Group 1 winning Cranbourne trainer Robbie Griffiths is also an astute business man who realised many years ago that the costs of buying a quality yearling at the bigger sales were quickly going way beyond his budget.
Griffiths had for years always only breed from fillies and mares that he’d raced, often in partnership with stable clients.
Now in a training partnership with Mathew de Kock, Griffiths bred his first horse more than 20 years ago and hasn’t stopped since.
Griffiths breeds from his band of eight broodmares and has small shares in about another 10 outside mares.
“It all started on a very, very low scale many years ago when we had an extremely talented filly that only had two starts which was Vaingt Trois (Noalcoholic x Foretell),” Griffiths said.
“She is the grandmother of Halvorsen and won her first start by five lengths and looked like being something totally out of the box.
“Then she broke down at her second run and we put her in foal and she bred terrific horses for us, including Beltrois (Bel Esprit) that ran fourth in the Group 1 Goodwood.
“She breed a filly called Flourishing (Not A Single Doubt) that was quite fast and a Flemington 1000m winner and she is the mother of Halvorsen (Magnus) who has won $600,000 and the Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) and so on.
“That is the short version of the 20 years that has passed us by.”
Griffiths said that Vaingt Trios kicked off the stable’s breeding venture which continued with the mare’s daughter Flourishing producing Halvorsen. Of the 11 foals Griffiths bred from Vaingt Trios from an assortment of sires including Rancho Ruler, Rubiton, Encosta De Lago, Desert King and Lago Delight, a filly by Rubiton named Ruby Trois was a city winner who scored seven victories. And she has so far produced six foals.
“From those early days of starting with Halvorsen’s grandmother, I gradually got the taste for it and also the economics for it because the yearlings were getting so expensive,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths said he liked to breed to certain genetics, mixes, crosses, likes and dislikes and formulas that people have their own opinions on.
“Throw into the mix, the big clincher was that what I was liking at the sales I was getting out bid on, so I started to breed with mares I believed had good talent but might not have reached their true potential because of racetrack injuries or for whatever reason,” he said.
“We would retain them either in partnership with their ownership group or alternatively if they weren’t breeders, reach an agreed price and buy them and then breed with those ones too.”
Originally all the mares that Griffiths bred from had been in his racing stable.
“We haven’t gone out and intentionally sourced a mare, but in recent times I have bought into a couple of international broodmares with Darren Dance (Esker Lodge).
“He bought a beautiful Dansili broodmare (Thai Noon) from overseas and she bred a beautiful Frankel filly that Ciaron Maher trains and she (Steinem) raced in the Oaks in Adelaide this year.
“The filly was sold for $400,000 at the Sydney Easter Yearling Sale and I didn’t have enough clients to buy her, but I would have liked to have bought her.
“She was favourite for the Oaks. The full brother was the one Michelle Payne paid $500,000 for after the soccer player (Sardar Azmoun) watched the movie Ride Like a Girl.
“I have bought into a couple of little ones like that with Darren Dance but as a rule I have only basically bought back or retained fillies that have come through the racing stable that we have trained.”
Griffith said he takes advice on breeding and tries not to be narrow minded and listens carefully to bloodstock agent Peter Ford who has great respect and a friendship with over many years.
He said Ford also has a good friendship with Gilgai Farmer owner Rick Jamieson who is renowned as one of Australia’s must astute breeders. Griffiths has also trained for Jamieson over the years and trains talented galloper Token Spirit which was breed by Jamieson who retained a share in the gelding.
“So I like to talk to people who have got a lot of experience in breeding and I love speaking to any of the breeders who have been successful,” Griffiths said.
“If you can learn anything from any of the people that have been successful and you are lucky enough to learn anything that comes out of their lips, you grab it with both hands and both ears and you think you beauty, I have learnt something today.”
Griffiths said the two most successful horses he has breed are Group 3 winner Halvorsen and stakes winners Beltrois who have both progressed to Group 1 level.
“Halvorsen ran Gytrash to a close second and he has got to a Group 1 and has won the Standish and so on,” he said.
“Don’ttelltheboss (Street Boss x Canterbury Hill) is a good mare and has run up the backside of Loving Gaby and has multiple Group placings so she is very talented.’’
Griffiths also raced Canterbury Hill (Heradasun x Cancanelle).
He has more of his homebreds coming through the system with what he describes as his relatively young portfolio of broodmares.
