100 Not out – A Winning Partnership

Fortuna Syndications, managed by John Galvin, and Te Akau Racing, directed by David Ellis, celebrated their 100th success together when Dame Margo Fonteyn (High Chaparral) won on 1 December at New Plymouth. 


The combination, which share the love of thoroughbred racing, have experienced Group One wins, stallion success, many stakes’ victories, and most importantly given owners some enormous thrills.

“It’s been a great ongoing relationship and a pleasure to buy horses for John and the Fortuna owners,” Ellis said.

“John is a great man to have any dealings with. He’s upfront, loyal, works very hard for his syndicate members, and he’s also a lucky owner. He’s extremely well organised, has an excellent structure, and been successful in the commercial field of business in his own right,” he said. 

Most recently, Melody Belle (Commands), trained by Stephen Autridge & Jamie Richards, followed her debut win with a third in the $100,000 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (Gr. 2, 1100m) on 3 December at Trentham.



Melody Belle winning at Ruakaka Oct 2016

“We had sixteen owners there on Saturday, from all over the country,” Galvin said.

“People flew down from Auckland, there were locals there as well, people that live in the Wellington region. The biggest kick I get is from the pleasure on these people’s faces. 

“Naturally I was disappointed that she didn’t win, because that’s what they’re there for – I’m a winner and want to see people win – but when I turned around to face the team that had come down to the birdcage, there wasn’t an unhappy face amongst them.   They were all so excited that they were there and participating in a big occasion and let’s face it, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. 

Both fillies (Dame Margo Fonteyn & Meldody Belle) were purchased by Ellis, for $80,000 and $57,500 respectively.



Dame Margo Fonteyn winning at New Plymouth December 2016

Galvin went on to explain the history of Fortuna, incorporated in 2007, and the relationship with Te Akau (est. 1981).

“On the 13 September 2003, Kapsdan (Kaapstad) won her first race and although not my first winner in racing it was my first trained by Te Akau, and when Dame Margo Fonteyn won that was the hundredth winner trained by Te Akau for either me, personally, with horses I’ve had shares in, or syndicates managed by me via Fortuna.

Galvin suggested the split was 23 and 77, illustrated by pictures he has on a wall.

“I think the split is twenty-three winners for me, being in the Mandalay Bay Syndicate, which raced Kapsdan, Lady Classique, Comical Ali, etc. I shared ownership of Darci Brahma and Saperavi in Te Akau Syndicates, plus seventy-seven Fortuna winners,” he said.

It was his success with horses that triggered Galvin to thinking he would like to involve as many people in racing at he could.

“So, David (Ellis) and I had a chat and he said ‘why don’t you become an authorised syndicator’”, Galvin said.

“I’d had a lot of experience in capital-raising in my business career, so I was familiar with the process of how to go about raising capital. And, obviously, with Te Akau having trained my winners, and being at the top of their game, with Mark (Walker) being Champion Trainer etc, it seemed a pretty logical move,” he said.

Galvin had looked at a model used by another syndicator that used three or four different trainers, which they still do, but after working things through he could see no real advantage and decided to go with the number one training team in New Zealand.

So to the sales they went, with the objective of buying ‘nicely bred horses at around average Premier Sale prices’.

“Buying these horses that have appealing pedigrees, at reasonable prices, means that there is a good take up from the market place for that type of horse,” Galvin said.

“It’s never missed a beat,” said Galvin, of the ten year relationship between Fortuna and Te Akau.

“There has never been an issue in terms of how things are managed. We rely on David (Ellis), Mark (Walker), and more recently Jamie (Richards) to select horses for us and we sit down before the sales and work out how many we want to buy and what we are looking for.  And, obviously you’re in the best hands when you’ve got a selection team like that.

“Jamie has bought a lot of skill to the table, as well, and I’m sure David would be the first to agree with that. He is multi skilled, has a good eye, he’s a good trainer, good with the people, and he’s a bloody hard worker.”

Five years ago saw a degree of change when Mark Walker set up stables for Te Akau in Singapore.

“It was huge for us (Fortuna) with the other opportunities it presented,” Galvin said.

“It’s been pretty dynamic and also opened the doors to a few international clients. 

“It meant we could buy horses specifically to race in Singapore. It meant we could send horses to Singapore that looked as though they would only be average here (NZ), yet be able to return good prize money to the clients even though they didn’t reach any dizzy heights in Singapore.


