Tonight’s recipient of the NZTR award for outstanding contribution to racing began with a dream and became a master of his craft.
This outstanding horseman took over his first studfarm at the age of 24 and by the time he stepped back from the daily management, had turned Windsor Park into a brand known around the breeding world.
An enterprise that began in the 1960s, initially by managing an established stud based on 80 hectares just north of Ngaruawahia, has morphed into more than 500 hectares of prime Waikato horse country, spread over three properties.
The first two sites for the stud were in a partnership arrangement and it was a few years before he and his wife, Sue, were able to buy their own property at Kaipaki, near Cambridge, which remains the main base for the stud. While their marriage ended Nelson & Sue have remained business partners and Windsor Park is still a family business today with son Rodney at the helm.
Developing an operation the size of Windsor Park requires resilience, self-belief, an appetite for hard work, a variety of management skills and good fortune.
There is always an element of luck in procuring a successful stallion but the top studmasters have the skills to make the most of those opportunities and to swing the odds in their favour in the first place.
The man whose work we honour tonight did not come from a racing family but became fascinated with horses and thoroughbred pedigrees as a teenager and the list of stallions to stand under the Windsor Park banner suggests that his early homework paid off.
He honed his views on what type of pedigree, race performance and physical attributes were likely to work in New Zealand and had the confidence and courage to back his judgement.
His breeding philosophy has been to produce good racehorses, rather than aim for high priced yearlings, holding the view that if a stud breeds enough good racehorses, commercial success will follow.
The stud has consistently bred good racehorses and has been named New Zealand breeder of the year three times.
Might And Power, bred from a mare Windsor Park imported from England, was a champion galloper by any standard and recent Champion Hong Kong sprinter Aerovelocity, the only NZ-bred galloper to win Group One races in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, was also a Windsor Park homebred while the great So You Think was foaled and raised on the stud.
Not every stallion to stand at Windsor Park has succeeded but most have made a significant mark and several have been outstanding.
Silver Dream, who left a dual Derby winner from his second crop, was the first purchase and those who followed included Star Way, Kaapstad, Volksraad, Thorn Park and the shuttle stallions High Chaparral, Montjeu, Mastercraftsman and Rip Van Winkle. Eight stallions will stand at the stud this spring.
Dewar Award winner Star Way was a wonderful flagbearer for the stud and eight times Grosvenor Award winning sire Volksraad ranks as one of the great buys.
Volksraad, who cost 21,000 guineas at public auction at the end of his race career, spent 19 seasons at Windsor Park and topping the New Zealand stallion premiership on eight occasions.
Thorn Park also won the sires’ premiership and High Chaparral’s reputation as a high-class stallion owed much to his four seasons at Windsor Park, which produced the likes of So You Think, Dundeel, Monaco Consul, Shoot Out and Descarado.
But it takes more than just a successful stallion to establish an enduring stud legacy. Equine skills and knowledge are essential but so too the ability to attract and retain good staff. Windsor Park has second generation staff members and current general manager Steve Till was one of the stud's first employees.
The person whose career we acknowledge tonight has never forgotten being told that success was determined not by doing one thing right but by doing 100 things a little better.
In the case of Nelson Schick, the recipient of the 2018 award for Outstanding Contribution for New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, it appears that he has done 100 things much better.