Skyphios ridden by Harry Coffey wins the Byerley Handicap at Flemington Racecourse on July 16, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

Ballarat farmer Glenn Rogers comes from a long line of horse trainers but admits he was missing from the game for 20 years before deciding to get involved again a few years ago.

Although he’d dabbled with breeding when he bought a mare in foal which didn’t amount to much, he was keen to buy another broodmare based on pedigree and type and put it to a stallion that he thought would suit the bloodlines.

And he’s had instant success with his first crack at picking out a mare and a stallion to support his breeding theories when his two-year-old gelding Skyphios won the Byerley Handicap (1800m) at Flemington on Saturday.
The $150,000 race provided the winner with a golden ticket into the Victoria Derby or VRC Oaks.

Trained by Rogers’ cousin Rob Blacker at Mornington, the two-year-old son of Widden Stud stallion Fiorente broke his maiden in fine fashion at his fourth start when he came from last to win by nearly a length from $2.15 favourite Quang Tri.

Rogers picked up Skypious’ dam Spleasure (New Approach x Isla Canela) straight off the track for $11,500 at the 2018 Great Southern Sale. She had raced 13 times for three wins and two seconds.

“I had bought a couple of mares earlier and think I sent them out five times and never go a foal,” he said.

“So I thought I’d buy a younger one and she was in the supplementary catalogue and Robert (Blacker) told me not to spend more than ten grand, but I bought her anyway.

“I like the inbreeding of the female and when I saw her in the catalogue I bought her for Fiorente and that’s where I went straight away.”

The now eight-year-old Spleasure, a chestnut, is described by Rogers as looking like an Appaloosa.

“She had bad rash at the sale,” he said.

“She never had white dots over her before she had the rash. But when she had the rash all those white dots started coming over her.

“She has got a Justify filly on her and people just thought the white dots were from the rash but the filly has a few white dots coming through her.”
Rogers said he suspected the white dots are a result of genetics as there are white markings through her breeding.

His theory about the white markings illustrates his meticulous research into pedigrees, not just in horses but sheep and cattle.

After having Skyphios, Spleasure missed the following season to Fiorente and is again in foal to Justify (Scat Daddy x Stage Magic).

Rogers plans to send the mare back to Fiorente this season.

“I reckon this one is the best I’ve seen by Fiorente,” he said.

“He has always been a nice type and I foaled him down at home.

“I’d been out of the game for 20 years and it was the first mating I’ve planned and bred one myself. I’ve bought other mares that have been in foal but that was the first time where I’ve bought the mare to go to a particular stallion and got a foal on the ground.

“I bred him to win the Caulfield Cup, but I know he is a mile and a half horse.”

Rogers has five broodmares and says while he’d like a few more, he acknowledges how expensive they’ve become in recent years.

He sold two of his yearlings at Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale this year through his farm’s draft, Arrandale Stud at Ballarat.

He sold a Ribchester colt out of La Breviere for $80,000 but a So You Think colt out of Treasure the Cross was passed in for $80,000.

“I couldn’t get one hundred grand for him and I thought he was a $250,000 horse, but I still own him and I reckon he’ll be a similar sort of horse (to Skyphios) next year,” Rogers said.

“His grandmother is Kasora (Darshaan x Kozana) and I have done a three-by-three cross to Kasora. Most of the families I like, and everyone says I’ll go broke doing it and they’re probably right, are European Oaks sort of fillies.

“They aren’t worth anything here but would be worth a lot if they were in Europe.”

Rogers originally farmed a 3,000-acre property at Pura Pura, between Ararat and Ballarat, but sold up a couple of years ago and moved to his 700-acre property which is located about 3kms from Ballarat Racecourse.

“I am more a sheep and cattle farmer,” he said.

“I had 3,000 acres at Pura and Pura and sheep and cattle and was contracting and the whole lot and doing it all myself was probably too much.”

Rogers has bred champion ewes, sheep and bulls and says while he can sell 200 cheap for $400 each to make $80,000, he says it’s good money but not life-changing but said it was his next dream to breed a horse to win a $1m race.

