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!).
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."
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?