Above: Lot 461 from Melbourne Inglis Premier Yearling Sale Toronado x Don Perion
Andrew McDonald admits he has been lucky when it comes to breeding horses, something he and his wife Bec have only been doing for the past seven years.
At last week’s Melbourne Inglis Premier Yearling Sale the McDonalds again got “lucky” when a colt by Toronado, out of their great producing mare, Dom Perion, sold for $460,000.
It was a record price for a yearling by the Swettenham Stud stallion.
But it wasn’t the first time one of the broodmare’s progeny created a record for a stallion. At last year’s Melbourne Premier, a full brother to Group 1 Victorian Derby winning Extra Brut sold for $320,000 to Melbourne Cup winning trainer Danny O’Brien for owner John Wheeler.
It doubled the price previously paid for a Domesday yearling at auction.
And McDonald sells his horses through Ryan Arnel’s Stonehouse Thoroughbreds at Eddington and says it’s a winning partnership and formula.
McDonald bought Dom Perion in foal to Domesday for just $6000 at the Great Southern Sale in 2015. He sold the Domesday colt – Extra Brut – at the same sale in 2016 as a weanling for $52,000 and the horse was then sold at the Classic Yearling Sale by Grange Thoroughbreds’ Gary Mudway to syndicator, Spicer Thoroughbreds for $100,000.
After his Victoria Derby victory, the then three-year-old Extra Brut was sold to Hong Kong but unfortunately died following an accident on a walking machine.
McDonald said it was a great reflection on the mare to get big prices for her last two yearlings that had been offered for sale.
And there is to come for McDonald as Dom Perion (Redoute’s Choice x Champagnecharlotte) has a filly by Justify (USA) and is in foal to Lonhro.
“I know it’s easy to say, but she throws perfect types,” McDonald said.
“I know it’s easy to say that, but she does. We have never had do any work on them or anything and they are just correct and really good.
“It makes it easy and you can breed with confidence knowing that you are going to get a type pretty much regardless of where you go, I suppose.”
While she can, as McDonald says throw the perfect type, it hasn’t always been easy to get the mare in foal.
After she produced Extra Brut, McDonald sent the mare to Puissance De Lune in 2015 and Night of Thunder in 2016, but she slipped both times.
“She had Extra Brut and went straight into foal and always did first time every year,” McDonald said.
“She passed her 45 days and thought this is good but then we got to 60 or 70 days we just thought something funny was going on and for whatever reason she slipped both years.
“After going straight in to foal both times we thought it was happy days. I just think she just keeps the good ones.”
McDonald said while it was easy to say, he always believed the Toronado colt was special because of the way he moved around the paddock on his farm at Congupna on the outskirts of Shepparton.
“I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win a really good race,” he said.
“Not that I’m an expert but when you compare them to other foals and you see the way they get around and move and just the smashing type he obviously is.
“Extra Brut made $100,000 on his looks and nothing had happened in the family until then and that’s why I want back to Domesday but he obviously hadn’t raced then but he was such a ripping type.
“When he was born I rang Darley about going back to Domesday and they were in the process of shifting him on then and they didn’t really say either way.”
McDonald said he was tempted to keep one of Dom Perion’s foals to race but he has bought back into the Toronado colt which was knocked down to Flemington trainer Michael Moroney.
Both McDonald, who is qualified builder and now specialises in bathroom renovations, and his wife Bec, have full time jobs and work the farm in their spare time.
“We’ve been on the farm here coming up 11 years,” he said.
“I lived on my grandparents’ farm when I was a young teenager and had horses there, but no racehorses. Obviously I moved on and did other things and horses were always an interest and we went down to Melbourne from here and we had a share in a horse with Peter Moody actually.
“And he went really well and won his first start and beat the eventual Blue Diamond winner that year and it was really exciting. The horse (Confidence Reef) is actually living here with us and has been retired well and truly. He still holds the 1300m record at Sandown.
“I always had an interest in breeding and wanted to do it and we ended moving back and I said to Bec that it’s either now or never.”
McDonald said they pinhooked a couple of horses initially but soon worked out they weren’t any good at that and then about seven years ago they bought two broodmares at the Great Southern Sale.
Their first broodmare produced one foal in five years and McDonald admits they went for cheaper stallions back then.
“We bought a Flying Spur mare (Raring) for $400 one day and she was empty and had a crook foot and we took her home and went to Moshe with her on the recommendation of a good friend of ours who knows more about it than we do,” he said.
“Raring had a filly and we got $60,000 for her (Avalanche Warning) because it was the first season of Moshe and it was through Ryan Arnel and it was his first Melbourne Premier draft actually.
“He had ours and two for Qatar and he had three for his draft at Melbourne.”
McDonald said Raring, which was passed in for $100,000 at a broodmare sale four years before they bought her for $400, is also enjoying retirement on their farm.
At the moment, they are breeding from three broodmares – Dom Perion, Bee Ali (Al Maher x Bee And Bee) and Mulu Miss (Flying Spur x Bold Demand).
And just how McDonald obtained Dom Perion only reinforces his on tag as a lucky breeder.
“It was at the Great Southern Sale and we’d sold a Skilled filly and we got $16,000 for her and for us it was a really good result from where we were coming from,” he said.
“We wanted another mare and I knew she was there but I thought I would never be able to afford her, a city winning Redoute’s mare. I wasn’t worried about the Domesday thing, he was still $13,000 (service fee) at the time and I just thought we’d never be able to afford her.
“It was at the end of the sale, there was hardly anyone there and they knocked her down. It was a good price. And she was in foal with Extra Brut.”
And McDonald recalls Dom Perion’s first foal to race Fill The Flute, which became a multiple city winning mare and winner of $258,845 in prizemoney, was sold for $7000 at the same sale as a weanling to trainer Jamie Edwards.
“Luck plays a huge part and everyone needs that little bit of luck,” McDonald said.
“We have been very, very lucky.”
He said Ryan Arnel was a good bloke, easy to work with and they didn’t want to change the formula.
“If you don’t expect too much you won’t get disappointed but I knew the Toronado yearling would sell well,” he said.
“Ryan said we’ll just put him on the market like last year with Extra Brut’s full brother and when he said he has a $200,000 (reserve), I thought fair dinkum because we’d booked service fees and all this stuff I said sell him for $200,000 but he knew he would get more.
“We are probably the luckiest breeders in Victoria.
“We would be – we’d have to be.”
No one disagrees with that.