DANNY POWER finds that James O’Brien not only has a vision for the Victorian breeding industry, he also is full of enthusiasm.

James O’Brien is a passionate man, and it’s his passion for thoroughbred racing and breeding that has elevated him to the position of president of Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria.

Under O’Brien’s watch, and thanks to the support of a vibrant committee, Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria (TBV) has doubled its membership in the past 12 months. A new website, weekly digital newsletter and a full-time executive officer at Racing Victoria–Ashleigh Mitchell–has propelled TBV to an organisation of greater significance; and there’s much to look forward to, according to O’Brien.

“Victoria’s breeding industry, with its strong state government support and backing from Racing Victoria, is the envy of the other states,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien, who, with his father Kevin, owns Lauriston Thoroughbred Farm, a picturesque broodmare, agistment and training farm at Corinella, near Phillip Island, said he got involved with TBV in an effort to improve the Super VOBIS scheme.

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James O’Brien. Photo by Colin Bull.

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“I’d been in Queensland and experienced the QTIS600 scheme and thought we should do something in Victoria. I was at the Magic Millions and complaining to a mate that Victoria should have a similar extension to its Super VOBIS scheme. He said ‘stop your whingeing. Why don’t you do something about it.’

“So I wrote a paper and presented it to the (TBV) board–mine was called VOBIS Plus–and got good feedback.

“It took a couple of years for it to happen, but it was the support of the then Racing Minister, Dr Napthine (now premier of Victoria), that saw VOBIS Gold launched.”

O’Brien is excited by the prospect of VOBIS Gold bonuses being available for four-year-olds next season.

“There is a perception that Super VOBIS is for two- and three-year-olds, but next year four-year-olds will be racing in the VOBIS Gold series races, and it will continue on each year.”

O’Brien is confident that the Inglis VOBIS Gold Yearling Sale will grow in stature.

“The figures weren’t up on last year despite the fact the yearlings were better, but there were reasons. The sale had strong support from Inglis, Racing Victoria and the breeders, but the buyers just weren’t there,” he said.

“It was held on the Anzac Day weekend when there were 10 race meetings, so trainers didn’t have the time to focus on the yearlings, and the early start on the back of a busy few days also was an issue.

“Some of those issues have been addressed for next year. It will be held a week before Anzac Day weekend and I can see interest in the sale growing.

“The Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale continues to improve. It has been the only yearling sale in Australia to have growth each year since the Global Financial Crisis, and a lot of credit must go to the Victorian breeders and vendors.”

O’Brien sees Victoria’s breeding industry going from strength to strength. “A few years ago, I believe the Victorian representation at the Magic Millions (Gold Coast) was around 4 per cent, this year I understand it has increased dramatically. It’s a tribute to the improvement in the quality of the bloodstock in Victoria.

“Victorian farms have topped the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale in three of the past four years.”

While O’Brien is pleased with the way Victoria’s breeding industry is the most progressive in Australia, he’s keen for ideas that will get more people involved in ownership. “It’s an area we must continue to address. I believe there are potential owners wanting to be part of the industry, but we need to encourage them and make it easier for them to participate.”

If passion and enthusiasm provide a ticket to the racing industry, James O’Brien has bucket loads to share.

Source: Inside Breeding, Inside Racing Sires Supplement 2014

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