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.