Lunar Fox ridden by Michael Dee wins the Kennedy Australian Guineas at Flemington Racecourse on February 27, 2021 in Flemington, Australia. (Scott Barbour/Racing Photos)

Travis Kelly admits that when you’re based near Sale, transporting broodmares to the various studs around the state for a walk-on and walk-out stallion service can more than kill the best part of a day.

Kelly and his family, wife Bec and children Jackson and Brooke, are all part of Kelly Thoroughbreds which specialise in broodmares and prepping for sales.

With the breeding season in full swing, Travis admits he’s busier than ever.

“There’s been a lot of driving,” Kelly said

“Because we are down in Gippsland in Sale every time we go to stud, it’s a four-hour one-way trip or an eight-hour round trip at least.”

“We predominately take our own mares, but we also have a handful of clients’ mares from down this way. We have got about half a dozen of other people’s mares but trying to get in and out has been a bit of a mixed season for the mares.

“There are mares that have not been doing quite what they should be at the moment. We have been getting some good days, and then all of a sudden, it changes, and they sort of go backwards and are not finishing off and cycling properly.

“I think a lot of farmers are finding that at the moment.”

Kelly said once the mares are served, they are then taken home, hopefully in foal to avoid another day-long trip.

But he said with the way some of the mares had been cycling, and they just haven’t been finishing the job off properly.

Kelly said they have 12 of their own mares, and all the progeny are headed to the sales.

They have been using Victorian stallions exclusively.

“We have sent a couple to Blue Point (at Darley), we are very keen on him, we have used Yulong’s Lucky Vega and Tagaloa, and we have a couple booked in at Widden to old Bel Esprit and Doubtland, but those mares aren’t ready yet, and we are just waiting for them to foal down.

“We have got a share in Reward For Effort, so we have been sending a couple there.

“We have been supporting Kermadec (Darley) pretty heavily and Foxwedge (Woodside Park).”

Kelly said they already had foals on the ground this year to Magnus and a few by Foxwedge, which have been bred on the same lines as their Group 1 winner Lunar Fox which they sold as a yearling at the 2019 Melbourne Gold Sale.

He said the mares served by Foxwedge are by Malibu Moon (USA).

They also have a mare in foal by new sire and dual Group 1 winner Russian Revolution.

Kelly said their Group 1 winning mare Cinque Cento (Nothin’ Leica Dane x Laydown Misere) was in foal to Yulong’s Grunt.

“She is an older mare and bit tricky to get into foal, but we got there,” he said.

“We have a few stakes mares in foal to Foxwedge and have also spread them around to Kermadec and Blue Point, which is a stallion I really like. Darley have supported him pretty well, and his fertility is really good, and it’s really enticing with that side of it.”

At this stage, Kelly hopes to offer some of their own yearlings, plus those owned by clients, at next year’s Melbourne Premier.

“We will have six in total, and there is a Frosted, which is a full sister to Symon Wilde’s horse, Timson (Young Love) that goes all right,” Kelly said

“We have a Flying Artie out of Moon De French (Malibu Moon x French Silk). We have another Foxwedge colt out of Tie Me Up (Royal Academy x Convent Girl).”

Kelly said the yearlings owned by clients would arrive at the farm before Christmas to start their preparations for the sales.

He said he was reasonably pleased with the results they achieved at this year’s Melbourne Premier, where they offered three yearlings, where their best result was $80,000 for an Impending filly out of Young Love which was purchased by Moloney Racing at Caulfield.

“It’s always good to have your horses in Melbourne Premier, but if you are not in the top half, you start struggling a bit,” he said.

Kelly Thoroughbreds are proud to be Group 1 winning breeders after selling Lunar Fox (Foxwedge x Grant’s Moon), which won the Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington in February.

They sold him for $40,000 at the Melbourne Gold Yearling Sale after he was previously passed in as a weanling on a $55,000 reserve.

Also, with a Group 2 victory in the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), Lunar Fox has won more than $1 million in prizemoney.

Kelly paid $20,000 for Grant’s Moon (USA), a well-performed mare who won seven races in America, including at listed level. When offered for sale at the 2017 Inglis Great Southern Weanling and Bloodstock Sale by Burnewang North Pastoral, the mare was carrying a Foxwedge foal that would become Lunar Fox.

Grant’s Moon, by Malibu Moon (USA) and out of Grant A Wish (USA), had already had three foals, including the winner of a Wodonga 1400m maiden from eight starts, Dawn’s Fight (Domesday). The mare died last year, and a Frosted filly is the last of her progeny.

Kelly suspects that Australian breeders didn’t necessarily favour the Malibu Moon (A.P. Indy x Macoumba) bloodline.

Malibu Moon was the foundation stallion at Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky.

Unfortunately, the stallion, which was also bred and raced by Hughes, died in May from a reported heart attack.

Kelly’s wife Rebecca is also a Sale based trainer and has Lunar Fox’s unraced, three-year-old half-sister, Luna Effect (Holler), in work.

“We have got another half-sister to Lunar Fox, which is the one by Frosted, and we will also race her ourselves,” he said.

“We took the Frosted to the Gold Sale, and I bought her back. I think she made about 54 grand, but she was a foal share, and I decided at a certain price that we were buying her back anyway.

“She was a foal share with Darley, and if she got up to 80 odd grand, she was probably going, but with the money she was, we’ll just race her ourselves.

“We are comfortable doing that with anything that doesn’t sell. Everything is always put up for sale, and we don’t pick through them. They are all there available.”

Kelly said that it was good that with his wife being a trainer that she would take whatever didn’t sell.

Kelly said his wife has six to eight horses in work at any one time and also breaks them him.

“She does all the work herself,” he said. “she rides all of her own work and all the rest of it.”

Kelly said it was certainly a family affair. Their 14-year-old son Jackson is already helping out at the track, while their 12-year-old daughter Brooke is perhaps the most enthusiastic of them all.

“The pair of them have foaled down mares by themselves when we have been out and stuff like that. It’s not bad for a 14 and 12-year-old being able to foal down a mare.

“It’s a good experience, and they’ll be able to get a job anywhere later on if they need to.”

Kelly said he would continue with the Malibu Moon pedigree as he likes that cross, and he’ll see what it takes them.

 

 

 

 

 

Incentivise ridden by Brett Prebble wins the Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup at Caulfield Racecourse on October 16, 2021 in Caulfield, Australia. (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)

Victorian stallions produced extraordinary results in three of the biggest races on the Melbourne and Sydney racing calendar on Saturday.

The first three placings in the richest race on turf – The Everest (1200m) – were filled by sprinters with Victorian links.

And the Caulfield Cup was won by boom horse Incentivise, who was sired by 2013 Cox Plate winner Shamus Award, now a resident stallion at Rosemont Stud.

There was also Victorian homebred Nonconformist (Rebel Raider x Good Thinking) that finished second in the Cup, taking the gelding’s prize money to $1.53 million.

The Everest winner Nature Strip, who started his racing career at Caulfield, is out of Victorian mare Strikeline (Desert Sun x Strike High) and was sired by Widden Stud’s Nicconi, who has relocated to Victoria.

Masked Crusader, sired by Swettenham Stud’s Toronado, finished second, beaten by a head, while another Victorian homebred, Eduardo (Host x Blushing), was a half neck from the winner.

The weekend’s results have had a huge impact on the latest list of top money earning sires in Australia, with Nicconi becoming the leading sire, Shamus Award fills second spot, and Toronado is fifth.

Shamus Award has now gone past his famous father, Snitzel, on the table.

The top five, as of Monday morning, are:

Data sourced from Arion Pedigrees.

Swettenham Stud principal Adam Sangster said it was a remarkably great day for the Victorian breeding industry, also pointing out that both Nature Strip and Masked Crusader were sold through the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale.

