James O’Brien at the recent Victorian Breeders Awards

The growth of investment in the Victorian breeding industry during the recent period highlights the ideal conditions that Victoria provides for breeding thoroughbreds.

Victoria offers a thoroughbred breeding environment, Government and Industry support, quality racing, record levels of prizemoney and VOBIS rewards. The Victorian breeding industry will deliver long-term sustainable growth.

The past twelve months however, have not been without its challenges for thoroughbred breeders in Victoria. Welfare remains a high priority.

TBV’s membership has strengthened with new stallion farms, broodmare farms, affiliate and regular members coming on board. Membership is now creeping towards 300 which is more than double what it was five years ago.

We are grateful for the support of our principal and major sponsors being Tabcorp, International Racehorse Transport (IRT), Avenel Equine Hospital, Surewise, Breednet and all of our event sponsors. The support of these organisations is critical in TBV undertaking its representative and promotional activities.


Inglis completed the redevelopment of the Oaklands Junction facility before the 2019 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale. I would like to congratulate Simon Vivian and his team for the outcome they achieved. The complex has an enhanced and warm atmosphere which encourages buyers to stay in the sales area which I’m sure will lead to a positive influence on sales.

The top seven lots at the 2019 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale sold for $500,000 or more, including a son of Victorian’s Darley stallion Brazen Beau that sold for $800,000 for breeder David Gillies. Only one horse sold for $500,000 in 2018.

While the average for the sale dropped marginally, the median for the sale slid from $100,000 to $90,000. Premier Book 2 and the Gold Sale also experienced declines in average sale prices.

This indicates the top end is strong while a more competitive middle bracket is declining.

TBV will continue to consult with breeders, buyers and Inglis to identify the issues around these sales.

VOBIS Program

The inaugural $1 million VOBIS Sires Showdown was held at Caulfield on Victorian Owners and Breeders race day in April of this year. The race’s aim of raising awareness of Victorian stallions was a great success and attracted a lot of attention from all parts of the industry.

The winner, Prince of Sussex, a son of Swettenham’s Toronado, was aimed at the $1 million dollar two-year-old race by his trainer Matt Laurie.

The 3YO VOBIS Sires race was won by homebred Tarwin of the Woolridge family. He is a son of Americain who now resides at Daisy Hill in Doreen.  Prizemoney for the race in 2020 will be increased to $500,000.

The VOBIS program, offering $24 million in bonuses and prizemoney, continues to be recognised as Australia’s leading breeding incentive scheme.

I would like to thank breeders, owners, the State Government and Racing Victoria for their continued support of the VOBIS program.

Welfare & Off The Track

In October 2019, news broke of the unacceptable treatment of racehorses after their careers. The story was deeply upsetting and disturbing.

Welfare of our horses is a TBV key strategic pillar and close to the committee’s heart.

We are passionate about ensuring this remains a main priority and focus. TBV believes in life-long traceability of our thoroughbreds, responsible and ethical breeding and strongly support Thoroughbred Breeders Australia’s recommendation of an independent National Welfare Taskforce.

Victorian breeders in conjunction with Racing Victoria’s Off The Track (OTT) program continued their partnership with the Victorian Agricultural Shows Ltd (VAS) to give Victorian breeders the opportunity to support local events at equestrian shows which are restricted to the thoroughbred class.

Under the sponsorship arrangement, winners of the OTT Thoroughbred class at shows that have been sponsored by a local breeder receive, in addition to the OTT prizes on offer, an extra $150, plus a commemorative horse rug, courtesy of TBV members.

Support for the program remains strong with Victorian breeders injecting an additional $4,200 in prizemoney into OTT shows across the state.

On behalf of everyone at TBV, I would like to thank all of our breeders for their ongoing support of the series and look forward to enhancing the program in years to come.

TBV Communications & Marketing

TBV’s presence on the internet and social media continues to grow.

The TBV weekly newsletter is distributed to 1,300 subscribers and is a vital communication channel for TBV to promote the industry.

The TBV twitter account is recognised as the best source of Victorian bred winners at race tracks around Australia and internationally. In the past year alone, our followers have reached over 5000 unique users, which mean more people are viewing more Victorian-bred success stories more often.

