By David Bradford
From the days of Box Brownies to the magic of the digital camera New Zealand photographers have found racing a compelling focus. But, assisted by modern technology and an unrelenting work ethic, none of her predecessors has matched the industry-wide personal impact of the softly spoken and high achieving Trish Dunell.
For an essentially one-person business - Trish Dunell Photography - the digital camera, designed as it was for the immediate transmission of high resolution photos, was like a heaven-sent gift.
Very importantly digital opened the gate beyond the print media to a much wider group of clients. Steadily to come on board were an increased number of studs, bloodstock agents, racing clubs, syndicators and the racing industry's various administrative bodies as they collectively re-shaped their marketing and promotional activities with pictorially enhanced brochures and websites.
The outcome? Trish Dunell’s resulting imprint on thoroughbred and standardbred racing has made the Yeti’s footmark in the snow look like it was left by a three-legged mouse.
The reason for her success? Both simple and involved. She delivers quality. She delivers on time.
The reason for the quality goes a pace beyond the high tech trappings to the Dunell X-factor - an enduring passion for the subject at hand. A passion built around being a practical horsewoman with a deep-seated love of the animal, an intense fascination with the environment in which they perform and a huge respect for the taskforce of people behind every winner and loser.
The camera, under her guiding hand and understanding eye, delivers a thirst-quenching mix of racetrack drama, the simple serenity of a paddock of contented broodmares watching over frolicking offspring, stallions posing proud and regal, owners, trainers and jockeys in earnest discussion, lucky punters whooping for joy and the rest of the stuff that gives meaning to the adage that one picture is worth a thousand words.
But Trish Dunell is much more to racing than a wordless media maid.
By any standard her own involvement in ownership, both thoroughbred and standardbred, is significant. Her persistence as a thoroughbred breeder has now been rewarded by the almost freakish Singapore feat of Spalato in stringing together four unbeaten starts - the last two at Group1 level, including the $1.15 million Singapore Derby.
When she had more acreage at her disposal, Trish tended her own mares and reared their foals. But these days the bloodstock portfolio owned by herself, or jointly with husband Graham Mackie (both pictured left of hostesses), is based at Lime Country Stud Hastings on land already made famous under the banner of Okawa Stud.
But the association with Lime Country runs much deeper than that. Trish is also the major shareholder in resident sire Niagara, whose book of 101 mares was the third largest for a first season stallion in 2013 behind Ocean Park and Super Easy. Ten of the successful matings were with mares either owned or leased by Trish.
Asked recently about the location of her favourite holiday spot, Trish unashamedly confessed she had no need of one.
“Don't have time for holidays - too busy enjoying my work,” was her response.
But she did confess to NZ Thoroughbred Magazine she hadn't taken her camera to Kranji on Singapore Derby night - not because she wanted a night off to enjoy barracking for the favourite she had bred and her husband raced. No, the reason was somewhat more deeply seated. She didn't want to run the risk of misplacing Old Trusty at an unfamiliar racetrack.
You see that trusty Canon digital of Trish's has assumed a persona of its own since agents for the makers told her while effecting some recent repairs it had amassed an incredible shutter count of only slightly less than a million. The usual lifetime is 300,000.
Whew! Clearly, like its owner a legitimate over-achiever, wouldn't you say?