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GRASSROOTS: Scott Williamson

Musk Creek Farm's Scott Williamson.

The son of a policeman with a keen interest in music, a career working with horses wasn’t necessarily the definite career path for Scott Williamson. Growing up on the edge of the famed Epsom Downs racecourse, south of London, horses were just part of everyday life but music was his first passion. Playing the double base in the National Children’s Orchestra, Scott travelled and performed throughout the UK.

As the godson of trainer Philip Mitchell, who trained at Epsom’s Downs House, the Derby Festival was naturally a big event in the Williamson household with Scott attending his first Epsom Derby as a baby when he was mere weeks old. Scott’s father had shares in some racehorses and it wasn’t long before Scott developed a keen interest in racing and the double base got packed away. Keen to watch track work any morning he could, Scott would spend his free time getting into the thick of things at the racing stables. During this time Philip trained a horse called Running Stag. The horse ran in the Dubai World Cup and won in France and America which helped broaden Scott’s racing interests to international territory.

Following the same path of his two older brothers Grant and Craig, after school Scott enrolled at Writtle Agricultural College in Essex, UK to study Equine Studies. Graduation saw Scott travel to the USA to work for studs such as Lanes End and Coolmore USA. Ever eager to increase his knowledge, Scott worked for a company called Equix. Working with the Lexington-based company, Scott learned how to measure horse biomechanics using motion analysis and digital measuring, recommending breeding matches and sale prospects for clients.

“Travelling and seeing how everyone does things differently has allowed me to form my own opinions on what I think works best,” reflects Scott. “Technology can be great but you still need to develop your horsemanship skills and own eye for looking at horses.”

At Writtle College, Scott’s older brother Craig chose to study Horticulture over Equine Studies and has gone on to become one of the world’s top track managers and currently holds the position of Estates Manager at Epsom Downs and Sandown Park in the UK. Scott’s other brother Grant has been a big influence on shaping how Scott’s career has developed. When Scott was in America, Grant told him of a job opportunity as Assistant Yearling Manager at Widden Stud, where he was working at the time. Scott followed his advice and moved to Australia and spent over 2 and a half years in the Widden Valley. Grant currently works for Fasig-Tipton in America as a bloodstock consultant, having previously managed Studs throughout America and has been a great source of support with a wealth of bloodline and breeding knowledge, which he willingly imparts to Scott.

As well as the experience gained when working at Widden Stud, Scott also met his future wife Bec at the property. An opportunity to become Farm Manager meant a move to Twin Palms Stud, also in the Hunter Valley. Ever the keen student, each new role brought Scott new learning opportunities. Ever the supportive wife, and a talented horsewoman herself, Bec has been able to move jobs with Scott as his career developed.

When Yulong Investments commenced a breeding operation in Victoria, Scott become their first manager, setting up their farm near Koo Wee Rup. Scott was involved in the first purchases for their breeding venture and was heavily involved in the initial set up, putting his previous farm management experience to use as paddocks needed fencing and the property needed to be transformed to be fit for the purpose.

“It was a very exciting time to be involved with Yulong and I enjoyed working for Mr Yuesheng Zhang as he is so passionate about horses,” Scott said of his time at Yulong Park.

When Yulong acquired further stud farms in Nagambie, the 170 acre Yulong Park property was redeveloped into a state-of-the-art facility for spelling racehorses.

“As well as spelling the racehorses, we also helped rehabilitate them. I got to look after Killarney Kid during his time there and he was such a great horse to work with. All the staff loved him so we were delighted when he went on to win some features over the hurdles.”

The desire for working back in the breeding industry was too great, so when a job as Farm Manger at Musk Creek Farm came up, Scott applied and was successful. “I had originally thought about moving down to the Mornington Peninsula about 8 years ago when the job was available back then but I decided to stay in the Hunter Valley at the time. It’s funny how things work out and I’ve ended up down here now anyway.” Scott said.

Owner David Kobritz leaves the day to day running of Musk Creek Farm in Scott’s very capable hands. While this comes with great responsibility, knowing that an employer has such confidence in his abilities has shown the years of hard study of all aspects of the breeding industry are beginning to reap their rewards. Having bought some new broodmares in the past few years, Scott is confident that the next 2 to 3 years will see some big advances at the Flinders based farm.

Scott has settled into his role as Farm Manager and is enjoying life on the Mornington Peninsula with Bec, who runs the administrative side of the farm.

“During the busy times, you can go weeks without even leaving the farm gate so when I do have some time off I enjoy going to the races and socialising on the Peninsula.”

One of the challenges Scott has encountered from his years working in the breeding industry is the fact that you never know when luck is going to come into play.

“There are so many things that have to fall in to place when it comes to breeding. Hard work and a sound knowledge to base decisions on certainly help too.”

Scott, owner of Mockery, celebrates after she won at Flemington on 2nd March 2019 (Racing Photos).

Musk Creek Farm have been breeding horses to race in recent years. By having these horses on the farm from an early age, Scott feels it is an advantage when they go racing.

“Being around theses horses on a daily basis, I get to know their temperament and can then use this to advise whether I think a horse will be an early 2yo for example. I also will have an idea what type of trainer might suit a particular horse,” explained Scott, a self-confessed racing-nerd.

One thing Scott would like to see change in the industry is the number of young people coming through who want to work in the breeding industry.

“It’s long hours, unsociable at times and young people today just don’t want to work in that kind of a job.”

With 4 staff on the farm, Scott is conscious of the long hours and commitment involved from his staff. He feels that something needs to be done to help attract more people into the industry by making people aware that there are career pathways available and ensuring staff are paid a decent wage as a reward for their dedication.

“When you do the mating plans, then watch these horses be born, then watching them development and go on to win on the track – there isn’t a better feeling for me. That’s where I get the enjoyment from my job.”

A lot of attention was brought to Musk Creek Farm with the pin hooking of multiple Group 1 winner Pierro. While it was a great achievement, Scott feels that this doesn’t reflect accurately what’s going on at Musk Creek Farm.

“Aside from pin hooking, we are putting great effort into our breeding programme, improving the quality of our mares and ensuring that we are taking quality potential racehorses to yearling sales. We are looking to the future with our broodmare band and ensuring we have quality stock coming through.”

So it seems that the Orchestra’s loss has ultimately been Musk Creek Farm’s gain, as Scott puts his skills and knowledge gained from working in varying roles in the thoroughbred breeding industry throughout the world, together with his firm understanding of the racing industry to good use at the Flinders farm.

The advice that Scott would give someone trying to get involved in the breeding industry is “Always try and learn. I would highly recommend for young people to travel. Before you decide to settle down – travel. Go to England. Go to America. Get as much experience as you can but then form your own ideas. There are always interesting ways of doing things and always interesting things to learn if you are willing to learn them.”

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