“It was seriously good for all involved,” Sangster said of The Everest trifecta.

“The first two were sold at Inglis Premier, and the next one was a homebred, and it is a testament to Victoria and Victorian breeding.”

In another link with Victorian breeding, Host (Hussonet x Colonna Traiana) who was standing at Swettenham Stud when he sired Eduardo, who started his racing career in Victoria with Cranbourne trainer Sarah Zschoke.

Sangster said Host (CHI) finished his career in South Australia at Ralph Satchell’s Will Grove Stud. The stallion passed away last year.

“Nicconi is by Bianconi who also stood at Swettenham,” Sangster said.

“Bianconi stood at Swettenham all his career, and his best sprinter was Nicconi.”

Sangster said there was a lot of depth in the Victorian breeding industry, and it would continue to thrive.

The original owners and breeders of Eduardo, Victorians Jane Kaufmann and Nick Cresci, retained shares in the horse, which finished down the track in last year’s The Everest when he was sold to a syndicate headed by Sydney trainer Joe Pride.

Cresci and Kauffman went halves in Eduardo’s Fantastic Light (USA) broodmare, Blushing which was in foal to Domesday, when they paid $4000 for her at the 2010 Melbourne March Thoroughbred Sale.

“She was cheap,” Cresci said. “There are definitely no complaints now.”

Cresci said they had an offer to sell the horse last year, and a price was agreed upon, and he kept “a fair share of him”, and Kauffman also retained a share.

“A syndicate was formed, and up he went to Sydney,” he said. “It’s worked out fantastic.”

Eduardo has now won $4.7 million.

Rosemont Stud’s Anthony Mithen said Incentivise’s Caulfield Cup victory was an awesome performance by a horse that people will be still talking about decades from now.

“He seems a special type, and the stallion’s numbers are showing that he is a bit of a special commodity as well,” Mithen said.

“It’s amazing that the Victorian breeding industry has the stallion that provided the Caulfield Cup winner and the stallion that provided The Everest winner, standing in our state.”

Mithen said the Victorian breeding industry was certainly making inroads.

Nature Strip wins the $15 million Everest, followed by Masked Crusader (Toronado) and Eduardo (Host).

Widden Victoria’s Adam Henry agreed that Nicconi’s arrival at the Kerrie stud was great timing for local breeders and said Nature Strip had been a dominant sprinter for a long time and now had 18 wins and was just short of $18 million in prizemoney which was bolstered by last Saturday’s cheque of $6.7 million.

“He has proven himself to be the world’s highest-rated sprinter,” Henry said.

“He is one of 40 stakes horses for Nicconi, so he is not a one-trick pony, and he has been doing a good job for a long time and is a real boost for the Victorian industry to get him down here; as part of Widden’s expansion into Victoria.”

Henry said it was great timing to have the stallion standing in Victoria, and he’d already displayed his prowess in the stallion barn and is something of a one serve special.

“He has been popular, and his fertility is fantastic, and at one stage there, he got 19 out of 20 mares in foal,” he said.

Henry said Nicconi was a great stallion and option for mares being served late in the season that require one cover.

Nicconi has 130 mares booked so far and siring The Everest and the first two-year-old winner of the season, Cavalla (Bella Corona), for Caulfield trainers Mick Price and Mick Kent Jnr, has given the dual Group 1 winner even more prominence.

Henry said Nicconi would continue serving right through to December.

He said it was good to see the Victorian population of broodmares being served by Victorian stallions.

“We want to keep improving the roster here at Widden and keeping those mares in their home state,” Henry said.

It was also a big day for Stockwell Thoroughbreds, with Art Cadeau winning the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko (1200m) at Randwick.

The five-year-old is by Stockwell stallion, Artie Schiller and his first prize of $685,000 on Saturday took the gelding’s prize money to $1.34 million.

Art Cadeau ran down Handle The Truth, who is sired by Widden’s Star Witness, who also now resides in Victoria, to win by a head.

Winning jockey Tommy Berry said he couldn’t believe the noise generated by the crowd of 10,000.

“I haven’t heard anything like it,’’ Berry said.

“I’ve had some pretty big wins at Randwick in my career, but that is as big a cheer as I’ve ever got.

“It just shows you that people have gone through such tough times, not just the racing industry but so many people have had to endure lockdown.”

And despite finishing second in the Caulfield Cup, there were no complaints from Danielle Henwood, whose family bred Nonconformist who was set for the big race last year by trainer Grahame Begg after the gelding won the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes (2400m) at Moonee Valley.

Danielle, who races Nonconformist with her family, said it was sad that the stayer, which has now been sent to the paddock for a spell, would never be replicated after the sire Rebel Raider and the dam Good Thinking both passed away in 2019.

Good Thinking’s last foal, an unraced three-year-old named Undercover Agent (Master of Design), is also owned and bred by the Henwood family, won an 800m trial at Cranbourne last month for Begg.

Nonconformist went into the Caulfield Cup after a first-up sixth in the Group 2 Lawrence Stakes (1400m), fourth in the Group 3 Feehan Stakes (1600m), victory in the Group 3 Federation Cup (2000m) and a nose second to Probabeel in the Might and Power Stakes (2000m).

Danielle, whose late grandfather was Theo Howe, who trained many top jumpers as well as the talented Group winner King Phoenix, said it was unbelievable to get a horse like Nonconformist.

“We tried to create a little bit of a dynasty with the family, and we have only had success with one horse. We own the grand-dam Rowenchelle, and then she had four foals, and Good Thinking (three wins) was the last foal she had.

“We tried to create that little bit of Dynasty, but it didn’t really work, and they were all hacks except for this one.

“Good Thinking won a couple of times and was beaten very narrowly over two starts over a mile and over 1800m at Flemington.”

Danielle said that while Nonconformist, who has now won       $1.5 million, could have run in the Mackinnon Stakes in three weeks, he deserved to head to the paddock.

She said that they were up against the freakish Incentivise and the Caulfield track was heavy, but the plan wasn’t to go and finish a nice 12th.

“The ground wasn’t suitable, but I think it was his class and 51 and a half kilos that sort of got him to the line,” Danielle said.

“We threw around the idea of the Melbourne Cup, but before this preparation, he’d only been to 2400m once – the Mornington Cup – and it was just a bridge too far.

“I wouldn’t say the Melbourne Cup is off the radar, but it’s still a big jump, and not many of them run a solid 3200m.”

Danielle said it was truly amazing to have bred a horse that finished second in the Caulfield Cup behind a “freak.”

“At the end of the day, he is our horse, and it’s just lovely,” she said.

Begg said it was an advantage to send Nonconformist out for a spell during the Spring.

Asked about the possibility of the five-year-old getting the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup, Begg said: “I suppose you don’t know until you try.

“But we will give him a bit more time to mature up a bit more, and he is a five-year-old who has only had 19 starts, and we have been looking after him, not that he has got any issues or things like that. Far from it.”

The Spring is only heating up for Victorian horses, and there is no doubt we will continue to see some history-making results in the weeks to come.

