especially as both have encountered health issues. But a look over the young horses in the paddocks, along with their team for the upcoming season, and thoughts of retirement are soon put on the backburner. “We’re both feeling well at the moment and we’ve got probably the most promising team we’ve had for a while,” Parsons said. “We’ve got some cracking yearlings. I’m excited about what we’ve got to work with.” While Kiwi Ida and Pippi Rea (unbeaten in his last five starts) are still enjoying a spell, Johnny Jones, Letsbringiton and Shezatoucha are among the capable gallopers back in work and former northerner Camino Rocoso is progressing well.
Parsons is also optimistic over the prospects of Final Touch’s oldest foal, rising four-year-old Final Savings, a winner and multiple placegetter. “He’s coming up fantastic,” she said. “He’s strengthened and we know he’s got the ability. He could be at his best this time round. “I still believe Touchabeel, his younger sister, will make the grade, too. She’s been just a bit weak like he has been.”
Parsons also has high hopes for Final Touch’s youngest foal, a rising two-year-old colt by Pins, and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Final Touch’s latest foal by Sweynesse. “We’re not going to put Final Touch back in foal this year,” she said. “We’re doing that with all our mares, breeding them just every second season. “I’ve given away 11 broodmares, but still have half a dozen. That’s plenty for us.”
As well as his involvement with thoroughbreds John Parsons has also enjoyed much success with standardbreds, though his involvement has lessened. “He’s got two jogging at present and he’s still deciding what he’s going to do with them,” Parsons said. “We’re not getting any younger, but we still love working with our horses.”