This collection celebrates all things equine on New Zealand screens. Since the early days of the colony, horses have been everything from nation builders (Cobb & Co) to national heroes (Phar Lap, Charisma) to companions (Black Beauty) to heartland icons. Whether work horse, war horse, wild horse, or show pony, horses have become a key part of this (Kiwi) way of life.
Phar Lap — the pavlova of the equine world — is the subject of this episode in a series looking at some of Te Papa’s holdings. Bred and trained in New Zealand, he spent most of his outstanding racing career in Australia (before dying in suspicious circumstances in California) and is regarded as a national treasure on both sides of the Tasman. His fate reflects those claims, with his skeleton at Te Papa, his hide in Melbourne and his heart in Canberra. This mini-doco backgrounds Phar Lap’s life and includes some of the scarce footage available of him.
This documentary tells the story of how an unpromising horse with a nasty personality became the greatest thoroughbred stud stallion in New Zealand racing history. Interviews and archive footage are used to tell the entwined histories of Sir Tristram and his owner, Cambridge-based breeder Patrick Hogan. The path to success involves fires, potentially disastrous injuries, a $32 million buy offer, and special precautions every time Sir Tristram was taken out of his paddock for breeding.
Occasional Heartland host Kerre Woodham visits the annual Easter races at Riverton in Southland. Riverton is New Zealand's second oldest town, and the close knit locals have a big passion for horse-racing. Woodham talks to owners, trainers (one of them at his freezing works job), jockeys and punters, as well as the judges of 'Best Dressed Lady at the Races', who are looking for a nice line in matching hats, bags, shoes and gloves. The documentary contains some good examples of the Southland rolled 'r' from some of the locals who are interviewed.
This episode of New Zealand's own office comedy sees John (Ross Jolly) concluding that a love of stamps makes the boss (Ken Blackburn) a natural fit for Mastermind — next thing, the stores branch staff are gathering around with imaginary cameras and desk lamps, to help him practise for the pressures of facing quiz master Peter Sinclair. Meanwhile the team try to score another victory by getting an astrological chart made for a racehorse. Roger Hall's sitcom about public servants was a bona fide hit, long before Rogernomics and Ricky Gervais in The Office.
Is the Sport of Kings headed for the knackers’ yard? As the racing industry attempts to combat declining numbers of punters, falling stake monies and increasing competition for the betting dollar, the Auckland Racing Club — New Zealand’s oldest — allows a TV crew behind-the-scenes access to its headquarters at the Ellerslie Race Course. This seven part series follows the asset-rich, cash-poor club’s new CEO, young and unproven in the racing industry, as he embarks on a mission to modernise its image and operations, and turn its fortunes around.
This National Film Unit documentary looks at thoroughbred racehorse breeding in New Zealand, an industry described as producing "the world's finest racing" — eg 1966 Melbourne Cup winner Galilee. Made when racing could arguably still be called our national sport, the film visits leading stud farms (such as Trelawney in the Waikato) to follow the life of a foal, from birth through yearling sales and training, to Wellington Cup race day — when roads are gridlocked with "a congregation whose bible is a racing almanac". The footage includes a 'good citizenship' school for jockeys.
The membership is aging, the roof leaks, the phone and computer systems are outdated and the kitchen needs a major upgrade. Chris Weaver comes from a brewery background, but he’s the new CEO of the Auckland Racing Club, and these are just some of the challenges facing him as he attempts to rebuild the club (while a TV crew follows him in the first episode of this seven-part series about NZ’s oldest racing club). He has high hopes ‘Whips and Spurs’ – race meetings with bands and DJs – will start attracting the under-35s, but the weather forecast isn’t good.
Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. He worked for the Magnum cooperative, and snapped famous shots of Pablo Picasso at a bullfight and the Monsoon series for Life magazine. In this Inspiration documentary — made shortly before his 1988 death — Brake reviews his lifelong quest for “mastery over light”, from an Arthur’s Pass childhood to a fascination with Asia. He recalls time at the National Film Unit and is seen capturing waka huia, Egyptian tombs, and Castlepoint’s beach races (for a new version of book Gift of the Sea).
This short film looks at New Zealand's thoroughbred scene in its post-war boom period. In 1950 New Zealand boasted the most thoroughbreds in the world by population, 200 stallions and 5000 brood mares. Some of the most famous sires of the time are featured as the film makers visit the leading studs of the day. The film begins with the outdoor birth of a foal at Alton Lodge (then owned by industrialist Sir James Fletcher and his son); and also visits Inglewood, near Christchurch: the oldest thoroughbred stud still standing a stallion in New Zealand.