 

*News from Platinum Thoroughbreds Victoria

Platinum Thoroughbreds Victoria- Rene Hoefchen and Sarah Pfeiffer, are deeply saddened beyond words to announce the untimely passing of our resident senior stallion Stryker, Due to natural causes (cardiac arrest).
We would like to thank Seymour Equine Clinic particularly Dr Meredith Platt, for attending so quickly and treating Stryker with the upmost respect and dignity during and after his passing.
Stryker passed in the arms of his owner and handler Rene Hoefchen, (pictured here taking Stryker for a ride) and we take solace in the fact Rene was the last thing Stryker saw. Stryker was lovingly surrounded by Rene and myself and our staff at PTV at the time of his passing, and he was showered in love by everyone.
We express our condolences as well to Basham Thoroughbreds, and Three Bridges Thoroughbreds whom both were an integral part of Strykers life after racing.
Stryker was an exceptional race horse himself and most have heard of him, he shone as a sire and was an honest producer.
Stryker was the sire of over 150 race winners, earning over $11 million in prize money.
We sincerely hope that his legacy lives on through his progeny.
There were 2 positive pregnancy tests to Stryker before his untimely passing, we are fortunate enough that our mare Wildflower is carrying our only Stryker progeny.
Stryker has been laid to rest next to his favourite place, his daily turn out paddock. Overlooking a beautiful dam, as well as one of the foal paddocks.
Rest In Peace Stryker, we love you.
You’ll be sorely missed by all that knew you.
Your box stays empty, your name still on the door, your halter hung up waiting for you to wear it.
And your name still on the feed board and bucket where they’ll stay.
The loss we feel is huge.
Savatoxl after winning the Lexus Schillaci Stakes at Caulfield Racecourse on October 09, 2021 in Caulfield, Australia. (Scott Barbour/Racing Photos)

Gippsland bred Savatoxl is poised to join equine’s million dollar club.

Bred on Sheryl and Mark Atkinson’s Drouin South Angus farm, Carrington Park, the six-year-old gelding made a name for himself in Alice Springs and Darwin before heading to Tony and Calvin McEvoy in Melbourne.

The gelding’s victory on Saturday – the 17th of his career – in the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield has made him a fancied runner in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on Friday, October 22.

Already with a Group 1 victory in this year’s The Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville, the gelding has now won $914,450 in prize money.

It’s not bad for a horse that was unwanted in the 2017 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale. Passed in for $14,000 on a $20,000 reserve, he was sold a couple of months later for $8000 at the VOBIS Gold Sale to the Alice Springs Turf Club who then sold the then colt soon after at the Red Centre Yearling Sale.

The horse was sold in Melbourne through Ryan Arnel’s Stonehouse Thoroughbreds at Eddington and while the colt was by first season sire Kuroshio, he described him as a “smashing type.”

Arnel sold a Brazen Beau colt (Bengal Bandit) out of Savatoxl’s dam Li’l Miss Hayley for the Atkinsons for $380,000 at the 2019 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale. But the now four-year-old gelding has recently left Mick Price’s stables for Lauren Abbott at Eagle Farm.

After deciding to retire from breeding thoroughbreds, the Atkinsons sold Li’l Miss Hayley which has since had a filly to Needs Further and is again due to foal to the stallion.

Alice Springs trainer Will Savage bought Savatoxl, along with locals Bianca and Tyson Gordon, and the gelding had 11 starts at Pioneer Park at Alice Springs where he won his first two races and then won another six on succession, including the Northern Territory Guineas and Chief Minister’s Cup – both over 1600m.

The horse’s final race up the top end before heading to the McEvoy stables was in the 2020 Darwin Cup (2050m) when he finished sixth.

Savage recalled this week that Savatoxl wasn’t a big, strong yearling but was a nice type and well put together.

“He had a good walk, straight legs and all that sort of stuff and he had good breeding and was out of a good mare,” he said.

“Li’l Miss Haley had thrown a few winners before him and that was good enough because we were looking at Alice Springs and not the big stuff.

“He was good enough and right from the word go he started showing potential, even as a green two-year-old and he get stronger and better the longer he went.”

Savage said that when he studied Savatoxl’s breeding he wasn’t really looking at his sire Kuroshio but more so his sire, Exceed and Excel, and the dam’s sire line.

He said the $18,000 he paid for Savatoxl was the biggest price of the eight yearlings offered in the Red Centre Sale.

“It was probably a big price for up here in Alice Springs,” Savage said.

“Usually $10,000 or $12,000 is tops.”

Savage laughed about the horse now being a cheap buy.

“You can say that again,” he said.

“In Alice Springs we were hoping he could win a Guineas or something like that or a $35,000 race which he did and broke the track record.

“The only reason we went for those longer races in Alice Springs is because that’s where the money was and we knew we had that above average horse and just chased that little bit of extra prize money.”

Savage said there was no need to race the gelding over longer distances as he’d proven himself at the ultimate level as a sprinter, but he still thinks he is a 1400m horse.

He said Tony McEvoy said he is 1200m horse and is happy as long as he is winning.

Savage said Savatoxl’s name was pronounced Sava-to-excel.

“Kuroshio is by Exceed and Excel that’s where the xl comes from and sava is from Li’l Miss Harvey’s father Savabeel, plus sava is short for Savage which is us,” he said.

“There is bit of a double meaning with the sires put together, a little bit of them and then it was me.‘’

Savage said they were looking forward to the Manikato Stakes, a race Savatoxl been set for and the Schillaci Stakes was just a sort of a “pipe opener for the big one.”

In his postrace interview, Tony McEvoy marvelled at Savatoxl’s 17th win.

 

“What a culture that is,” he said.

 

“Gee we’re excited to having him back as well as that. 

 

“Before, he was doing everything so easily that I thought he may have just needed it.

 

“That was a strung out race. They went very quick and it just shows how tough he is.”

 

McEvoy recalled his first race with Savatoxl was in the Balaklava Cup (1600m).

 

“He ran third and ran very well but just didn’t run out the mile. He came to me in such great order and in form.

 

“We tried a couple of times at 1400 but at this level I knew that he needed up to 1200 metres max and he’s turned out a great short course horse.

 

“The guys in ‘Alice’ had such great faith in this horse and I was pleased that they made the phone call to send him down to us.”

 

Savatoxl wasn’t the only headline act for Victorian breeders and studs on Saturday.

 

The Burnewang North bred Lombardo (I Am Invincible x Swinging Babe) won his third consecutive race for trainers Mick Price and Mick Kent Jnr when the gelding scored in the listed Village Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield last Saturday.

                 

The five-year-old has now won six races and had one third from 10 starts.

 

He raced in partnership with Burnewang North’s Cathy Hains and went into the race on the back of a four-length win at Moonee Valley and a win at Morphettville.

 

Lombardo will also be aimed at the 1200m Manikato Stakes, according to co-trainer, Price.

 

“This was the build-in to a possible run in the Manikato. Why not?” Price said in his postrace interview.

“He handled Moonee Valley; he likes to get his toe in. That’s not the case today but he does like to get his toe in.

“13 days to the Manikato, why not? He can run along, he’s got a big stride. He doesn’t have to be ridden off the speed, he’s versatile but he’s a first three or four type horse.

“I think it is great for Cathy Hains. She went into bat for her own horse and said ‘I’ll take him home to my property and spell it for three months for nothing’, and hence it has got her colours on so I’m very happy for her. She backed her horse.”

 Asked about progressing to the Manikato, Price said: “You’ve got to progress, don’t you. I know he only won a benchmark 84 there but I think given the horse handles Moonee Valley it is worth it.”

The victory of Aim in the Silver Eagle (1300m) at Randwick on Saturday gave breeders a reminder of his sire Star Witness which has relocated from New South Wales to stand at Widden’s Victorian operation. Nicconi has also relocated from NSW.

Aim, out of Vintage Strike, has now won four races from 16 starts and has $1.6 million in prize money which will increase significantly if he can share in the spoils of the $7.5 million Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill on October 30.

It was high fives all round for Rosemont Stud’s Anthony Mithen and Nigel Austin when Sneaky Five when the Group 3 Thoroughbred Stakes (1200m) at odds of $26 at Caulfield on Saturday.

Unbeaten in her three starts, the three-year-old Fastnet Rock filly has just pushed past $1 million in prizemoney, picking up $302,000 in the Inglis Banner (1000m) at Moonee Valley last October and then $581,000 at her next start in the Golden Gift (1100m) at Rosehill.