Ready Fortune winning at Kranji – Singapore

“We’ve had several over there: Ready Fortune is one that comes to mind, as a horse that has won four races and hasn’t won above Class 5 but still won about $180,000 in his career which is probably seven or eight times what he could have won here winning the same number of races.  Of course, we have to mention Eatons Gold, now an eight year old, he has been in Singapore since a 2yo, and while he is no champion, he is just a solid workman like type horse who never runs a bad race; has won seven times, had many minor placings and over $400k in prizemoney.”

EATONS GOLD wins for 7th time in Singapore 27th March 2016. Click to enlarge
EATONS GOLD wins for 7th time in Singapore 27th March 2016. Click to enlarge

There have been plenty of fond memories for Fortuna Syndications and Galvin had an opportunity to reflect on a few.

“Well, obviously you can’t go past Tell A Tale,” said Galvin, a son of Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat) purchased by Ellis at the Magic Millions Sale on the Gold Coast for A$125,000.


Tell A Tale winning his first race Hawera Jan 2008 -Troy Harris aboard

“He was a fabulous racehorse, won three Guineas’ races, including the million dollar race at Riccarton, ran third in a $2.2 million NZ Derby, and second in a $1.3 million Singapore Gold Cup. W
hile he didn’t win a weight-for-age race as a four-year-old, he was consistently in the money: Coupland Stakes, Air New Zealand Stakes, Darci Brahma International Stakes etc.

“We also had a bit of time for Rio Fortune, who won the Castletown Stakes as a two-year-old, the Mr Tiz at three, and won a Class 3 race in Singapore, before going unsound.  And he was probably a horse that was similar in class to the other good Te Akau horse over there at the time, Flying Fulton who won over a million in prize money, and he beat Flying Fulton in one race before he was relegated from first after a Stewards’ inquiry.


Rio Fortune winning in Singapore

“Zabene always stands out in our memory, because we bought him as an older horse – the first time we’d done that – and set him to win the New Zealand Cup.   He won the Metropolitan Trophy the week before and then we had a Heavy10 track on New Zealand Cup Day and had to late scratch. 

“And more recently the two Darci Brahma sisters, Darci’s Dream and Windborne, which were both stakes winners that David selected and gave the owners many occasions to be thrilled about their performances,” he said.

DARCI'S DREAM Tuapo R C 20-8-2014

Darci’s Dream winning at Taupo

Galvin intimated that the vision for the future of Fortuna and Te Akau has probably changed over the past three to four years.

“We have a focus on buying more fillies, like Darci’s Dream and Windborne, who since racing have been sold for very good six figure sums,” Galvin said.

“So that has been a distinct change of strategy for us, as up to four or five years ago Fortuna had only bought a couple of fillies.


Windborne winning the (Listed) Canterbury Belle Stakes with rider Rosie Myers grinning ear to ear.

“In the stable at the moment, we have Its Our Showtime, out of a Zabeel mare, who’s only won one race but shows promise. We have Leonessa, by Pour Moi out of Lioness, and unraced as yet but if she was able to perform then, unquestionably, she would have significant broodmare value.

“And with Dame Margo Fonteyn and Melody Belle, who have been recent winners, it’s still all in front of them, but you can see the pattern there.

“Another significant change we made this year was to put a syndicate together to take a decent share in one of David’s well bred colts, that could become a stallion proposition,” he said.

“So there have been some definite changes,” said Galvin, with regards ongoing plans for Fortuna.

“More focus on fillies, buying male horse to go to Singapore, although we have sent a couple of fillies as well, and taking shares in high quality colts that David buys to race under the Te Akau banner.  Racing geldings in New Zealand, unless they’re really top notch geldings, is a bit of waste of time, given the prize money. Whereas the goal with the fillies is to win black type races in New Zealand, so that they have residual value,” he said.

As a result of the changing strategy, Galvin said that he is seeing a lot more reinvestment from clients. 

“We have a lot of clients that buy small shares, some in up to thirteen or fourteen horses,” he said.

Galvin is ably assisted in the administrative side of the business by his wife, Jessica. “Jessica does a great job with the admin and financial side of our (27) current syndicates and is also proving to be a bit of a whiz with social media and our frequent YouTube updates,” he said.

Jessica is also Mother to the couple’s three children: James (6), Jasmine (4), and 18-month old Joshua.

“They’re all great kids and we’re having a great life together, and we all love the horses,” Galvin said.


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