One of the industry’s most loyal owners, Barbara Saunders and her husband Barry, enjoyed the thrill of watching homebred Tezlah take out the $150,000 VOBIS Gold Eureka Stockade at Ballarat on Saturday.

The Eureka Stockade is the first of 18 VOBIS Gold Premier Races to be run in Victoria this season, with eligible horses chasing more than $3.57 million over the next seven months.

Saunders, who has bred for a number of years in New Zealand, has been wooed back to Victorian soil, currently residing all her mares at Dr Kim McKellar and his wife, Liz’s Wyndjolm Park at Miner’s Rest, near Ballarat.

“It was actually due to all the VOBIS Gold races and bonuses on offer that I decided to bring all my mares back from New Zealand to Victoria, so they could be part of the scheme, as it makes a huge difference as an owner,” Barb Saunders said.

“When we saw it (this race) in the calendar we thought we had to have one of our horses compete in this race, so we selected two and one was Tezlah.”

“Tezlah was a lovely foal. Hallmark Stud wanted me to leave him there, so they could put him through the sales, but we never planned on selling him.”

The three-year-old Ocean Park colt has exceeded the expectations of trainer Robert Smerdon claiming his third win from four starts. Ridden by Ryan Maloney, Tezlah scored a three-quarter-length win over Mactier (Reward For Effort).

“He’s a 67-rated horse, and he walks away with $87,000,” Smerdon exclaimed, which includes $66,000 in first prize money, and an extra $21,000 in Super VOBIS bonuses.

Tezlah won on debut at Moe, graduating to city-company at Moonee Valley before Smerdon raced him in Listed grade at Flemington during Melbourne Cup week.

“We think there’s still a bit left in him being by Ocean Park, so he can go off and have a bit of break now. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; we will take it step by step. We’ve done that before and you fall flat on your face,” Smerdon said.

Tezlah’s dam, the Bertolini mare Sienna Sunrise, was purchased by Barry Saunders in 2008 at the New Zealand yearling sales.

“We brought her home and raced her. She showed good ability, winning at the Valley, and when she retired, she returned to New Zealand, as she is closely related to Katie Lee, a former New Zealand Horse of the Year,” Barb said.

Sienna Sunrise visited Pins twice, Ocean Park and then Makfi when Tezlah was a foal at foot before the ‘three-in-one’ equine package was shipped to Wyndholm Park near Ballarat.

Sienna Sunrise now has a yearling filly by Reset, a Street Boss colt foal, and she has headed to Sun Stud’s Magnus this year. No doubt, with that trifecta of Victorian sired hopefuls, there will be more VOBIS bonuses on the way!

And Racing Victoria’s Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter agrees, as the return of the series supports the Victorian breeding industry, with participants set to reap the rewards of the popular scheme.

“The VOBIS Gold Premier Race Series is poised to deliver some fantastic returns to owners over the next two to three years. This season, we have expanded to include a $310,000 VOBIS Sires race for three-year-olds (1600m), and by 2020, the two races will be worth a combined total of $1.5 million,” Carpenter said.

“I believe the success of the VOBIS Sires concept, and its involvement as part of the VOBIS Gold Premier Race Series, will generate further interest and investment in Victorian bred horses into the future.”

Note: Barry and Barb Saunders have raced horses under the Aquanita banner for more than 15 years. Notable gallopers have included Paddy O’Reilly, Ashenti, Club Red, imports Verdant & Arch Fire and recent winners Every Faith and Eureka Street.

Barbara Saunders was the first lady in Western Australia to gain an owner trainer’s license in 1973.  She has also been a syndications manager and held various Board positions at the Yarra Glen Racing Club, Australian Racing Museum and Racing Victoria.

Saunders is a fantastic advocate for women in racing, and was presented with the Victorian Wakeful Club’s Lady of Racing award earlier this year for her achievements and services to the racing industry.

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