While the $120,750 Sneak Five picked up at Caulfield on Saturday can be described as loose change compared to her first two pay cheques, it pushed her beyond the $1 million mark by $3,750.

Rosemont paid $305,000 for Sneaky Five (Fastnet Rock x Small Minds) at the 2020 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale.

After the first win, Rosemont’s Anthony Mithen said the filly had impressed them since the first day they saw her at Melbourne Premier in the Goldin Farms draft.

“We were lucky enough to have one extra bullet to fire over the top of Brae Sokolski who was at $300,000 and we had marked her at $300,000 too but thought bugger it, what’s an extra five grand,” he said at the time.

“We had a sneaky extra five on her and that’s where the name came from.”

Trainer David Eustace, who trains in partnership with Ciaron Maher, admitted that they didn’t expect her performance at Caulfield.

 

“She was obviously a long time off the track and the team have done a great job just to get her back and firing.

 

“To be honest, we really didn’t expect that. She is a bit of a sleeper at home. She’ll come on plenty for it.

 

“She just didn’t come up in the spring in her work and she had quite a tough spring campaign as a two-year-old. She ran two races and won on a wet track. We made the decision to give her a good long break.

 

“She went to the farm at Rosemont who have been really supportive the whole way through. They allowed us to take our time and tell us when she’s ready. She proved that she is and she is going to kick on from there.”

 

Sneaky Five hadn’t raced since her Golden Gift victory in November of 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

The relocation of Rodney and Tammy Notman’s Northmore Thoroughbreds from Elphinstone, near Kyneton, to Murchison has allowed the husband and wife team to add to their horse interests.
As well as pin hooking and preparing yearlings for the big sales, including Melbourne Premier, the couple have bought broodmares in foal over the past months.
They have had their property, which is near Nagambie for two years, but have been living there for the past 12 months.
And like their horses, they also thriving at their new farm.
“It’s going good,” Notman said. “We have four foals on the ground and we are traveling okay and we are getting ready for Premier.”
They have three on the Northmore Thoroughbreds books. Another two are owned by Tammy and two of her friends, Fiona Pengelly and Tianie Storey, who and breed the foals under the name of Golden Girls Thoroughbreds.
The five mares have already produced foals this season by some exceptional stallions.
“We have had a Toronado, a Written By, a Street Boss, a Magnus and a Pierata is still to come,” Notman said.
“We have just tried to keep a bit of a mix and bought a few mares this year which is something new for us.
“My wife and her two friends have a couple of mares which they bred from last year and with the Northmore Thoroughbreds brand, and we have bought three broodmares which were in foal to Toronado, Written By and the Pierata.”
After buying the mare in foal to Toronado and another two mares in Sydney, Notman is hoping that that they have bought well.
“With the Toronado, we only had to wait six weeks and I had a foal,” he said.
“We looked around and bought them and have never really done that ourselves and we have only really bought weanlings and prepped for other people.”
The three mares are Kyria (Encosta De Lago x Rhema) which is due to foal to Pierata; Satinka (Stravinsky x Miss Saigon) which has had a Written By filly and Salonika (Galileo x Saloon) had a Toronado filly.
With the Golden Girls, they bought the unraced Ocean Cruise (Akeed Mofeed x Ocean Dream) online last year in foal to Lean Mean Machine which produced a filly which will be put through the Premier sale. The mare has foaled to Street Boss.
“She has had a chestnut colt and he is a real belter,” Tammy said.
“We bought the mare in foal for $15,000 and she is half to Amphitrite (Sebring).
“The Lean Mean Machine filly is pretty strong and I think we have done quite all right getting her into foal to Street Boss.”
Amphitrite, who won on the Group Thousand Guineas and the Group 2 Edward Manifold Stakes, was sold to Japanese interests last year.
The Golden Girls’ other broodmare is Moet Rose which was actually bred by Tammy and Rodney.
The seven-year-old mare is by Bel Esprit and won three races, including a dead heat at Sandown over 1200m.
“She has had a Magnus filly this year,” she said.
And Rodney said the Bel Esprit mare cross with Magnus is about 85 per cent winners to runners.
They plan to head to Melbourne Premier with their horses, but they could also offer a couple of them as weanlings.
“We don’t know yet,” he said.
“They’ll probably go to premier next year but we’ll just see how they turn out.”
Notman said they were extremely happy with the prices they achieved for clients at this year’s Melbourne Premier Sale, highlighted by a $340,000 sale for a Capitalist x Grand Gesture colt and $240,000 for an All Too Hard x Sherbet Bomb colt and $150,000 for a Written Tycoon x Spot The Diff colt.
They will be offering 12 yearlings at next year’s Melbourne Premier.
Notman said they wanted to restrict their yearlings to 10 to 12 as they do the preparations themselves and don’t have any staff.
“We want to get them as good as we can get them and then you have no excuses and you are giving people every chance of turning out a really good horse,” he said.
“I don’t want to get where there are 20 or 30 of them and you lose control of them.
“I am a farrier by trade but Tammy and I put in for that three or four months and at the time you are getting a bit tired and all that but at the end of the day you will see the end result and it keeps you going for the next year.”
Notman’s long list of clients where he does farrier work includes Seymour Park, Springmount, Cityview Farm and Shadow Hill Thoroughbreds.
He said they are still building and establishing facilities on their farm.
Notman said they had out grown their previous 15 acre farm near Kyneton, but their Murchison property is 45 acres and irrigated.
“This is going to be purpose-built for what we want,” he said.
“We have got 12 boxes and a big barn and we are just trying to do a little bit as we can do it and have it as good as we can get it.
“The weather is much nicer up here. I go down to the Macedon Ranges for my work and there is no comparison and I should have done it years ago.
“You might get a bit of rain, but today they are lying out in the sun.”
When the Notmans moved to the property, it had previously been used for some cattle and sheep, and there was an old dairy.
“Tammy and I ripped down all the fences and we have done the whole lot,” Notman said.
“It has got all new fences and new barn, everything is new.”
They continue to pin hook and this year have three colts and two fillies which will also head to Melbourne Premier. They include progeny by Toronado, Written By, Starspangledbanner and Shalaa.
He has been given filly by The Autumn Sun which will be prepped for the sale and yearlings include a Shamus Award, two by Lean Mean Machine.
“We are pretty full,” Notman said.
But they couldn’t be happier as they see their results of hard work.

Let’s face it, this industry can be a harsh mistress and only Black Caviar escapes with no breaks in the picket fence. That said, Victorian racehorse owner and breeding tragic, Ken Dean, was one lucky fella.

The first horse he ever owned was Love Bandit who won a Brisbane Cup and finished third behind Beldale Ball in the 1980 Melbourne Cup.

No doubt wondering ‘how long this had been going on for’, his second horse was Lady Ice, who won two stakes races, including the Kilmore Cup.

Somewhat emboldened, Ken thought he’d have a crack at the breeding caper and decided to buy two mares, Silent Squaw and Toolern Gold – both of them in foal. The resultant progeny became Golden Twig, a 2YO stakes winner on Oaks Day and the Group 3 Tranquil Star at three, while the other was aptly named, Touch of Genius, winner of a Blue Diamond Prelude as a juvenile before capturing the (now Group 1) Manikato Stakes later that year.

Unfortunately, it’s not a strike rate that can be maintained forever and Ken had his share of misfires in the four decades hence, but it’s definitely a start many an owner would offer up anatomy to replicate.

Sadly, Ken Dean couldn’t outrun the ultimate handicapper and died earlier this month at the age of 82, leaving behind long-time partner, Cathy Webb, three children and four grandchildren from his first marriage, and a host of good friends.

