Joe O'Neill (left) after the win of multiple group winner Rubisaki in the $1 million dollar Inglis Sprint in 2020. She was a $85,000 Inglis Classic purchase for Joe. (Bradley Photography)

I recently read a column written by trainer Mick Kent on the RSN website where he put forward some comments on our breeding industry I don’t agree with.

I have been purchasing yearlings from Inglis and Magic Millions Yearling Sales and directly from studs in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia since 1997.  I have found the quality of the product put on sale from our breeders to be, in the main very good.  Our record of getting about 95% of the yearlings we purchase to the races has been consistent throughout the history of our company and is testament to the high quality of yearlings on sale and available to the market

There will always be yearlings at sales that have issues, but these have been lessened with introduction of x-rays which are available to all buyers.  Personally, I won’t purchase a yearling, weanling or any horse for that matter where x-rays and appropriate veterinary inspections are not carried out.  All buyers must use any tool available to ensure they secure the best thoroughbred they can.  These x-rays and scope reports are provided by the breeders at a great cost to them.

The Australian product is bred for our harsh conditions.  Nowhere else in the world are horses asked to race on as many varied and at times challenging surfaces in all types of weather conditions.  I agree that the thoroughbred we are purchasing these days is a different type of horse to the one we were purchasing 25 years ago.  I see this as a positive with the overseas interest in our yearlings at an all time high.  This should tell you something.  Our breeders here have developed a product that is attractive to our market and suits our racing which in the main is up to 2000m with a strong emphasis on 2yo and 3yo racing.

Mr Kent made the point we are breeding too many horses.  I tend to think we are not breeding enough.  Racing has become a 365 day a year business with a fair percentage of the income received from wagering going directly into stakes money.  Our stakes money is amongst the best in the world with Australia having two of the five strongest racing jurisdictions on the planet.  The quality of racing in NSW and Victoria is as good as you get with races available to horses of all levels.  These two great racing states are supported by six other viable racing jurisdictions.  Our racing structure is the envy of most around the world.  Can it be improved?  Of course, it can.  Perhaps there is too much emphasis on 2yo racing but the market likes speed and that is what breeders respond to as the cost of racing is very high.

Mr Kent made a point that $120,000,000 is spent by Australians purchasing staying horses from overseas. Australia doesn’t have many staying stallions with breeders and owners needing a lot of patience to develop a stayer. Hence, the attraction to find that Cup winner overseas. $120 million may be spent, not invested in overseas bred horses to run in these staying races.  This is a lot of money that could be better spent here if owners showed more patience but that is another argument.

I’m happy to continue to support our local breeders and take my hat off to them.  It is a difficult game to make money from but we are fortunate to have so many passionate breeders who put their money up year after year so we can enjoy the great racing we have in this country.

Joe O’Neill

Managing Director

Prime Thoroughbreds