The Kings Girl winning at Riverton last Friday.  Photo: Monica Toretto

Dennis continues family dynasty

Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
13 May 2024

The Dennis family name is synonymous with Southland thoroughbred racing, and on Friday Christopher Dennis added to his family’s racing legacy when notching his first official training win at Riverton.

While Dennis has had a lifelong involvement in racing, he didn’t take out his training license until four years ago, and had just 15 prior starts before The Kings Girl broke through for his first win in the Waiau Valley Shearing/Aparima Electrical Maiden (1400m).

Dennis was pleased to get the result with the mare he bred, who is by The King, a stallion he stands for the family at his Woodlands property.

“I was really rapt,” Dennis said. “She is a Dennis family bred horse, both sire and dam, and the syndicate is predominantly family members, with a few friends of the family involved. It was a major accomplishment.”

Originally in the care of Riccarton trainers Michael and Matthew Pitman, The Kings Girl returned to Dennis’ care last year and he has taken a patient approach with the homebred.

“We sent her up to the Pitmans to get broken in as a three-year-old as she was still a bit immature as a two-year-old, the breed likes a bit of time,” Dennis said.

“She had a couple of starts with them (Pitmans). She came home and we turned her out in the paddock and I thought I would give her a go. Last year I gave her a few starts but she caught a virus during winter and it took her a wee while to get over it. She showed promise and was unlucky a couple of times.

“This year she has turned the corner and we have got a couple of placings and it finally culminated with the win on Friday. We are absolutely thrilled.”

The son of Martin Dennis, one of the Dennis Brothers quartet, Christopher Dennis has always had a keen interest in racing and has helped his father and uncles out over the years before deciding to take out his own license out at the start of the decade.

“You don’t have much choice (about racing) when you have the Dennis surname,” Dennis quipped.

“I have been following Dad and my uncles around since I was big enough to lift a dung bucket to clean out boxes.

“I am just very lucky that I have got four gentlemen with 60-odd years experience each to lean on.

“It is my first win under my own name and I was glad to do it at Riverton racecourse, it was the same course my uncles, Ray and Tony, won their first races as well. There is a fair bit of family history there.”

The Kings Girl became her sire’s third winner, and Dennis was delighted to record his first training victory with a mare sired by the homebred son of O’Reilly.

“I stand The King for the family,” he said. “He hasn’t had any mares for the last two years, but Brian Anderton is a very staunch supporter and is going to be sending a mare out (this coming season).”

Dennis is pleased to have etched his name alongside many of his family members as a winning trainer, and said the Dennis family name looks to be in good hands for the future, with a number of the next generation keen to get involved in the sport.

“Some of my nephews and nieces are very keen, so the next generation is coming through as well, which was good to see,” he said.

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