Ken was born in Richmond and, not surprisingly, became a lifelong Tigers fan. In fact, he showed some toe early on but a serious heart condition – diagnosed as a teenager – curtailed his blossoming footy career. His brother, Roger, however would go on to captain Richmond when they captured the flag in 1969.

Becoming a successful property developer, Ken would soon turn his eye to the neddies and as earlier stated, enjoyed a fair amount of success.

Ken purchased Tara Vale Stud at Monegeetta where he stood, initially, the imported stallion, Rustic Amber who produced just the seven stakes winners but three of them – Brawny Spirit, Rustic Dream and Marstic – all won Group 1s while Sequalo was a bloody good sprinter and subsequently the sire of dual Group 1 winner and leading sire, Spirit of Boom.

A downturn in the industry in the 1990s saw the closure and sale of Tara Vale, but Ken retained an interest in his stallions and, if anything, stepped up the pace.

By the mid 90s, he and Cathy – and Cathy’s mum, Merle, formed the Victorian Stallion Partnership – which managed the stud careers of stallions like Lacryma Cristi (whose first runner, Desert Angel, won the Listed Debutante Stakes), West Point, Special Bond, Estambul, Masterpiece, North Reef, Portland Pirate, Legion and Seul Amour.

However, believing that the market no longer really catered for their type of stallion, Ken and Cathy pulled up stumps on the Victoria Stallion Partnership in 2010.

Sure, they were never the top end of town, but define top end? After all, there were a lot of breeders who bred a lot of winners by those stallions, and usually, the only difference in life-changing celebrations is the price of the cork.

Although there would be no ‘super’ sales, Ken was quite proud of topping the Victorian weanling sales on a couple of occasions and, indeed, his last major hurrah was a foal he and Cathy sold for $70,000 at the 2015 Great Southern. That weaner – Sopressa – went on to win the Group 1 Schweppes Oaks in Adelaide and over $700,000 in stakes.

A lot of people new to the industry are probably unaware of Ken, but he really was quite the character and for this scribe at least, always a welcome sight at the sales or track. He had a genuine passion for the industry – for life generally – and could bend your ear at times, but such enthusiasm can be infectious.

His ‘advice’ might not have provided me with a Brisbane Cup winner, but I never lost from a chat with Ken. Always good for a laugh.

Ken forged many close friendships during his time in the breeding industry: the Johnsons at Ealing Park, the Butlers and Burleys at Rangal, Don and Elizabeth Byrne at Eldon, Nev Murdoch at Larneuk, Barb Ivill from Little Plains …

Cathy will be holding a memorial ‘celebration’ for Ken early in the new year – after COVID restrictions have lifted – and if you’re interested in attending, you can get hold of Cathy on 03 9736 9425 or cheveley@bigpond.com.

Written by Greg Tobin.

Seven-month-old Dotty, the bull terrier pup, thought she’d made a friend for life when despite her tender age, she adopted a motherly attitude to an orphaned foal.

Cranbourne trainer and veteran picnic rider Dani Walker bred the Anacheeva filly from Sequins ‘N’ Lace (Danbird x Sequin Encounter), but the mare died giving birth to the foal on September 27.

With the demands of three hourly bottle feeds as Walker attempted to find a foster mare, Dotty at times must have thought she was the mum or at the very least some sort of protector to the foal.

“She took an instant liking to the foal and was obsessed with the filly foal from the moment she first came across her,” Walker said

“She would not let her go into the box without being two steps behind her, and as soon as we’d open the sliding door to the house, she’d be straight up to the stables.

“She’d sit on a bale of hay outside the stables waiting for me to open the stable so she could go in and check on her.

“The foal was quite happy to have a mate, and it didn’t matter that it was only a foot tall.”

The little love affair between puppy and foal only lasted ten days after Walker accepted a kind offer of a foster mare from Tarcoola Stud on the Mornington Peninsula.

“Dotty wasn’t too happy because she was wondering where her friend went, and my daughter, Zoey, who named the foal Nayvy, also wasn’t too convinced it was such a great idea,” Walker said.

“We managed to get a mum from Tarcoola Stud and mated them up a few days ago, and they are still going great guns.”

Walker said after bottle feeding the foal and being on its own for so long, and she started to doubt whether they’d find a new mum and then there was the threat of rejection.

Local vet Hugh Cathels alerted Walker to the possibility of a foster mare, which had lost her colt, at Tarcoola Stud.

“We put a call out for a foster mare and had a couple of inquiries, but the first one was from up at Glen Eden, but I was sceptical sending her away because she had a droopy bottom lip, so I didn’t want to want to send her away too far where I couldn’t keep an eye on her,” Walker said

“It took her a few days for the lip to come right and for her to be going okay. Through no fault of anyone or anything else, it was just that I was pretty concerned with her, but she was okay.

“We had to nasal tube her for the first couple of feeds because of that lip, and I didn’t want to send her too far away.

“When this one came through, the timing was spot on, and low and behold, it worked.”

Walker said the foal would stay at Tarcoola until she is ready to be weaned or whatever works for the stud.

“She is happy down there, and it’s a beautiful set-up,” Walker said.

“They have offered to keep her there and said the only expense you’ll have is any farrier fees. They are just lovely people, and I couldn’t have been more fortunate if I had have asked for a better outcome.”

It was a rewarding experience to see the foal finally swap the bottle for the mare’s teat.

“We had to duck up the street and buy a bottle and milk the mum,” Walker said.

“They poured some of mum’s milk over the foal when we got there, but they didn’t have a bottle, and I’d left my sitting on the post near where we loaded the float, so we went and grabbed a bottle from the shops.

“We put some milk in the bottle and showed her how to find mum’s milk bar courtesy of following the bottle, so once we did that, we were pretty right.

“The mare just took to her. It was amazing. She was just lovely.”

Tarcoola Stud’s Alan Warry said the mare and foal had bonded well.

He said there was a good percentage of mares that adopt an orphan foal.

“You just have to know what you’re doing,” Warry said.

Warry said it probably took about three hours to get the foal on the mare’s teat. But (new) mum and foal are doing well.

After being sleep deprived with those three hourly bottle feeds, Walker said it was “wonderful” to try to fit in some track work.

It’s been a tough time for the Walker family in recent months. Dani’s mother Karen, a Cranbourne trainer who bred the orphan foal’s dam, Sequin ‘N’ Lace, died suddenly last December, aged 66.

“We lost mum the week before Christmas last year. So it’s been a bit of a tricky year,” Walker said.

Sequins ‘N’ Lace, which beat eventual Adelaide Cup winner Purple Smile in a 1950m maiden at Yarra Glen, was leased to fellow Cranbourne trainer Noni Shelton.

Walker said the mare had ability but was hampered by soundness issues. The mare’s half-brother Secret Sequin (Zuberi) won at Sandown for Karen and Dani.

The orphaned foal has a full Anacheeva sister who is currently at the breakers.

“Mum liked her so much that we sent the mare back to Anacheeva,” she said. Anacheeva stands at Riverbank Farm, Benalla.

At the moment, Dani only has one horse at work, and another two are at the breakers.

Walker breeds from mares Let It Go (Shinzig x True Spark), which has a Von Costa De Hero colt and is ready to again foal to the stallion.

Another mare is Nev’s Nevella (Dieu D’Or x True Spark), a Wayed Zain colt.

She also breeds from Sequin Delight (Lago Delight x Sequin Express), which dates back decades to her grandfather, former trainer, Des Walker’s mares – including Lady Sequin (Silver Rocks), Street of Roses (Tolerance) and Lomonic (Rhythymonic).

“They are mum and grandad’s original breed,” she said.

“Grandad originally bought Lady Sequin around 1951, and we thought we were going to lose the breed, but we got a filly out of Sequin Delight last year, and it’s only the second live foal we have had; out; of her, and it’s by Anacheeva.”

