Lance O’Sullivan ONZM

1977 to 1979

New Zealand’s most famous and successful jockey.  Lance completed all his education in Matamata firstly at St Josephs Convent, then the Intermediate and finally for just three years at Matamata College.  It was time on the back of a horse not on a school classroom seat that was going to be of use for Lance’s chosen career.

At school Lance was the proud captain of Tui Juniors in Form 5.  (Most guys outgrew Juniors much earlier, but Tui were fortunate to have the services of Lance for three years as he was never likely to pass the grade weight!)  It was probably then that he realised that becoming an All Black was not on his bucket list!

The son of well-known and successful trainer, Dave O’Sullivan, and Marie, the mother of five and the organiser of the family business, Lance luckily was built to be a jockey!  No extra desserts in their household!!

By 1985 Lance had completed his apprenticeship and had many wins to his name before becoming a fully-qualified jockey.  He went on to ride for 23 years in many different countries.  During that time he resided for 18 months in Hong Kong at rode at the famous Happy Valley and Shar Tin courses.

Lance achieved twelve jockey premierships in his time and was the leading rider for two decades.  The possibility of that being beaten comes into the same league as Lance becoming the All Black Number 7!

His prestigious career has many notable highlights.  Lance had a massive total of 14,261 career rides (worldwide).  He notched up 2380 winning rides in New Zealand, 54 Hong Kong, 28 Australia, 5 Japan, 8 Singapore, 2 Macau and 1 in Turkey.

Group 1 rides are every jockey’s dream.  This list covers most, not all of his Group 1 winning rides in New Zealand.

  • 2 Auckland Cups – On Ligeiro and Miltak
  • 2 NZ Derbys
  • 5 Railway Handicaps
  • 3 Easter Handicaps
  • 2 Wellington Cups
  • 6 Telegraph Handicaps
  • 1 1000 Guineas
  • 3 Bayer Classics
  • 2 NZ St Leger
  • 2 NZ Oaks
  • 3 Captain Cook Stakes
  • 3 Thorndon Miles
  • 3 Terrace Regency


In Australia Lance has won the Cox Plate, AJC Oaks (where he was the first apprentice to win that race since the war), Queensland Oaks and Queensland Derby, the South Australian Derby and the Rosehill Guineas.

Lance has been recognised on many occasions be the New Zealand Racing Board.  He has represented New Zealand in the Super Jockey Series in Japan eight times, has been voted NZ Outstanding Jockey of the Year eight times, won the BMW Outstanding Racing Excellence Award and in 2003 received a New Zealand Honour – ONZM Award.

One famed win was in the 1989 Japan Cup on champion mare Horlicks, which broke the world record over 2400 m. He was also jockey of the unfortunate Waverley Star in the 1986 Cox Plate, second to Bonecrusher, called the “Race of the Century.”

In 2006, Lance O’Sullivan was part of the inaugural class inducted in the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.

Endless highlights include”

Winning rides as an apprentice: 181
First win: Her Highness, Waipa, 14 June 1980
1000th win: Fergusson Park, Thames, 5 Jan 1991
2000th win: Cheque Book, Thames, 4 Jan 2001
2000th win in New Zealand: Indiarma, Ellerslie, 21 July 2001
NZ Jockey Premiership wins: 12 (A New Zealand record)
Record number of wins in a season: 193 – 2001/02 (a New Zealand record)
Six wins in one day: Six times.
First Group One win: 1984 AJC Oaks (La Souvronne)                                                                                   Total Group One wins:  62

Total Group Two wins: 36

Total Group Three wins: 57
Favourite wins: 1989 Japan Cup (Horlicks). 1991 WS Cox Plate (Surfers Paradise). 1991 ARC Railway Handicap (Mr Tiz) – the horse’s third win in the race.
Most famous second: 1986 WS Cox Plate (Waverley Star).
Biggest race he hasn’t won: The Melbourne Cup. He was a nose second on Koiro Corrie May (NZ) in 1985 behind What A Nuisance (NZ).
Most frustrated he’s been when eager to win a Melbourne Cup: When Pravda refused to go to the barrier.
Lance has survived many broken bones – I heard him on TV on Monday 30 Jan 2012 saying he has broken every bone (many more than once) except his head!

Naturally Lance has maintained involvement in all aspects of racing, including taking over from his dad for a stint as Trainer at Wexford Stud.

Lance and his lovely wife Bridgette and their two daughters, Caitlin 15 and Georgia 13 still live in Matamata and have made their home in the beautiful Hinuera Valley on a magnificent farm.