Nothing fawlty about Cleese

Te Awamutu’s JSP racing syndicate, from left, John Maxted, syndicate manager Patsy Vermunt and Shirley Maxted with the SEEKA Kiwifruit Cup.

There’s at least one similarity between this Cleese and his British actor namesake.

Like John, the Waipā gelding – part owned by Te Awamutu racing syndicate JSP – is clearly bringing joy to those watching him.

And the John Bell-trained five-year-old has his owners – some from Waipā, others elsewhere in New Zealand – excited about what’s ahead after Cleese notched his fifth win, heading the field at the Seeka Kiwifruit Cup held at Cambridge Jockey Club’s synthetic track at the end of June.

JSP is made up of Te Awamutu’s John and Shirley Maxted and manager Patsy Vermunt.

They have a five percent stake in Cleese, and the trio is still riding high following the cup.

Wet weather saw the race – planned to run at Tauranga – shifted to Cambridge.

Cleese achieving his first win in New Plymouth in 2021 and had won twice before at Cambridge.

Though as yet unsure of where and when Cleese’s next race will be, it’s becoming clear he thrives on a synthetic surface, John said.

The Seeka Kiwifruit Cup win also establishes a 100 percent win rate aboard Cleese for jockey Warren Kennedy.

At the cup, Kennedy – who emigrated to New Zealand from South Africa a little over a year ago – rode Cleese for the second time.

His only other previous ride aboard Cleese also resulted in a win, Kennedy’s first in New Zealand, at Te Rapa.

“It was so exciting,” Shirley said of the cup win.

“As Cleese came into the straight, I was jumping and down and crying tears of joy at the same time.”

“You get involved in racing for the love and joy of it,” John added.

“Part of what makes Cleese exciting to watch is that he’ll always try his best.

“Warren is an absolute gentleman. Before coming to New Zealand, he’d already proved himself a very capable jockey in South Africa. Now, he’s proving himself to be very capable out here as well.”

Sired by Sweet Orange, Patsy said Cleese is one of just four horses in the country from that blood line.

Two, she said, are in Cambridge, one is in the far north, the other in the South Island.

“Cleese is very special,” she said, also praising Kennedy’s professionalism.

“Warren has a great work ethic and the way he approaches every race is fantastic,” she said.

All three of Cleese’s Waipā contingent were also full of praise for everyone else involved with him, saying ownership is collaborative and “complete teamwork”.

“We have a fantastic team and love being involved,” John said.

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