Interest flows as Gooree Park opens doors

7 min read
After 35 years operating as a private breeding and racing farm for the interests of the Cojuangco family, Gooree Park at Mudgee has opened its doors to outside clients for the first time. TDN AusNZ caught up with long-time Stud Manager Andrew Baddock to discuss the change in direction.

Images courtesy of Gooree Park Stud

The red and black stripes of Gooree Park founder Eduardo Cojuangco, who was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame in 2015, have been synonymous with success on Australian racetracks for many years.

Group 1 winners Desert War (Desert King {Ire}), Laser Hawk (Artie Schiller {USA}), Northern Meteor (Encosta De Lago), Hallowed Crown (Street Sense {USA}), Your Song (Fastnet Rock) and Prized Icon (More Than Ready {USA}) are among those bred and raised on the farm, which was purchased by Cojuangco in 1978.

Other Group 1 stars to have raced in his colours include Mr Murphy (Danehill {USA}), Barkada (Spectrum {Ire}), Snowland (Snippets) and Don Eduardo (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}).

Don Eduardo (NZ)

Cojuangco, the supremo of San Miguel, one of south-east Asia's largest food and beverage businesses, is keen to reduce his breeding and racing interests in Australia to a more manageable level, which has paved the way for a different approach to business.

"Mr Cojuangco is now in his 80s and is based in the Philippines. He has had a big operation for many years and is now looking to wind down his numbers to a more manageable level. It's as simple as that," Baddock told TDN AusNZ.

"He wants to get back to around 20 mares, which is more manageable and he wants to just race the progeny of those mares. That's more than enough for him. He loves his racing and we will breed from those mares. That leaves plenty of room for outsiders.

"He wants to get back to around 20 mares, which is more manageable and he wants to just race the progeny of those mares. That's more than enough for him." - Andrew Baddock

"There's a lot of spare land. It’s a big property and we've been private for 35 years as a racing and breeding farm and had a lot of success in the red and black stripes. He gave us the go ahead to be commercial."

Gooree Park itself is a multi-faceted business combining not only facilities for breeding and raising thoroughbreds, but also a pre-training centre. There are also vineyards which in turn feed a winery/cellar door operation as well as considerable cattle and pastoral interests.

Weanlings and their nanny mare at Gooree Park Stud

In terms of its thoroughbred facilities, Baddock believes they are second-to-none, with the added bonus of being located between the Hunter Valley and New South Wales' other thoroughbred operations further south, while also being within close reach of Sydney.

He said they will offer a full suite of services to outside breeding clients, looking for somewhere to host their broodmares and raise their yearlings.

"It’s as good a private farm as you would see. We've got yearling paddocks that are about 50 acres in size on nice and undulating ground. We've got irrigation on board as well," he said.

Gooree Park

"We have got a great big barn. We've grown a lot of nice horses here on this country and we are looking to consign yearlings for clients under our banner. We have sold a percentage in recent years and have done nicely and we are looking to step it up a notch.

"Being two hours one way to the Hunter Valley, where all the major stallions are, we can walk mares on, on a four-hour round trip. We have been walking out our own mares for many years."

Standing on a well-earned reputation

Baddock said Gooree Park was very proud of the quality of horses it had bred and raised from the farm over the years and believes that would be a substantial selling point for potential clients.

"One thing we have always prided ourselves on is the soundness of our horses. You can grow big-boned, sound horses on that wide undulating country. That's a big plus too," he said.

Pre-trainers heading out to the track

The pre-training and spelling complex has been utilised for Gooree Park's private thoroughbred operation for many years but has also been opened up to outside clients.

"We’ve got grass and sand tracks. The grass track is the same circumference as Rosehill. We can pre-train and spell a lot of horses over there and we have done so for a few years. It's got new poly railing on it, a new set of starting gates, it’s a great facility," Baddock said.

"We can pre-train and spell a lot of horses over there and we have done so for a few years." - Andrew Baddock

"The pre-training facility is a full-on racing stable in its own right. You've got a bunch of track riders, all those things. It something that we have established over many years."

Interest flows from potential clients

Gooree Park's change in strategy was confirmed a couple of months ago, and while there has been a degree of uncertainty across the industry because of the COVID-19 shutdowns, Baddock said interest from prospective clients has flowed already.

Andrew Baddock

"We've had good interest. A leading breeder from New Zealand has sent us mares over already. The key is for us to get the word out there. We have been private for so long, people have always thought Gooree was a closed shop," he said.

Baddock confirmed that Gooree Park had also picked up several clients who purchased horses through the recent broodmare sales. There is a substantial appetite for trading stock at the moment and he hopes that the farm can benefit from that as well as the desire of interstate breeders to house their mares closer to the Hunter Valley ahead of the breeding season.

"We can access all those stud farms relatively easily," he said.

Baddock is hopeful the growing appeal of the town of Mudgee will prove a lure for prospective clients

The thoroughbred aspect of Gooree Park's operation currently employs around 30 people, while Baddock is also hopeful the growing appeal of the town of Mudgee will prove a lure for prospective clients.

"Mudgee in itself is not that far from Sydney. It’s become quite a trendy place. There are a lot of wineries and restaurants and the like. What once was a little country town, is no longer that. When people do come and see their mares and their foals, they can stay in Mudgee and there is plenty to do," he said.

The red and black connection runs strong

Another selling point will be Gooree Park's close connection to the stallions they have both bred and raced. Hallowed Crown, who has relocated to Twin Hills Stud, recently tasted his first Group 1 success as a stallion thanks to ATC Oaks winner Colette, while Smart Missile, who will stand alongside him at Olly Tait's Cootamundra-based stud, continues to produce plenty of winners as does Your Song, who is at Widden Stud.

Prized Icon's first foals will hit the ground in 2020

Prized Icon stood his first season at Kooringal Park near Wagga last year and the G1 VRC Derby winner has his first foals hit the ground in 2020.

While the volume of horses that sport the red and black silks has reduced, Baddock said they will still be a fixture at racetracks across Australia for the foreseeable future.

"The boss will continue to send horses to the leading trainers in Sydney and will look to get as much success as he can," he said.