Greta West’s Bucklee Farm is the product of years of experience, hard work and passion for the industry by its two owners, Leeanne Smith and Peter Buckley.
A boutique broodmare, weanling and yearling farm situated in North East Victoria, the heart of thoroughbred breeding, their horses receive the best of care and management in a beautifully, relaxed environment.
Leanne started in the industry when only young, wandering into the racing stables of “Bonny” Hoysted at the age of 12.
“I was in a single parent family and, with three other brothers, I had to earn the upkeep of my pony. I would muck out boxes before school for the small wage that helped me pay for feed, gear and agistment,” Smith said.
Leanne was soon taken under Bonny’s wing. Known affectionately as the ‘boss’, she learnt all she could from the fabulous horseman.
“All his horses were taught respect. We respected them, and they respected us.”
Leeanne strapped many gallopers over the years, but none came close to the Champion Manikato.
“When he first walked off the float, he wasn’t handsome, but Bon said, here is another of Mal’s (Seccull). As I strapped all his horses, Manikato was mine.
“I was so fortunate to solely look after him as a two-year-old, when he won the Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper double. I strapped a true champion.”
Racing got into Leeanne’s blood, and she worked for the “boss” until his passing in 1978, when Bob Hoysted took over the reins.
Seeking a new adventure, Leanne moved out to Euroa to begin working in the breeding industry.
“The north east has been very good to me. When I first arrived I was lucky to learn the ropes with Victoria’s first and only stud mistress at that time, Thelma Harris. She imprinted my horse knowledge, and I am so grateful to her.
“She was a brilliant yearling preparer and, through her farm Lauriston Park, she taught me the basics. From the first day, she changed me from a stable girl to a farm girl, and I haven’t looked back since.
“I have worked for some wonderful people including Barb Ivill from Little Plains Stud. I can see my life has been channeled the way they were. The things they did in their life, I am now doing.”
Leanne continued to train for many years in her own right, winning the one race that meant so much to her, the Bonny Hoysted Apprentices Cup at Pakenham.
“I had strapped a true champion for Bon and I had won his race. I was in tears leaving the grandstand that night.”
It was not long after that Leanne and Peter Buckley bought the farm at Greta West.
“Peter and I had been wonderful friends for many years and together we have formed a great team.
“He is the ever-dependable truck driver for all the walk-outs, drives the tractor and does all the farm maintenance.
“He is an important cog in the wheel, as he gets the mares to the stallions on time. Without him we could not operate as a professional broodmare farm.”
Peter’s association with thoroughbreds came from a long friendship with the late Ollie Cox – a respected horsemen and trainer in the north east of Victoria.
Leanne continued to train, but as the farm, her mares and her clientele grew, it became increasingly difficult to do both, so she made the call to give Bucklee Farm her full and undivided attention.
Situated in the very fertile Greta Valley between Benalla and Wangaratta, the rich soil conditions, excellent rainfall and temperate weather conditions are ideal for growing out strong weanlings and yearlings.
And whatever Bucklee Farm is doing, they are doing it right, as proven by recent winners from the farm including Group 3 winner Cliff’s Edge, the siblings Sunday Escape and Weekend Escape, Leishman, Hay Bale and talented juvenile She’s Our Gift.
And it is no mistake that most of those farm bred winners are progeny of Victorian sires.
“I am a passionate Victorian breeder. There is no need to risk travelling horses interstate when we have such great stallions locally available to give us and our mare owners the right results in the ring and on the track,” Smith said.
She has taken a particular liking to Swettenham Stud stallion Trust In A Gust.
“I remember first seeing Trust at the Inglis First Season’s Sire Stallion parade. He was the most glorious horse, I ran around the sale complex with my mouth open, telling everybody. He just had the wow factor.”
“If he was a man, I would have run off with him; he reminded me of a Bondi Beach lifesaver – masculine, golden and buff!”
The Bucklee Farm team is now turning their attention from foaling to yearling preparation.
More immediately, they will be keeping a look out for farm bred track success this Saturday.
Firstly, the Wilde trained Leishman (Skilled) is aiming for three in at Stawell. But perhaps most excitingly, 2016 Bucklee Farm sales graduate Money Maher (bred by Allan Price) runs in this Saturday’s Group 1 Kingston Town Classic in Perth.
“You get such joy as a breeder, seeing a horse you have bred win and the country winners mean just as much to us as the city winners.” Smith said.
“We invest the same time, effort and care into each and every horse we have brought into this world, and they are all worth a million dollars to us.”