Karen was only 17 when she strapped Sandsequin (Sandastre x Lady Sequin) for her father in the 1971 Melbourne. The horse finished 12th.

Sequin Delight’s fist foal, Sequin Legacy (Zuberi), is a six-year-old gelding that has raced three times but is unplaced.

“I named him three or four days after we lost mum,” Walker said.

“Mum and I used to try to breed a couple of our own because we felt that commercially they weren’t viable to sell on or anything, so if we bred and raced them ourselves, it gave us a bit of interest and something to do, and we loved doing it.

“The ones that didn’t make it onto the track, we’ve had a couple of them rehomed and re-educated.

“One of the Sequin horses, his name was Sequin Dancer (Campo Catino x Sequin Express), was one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden, but he slipped down in the float and put his back foot through his front leg.

“He ended up with 40 odd stitches down his cannon bone. But, he was just stunning and ended up being a magnificent show horse and a charming model.”

Walker said the stunning black gelding was a horse model for the Ferrari commercials and a model for the Pierre Cardin commercials and appeared in photoshoots in the Herald Sun and other companies.

He has his own Facebook page – Quinn The Superhorse.

 

 

Incentivise ridden by Brett Prebble wins the TAB Turnbull Stakes at Flemington Racecourse on October 02, 2021 in Flemington, Australia. (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)

It was a case of winners all around the country for Victorian based stallions in stakes races last Saturday as it reinforced the quality of sires on offer in the state.

Victorian stallions produced eight stakes’ winners on Saturday, including two at Listed level and one each at Group 2 and 3.

They won three of the four Group 1 races on offer across Australia.

And at the Australian home of racing – famed Flemington – Danny O’Brien started the day off in fine style when El Patroness won the listed Super Impose Stakes (1800m).

O’Brien, in partnership, bred the filly by Rosemont Stud’s Shamus Award which O’Brien trained to victory in the Cox Plate.

Still A Star pushed her earnings toward $1 million with her seventh stakes win, this time in the Group 2 Rose Of Kingston Stakes (1410m).

The mare is by Swettenham Stud’s leading stallion, Toronado (IRE).

Boom horse Incentivise gave Shamus Award another Group 1 winner when the five-year-old gelding took out the Turnbull Stakes (2000m). The gelding is $2.25 favourite for the Caulfield Cup.

The raid on Randwick began early on Saturday afternoon when the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace trained Coolangatta won the Group 3 Gimcrack Stakes (1000m). The two-year-old filly, by Yulong’s Written Tycoon, won on debut.

Toronado got another winner, this time at Group 3 level when the Gilgai Farm bred Masked Crusader won the Premier Stakes (1200m) for Team Hawkes.

And Victorian sires Al Maher and Kermadec each produced a Group 1 winner in successive races at Randwick. Stockwell Thoroughbred’s Al Maher had Private Eye winning the Epsom Handicap (1600m), while Darley stallion Kermadec’s Montefilia won Group 1 Metropolitan (2400m). Trained by David Payne, the four year-old mare gave Hugh Bowman his 100th Group 1 win.

The Victorian stallions weren’t finished yet with Stockwell producing another stakes victory with Living The Dream winning the listed Kalgoorlie Cup (2200m) for breeder John Richards who also races the six-year-old entire.

While three of Victoria’s premier stallions – Written Tycoon, Shamus Award and Toronado – all produced big winners, it was a huge achievement by Stockwell Thoroughbreds to produce a Group 1 winner and a stakes winner by their only two stallions.

Stockwell’s Mike Becker said it was always a bonus to pick-up a Group 1 because they were so difficult to win.

“It was a thrill and I probably got as much of a thrill from winning the Kalgoorlie Cup because the mare, Dreamwinner, has been with us since she first went to stud and she is a lovely mare,” Becker said.

“Living The Dream was reared on the farm and it obviously gives you a thrill and John has been a loyal client to us for a lot of years and that always gives you a big thrill.”

Becker said while things can change quickly, as of Monday Al Maher is 11th on the general sires list which had been helped by having one big race winner.

“But when you analyse his lack of numbers, he has got a third of the runners of the horses above him, or more, but he has got a higher percentage of runners to winners than all of those above him,” he said.

“We are talking the likes of the I Am Invincibles, The Written Tycoons the Snitzels and all of those. While he has got a higher percentage of runners to winners to them, he is a fraction of their price.’’

Now with five Group 1 winners, Becker said not a lot would change in Al Maher’s life after the stallion served 30 mares last year on an $8800 service fee.

Becker said while they’d love to have more interest in the two stallions, they don’t expect it and the reality is they are breeding racehorses with the two stallions and sadly are no breeding sales horses any more.

“But that is the reality of the world and we understand that,” he said.

“If someone wants to breed themselves a racehorse with a 70 per cent chance of breeding a winner, you’d go to either one of them.

“The downside is very limited and the upside clearly isn’t.

“The two stallions between them have had over 90 stakes wins. Al Maher had his 36th on Saturday, and Artie Schiller had his 55th.”

Becker said Dreamwinner had just produced a full sister to Living The Dream, but would probably go to a more commercial stallion this season so Richards had something to sell in a couple of years.

The mare’s first foal (Arties Dreamwinner), also bred and raced by Richards, was by Artie Schiller and won five races, including at Morphettville and Canterbury.

“John had two runners last week and they were both by Artie Schiller and they both bolted  in and the other one was Marketing that won at Kilmore and he is very good horse if they can keep him right,” Becker said.

Becker said both his stallions probably wouldn’t get more than 40 mares each this season.

To view the quality VOBIS Sires which are on offer in Victoria, click here.

 

You could be forgiven for thinking that to be within the top 20 stallions on the General Sires list, that you would need to have an army of runners and a five-figure service fee to boot.

But after the weekend, it was Private Eye winning the Group 1 Epsom Stakes who took his sire, Al Maher, to just outside of the top 10 stallions on the General Sires list from a modest 47 runners for 15 winners and the lowest service fee behind the top 10 stallions.

Sitting just behind Australia’s Champion sire, Written Tycoon, for the 2020/21 season by less than $200,000, Al Maher’s progeny have amassed $1,568,740 million in earnings this racing season.

To put this into perspective, Written Tycoon has had 161 runners for 40 winners.

Al Maher, who has now been standing at Stockwell Thoroughbreds for the last 3 years, stands for a service fee of $8,800.

Private Eye, who now has earned over $1.4 million in prizemoney and has won three stakes races, including the Group 1 Epsom Stakes to add to his impressive resume on Saturday, has highlighted once again why Al Maher is a proven stallion at a highly affordable fee.

“It is really exciting for us to see another one of his horses get a Group 1 winner. As a stallion farm, that is the ultimate in your business, and Private Eye’s win now brings Al Maher to 5 Group 1 winners,” Mike Becker, of Stockwell Thoroughbreds, commented.

“We are definitely only seeing the start of Private Eye’s success on the track, and Joe (Pride) has done a fabulous job at targeting races for him, and we saw the result on Saturday,” Mike said.

Al Maher’s other Group 1 winners include Diamond Drille, winner of the ATC Queen of the Turf Stakes, Almalad, the winner of the BRC JJ Atkins Stakes and multiple Group 1 winner, Delicacy, who won the South Australian Oaks and Derby winner.

“He is an under-utilised, under-valued stallion for his results. His runner to winner ratio has always been very high, and he is an all-rounder, he can get 2YOs who can sprint, or he can get horses who can run like Delicacy, who is an Oaks and a Derby winner. Delicacy was also the Champion 3YO in Australia in her time,” Mike said.

“Al Maher is able to get class racehorses, and he is what I call a no-risk horse for a breeder who wants to breed a horse to run.