“I am getting ambitious I guess, but you have to be in it to win it,” he said.

In the lead-up to last Saturday’s race, Skyphios was unplaced in the Listed Taj Rossi Final (1600m) at Flemington and it was the first time that Rogers had been at headquarters since Savrocca (Caledonian Planet x Our Dream) won the Group 2 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2500m) in 2000.

Savrocca, a winner of 17 races including the Listed Geelong Cup (2400m), was trained by Rogers’ father Jeff at Ararat and predominately raced by the family.

Rogers admits that while the Derby looms is the target, he is ambitious and says don’t be surprised if the gelding is paid up for some other big races.

He said while nothing went right in the Taj Rossi, everything went right in the Byerley Handicap with jockey Harry Coffey.

Aged 40 and with three girls aged five, three and nine months, Rogers said he didn’t want to wait until he was 50 to have a serious crack at racing and breeding.

“People said Arrandale was the best farm in Ballarat through the 1960s, 70s and 80s and it was set up as horse property but has been run as a cattle farm for the last 30 years,” he said.

“I am beside the airport and the owner who had it didn’t really want to sell it to a developer and I think he saw a little bit of me in him and that I was going to set it back up as a horse farm.

“The guy was 90 and we bought it at the start of Covid two years ago.
“This is about family to me and I didn’t want to get to 50 and be wondering what might have happened.

“I am again setting it up as a horse property and half thinking about putting in a track and things like. The barriers are there and the stables are there, as well round yards but it’s been used as cattle farm for 30 years and the fences are barb wire and I’m re-fencing it.”

Rogers says he spends an hour or two every night studying pedigrees, mostly European ones, and has since he was a teenager.

He gives the impression that he is just getting going in the game.

Rogers’ grandfather Jimmy Rogers was a soldier/settler who was also a trainer but stood stallions at stud, including Brandy Crusta which was out of a mare he bought, Apricot Brandy.

And Blacker agrees that there will be a few discussions with his cousin on where best to race the horse at his next campaign, although the Derby is the target.

Blacker’s father Harry Blacker was also a long-time horse trainer.

“My mother and Glenn’s mother are sisters,” he said.

“And my father and Jeffrey (Rogers) were mates.”

Blacker said Skyphios was a nice staying type and believes the Derby is an ideal race because he’ll run out the 2500m.

“I like Fiorente and I bought a filly by him, a little, light thing but she ran third at her first at Stoney Creek over 2100m and had a couple of little problems after that,” he said.

“I’ve got a two-year-old by him now, but it’s a different type to the one of Glenns.”

Blacker’s broodmare Alma Doepel (My Patriarch) – the dam of the Fiorente colt – is out of an Oregon mare, Insatiabelle.

“I bought a filly out of an Oregon mare years ago and was trying to win the South Australian Oaks with her but got her going too early and had a joint issue and we had to put her out but she finished winning a 2100m maiden,” he said.

“But because of her ability, I chased up her younger sister and finished up by buying out of a paddock in New Zealand she finished up being called Reggie (Germano x Crackastar) and I won four from 11 with her.”

The mare then finished with Peter Moody and won the Listed Bagot Handicap and the Group 3 Brisbane Turf Club Premier’s Cup.

After retiring with more than $700,000 in the bank, Reggie retired to the breeding barn where she produced Group 1 ATC Coolmore Classic winner, Heavens Above (Street Cry).

Blacker said he breeds from a couple of broodmares and like Rogers, is very keen on pedigrees and says he couldn’t afford to buy the horses he breeds if they went through the sales.

“The reason I breed because as a trainer it is a big heads-up if you know the family and what works and what doesn’t work,” he said.

“If you mate them the right way, they will run the trip but it’s a matter of what speed.”

Blacker also plans to send another mare Royal Seal (Arena x Courtly Bride), which he owns in partnership with a friend, to Fiorente this season.

He is hoping that the luck with Fiorente stays in the family.