ZIGGY - From Racehorse to Sport Horse

Ziggy's solitary win

Ziggy's solitary win

ZIGGY – From Racehorse to Sport Horse

By Sally Blyth

(This article appeared in the April 2021 Owners Bulletin). 

Ziggy (racing name Saintly Way) – a racehorse with a heap of talent but also an inordinately huge amount of bad luck. Here’s an overview of his story …

By Thewayyouare out of Entirely Saintly, Ziggy’s early trial form (a win and a second) indicated he was a boy with ability. Trainer Frank Ritchie liked him a lot, his nature made him a stable favourite and our syndicate was feeling positive and excited.

In May 2018 Ziggy won his third trial, with Sam Weatherley aboard. We were at Cambridge, jumping for joy, until Frank alerted us to a potential wind issue that Sam W had picked up. This would have explained things if he’d run poorly – but he won comfortably! Our elation turned to despondency and Ziggy was scoped. Instead of going to the races, he was off to have a wind operation. The bitter pills of setbacks and extra expense are ones owners must swallow every now and then. Ziggy battled through a post-op infection which delayed his recovery but by December he was ready to trial again; he ran a creditable fourth and was deemed ready for raceday.

Saintly Way’s debut at Rotorua (Dec 2018) was a concerningly mediocre affair, as well as his first mention in the Stewards Reports: hampered at the start; made the bend awkwardly.

A few weeks later Ziggy was back at the trials and the whole of Cambridge must have heard us cheering loudly as he cruised to a stupendously easy win by almost 5L. It seemed we were back in business.

Two more trips to the races were thwarted with wide barrier draws and didn’t produce much more than frustrating mentions in the Stewards Report: three-wide without cover, hampered, etc.

A promising third at Te Teko (tried hard) was followed by a fair fifth at Ruakaka (closed gamely). After a subsequent battling run for fifth at Avondale (he was leading at one point), he was back to Te Teko on a sunny Sunday in October 2019, with Sam Weatherley on board – the first time Sam had ridden him since the “wind issue” trial win.

On a Slow7 track, with the No. 1 draw, SW was given the perfect ride by SW and they kicked clear for a strong win, beating the hot favourite. Only a couple of syndicate members could make it to Te Teko for that much‑awaited Maiden win but the phones were running hot amongst us and the smiles were surely visible from space!

The camp had confidence that it was time to have a go at Ellerslie but wide barrier draws made it hard from the get-go, especially tricky in a 1200m race at Ellerslie. His first run (Nov 2019) produced a fast-finishing and close-up 8th only 2L from the winner. A few weeks later he ran a decent 5th behind Showoroses, who has gone on to win some good races. Both runs engendered more mentions in the Stewards Report: contacted; restrained; awkward. Groan. Nevertheless, jockey SW remained positive about SW’s ability, Frank was tweaking training regimes and we remained buoyant. Let’s give him another go, we said.

A run at Te Rapa in Dec 2019 was poor but, as the Stipes Report said, he was “inconvenienced”. It is possibly more accurate to say that we syndicate members were the ones truly inconvenienced that day – hey, we drove all that way, with high hopes, for nothing!

Next race Ziggy was back at Ellerslie (under lockdown Level 2 conditions) where he finally had a decent draw although a jockey change was needed as SW was already booked. Ziggy led at one point and was there in contention – but then, oh no, the saddle slipped and he wasn’t ridden out. Our disappointment was hard to hide and Ziggy earned another comment from the stipes. The race was won by the very talented Super Strike (hot favourite).

Matamata was next up on a Heavy10 (Oct 2020). Ziggy had proven he could handle bad going so that wasn’t an issue and we were full of anticipation. He led but faded from the turn. How frustrating is this game!?

In November we were off to Counties where, despite another bad draw, there was a good measure of optimism. SW was making a strong bid and we were on our feet cheering when things suddenly went horribly wrong; Ziggy was shunted sideways and lost all momentum. We watched in stunned and gutted silence. Post-race, Sam W said they’d also copped a bad knock earlier in the race so all in all it was yet another frustrating day at the office. Reading the Stipes comments – badly hampered near the 800m; became badly unbalanced when contacted near 200m – and reviewing the race and Stewards’ footage revealed the grim details. He was skittled out of contention. Oh, the torment an owner must bear! All in all it was a race to forget. However, Sam W retained confidence in Ziggy so the [majority] consensus was to keep going.