The success strike rate of both stallions says you’ve got a 70% chance you will breed a winner. I can’t imagine too many other guarantees like that, especially given he has never had a huge book of mares. He has always achieved at a high level while flying under the radar.

He is working particularly well this season, and his first few mares have tested in foal. He is such a laid-back, relaxed horse. He is just a beautiful animal,” Mike commented.

With Australian progeny earnings over $47 million and 5% stakes winners to runners, the stats highlight that Al Maher produces a genuine, honest racehorse for the track.

“There are not many stallions who have achieved those numbers, and it definitely puts Al Maher in elite company,” Mike enthused.

“We are very much in the business of breeding racehorses who can win, the results speak for themselves, and the stats back them up. It is as good as you are going to get, and you are not risking everything when breeding to Al Maher,” Mike said.

Al Maher wasn’t the only Stockwell stallion flying the flag on Saturday. Artie Schiller had Living The Dream, who won the Listed Kalgoorlie Cup.

Born and raised at Stockwell, Living The Dream also puts his sire in very rare company, given this latest win is the 55th stakes win for Artie Schiller.

“The two stallions between them have had over 90 stakes wins. Al Maher had his 36th on Saturday, and Artie Schiller had his 55th.

Living The Dream’s mother lives here on the farm, and she is a beautiful mare who foaled down a full sister to Living The Dream ten days ago. Living The Dream’s win on the weekend also gives me great satisfaction.

The longevity of the racehorses which these stallions produce running on until they are 8, 9, 10 years old, mean that breeders stay in the game for longer and are able to continue to breed and have some fun on the track,” Mike said.

“There is very little financial downside to breeding to stallions such as Al Maher and Artie Schiller, and as Private Eye is proving, there is no limit to the potential upside.

Al Maher and Artie Schiller are the perfect examples of proven stallions producing genuine results on the track,” Mike commented.

Artie Schiller stands for $11,000 this season, and Al Maher stands for $8,000.

To discuss a booking with either Al Maher or Artie Schiller, you can contact Mike Becker on 0412 538 155 or Brodie Becker on 0437 788 434. You can also view more about Stockwell Thoroughbreds at www.stockwellthoroughbreds.com.au/

 

Our Boy Bryan ridden by Arron Lynch wins the Ladbrokes Bet Ticker Maiden Plate at Moonee Valley Racecourse on October 01, 2021 in Moonee Ponds, Australia. (Scott Barbour/Racing Photos)

Young Cranbourne trainer Jack Laing brought up his first city winner with a horse that he rescued from the bushfires which ripped through Bunyip and surrounds, destroying 29 homes and 14,500 hectares of land in 2019.

The horse – Our Boy Bryan – was only eight weeks old and still on his mother, Divine Beauty, when lighting strikes in the Bunyip State Park sparked a ferocious bushfire.

Laing received an SOS from the breeder of Our Boy Bryan, Dorothy Hodge, who feared the fires would destroy her Bunyip property and all the horses on it.

The 71-year-old Hodge is a well-known breeder of Arabians and operates Salah Arabian Stud and dabbles in the breeding and racing of the occasional thoroughbred.

When the fires hit, Laing and his father, Group 1-winning trainer Robbie, along with horse breaker/trainer Shane Bottomley, headed to Hodge’s property with a convoy of trucks and a horse float to rescue Hodge’s horses.

Along with Our Boy Bryan and his mum, the trio rescued another 15 horses from Hodge’s property, including her much loved Arabians.

Laing, who spells his horses at her property, recalls how he got a distressed phone call from Hodge as the fires crept closer to her house.

“We went out there with a couple of trucks and she breds Arabs as well and we threw them all on the trucks,” he said.

“It got pretty hairy and by the time we got up to Bryan and his mother, we thought we’d leave the hard ones to last, and he was only a couple of months old or so and was a big, strong bugger and a bit cheeky.

“There was ash falling on us at that stage and the fences were on fire so it was pretty hairy actually.

“We finally got Bryan on the float after he punched on with us a bit and he has always been a big brute of a horse and as we drove off, the fences were burning and there were a few grass fires.

“Half an hour later Dorothy called back and said the wind had changed. It was one of those things and if we had have waited for the wind and it didn’t change, they would have been in a lot of trouble.”

In agreeance, Hodge recalls what a “handful” Our Boy Bryan was to get onto the float when the horses were being evacuated.

“It was a job and a half for Jack and Shane, who is a big man, to get him onto the float,” she said.

“The whole placed was covered in burnt leaves and things. I was in Sydney and had to make a dash home and it was a bit scary. I was going to stay (after the horses evacuated) but my son Shaun said ‘you are not’ so I took all of my house cats and the dog to a friend in Pakenham. I landed on her doorstep with six cats.”

Hodge said she returned the next day not knowing whether her house would be still standing, but luckily it escaped damage.

Hodge is good friend of Sydney jockey-turned-trainer Gerald Ryan, and it was he who gave her his nomination to the Group 3-winning Unencumbered (Testa Rossa x Blizzardly), who stood at Three Bridges Thoroughbreds in Eddington. Our Boy Bryan is from the stallion’s last crop before his untimely death in March 2018.

Hodge said the last city winner she had was Bit of Grace (Bit of A Skite x Cushina), a mare she bred, which won at Sandown and Moonee Valley in 1985 and was ridden by Gerald. Her full sister, Bit Of Hope, was also a dual city winner.

“The funny that is that Gerald rode that one (Bit Of Grace) and we have been friends for 47 years,” Hodge said.

“He gave me the breeding service to Unencumbered which is why Gerald’s daughter Tai is also an owner. It was a lovely thing of him to give me the nomination and it was very much appreciated.”

Like Our Boy Bryan, Divine Beauty and her dam, Love The Sun, who was by 1986 Sydney Cup winner Marooned, all have the same colouring of chestnut with a white face.

Hodge had previously bred three foals, all by Happy Giggle (Rory’s Jester x Sorority) which she used to agist at her property, out of Our Boy Bryan’s dam, Divine Beauty (Don’t Say Halo).

Only one of the Happy Giggle foals, True Desire, made it to the track, but the filly won a race and was placed twice from 10 starts.

“I have bred Arabian horses all my life and this sounds silly, but I have had a gut feeling about this horse (Our Boy Bryan) since he was born,” he said.

Hodge said she formerly stood multiple Group winner Bit Of A Skite (Showoff x Gold Vink) at her property after she used to agist the stallion for Epsom trainer Owen Lynch.

“I have been here on the property for 47 years and I still spell racehorses,” she said.

“Over the years I have only probably raced half a dozen horses and the half-sister to (Our Boy) Bryan won a race for Shea Eden and I had two more Happy Giggles out of the mare (Divine Beauty), and I’ve still got one at home as she got injured.

“The one before Bryan (Remember Owen) was an absolute cracker but he had bone cyst and was permanently lame and had to put down unfortunately.”

Divine Beauty had her first of four foals in 2009 but has had nine seasons when she wasn’t served. Before Our Boy Bryan, the mare went three seasons without being served and another two seasons after he was born.

The mare is 19 years old, but Hodge’s son Shaun is now keen to put her back in the breeding barn after Our Boy Bryan’s win.

“Divine Beauty was given to me, and she has had a good home and she’ll be here until she dies,” said Hodge.

Hodge was also the strapper for Our Boy Bryan and says it’s something she has been doing since she used to take days off from high school to work at the races.

While she hasn’t bred a lot of thoroughbreds, it’s a different story with the Arabians.

“I have bred a hell of a lot, including Australian champions and really top horses and if you look at Bryan’s colours, there is an Arabian horse on the front and back,” she said.

“He has got purple colours with a white Arabian horse which is my stud logo.”

