The first Tuesday in November, 2001. Flemington. What better date, what better place for a first date?
Rebecca Hodgson and Simon Lurati had both grown up around horses, they had met not long previously at a Riding For The Disabled event.
As they cheered home Ethereal to her historic Melbourne Cup victory, they realised they had quite a lot in common and they have been together ever since.
At the time Rebecca, along with her father Peter Hodgson (one-time strapper to Gala Supreme), had already been operating the highly successful Dallu Welsh Stud for nine years.
Family legend has it that she was just six weeks old when she first sat on a horse (one that happened to be a thoroughbred) and she worked her way through pony club and competitions through to breeding over 180 Welsh Mountain Ponies who have competed with distinction around the country.
Simon did not have quite such a full-on equine upbringing but was still around horses from a young age, his mum taking him to Uncle Nev’s riding school near Whittlesea and from then on he always had horses around.
Whilst concentrating on the Welsh Mountain Ponies (several of whom call major Victorian studs their homes, proving to be ideal teasers), the couple – who married in 2010 – always had in the back of their mind that one day they would make the transition to thoroughbred breeding.
It was just a matter of time and place. And that time was June last year, the place – Ealing Park, Euroa. Having run Dallu Welsh stud on 500 acres just down the road at Tamleugh, the pair knew Ealing well; in fact whenever they had driven past it they had thought it would be ideal for them.
Well at least that is what Rebecca thought, Simon at first not so keen! But she worked on him for a few years and once he had inspected the farm he had to agree that it was perfect.
“We had looked at a few other places but I had my heart set on Ealing,” Rebecca said, “I just love the place.”
Taken with how Ealing was already perfectly set up (“some work needs to be done but the bones of the farm are so strong”), Rebecca and Simon were also appreciative of the farm’s long history.
The front yard at Ealing is the burial ground to two winners of major races in different hemispheres – the 1966 Epsom Derby winner Charlottown and the 1990 Melbourne Cup hero Kingston Rule.
Whilst Charlottown stood at the property pre-Ealing (it was run as Summerhill Stud in the 1970s) Kingston Rule retired there from the track, siring the Group One winners Sheer Kingston and Kensington Palace.
Ealing Park was for over two decades run by the Johnson family, established in 1983 by Geoff and Mary Johnson who both boasted impressive records to Australian racing history; the Johnson family breeding and racing Vain whilst Mary’s maiden name was Cox… yes, that Cox!
And so racing breaths through the soil at Ealing and the Luratis are looking forward to continuing on with this great thoroughbred tradition, happy to welcome new clients as they prepare for their second spring in operation.
“We took things quietly the first year as we wanted to concentrate on improving things. The fencing and stables are still good though but the pasture needs a bit of work so we will be resowing this autumn.”
The couple had a nice practice run last spring, Riva Ridge Stud – breeders of the dual Group One winner Viddora – sending mares over to be walked into nearby studs.
“It was nice to be trusted by such a successful breeder,” Rebecca said, adding that she and Simon both thoroughly enjoyed their first season at work at Ealing, despite a couple of very early starts.
“One morning we were up at three to get a mare to Woodside for the first covering of the day,” she laughed, “but we really enjoyed the walk-ins, it was all so interesting.”
Foaling down is the task Rebecca most looks forward to – “I really love the breeding side, welcoming new foals but also the research that goes into the planning; taking type, conformation and pedigree into consideration – all the same principles we applied when breeding the Welsh Mountain Ponies.”
As well as being horse people, Rebecca and Simon also enjoy the company of other horse people and aim to make Ealing Park the sort of place where breeders and owners can feel comfortable visiting.
“We want to stay very much a family run farm,” Rebecca said, noting that it enables her and Simon not only to keep a close eye on things, but to keep overheads – and therefore prices – down.
“We want everything to have the personal touch,” she added, laughing as she recalled the first time seeing her seven-year-daughter mix feeds in the morning – “now she hops on her pony and follows me around as I do the feed run!”
Serviced by Seven Creeks Equine’s Stacey McGregor who is renowned for her work with preparing mares for cover, Ealing Park is ideally situated in the heart of Victoria’s prime thoroughbred breeding area.
The Luratis are offering introductory rates for new clients and are happy to show potential new clients what is on offer at Ealing Park. For further information call Rebecca on 0427 736 662 or visit www.ealingpark.com.au.