by Melissa Rodgers

Spotlight on Old Boy - Jamie Richards

Trainer Jamie Richards has gone from the Taieri to become the head of New Zealand's richest racing stable.

The 28-year-old has become the sole head trainer for racing giant Te Akau Racing's New Zealand stables.

Richards' appointment caps his rise from Wingatui stablehand and trackwork rider to head of New Zealand's biggest group race-winning stable.

Holding one of the most revered jobs in New Zealand racing was just a dream when he was a kid growing up on the Taieri Plain, the son of former Wingatui trainers Paul and Leanne Richards said.

''I guess it was a dream, really. I have been very fortunate and had a few lucky breaks and it has worked out really well.''

Long before making his mark as a trainer, the former Otago Boys' High School pupil juggled university study with stable work. He graduated from the Otago University with a degree in Management and Accounting (B.COM) before completing a postgraduate diploma in Marketing.

Whilst at University, Jamie spent time working for Pencarrow Racing when Mark Walker headed that team and learnt a lot in his time there.

Jamie was awarded a Sunline Scholarship by the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Assocation. The scholarship took in three destinations, the first in Newmarket at the prestigious Cheveley Park. He spent time there learning how to foal mares, foal handling skills and becoming familiar with the resident stallions. He also attended the night classes at the English National Stud which he found very interesting, especially the lecture by Juddmonte Racing Manager, Teddy Grimthorpe. From there he visited Coolmore Stud in Ireland and closed out his trip with a yearling preparation at Taylor Made in Lexington, USA. Being able to work at the Sarotoga Sale & world-renowned Keeneland Yearling Sale was an amazing experience.

Those two educational experiences were key stepping stones in being ushered up the Te Akau ranks by boss David Ellis.

''It has certainly helped David promote me, the fact that I went to university,'' Richards said. ''Certainly having that university education and doing a bit of travel and having that scholarship has been a big help.

''I think that is important in this day and age, getting an education; it's been a big help.''

Richards got his grounding in training while working alongside his parents. Their roles will soon reverse, as Paul Richards is set to join Te Akau Racing and work under his son's direction.

Paul, who moved to Karaka in 2014, will take on a range of responsibilities, including travelling with horses to Australia.

''Obviously he was a big part of me growing up and ending up where I have, so to have him back involved again is really exciting,'' Jamie said.

''We are wanting to do a bit more travelling. Obviously we take out horses to do Cup Week, but we want to have a bit more of a presence in Australia as well, and he will be involved in that.

''He will be a bit of a sounding board to me, like Steve [Autridge] has been in the partnership, and a bit of an older head to throw some ideas at.''

He is a dedicated and skilled professional with an incredible work ethic and all round knowledge of racing and breeding worldwide that well and truly surpasses his youth.

In just over three years of training, Jamie has trained 263 winners, with 38 Group and Listed victories to his credit. This tally includes 14 at the elite Group 1 level.