Despite yet another horror draw (14), we drove to Tauranga in December 2020 full of the usual hope, anticipation and nerves. Jockey that day was comeback apprentice Wiremu Pinn as Sam W had copped a suspension. Billy Pinn wasn’t too happy with his ride but it was never going to be easy from such a wide draw at the 1200m mark. The race earned Ziggy another comment from the stipes: wide without cover throughout. Having said that, he was only 3.9L from the winner.

After group consultation, we made the call to run again, although Ziggy was on borrowed time at this point. A run at Te Rapa with SW back on top saw him make ground in tight quarters, finishing close up – with yet another feature in the Stewards Report: restrained shortly after the start; had difficulty obtaining clear running until inside the final 200 metres.

Ziggy’s next outing was on New Year’s Day at Ellerslie. It was an average run in a quality field, but a great day all round for the syndicate; we had a ball.

On 15th January 2021, Ziggy lined up at Tauranga. For once he had a good draw (3) and hopes were really high. This was D-Day. Alas, he didn’t round off his race and Sam W was disappointed. Even though he got yet another mention by the stipes, we made the hard call to retire Ziggy from his racing career. Tears were shed.

Ziggy encountered too many trials and tribulations during his racing career and there is only so much anxiety and roller-coaster riding an owner can take! He always tried his heart out on raceday. Until he didn’t.

In the end, after bouncing around the ratings and getting stuck in the dreaded R65 curse, Ziggy was a one-win racehorse – but he gave us so much pleasure, including racing at Ellerslie on three premier days: Melbourne Cup Day; Boxing Day; and New Year’s Day. He was always relaxed and friendly and certainly looked the part, with a huge measure of showy-ness. We loved visiting him at the Ritchie stables in Cambridge, where he’d show off his quirky Ziggy antics, and we’d all struck up quite a bond. The stable hands loved his easy-going nature and were sad to bid him farewell but it was time for new horizons.

Ziggy’s racing chapter closed but a new one career has opened up …


Ziggy is now learning to be an showjumper and eventer with his new owner Catherine Burden (nee Cleghorn). Catherine runs Bydawhile, specialising in pre-training, beach work, rehabilitation and continued education.  https://www.facebook.com/BydawhileEquine/

Here’s how Catherine met and fell in love with Ziggy …

Catherine’s beloved horse Luca, now 11, was struck with a rare and incurable cancer, and her other horse had various issues, so she decided she needed a new horse. Not just any horse – she was on the lookout for an extraordinary one. After putting her feelers out, she was quickly put in touch with Ziggy’s breeder, Richard Davey, and trainer Frank Ritchie. Frank’s reference to Ziggy as an amazing horse, a special horse, had Catherine pricking up her ears. It sounded very promising. One thing led to another and before she knew it, Catherine had found her new horse. Our Ziggy.

She went to Frank’s, saw Ziggy, took him home that very day, rode him straight away and … fell instantly in love. And so began Ziggy’s transition from luckless racehorse to [hopefully successful] sport horse.

Catherine loves thoroughbreds. “They’re a willing and forgiving breed of horse,” she says.  Other breeds such as warmbloods, crossbreeds, Arabs – which she sometimes takes on – often have trouble adjusting and don’t handle transition as easily as thoroughbreds do.

Horse welfare is an important issue, and one that the Owners Federation keeps an eye on. However, it is questionable whether protesters understand how well cared for racehorses are. We owners know the amount of TLC, patience and dollars that go into things, and that when a horse really doesn’t want to race, it runs last, plays up, says “no”, becomes an “also-ran” and races no more. Although, it’s fair to say, some owners do persevere in maiden class for rather a long time. Even a horse who has performed well can change its mind, go off the boil and say no thanks – especially, in my experience, 4YO mares! Much like a headstrong teenage girl, they will make it quite clear when they have their mind on other things!

“It’s actually horses who rule the roost!” laughs Catherine. “Humans are their slaves.”

It can be stressful for a horse to learn a new skill/career, just as starting a new job or learning a new language can be challenging for even the most confident and competent human being.

It takes around 12 months for a horse to adapt to a new way of life – it will have to change physically and mentally, its food and nutrition will be adjusted, its exercise regime will alter, body mass changes. “Many people don’t understand the nutrition side of things, post-racing,” says Catherine. This is a passion of hers, ensuring horses have the right blend of everything as they transition from one career to another.

In reschooling horses, Catherine starts off with socialisation. The horse will require a change of mindset to get used to its new life. As with so many things in life, Catherine believes that patience is the key. “Ask a horse the right questions, and you’ll get the right answers,” she says. “Horses love routine.”

