Brendon Hill and Mark Jones – Elite Racing
Combining forces was never really on the radar until two of our leading horsemen came together several weeks ago and realised they were both singing from the same sheet.
The discussion involved their own businesses, the state of the industry, but importantly their passion and desire to not only continue but become better.
A few meetings followed, some hard-edged question and answer sessions, mainly financially based, and out the other end came a partnership, Brendon Hill and Mark Jones deciding the time was right to diversify and move forward.
“Exciting” is how ‘Benny’ Hill explains the newly formed alliance with Jones in a training partnership, Elite Racing, set to begin on November 1 this year.
The New Zealand Cup-winning trainer says the time is right for a new challenge and in joining forces with the former world-champion driver he sees no boundaries.
“Really, really looking forward to it, to be honest,” said Benny.
“I think it comes down to us probably enjoying it more – if I was to be honest I could say we’ve both been treading water to a certain degree and this gives us both a really good lift, it’s something very positive and I’m keen to work really hard and give it a good crack.
“If anything, it just takes a wee bit of pressure off both of us to run this as a business together.”
Hill, who trained Monkey King and Carabella to win numerous Group One titles among other very good horses, has worked long and hard to establish a new property in Swannanoa alongside his wife Justine.
“Mark and I have obviously talked about a big property we could perhaps train from together one day. At this stage we will both remain at our own properties, maintain some individual financial security, but bring together our resources and expertise.
“We are both at a good stage of our lives and careers to do this, we’re established, we have the winners on the board, and of course our own properties. And I feel the partnership compliments both parties in a really nice way.
“Justine is fully on board, even more excited than me – she can’t wait to get into it. She has worked so hard for us and this actually gives her a chance to take a wee step backward – she’s a busy person – but still an integral part of this.”
“Mark and I have obviously talked about a big property we could perhaps train from together one day. At this stage we will both remain at our own properties, maintain some individual financial security, but bring together our resources and expertise” – Brendon Hill
Hill did say he has asked Jones to nugget the boots and make a return to race driving in some capacity at least.
“Ricky (May) and Sam Ottley will do a lot of the driving, but I’d like to see Mark drive, too.
“He’s a great driver and a wasted talent – he has driven for me before. I will encourage him to get in the cart whenever he can. But I know how hard he works in the running of his business and can understand why he’s not been driving so much – hopefully we can free him up to drive more.
“As a training team we will continue to look after our existing clients and build the numbers up with new clientele. It is a numbers game and we have the ability to train good numbers,” said Hill.
“I know Mark agrees. When you look at All Stars (Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen) as the obvious example you can say that is a hard act to follow, but one to aspire to. We think we sit very strongly on that second tier and will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.”
Mark Jones owns his Burnham property Overport Lodge which caters for healthy numbers, the 50-acre training establishment formerly the home to owner-trainer Clarrie Sprott then thoroughbred trainer Neil Ridley.
With two Dominion Handicap wins and a Rowe Cup with Master Lavros, and multiple successes to the likes of Saveapatrol, Delightful Memphis, Shezoneoftheboyz, and Rocker Band, Jones has also tasted the highs on Group One day, and echoes Benny’s sentiments on getting back to that level more often.
“This is a new challenge, something we all need from time to time and I am very keen to get rolling, improve myself and my horses,” said Mark.
“Like Benny, I’m really looking forward to this with some excitement. Two good training brains coming together, bouncing ideas off each other, pre-planning our targets – it’s going to work really well.
“We can travel our horses, some may be in Auckland others in Invercargill. One day we could well be on the same property, for now it’s perfect on different facilities with different training ideas we can have the horses in the place that suits them best.
“I see no negatives. Horses do suit one trainer and not another. We’re open to making those changes when needed.”
Communication is absolute key and both Jones and Hill are keen to further increase already strong ownership information with an approach that gives owners ‘a good run for their money’.
“The onus must be on trainers to improve the information owners receive,” said Mark.
“We are focussed on that, always have been.
“And another thing is bringing more professionalism to our race day. Hopefully we will stand out on race day, not only our horses but our staff. We want to have a professional approach to this from start to finish and Benny shares the same beliefs.”
“Like Benny, I’m really looking forward to this with some excitement. Two good training brains coming together, bouncing ideas off each other pre-planning our targets – it’s going to work really well” – Mark Jones
Aside of the current strength in both barns, Jones said the main focus for Elite Racing will be yearling sales time early next year. As both he and Benny know so well, the fresh stock must flow into the stable at sale time to become racehorses of the future.
“And if we can achieve that professional structure that allows me more time then I would get back to driving more.
“Benny has asked me, and I’d like to if it becomes possible.”