John Morell is one of a rapidly dying breed - rural owners who train their own racehorse from a farm.

Not only is that a rare group these days but farming owners who send their horses to professional trainers to be prepared are also becoming as rare as Len Brown supporters.

When Hall of Fame champion trainer Dave O'Sullivan was a year or so from putting his feet up he declared he had just one horse in his stable who was owned by a farmer.

"A few years ago half my team was owned by farmers," he declared at the time.


The signs were there then that the big professional training operations were going to get bigger and the small units would struggle.

There will probably always be the odd farm-based individual who will potter with one horse and take it to the races, but gone are the days when that breed of amateur trainer took it so seriously they were virtual professionals.

Like a few decades ago, when Taupiri's Ian Cameron prepared among others Shifnal Chief, a horse so classy and versatile he won a Railway Stakes under Bob Skelton and could win other major sprints in winter under massive weights in mud up to his hocks. He was the real deal, despite being farm-trained.

At the same time, Joe Moran, who looked 100 times more at home in gumboots than Gucci loafers, produced Shifnal Chief's arch-rival Oranmore, tough, rugged and right up to the best under crushing weights, despite his overall lack of size.

John Morell trains a team of five or six from his Taupiri dairy farm.

That his latest winner, Lauren Tate, is an attention grabber is a tribute to Morell's horsemanship.

Lauren Tate won the $25,000 Cavallo Agistment 1400 at Otaki on Saturday, missing the start by a couple of lengths then grabbing the win in the last few strides with a drive that belied the fact she hadn't raced since October.

"She's a good horse on the way through," said rider Rosie Myers.


Morell has just bought the farm next door and says having to double the size of his herd will probably keep him away from horses to the level he's been used to.

Yeah, right.

Three new Pins youngsters were due to join his team this morning from a pre-training unit.

Commerce has never been in the same race as passion and never will be.