New Zealand racing has lost a hugely influential figure with the death of Philip Vela.
A respected and popular identity, his contributions to both the business and bloodstock worlds were both successful and far reaching.
With his brother Peter, he became a powerhouse thoroughbred identity with the 1997 purchase of the then struggling Wrightson Bloodstock. Renamed New Zealand Bloodstock, they oversaw the growth of the Karaka-based operation into one of the most highly-regarded auction houses in the world.
The Velas were a remarkably successful partnership with their bloodstock interests centred at Pencarrow Stud in Tamahere.
Together, they bred and raced a string of top-class horses and none better than the champion staying mare and Caulfield and Melbourne Cup winner Ethereal.
Romanee Conti, Grand Echezeaux, Noble Heights and Riverina Charm were other outstanding performers to carry the familiar blue and white hoops while Pencarrow regularly sold top-priced yearlings at the Karaka sales, including Darci Brahma, who went on to record five Group 1 victories and is now a high-class sire.
Such was their success that in 2000 and 2002 the Velas were honoured with New Zealand Breeder of the Year Awards.
In 2013, the brothers amicably split their business interests with Peter taking control of the bloodstock holdings and Philip took sole charge of Vela Fishing, one of New Zealand’s largest privately-owned fishing companies, which exports all around the world.
The enterprise has its origins in the fishing companies their father Filip began after arriving in New Zealand in 1920 from Croatia.
Vela is survived by his wife Lyn, daughters Andrea and Anita and grandchildren Alice, Justin, Claudia and Alexander.