“But everything has won and they’ve all been winners and done their job because the mares are relatively young and are going to the nice young stallions so we are hoping we can continue to do well,” he said
“When we bred Flourishing she was one of the first Not A Single Doubts and we tried to identify value by going to the young stallions before they get expensive.
“All the horses we have bred have been winners and a lot of them have been metropolitan winners in town.
“Flourishing’s first foal to race was Halvorsen and he has won $600,000 and that was off about a $10,000 service fee – I think Magnus was a $10,000 or $12,000 service fee that year.”
Griffiths said with Halvorsen, a lot of owners who had raced the dam, Flourishing, had decided to stay in her other progeny, Trygve (Magnus) and Halvoya (Unencumbered) which are both winners and still racing. The mare has had another two colts by Magnus and is also in foal to the stallion.
While Griffiths said they’ll send their mares interstate to a suitable stallion, they predominately support Victoria stallions and the VOBIS schemes are also a big incentive to stay local.
“Flourishing is by Not A Single Doubt and he was based in Sydney, but when you put him to Magnus it’s just a beautiful mating,” he said.
“And Magnus happens to be in Victoria which makes it economical,” he said.
“What suited one of my mares (Canterbury Hill dam of Don’telltheboss) was Street Boss and he happened to be in Victoria in the Seymour part of Darley. It’s perfect if they are in Victoria as I am very much Victorian proud and very much a supporter of the VOBIS scheme.
“In a perfect world we want to be in Victoria but it is important that the stallions are what we think is compatible with the mares and we adopt that philosophy.
“VOBIS provides so much more revenue to the owners and you just have to do it to stay in the business and give your owners the chance of having a self-funding model.”
At the moment Griffiths has bred progeny by Toronado, Akeed Mafeed, Supido (which they had to go Sydney for but he has returned to Melbourne), Starspangledbanner, Shamus Award, Frosted and Cable Bay.
And this year Griffith’s’ mares are being sent to several Victorian stallions, including Magnus, Hanseatic, Doubtland, Omaha Beach and Swear.
He has already booked his talented mare, Dance With Fontein, into Spendthrift Australia’s Triple Group 1 winning, American stallion Omaha Beach (War Front x Charming).
Griffiths said he was excited to mate his sprinting mare – which won eight races – with the legendary son of War Front which stood his first season at Spendthrift last year, serving 104 broodmares.
“I really like Omaha Beach and reckon he will be a good stallion,” Griffiths said of the shuttle stallion.
“I also have one on the ground by Swear, out of Prospect Royale, and she is also in foal to him again.”
Griffiths said while they’d previously bought weanlings out of the paddock privately from breeders, this year they had identified weanlings at sales which they had missed out on but bought one at last week’s Great Southern Sale.
He said the Capitalist weanling which they bought fell into their price range and he had a beautiful commercial pedigree and is a half to a filly (Madame Bolli) that had won three in succession.
“He was a really good value buy because in six months when the yearlings all start selling on the Gold Coast, you’d be flat out buying a Capitalist for under $200,000 or $300,000,” he said.
“We got one for $85,000 and by putting him to our ownership group now, everyone can grab a share for basically his service fee. We think we are giving our owners a chance to get in at a very, very affordable rate and we thought it was good shopping.”
As well as the satisfaction of breeding a winner, Griffiths said with the price of yearlings it was easy to see why he started to breed his own.
“My wife and I thought we were crazy not to have a breeding arm as part of it,” he said.
But you’ll still see Griffiths buying stock at the sales.
King Magnus scored his fifth win with a victory at Caulfield last Saturday over 1400m, but Griffiths said he can’t take any credit for breeding the five-year-old gelding.
“They (owners) actually bred him so I can’t take any credit for that,” Griffiths said.
“They own the mum (Influential Miss) and they bred him and they also bred the bigger (full) sister, Influential Girl, which also ran on the same day and ran third.
“They have bred those two and all going well, the mare will go back to Magnus this year.”
Griffith said Widden Victoria’s Magnus (Flying Spur x Scandinavia) had been a beauty as a stallion who he dubs as Triple M – Magnus Means Money.
“That’s our slogan,” Griffith said.
“They have been brilliant for us and we love them. They have been inexpensive to breed or buy and they have been such great money-spinners for their ownership group.
“They get better with age.”
Griffiths said the stable had raced 26 by Magnus for an amazing 25 individual winners.