A Family Affair – David Archer
Brought to you by FastTrack Insurance
A passion for racing tends to be something you inherit from an afflicted family member, and David Archer, owner, breeder and racing enthusiast, is no exception. ‘Racing was my bond with my Dad in those early days,’ explains Archer, a born and bred Aucklander, who was taken to his first race meeting when he was five years old.
‘Dad always wanted to race horses but couldn’t afford to,’ continues Archer, ‘so he stuck mainly to punting. But [he] did own one horse that was trained then by one Alf Toki, which ran third to last at his only start at Te Rapa. A horse called Lawman, with Toki saying “I am surprised. He ran better than I thought he would. I did not think he could run that fast down Parnell Rise.’ The horse was duly retired and Archer senior would continue to love racing through the TAB. ‘Dad and I went to race meetings together up and down the country … I have a photo somewhere from a Herald 65 years ago which shows me sitting on a fence at the foot of the straight at Ellerslie watching a horse fall at the last or second last, I think it was a horse called Nupla.’ He would have to wait until he was 10 before his parents would let him have a bet. ‘So I was a late starter I guess, with Mum & Dad giving me five shillings for my first bet on my 10th birthday, which saw me taking a double at Avondale, Joy Step – Big Blow. And I won plenty with my first five bob bet at 10, so I guess I was hooked from then.’
Archer has been a bit luckier than his Dad and has owned some top class horses.
Mufhasa, a two-time New Zealand Horse of the Year winner, was an outstanding sprinter-miler and Archer’s colours have been prominent again this year, through Charles Road and Bostonian.
Charles Road, who has been entered for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, was voted Champion Stayer at the Horse of the Year awards dinner in August and won on the opening day of the Hastings spring carnival.
The five-year-old was placed in the Sydney Cup last autumn and has already earned more than $680,000. A $90,000 yearling buy, Charles Road is trained at Matamata by Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott.
Bostonian, who is trained by Tony Pike, has won six of his nine starts and recorded a hat-trick of wins at the Brisbane winter carnival, including the Group Three Sunshine Coast Guineas.
‘The first horse I ever owned was one Turnpike Lane, trained by Trevor and Stephen McKee, and whilst he was not Mufhasa, he was very fast and gave us some wins and some fun.’
The “we” in these early days was Joy, Archer’s wife. The racing would come to a halt when Joy was diagnosed with cancer and it would be some years before Archer would have his passion for the sport reignited by friend Brendan Lindsay, now of Cambridge Stud, who insisting that Archer accompany him to the Karaka NZ Select Yearling Sales in 2005. ‘I went, saying, “I will keep you company, but won’t be buying any. Been there and done that!”, only to come home with three and half horses, the half being with Brendan and Jo Lindsay. That year we bought Gallions Reach who went on to win a Group One race, and Belle Joie a half-sister to Mufhasa, which led us to purchase Mufh one year later. So I owe my wonderful enjoyment of recent years with successful horses to Brendan and Jo.’
Mufhasa was bought at the Karaka Sales for $50,000 in 2006. Mufh, as he’s known at home, was trained for most of his career by Auckland trainer Stephen McKee. The gelding wasn’t raced until he was a rising four-year-old and stayed sound over a 6-year career that saw him winning 10 Group 1 races and earning more than $3.62 million for Archer, his partner Di Wright and his children Simon and Natalie Archer and as Archer says, ‘took them all over the world’.
Mufh was retired to Archer’s 20-acre property at Karaka in 2013 due to a sesamoid bone injury and now enjoys a quiet life teaching the youngsters a few manners when they’re in for pre-training, ‘and with Mufh around they know to behave themselves’. He is waited on hand and hoof by property manager Amy Doran, who had been Mufh’s strapper when he was racing, and made the move with him to Karaka five years ago. The pair have been together for 13 years. In addition to being Mufh’s home the property acts as a spelling farm for Archer’s horses and the majority of the youngsters do their first lot of pre-training work there with Amy and Derek Nolan. ‘Only this year Amy and Derek had to bring back both Charles Road and Bostonian from being unwell or injured, and one only has to look at the subsequent success of these two to see what a wonderful job Amy does for us, supported by Derek.’
Mufh at 14 is the senior statesman of the yard. ‘He is like a beautiful pet,’ Archer says, ‘he and I are great mates. Mufh was a super competitive racehorse, but at home with us he a gentle giant, he has never in all his 14 years ever tried to bite me, and more than any horse we have ever owned you feel so totally at ease standing with him whatever he is doing, even when eating his food which he adores.’
Archer, his children and partner Diane Wright normally race between five and seven horses a year, though for the 2018-19 season they will have a racing team of eight. In addition they have three broodmares and their foals.
Racing is a real family affair. Diane, like Archer, ‘adores racing horses, and so the horses create a real family bond. Diane and I, along with my children own and race our horses and the family bonding through the horses is very special [which is] probably the greatest added value of all.’
Archer also contributes to racing in his business life. A life-long insurance broker, he launched FastTrack Insurance in early-2015. FastTrack covers every kind of insurance, but is unique in that it gives a percentage of each premium to the racing industry either via direct donation to nominated racing clubs or into a nation pool to boost prize monies. Archer felt that it was important to give back to the racing community as, ‘there are very few if any highs in life that can match being involved with a winning racehorse. Our time in the game has made our life-journey all the more fulfilling. We have been so lucky to have racing in our life: the horses, the fine people, the thrills, the family bonding … you cannot buy that any other way. So we are grateful for our horses and racing, and it is just natural to want to support and put back into something so wonderful.’