You may remember Sean as the man who stood up on the auctioneer’s box on the Saturday night of the recent Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling sale and declared that $100,000 of the profits from the sale of lot 869, a colt he bred, would be donated to supporting those who have been affected by one of the biggest natural disaster’s Australia has witnessed in modern times.
But who is Victorian breeder, Sean Duke?
As a family of publican’s, Sean Duke did not grow up with the thoroughbred industry around him. However, based in Ballarat is wasn’t long before he was chatting to many of the locals and he was hit by ‘the bug’.
‘Working behind the bar and chatting to the farmers, I became interested in land and farming. I became a stock agent for about ten years and have always loved the animal.’
Whilst Sean has been working around animals for many years, it was always the interest in horses that shone through for him.
After spending over ten years buying horses in the racing industry, Sean decided three years ago that he would try the breeding industry. ‘I had a bit of land and thought I would try breeding my own horses to race. I had a stallion called Crackerjack King and wanted to see if I could get into the industry.’
Earlier in the month at Magic Millions Sean sold his first home- bred yearling and he has a further three on the books at Inglis Premier in March. It is fair to say that the breeding part of the industry is suiting him well.
‘I find it rewarding that if you breed a cross that you like that perhaps others may not have and that produces a good foal. I get great satisfaction out of the end result. I get fulfilment of being able to send a yearling to the sale and foaling down a mare with the anticipation of if it is going to be a colt or a filly.’
Although Sean is new to the breeding industry he has been supported by many friends who have been influential in commencing his operation. When asked how he learnt about the breeding Sean’s quick response was ‘I haven’t learnt it yet.’ There is obviously something that is going in the right direction with the quick success of Sean’s operation. There are number of friends that have advised Sean along the way and assisted as agents at the sales. ‘I read a lot and spend time looking at pedigrees. I am really interested in pedigrees and how that works but I still don’t know half as much as I should.’
Sean’s passion for the industry is evident and that passion is transferring into success. ‘I only wanted to breed the best possible yearling that I could. The horses that I will be selling will be good horses. I then want to build up a reputation of a small band of ten or twelve mares but of high quality.’ Sean has already has developed a good relationship with many of the big players in the industry and has used their trusted advice of who send his mares to.
It seems that setting up a new breeding establishment would be a full-time job, but Sean is also a property developer and has been for the last ten years. At the time of our call to Sean, he was rushing between the property developments near Geelong to the farm in Ballarat. ‘Half the time I am sitting at these meetings in a suit thinking I need to get back to the farm to deal with that mare!’
Ballarat is home for Sean where his family own the hotel in Wallace, so it was an easy decision to make when choosing the location for the farm. ‘It has good rainfall and good quality red soil. I’ve got water on the farm and it is an ideal landscape for the horses.’
For so many of Australian’s the recent bushfires have affected such large communities in rural locations. Sean like many of us wanted to support the bushfires and spent a large amount of time deciding the best way to help. As we are aware it is not only the immediate support but also the longer term affects that will be affecting individuals hit by the bushfires.
“My motivation behind the support that after consideration I realised I am lucky in my position with my work and where opportunities have come across my table. I could see the disaster around Australia and that the people would be suffering more than me. I would be happy just getting the costs back for selling the horse at Magic Millions so wanted the profits to go to Bushfire relief.”
Sean has been directly affected by depression and he was aware of the longer-term affects
that the bushfires would have on communities. ‘The guys who have lost everything will have a huge mental strain from recent events. The rural people who have been affected won’t just need the support today or tomorrow, it will be in three months’ time that they will need support. They will need mental support, so I just hope that some of the money is not only for the immediate but in three months’ time when they will need counselling.’
Although Sean has been in the breeding industry for a brief period of time he has been amongst the broader industry for many years. It is evident to see his passion foremost is the horse which is very endearing to see.
And what advice would Sean give to someone starting out in the industry?
‘If your heart is really in it, and you want to do it then give it a go as it is the most rewarding experience and for me it is a good balance between my work and my hobby. If it is your passion, then you should definitely give it a go as you can start small and grow as you feel comfortable.’