Ag Challenge continues to deliver outside the classroom and paddock.

The Whanganui-based private agricultural education provider has a grand record producing skilled graduates primed and ready to ably assist the farming community that form the backbone of New Zealand's economy.

But outside that arena, Ag Challenge supports the wider community through major sporting sponsorship.

Rugby, netball, hockey and many other sporting codes benefit from the generosity of the private training institution.


Thoroughbred horse racing, however, has a special relationship with Ag Challenge and not only because of owner Stephen Gudsell's passion for the sport of kings.

Gudsell and his family have been long-time supporters of the thoroughbred industry as breeders and owners over several generations, but fully understands the important role the rural community plays in the game.

The racing industry was built on the passion the New Zealand farmer had for racing and back in the day almost every farm had an old thoroughbred mare in the paddock that produced foals to race. Those farmers included generations of the Gudsell family.

So it was hardly surprising that Stephen Gudsell decided to bring Ag Challenge into the equation to sponsor a Wanganui Jockey Club's historic race.

For the past 11 years Gudsell has been naming sponsor of the Listed Ag Challenge Stakes on Queen's Birthday Saturday. The race will be the feature event at the jockey club's June 2 Saturday meeting providing Gudsell the ideal platform to thank the very community his company serves.

"We support many sporting codes, rugby, netball, hockey etc, but racing is very much a rural thing," Gudsell said.

"For years the New Zealand farming community has been the backbone of the thoroughbred industry with almost every farmer having a mare in the paddock to breed from. Most of them raced their homebred horses. Many of those same farmers support Ag Challenge and we couldn't survive without that support, so we host them and other clients at the Wanganui races on Queens Birthday. It's an ideal opportunity for us to say thank you."

The race Ag Challenge has chosen to sponsor is poignant given its history.

The 1600m event has had several names over the years, but began life as the Jackson Stakes in 1902 in memory of early pioneer Freeman R Jackson who passed away on June, 8, 1900. It remained the Jackson Stakes until 1982 when Captain Tim Rogers stepped in until 1989 when it became the Wanganui Trust Bank Stakes through to 1997. The race was then named the Wanganui Stakes until Gudsell and Ag Challenge arrived on the scene in 2007.

Some of New Zealand's best gallopers of the day have won the race, although Gudsell has yet to experience the elation himself despite racing horses at elite level for many years.

He is the owner of current New Zealand Sprinter of the Year Start Wondering who returned to work just last week after a well-earned spell.