Our Instagram account has continued to play host to a unique gallery of images, including images from our new Off The Track initiative.

Leading up to the 2019 yearling sales season, Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria rolled out its VOBIS Sires marketing campaign. This series of videos, featuring major trainers, owners and breeders received significant profile on social media. The campaign sought to create brand awareness ahead of the sales and included a comprehensive marketing campaign by our Executive Officer, Charmein Bukovec. The videos, articles and social media content reached 178,186 people. Further coverage across national news outlets, such as print media and also television coverage, reached a further 6,510,000 people which is estimated to be valued at $800,000 in PR value and provided more than 70 pieces of unique content nationally.

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia

Adam Sangster, Adam Tims and I represent TBV on the Aushorse and Thoroughbred Breeders Australia boards ensuring the issues that matter in Victorian breeding are raised at a national level.

TBA met Federal Government leaders from both sides of parliament at Canberra on October 22 this year. There was strong support for the TBA’s response to animal welfare issues raised in an ABC report about retired thoroughbreds in the previous week.

TBA is advocating and leading the way with a proposal that a National Independent taskforce should be created to address the issues. Many meetings have occurred with Principal Racing Authorities, welfare organisations and both State and Federal Governments.

TBA will continue to engage with the Federal Government to raise awareness of the importance of the Thoroughbred Breeding industry around Australia.

TBV is working with TBA to implement TBA’s Fast Track careers program at a Victorian TAFE. Fast Track focused on attracting young and passionate people to our industry. Graduates receive a Certificate III in Breeding.

The Research & Development Levy for the thoroughbred breeding industry continues to deliver on projects and assists our industry to grow. Details of these projects carried out by research organisations can be found at www.agrifutures.com.au/rural-industries/thoroughbred-horses.

I wish to acknowledge the work of the President of TBA Basil Nolan, TBA CEO Tom Reilly and the TBA/Aushorse staff for the significant efforts they have put into these issues and many more over the past year.

TBV is also saddened to hear the news of the passing of Ken Barry. A friend to many in the industry, he was also a member of TBV. Ken was known to many across our industry. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this time.


TBV maintains strong relationships with key organisations and individuals across the breeding and racing sectors to ensure that Victorian breeder’s interests are best represented. Such relationships allow us to continue to grow our industry while also tackling challenges as they come our way.

Key stakeholders include:

  • Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, his advisers and departmental officials
  • Shadow Racing Minister, Tim Bull
  • Racing Victoria
  • VRC, MRC and MVRC
  • Country Racing Victoria
  • Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association
  • Our sponsors
  • Sales companies Inglis and Magic Millions

In January, increases to prizemoney promised by Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, and supported by Racing Victoria, were implemented.

It was sad to learn of the passing earlier in the year of Michael Andrew AO, Vice-Chairman of Racing Victoria. Michael made a positive influence across many industries and lives. I was proud to have called him a friend.

Michael was a TBV Member, Victorian breeder and supporter.

RV Deputy Chairman Mike Hirst was appointed as Michael’s replacement as the Chair of Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Advisory Panel (TOBA). Michael is also a fellow breeder and we look forward to working with him.


In May, Matt Tillett resigned from his role on the Board of TBV. I’d like to thank Matt for his valuable contributions during his three year tenure at TBV.

Sam Fairgray, of Yulong Investments, was appointed to our board to fill Matt’s vacancy. Already, Sam, through his broad industry experience, has brought knowledge, passion and commercial acumen to the board.

While serving on the committee is rewarding, it can often be thankless as many of the projects or work that is undertaken is not in all cases tangible and is unable to be seen readily by the community. I would like to thank my entire committee and our Executive Officer, Charmein Bukovec for the hard work they have put in throughout the year.


Finally, it is important to thank and recognise the staff within our industry. Working on a breeding farm can be tough, physical and demanding – working long hours with many ups and downs. The members of our breeding community are passionate about their work and in many cases go beyond their job descriptions to ensure our valued horses are cared for at the highest level.

James O’Brien