It was well over thirty years ago that Ballarat veterinarian Dr Kim McKellar took a call to give a Thoroughbred named Bonecrusher an ECG on the back of a poor run. Today it is easy to draw the parallels between the mighty Kiwi galloper and what Dr McKellar is trying to achieve at Wyndholm Park, the stud he owns with wife Liz.
Wyndholm Park stands stallions with pedigree and performance like Bonecrusher’s sire Pag-Asa, at prices that attract moderate mares like his dam Imitation (NZ) to give breeders a fair chance of breeding a good horse without breaking the bank. As McKellar says, “Everyone is entitled to a champion.”
Kim what sparked your interest in Thoroughbreds?
“Bonecrusher was the horse that got me started. I was just a knockabout vet at the time, when I was asked to go out to Noel Kelly’s stable and do an ECG on Bonecrusher. To avoid the paparazzi, I went out there at 6am. As I was walking towards his box a bloke came around the corner with a gun and asked me “Where are you going?”. When I told him I was going to look over Bonecrusher, he left me in no doubt that I should sit down until I got the OK from the horse’s trainer, Frank Ritchie. While I was sitting there on a bucket waiting, I was just looking at this most magnificent animal, and that’s what got me going in thoroughbreds.”
The Wyndholm Park Philosophy
Wyndholm Park is not focused on churning out precocious types for yearling sales, rather “the farm’s “raison d’étre” is to give breeders who want to own and race their own horses a variety of stallions at prices that make commercial sense,” McKellar said.
“The commercialisation of the stallion market, and subsequently the yearling market, has created an imbalance where few can consistently make a profit. My attitude is there are some really good horses out there at realistic fees, they just need to supported.”
“My philosophy is if someone has the right mare and the patience required of an owner/breeder then we probably have a stallion that will get you a horse that will win races and can have some fun with. These are the people the industry needs to attract and retain for its long-term existence. Those looking for a quick return on a two-year-old are the ones more likely to get burnt and leave the game as quick as they came.”
“Victoria has moved to program races for more mature horses which I think is a great initiative. I think people need to be patient, treasure their horse until the day they find out it is not good enough and then find a nice home for it. The owners who keep pushing their horses early, and part with them before they fully mature, just won’t last.”
“The Victorian model of encouraging the mature horse to keep racing has had a significant effect on starter numbers across the state. Victoria’s average starter numbers stand up very well against other states and that has to be linked to a shift towards keeping horses in training. There is a correlation between those starter numbers and turnover and so by extension increased returns to the industry available for prizemoney.”
Looking at the Wyndholm Park roster, its small but diverse mix is led by Victoria Derby winner, Rebel Raider.
“I was at Flemington the day he won the Victoria Derby and couldn’t help but be impressed by the speed he displayed in his final few furlongs. He left a lasting impression with me, but it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to stand him a few years later that I realised just how good he was. There aren’t too many horses that can win a Group 3 race over a mile at two, back up the next season and win two Group 1 Derby’s (he won the South Australian Derby as well) and then as a five-year-old win a Group 3 sprint over 1200 metres.”
Rebel Raider wins the AAMI Derby
He has been serving commercial numbers between 80 and 100 plus mares recently, and the great thing is he is super-fertile, generally around the 90% mark. He’ll often get sent mares that have spent the spring without success and the owners want one last shot at getting the mare in foal. He just nails them first time. He’s just fantastic.
“And on the track, we are just getting to see the sort of results we had hoped for with Pretty Punk winning the Group 3 Hobart Cup and had a third in the Launceston Cup, Rockstar Rebel who was second in a Queensland Derby-Group 1, and Rebellious Lord.”
You also stand the impressive grey son of Shamadal, Crackerjack King.
“You only have to look Crackerjack King’s pedigree to see he has class. His dam has to be one of the world’s leading broodmares. How few mares are there that can produce five individual Stakes winners, three of them Group 1 winners. He was hardy, travelled the world to race and acclimatised quickly to our conditions when third in the Underwood Stakes-Group 1. Shamardal’s stock have done a great job in Australia with the likes of Faint Perfume and Puissance De Lune and now he is showing he is a sire of sires with Lope De Vega getting recent Group 1 Santa Ana Lane.
“The key with “Cracker” going forward will be boosting his numbers to a level where we can confidently judge if he is passing on his ability. That may take a year or two as we only have yearlings now from the farm. Again, he’s a stallion where patience will be rewarded.”
The third stallion Sports Edition is an imposing sprinting type offering speed to mare owners.
“We are watching what the market thinks of the young sons of Northern Meteor. Zoustar’s early results suggest he is going to make it so it is nice to be able to offer an inexpensive stallion by the sire. Like Rebel Raider and “Cracker”, Sports Edition has pedigree as he’s a brother to a Group 1 winner in Amanpour and a half-brother to the dam of Rapper Dragon who was so revered in Hong Kong. The good thing with him is we can recommend him to owners whose mare need speed in the pedigree.
“The overall picture is we stand three stallions at $6,600 so breeders aren’t burning a lot of money to get to horse’s we feel have an attractive genetic mix, two having excellent racetrack performances on the board and the third showed enough talent at two to win a Listed race from just two starts.”
Do you think there is a strong market for stallions in that range in Victoria?
“Definitely. Victoria has a broad range of horses standing at attractive service fees all of which get to run for the same prizemoney, and across the board these lesser-fee stallions still perform very well.”
What advice would you have for anyone just entering the industry?
“Look, listen and analyse. It is an extremely complicated game so don’t be sucked in by the brand names and expensive advertising, instead look at what’s winning races.”