IN Racing
Ghazzah filling the racing void for Duffy
Ghazzah was purchased earlier this year to fill a void in Olivia Duffy’s racing team, and he has proven to be an astute purchase by the Hawera horsewoman.
Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | June 17, 2024
Olivia Duffy was all smiles following Ghazzah's win at Trentham on Saturday. Photo:Race Images

Ghazzah was purchased earlier this year to fill a void in Olivia Duffy’s racing team, and he has proven to be an astute purchase by the Hawera horsewoman.

The four-year-old gelding had won two of his 13 starts for previous trainer Danica Guy before he was offered on and caught the eye of Duffy who was in search of a tried horse.

Retiring a couple of her older horses and with a couple of juveniles still a fair way off making it to the races, Duffy wanted to keep her hand in the racing game and felt Ghazzah ticked the box.

“I had a couple of two-year-olds and I had to retire my older horse, she went to stud,” Duffy said. “I had Big Ben and he is retired and my next lot were these two-year-olds. They are in and out educating and I said to my husband, Mark, that I need a horse I can get my teeth into a little bit to keep me interested.

“I like to ride my own work and I wanted to keep on going with them, but I just needed one a little bit older. I had been looking for a long time and missed out on a couple. I saw him advertised on gavelhouse and he has proven to be a superstar for us and just fits our mould.”

Duffy said she immediately fell in love with Ghazzah, with his soft nature proving a hit with her younger stock, while he has also proven to be a talent on the track, placing at just his second start for Duffy before winning the Wellington Seamarket 1400 at Trentham last Saturday.

“A week after we first got him I said to Mark I didn’t care if he didn’t race again, he is just an absolute gem to have around, and he works in with my babies,” Duffy said.

“On Thursday before the races he worked with two two-year-olds out on the track. He goes around like a darling. He isn’t naughty and is great to have around, he does road work, he does everything. He has been a real asset to the team for us down here in regard to the other horses, with the added bonus of being able to race him.

“He has been good to us. He has had three starts for us for a fifth, third and a win. Having him here has been so cool, he is such a neat horse.”

Duffy was hesitant heading into the weekend, unsure how her new pride and joy would handle the Heavy10 Trentham surface after placing on a Good4 at Hawera the start prior. But he proved she needn’t have worried, getting up on the line by half a head over Knock Off.

“I was worried about Trentham,” she said. “We all know what the track can be like down there at this time of the year. I know the horse has a huge heart and I knew he was fit and has a little bit of talent on his side, but I was concerned about the surface.

“I didn’t think he would like the wet, but he seemed to handle it alright, and it was a gutsy win.”

Ghazzah will now enjoy some time in the paddock before returning for some late winter targets.

“He has pulled up enormous, he is as bright as a button,” Duffy said. “We are wary of that (heavy) surface taking a bit out of him, so he will have the week off and he will tell us what he wants to do after that.”

Horses have been a lifelong passion for Duffy, however, training was the furthest thing from her mind until she was encouraged to take out her license by her husband 15 years ago.

“I have loved horses since I was a little girl,” she said. “Neither of my parents would know the front end of a horse from the back end. I have always had farming in my blood, so animals have always been a big part in my life.

“We are sheep and beef farmers here at Ararata. I was dealing with horses when I met Mark and I was breeding a couple, and Mark said to me one day “why don’t you get your own license”. I thought he was crazy.”

Now more than 15 years on, Duffy has now recorded 11 wins and has had plenty of highlights.

“Saturday was pretty good, it is always good to win on a big racecourse like that,” she said. “My highlight as a trainer was winning the Te Awamutu Cup with Big Ben. He was a real warhorse who had a lot of physical problems, but he gave it his best every single time.

“We have still got Big Ben and Austin Road here, who we won five races with as well. They will stay here until they cross the rainbow. The horses are a passion for me. They are not just here for a job, they are something I love. They cost me a heap, but hey, they give me plenty back.

“There is something about working with an animal and getting the best out of them. Racing has been good to me. It is hard game, but those sweet nuts that you get now and then keep you going.”

Duffy enjoys heading into Hawera Racecourse every day to work her small team, however, she said she does take advantage of their farm as well.

“We live on a sheep and beef farm and it is not always conducive, especially in the wet weather, to working the horses here,” she said. “They go to the track each day, but a couple of days of the week I like to try and do a bit of road work or farm work just for something different for them to keep their mind fresh. It is a bit of a haul some days (to get to the track), but when you get results like Saturday it is certainly easier to slip the slippers off and put the gummies on.

“I just love to get up in the mornings and go to work with my horses. They are my mates at the same time. I do everything with them so it is even more rewarding, especially when you can get there with one you have bred.”