One of New Zealand’s most loved racehorses, Jerry a.k.a Gingernuts is being honoured with the Listed Te Akau Gingernuts Salver, taking place at the Summer Raceday (10 January).
Gingernuts on his way to winning the 2017 Vodafone New Zealand Derby
Following his retirement due to life threatening injury, he is now a permanent resident at Te Akau Stud where David Ellis CNZM and Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM have given him his safe, forever home. Karyn shares stories of the chestnut gelding’s personality quirks, his best friends, and his love of the limelight.
Having Gingernuts home at Te Akau means a lot to his owners Karyn and her husband David; for a while they thought they might lose him. Gingernuts is a three-time Group 1 winner that suffered a fractured pastern while cantering to the barrier in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes at Flemington in 2018. Karyn was there when the freak accident happened and still gets emotional recalling that moment when time stood still. Jerry was quickly bandaged and assisted into the horse ambulance and whisked to the Werribee Veterinary Clinic for surgery, where his prognosis for survival was uncertain. Thankfully, he was able to be nursed back to health and three months later, flown to his forever home at Te Akau Stud.
“Jerry has an incredibly special place in our hearts. Our horses are everything to us and their wellbeing is paramount,” says Karyn. “Jerry is in paradise now that he lives - or rather - reigns at Te Akau Stud, in his forever home with David and me. We were terrified that we’d lose him after his injury, so to have him here in the condition that he is in and look after him throughout the rest of his years, is wonderful and a complete privilege.”
But it’s not just the industry that adores Jerry. Karyn says that throughout the thoroughbred’s career and his retirement, he has managed to capture the hearts of not only the racing industry but the wider public alike.
Gingernuts and some of his admirers on his way to leading out the 2020 Vodafone New Zealand Derby field.
These days, Jerry has taken on a key role at Te Akau, helping the young horses to ‘find their feet’ and gain confidence as they are being educated. Karyn explains, “He likes to be the boss, but in a gentle, kind and confident way. In fact, he’s a bit like a nana (although he’d hate to hear me say that!) that sets a good example to the young horses that are being broken in at Te Akau Stud. His calm and welcoming presence helps to settle the yearlings as he ‘mentors’ them through his presence and behaviour. Young ones are learning all the time and it can be daunting for them, so Jerry acts as a chaperone.”
Once known for his courage and winning streak on the racetrack, Jerry is now renowned for his personality quirks and his love of food. “He’s very cheeky, so he’ll shake his head at us if we are too slow with his breakfast and dinner. He communicates a lot with his head nodding. There’s a funny story about the time the VRC brought the Melbourne Cup to New Zealand to tour around the country. As Jerry has a massive following, they called into the stable to see him with the cup. There was a beautiful shot, with a top jockey holding the cup beside Jerry in the stall and he said, ‘Hey Jerry do you want to win the Melbourne Cup and, as if on cue, Jerry furiously nodded his head up and down,” Karyn laughs. “It was perfect comic timing from our Jerry.”
It’s not the first time that you could describe Jerry as a bit of a ‘show pony’. He really does seem to adore attention and takes every opportunity to bask in the limelight. During the 2019 Vodafone New Zealand Derby Day, he led the horses onto the track and appeared to the spotlight so much he wouldn’t come off the track. “We think he sometimes forgets he’s retired,” says Karyn, “Our Racing Manager, Libby Richards had to go out and guide him (reluctantly) back into the birdcage.”
Gingernuts returning to the birdcage - Vodafone Derby Day 2019
Jerry enjoys working with the Te Akau yearlings and is always happy to see his human friend and groom, Stephanie Hyde-Richards, but his number one best friend and the great love of his life is a horse called Scrutinize. “Scrutz (as we’ve nicknamed him) is a Savabeel gelding that also had his career cut short due to injury early on. The two of them are inseparable. They cuddle and preen each other and are practically joined at the hip,” explains Karyn.
Having a race named in his honour at Ellerslie’s Summer Raceday means a huge amount to Karyn and David, as they see Gingernuts as such a special part of the New Zealand racing industry. “He captured the imaginations of so many people, was always courageous on the track and has so much spirit and heart. He epitomises what racing is about – the love of the horse. The Auckland Racing Club is the headquarters of thoroughbred racing in this country and to have him recognised in this way is a real privilege.”