“Ziggy is a good mover, he has what it takes to be an eventer,” Catherine says enthusiastically. Both she and her daughter are passionate about the sport. “He has a beautiful body type.” When she talks about him, the affection is evident.

She works with a horse’s proprioception – the awareness of position and movement of the body – and has a range of training methods to help horses fully tune in to their balance and motion, to develop their sixth sense of knowing just where to place their feet. To watch one of her horses skipping nimbly over, in and around a complex series of poles on the ground is a beautiful thing. Horses just seem to instinctively know what they’re doing with all four legs, although learning to jump takes things up a level.

Catherine chuckles when she talks of the first time she jumped Ziggy in the arena. “He gave it a go, but it was more a case of stumble-stumble. He didn’t really know what he was doing.”

Based in Waiuku, she took him to Karioitahi Beach where she got him jumping over logs. The freedom and fresh sea air obviously helped him get his head around this new lark, as he quickly got the idea and was much improved when she got him back to the arena.

“He has a beautiful back end and a lovely jump, but he’ll improve so much more when his jumper muscles build,” she says. “He has a naturally balanced canter and a great brain. Racing hasn’t frazzled him, as it can do to some horses.”

She sums it up by saying, “He’s just so obliging.” And that’s what we syndicate members always felt about our Ziggy – he wanted to please and he always tried his best.


Catherine was born and bred in Waiuku and now owns the property next door to her parents, who trained standardbreds. She got into showjumping and eventing at age 15 but unfortunately had an accident and broke her shoulder. A tough time followed. “I was a helluva headache for my parents,” she reflects. But she got herself back on track in her early 20s and hasn’t looked back.

Through her business Bydawhile, Catherine integrates bodywork and equine therapies. She spent time in Australia where she qualified in Equine Massage Therapy. Comfortable dealing with problem horses and those with difficult temperaments, she is constantly seeking to learn more about how horses operate, physically and mentally.

Most of her work involves pre-training horses for racing. In winter she works with jumpers; these horses come to her between races to mentally freshen up and experience something a bit different. With the nearby beach and her own arena, they get a variety of workouts that are different from raceday jumping.

The four stages of a racehorse – breaking in, training, trackwork, raceday runs – don’t always enable enough time for horses to establish the correct way of using themselves. Many problems like tendon issues, pulled muscles etc come about because of this and she believes horses would stay more sound and perform better if they used themselves correctly. Taking a preventative approach to try to stop injury is a focus for her.

Catherine has 14 horses at present, and several assistants who help her out with groundwork and riding. She trucks the horses to the beach each day and has a nifty rotation system to get them ridden efficiently. She enjoys young horses but only breaks in a few these days.

Being 100% dedicated to all horses in her care, Catherine is fully involved in all steps for every horse, every day, from mucking to riding to feeding to driving the horse truck.

Ziggy and his new girlfriend Mouse, an attractive grey mare, provide plenty of fun and laughter for Catherine and her family. They look good together!

“Ziggy loves carrots,” she says. “He gobbles them up!” This was a complete turnaround as when we visited him at Frank’s and offered him beautifully-cut carrots, he turned his nose up. In general, carrots are not a part of racehorse feed but, just as he’s adapted quickly to the many change in his life, his diet now includes carrots!

Ziggy is a happy horse who loves hugs and kisses and he’s made it quite clear that he is relishing his new phase of life. He’s a horse who is amusing and lovable – and has talent to boot. Let’s hope he has more luck and success on the equestrian circuit than the racecourses. At least bad draws can no longer thwart him and the stipes have had their workload lightened!


Beyond the Barriers NZ is a non-profit organisation whose purpose is to promote the use of thoroughbreds from the NZ racing industry as sport horses. They run various events and Catherine wants to enter Ziggy in some of them. He’ll compete under his racing name of Saintly Way.


Catherine hopes to do some winter shows, perhaps the winter series, and start a proper showjumping and eventing season with him in Spring 2021, at a competitive level. Being a lovely mover with a trainable temperament, she believes he has what it takes.

Our Ziggy racing days were special and will live within us forever. Now we wish Catherine and Saintly Way all the best for a successful equestrian career. Go Ziggy – we’ll be following you every step of the way!

Ziggy and Mouse

Ziggy and Mouse

Ziggy and Mirror

Ziggy and Mirror

Ziggy doing dressage

Ziggy doing dressage