Laing wasn’t surprised with the big odds of three-year-old Our Boy Bryan at Moonee Valley on Friday night – he started at $19 – after he was third on debut and followed it up with a second at Cranbourne before tackling the city assignment at his third start.

“I think going from Cranbourne to Moonee Valley and it was my only second metropolitan runner, and I hadn’t had a city winner or many winners at all, I dare say that would have equated to the odds,” he said.

“I’m learning wisely and it’s a very fickle game and if you don’t train 10 Group 1 winners in your first 10 starters you go to the bottom of the pack.

“I have only trained two winners but I guess I have taken a different approach compared to others. If you don’t inherit a bunch of good horses from a big stable then people generally go and buy tried horses online to try and drop their grade and sneak a few wins out of them.

“I went and bought about 10 or 15 yearlings and that’s why there has been a bit of a delay. I guess the fruits will come shortly as there is a few I’ve got that are ready to go and there are some good ones there.

“There are a few I bought online and from breeze ups. I have got a Tosen Stardom colt that is a year younger than (Our Boy) Bryan and has worked with him and has run rings around him. I also have a Divine Prophet filly that looks pretty good.

“They will be coming to fruition from now until early year.”

A plumber by trade, Laing now has 18 horses in work.

Laing hopes the Tosen Stardom colt out of an Octagonal mare – they hope to name it Belgium Black – will be the next Laing family Derby winner.

Our Boy Bryan will head to Flemington in three weeks to tackle an open 1400m handicap.

“He won with authority the other night, so we are hoping,” he said.

Carrie Hu

It wouldn’t have been any surprise if Yuemeng (Carrie) Hu followed the family tradition back home in Beijing and sought a career in the financial world when she completed her extensive studies.

She holds a bachelor degree in Economics from Central University of Finance and Economics in China and then completed a Master degree in Finance from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, America.

After she completed her degree in America, she thought about perhaps taking a gap year, but her love of horses drew her into the horseracing industry.

The 30-year-old was recently appointed the CEO of Rifa Mustang.

Hu is happy to explain all about her company and the visions she has for it and says she is trying to make it important and significant in what is a competitive industry.

“The company I work for is called Rifa Mustang and the parent company is called Rifa Group and it is owned by a Chinese businessman named Mr Jie Wu,” she explained.

“Their main business is textile machinery but Mr Wu also has an interest in thoroughbreds so he set up Rifa Mustang in Australia in 2015.

“We have horses in Australia and we have horses in Europe and Japan as well.”

Hu said at the moment they are not racing in China.

So what is the aim of Rifa Mustang?

“At the moment our focus is more on the breeding side so that’s where our main business is but we also have some shares in some racehorses, including some very promising ones,” Hu said.

“We have shares in Bruckner with Aquis and Widden.

“Last year we had shares in Anders and before that we had shares in Zousain and Bellevue Hill.

“We also invest in stallion shares and the goal will be to become a self-sustainable racing and breeding operation globally.”

Rifa Mustang is Melbourne based but the parent Rifa Group is based in China.

The Rifa group previously had a cattle business called Rifa Salutary but sold off their massive land holdings around Australia. At the moment don’t have a horse farm and use Shadow Hill Thoroughbreds.

“This year we are breeding from just over 20 mares,” Hu said.

“We are trying to improve the quality of our broodmare band.”

Hu said that before her appointment, Rifa Mustang’s CEO was bloodstock agent and former Racing Victoria Chairman Robert Roulston who oversaw the company’s racing and breeding stock in Australia, Europe and Japan.

“He would map out the business strategy and development direction for Rifa Mustang Australia,” she said.

“So he helped to set up Rifa Mustang Australia and then I was working as an assistant to Robert when I first joined the company in 2017.

“My role worked into bloodstock manager and then from the first of August 1 this year I took over Robert’s role and he stepped down to become a part time advisor for the company.

“So before Robert was the main guy in charge of mating plans and selecting broodmares and yearlings at the sales.”

Hu said that from 2018 she went to the sales where she worked closely with Roulston who taught her a lot.

Roulston spoke of Hu in glowing terms and said that not only is she eminently qualified for the job, but is also exceptionally talented, very personable and importantly has a very good eye for horses and would do well in any management role in the industry.

Hu admitted that she was always keen on horses.

“I grew up in Beijing and didn’t come from a family with any background in racing or horses,” Hu said.

“But I rode horses myself from 12 years old and I did a bit of show jumping but it was pretty much all my connection with horses before I was 23 years-old.

“In 2014 Darley had a program called Dubai International Thoroughbred Internship and it was an intern program just for Chinese students.

“So Darley selected about 20 students, college graduates from China and sent them to Darley operations across the world and I was very fortunate that year.

“I was selected and went to Darley America for one year. I did my master’s degree in America and after I did my master’s degree I thought I would do a gap year sort of thing.”

Hu said she saw an advertisement for the Dubai International Thoroughbred Internship and I applied for it and was accepted and spent a year in Lexington, Kentucky and soon realised that it was career she’d like to explore.

“I applied for the Darley Flying Start program, now it’s called the Godolphin Flying Start program, and I did another two years from 2015 until 2017.”

Hu admits she is lucky to have been elevated to such an important job at a young age.

“When I joined the company, Robert and the chairman kind of had the view to give me the best training possible and let me lead the company in three to five years’ time,” she said.

“So I have been very lucky to be able to travel to Japan every year before the pandemic of course to the sales and then I went to the Asian Racing Conference in Korea and then I went to the sales in New Zealand.

“I have been very lucky to have been exposed to all those experiences.”

Hu said her aim for the Rifa Mustang, in the short term, was to have a couple of more horses like Group 3 winner Anders and the Group 3 winning three-year-old Snitzel colt Bruckner which ran third in the Group 2 Danehill Stakes at Flemington last Saturday.

“We have had a bit of luck in the sales ring as well,” she said.

“We bred and sold Dirty Work (Written Tycoon x Maidel) for $800,000 to Spendthrift. This year we sold another colt by Not A Single Doubt at Magic Millions for $1.5 million, so I think that is the quality or sort of level of quality that we want to get into in the long term.

“We want the top end of the market. In the long term I would like to improve the quality of our broodmare band and gradually get into that top end of the market and get those quality colts and potential stallions.”

Even though Hu’s work will take her to a lot of countries once the borders open, she admits she always wants to return to Australia where she describes the industry as super vibrant, especially the syndications.

Hu said that before being accepted in in the Flying Start Program she never envisaged being involved in the racing industry in Australia.

But she said because she’d done part of her education in America she was thinking about returning there.

“When I came to Australia I really liked the industry down here, I really like the people and I am very lucky to get this job,” she said.

“It’s kind of natural for me to come back to Australia and now my boyfriend is Australian so I’ll be here for a while.”

Hu said that when she was doing her bachelor degree in economics from Central University of Finance and Economics in China, she thought she would do consulting work or go into banking.

“Both of my parents work in the finance industry,” she said.

She admits that her parents are little surprised with her job because it was perhaps natural that she would enter the finance industry because of the studies she undertook.

But they also knew of her love for horses.

“I always loved horses so much and although I grew up in the city in Beijing, every summer or winter vocation, my parents would drive me to riding school 80kms from Beijing and I would be there for a month and would ride a horse every day.

“So they always knew I loved horses and they came to visit my when I was doing my internship at Darley America so I took them to several farms.

“They came here to visit me before the pandemic and I took them to Flemington and Caulfield and they loved it. I think it just sort of came naturally.”

Hu admits it would be great to get her parents involved in the ownership of a horse in Australia and said they were both excited to see Rifa Mustang horses racing.

Rifa Mustang spread their race horses throughout Australia with a variety of trainers, including the Gai Waterhouse, Ciaron Maher and Peter Moody, Anthony Freedman and John O’Shea and Team Hawkes.