Slightly longer than five minutes with... Marie Yoshida

17 min read

Marie Yoshida - Asian Bloodstock Services & Winchester Farm

TDN AusNZ: Where are you from and what is your earliest racing memory?

Marie Yoshida: I am from the north of France, a part of France which is on the Belgium border, called Flanders. So I am French Flemish which can explain many things, because I'm more like a Dutch person, I work very hard and am very much a perfectionist, and like the Dutch I don't see any borders.

My parents have been owners and breeders of thoroughbreds, the only ones in Flanders, normally in France they are either from Normandy or the south west.

I still remember the day my father bought his first thoroughbred broodmare and she was by Exbury (Fr), he was a French stallion who used to stand at the Rothschild family's stud farm Haras de Meautry. We would only go to Deauville for vacations, I don't know France, I only know Deauville! We went there in August as it was my parents' idea of fun, with the horse racing and of course the yearling sales.

Marie Yoshida

I would say my earliest racing memory is of the French Oaks the Prix de Diane. At that time I was less than 10-years-old and it was sponsored by Hermès. For me at that age, it was magic and it still is magic. We would have a picnic in the middle of the race course and of course you had to wear a beautiful hat and there were horses from everywhere, all of these countries I had never heard about.

They were the most beautiful horses and of course the French Oaks, the race itself was wonderful, and at the time it was very different, bringing in more of the Arabian horses. But that race for me, I just wish everyone could feel the magic when you have a perfect combination of style, elegance and wonderful hospitality. At the same time it was like you were travelling through the ages, through time and through countries. You discover so much and it was so enchanting, and it should be like that!

For me the French Oaks, it's really so special and still is.

TDN AusNZ: Which is your favourite racehorse of all time? Why?

MY: This one is very easy because in Hong Kong they say when I die, his name will be written on my grave. It's hard for me because I don't think it will ever change, even though I have better horses. But he is the horse that put me on the map - his name is Fairy King Prawn (Danehill {USA}).

He was purchased at the William Inglis Easter Sale in April 1997. We purchased him in April and he had to be in Hong Kong by August. Ricky Yiu, the current champion trainer had him. It was the beginning of the big international races.

Gallery: Fairy King Prawn

We went little by little with him of course because when the horse moved to Hong Kong he had just turned two, but then he started winning all of his races. The owner, Mr Philip S. H. Lau, had this vision to go for bigger races, because at that time no Hong Kong horse had ever gone abroad to win a Group 1, it had not been done, this was in the year 2000.

"At that time no Hong Kong horse had ever gone abroad to win a Group 1, it had not been done." - Marie Yoshida

In the middle of this my husband and I got married, Dr Naoya Yoshida, which was in July 1999, and there was no veterinary relationship between Hong Kong and Japan and so my husband had to work with the Japanese authorities and they were very strict and of course so were Hong Kong's.

So the government authorities agreed that we could go to the Group 1 over the mile and he was 40-1 and he won! And then we missed in Dubai by nothing, but this horse put Hong Kong on the international map, seriously for the first time. I mean he was not 40-1 in Hong Kong, but he was 40-1 in Tokyo - Japan was not ready for him.

But also the rest of the world wasn’t ready for him, he really put Hong Kong on the map.

Watch: Sunline (NZ) and Fairy King Prawn in the Hong Kong Mile

His epic fight with Sunline (NZ) (Desert Sun {GB}) was phenomenal and again he missed by nothing. People in Hong Kong just felt so proud. In the '90s you could see the building of Hong Kong in racing, and then little by little the international racing became bigger but it was still a dream. But in early 2000 it really started to be a reality and Hong Kong owners, trainers and jockeys felt so proud, it gave us such a boost.

Fairy King Prawn was the dream boy, he was everything. I’ve got some others of course, but this one will always be my favourite racehorse because I owe him so much.

TDN AusNZ: Do you have a favourite day on a racecourse? Why?

MY: This is a tricky one as I have two, and is a little complicated as they're both in Hong Kong. I would say my favourite day is the international race day in Hong Kong, usually it's the second Sunday in December. It's my favourite because that's the day we work so hard to get something. I got lucky with California Memory (USA) (Highest Honor {Fr}). This horse did something that had never been done before. First he won the International Hong Kong Cup, which is the highest prizemoney and is over 2000 metres - he won it in December 2011. One of my purchased horses, Precision (Fr) (Anabaa {USA}), had already won it in 2002.

But then California Memory went on to do the impossible - you see he was not a big horse he was just the most wonderful grey horse with the biggest heart.

In December 2012, it was like a dream, we were just so happy to attend and not many people believed that he could win again, but we did. And he did it! Winning two times in a row, the Hong Kong International Cup it had never been done before, but he did it. He was such a courageous and unbelievable horse, and again it was a win for Hong Kong, the Hong Kong people, the Liang family and Tony Cruz, a genius trainer, and at the same time we had this jockey who was a Hong Kong boy, Matthew Chadwick. We were all so proud.

The second would be the Hong Kong Derby in March because it is such a hard race to win. You only have one chance to win it so it's very stressful and very hard.

I've never seen anywhere else in the world put a better weekend on than what the Hong Kong Jockey Club does, they do the most amazing job and they welcome all of these people from around the world who are all treated five stars. The horses are good and the competition with Japan you know it's fascinating and it never gets old.

TDN AusNZ: Could you tell us how you got into this industry?

MY: My parents have been owner-breeders of thoroughbreds in France and they did not want me to go into this industry. I have two brothers, yet I was the only one who would go with my father in the middle of winter to these sales at Deauville.

And I still remember in the middle of December standing in the snow with my dad or going to Newmarket with my mother or to Ireland, my brothers had no interest but I loved it.

"I still remember in the middle of December standing in the snow with my dad." - Marie Yoshida

Anyway, I went and got my MBA and a very boring but well-paid job, then I saved my own money so I could move to Australia, which was in June 1991, and that's when my good luck (and you need luck believe me) began.

I met two fantastic people, one was Mrs Biddy Oquist, she was at that time in charge of the NSW breeders association and it was the William Inglis Winter Sale, and the other person she introduced me to was Dr Phil Redman, who at that time owned Turangga Farm.

So Dr Redman agreed I could go to his farm and that's when I met his family and they sort of adopted me, I was able to stay until December and do all of the foaling season and breeding season, and then I met all of these wonderful people.

Dr Phil Redman was the most amazing guy he was the head vet for treating difficult mares for reproduction. Nothing was impossible and it was a very natural way to raise mares. Turangga is such a beautiful property. I just loved my time there.

Marie Yoshida spent time at Turangga Farm when she first came to Australia | Image courtesy of Turangga Farm

I remember it was at the beginning of the shuttle stallions and of course I knew Kenmare (Fr) as my father's broodmare was related to the Rothschild family and there were some connections there. So I went to Arrowfield and at that time, Peter O’Brien was in charge of Kenmare.

I remember playing touch football at Widden Stud and all of the farms were doing teams and I remember playing with the Mitchell brothers from Yarraman and it was just such a good atmosphere, it was such a great experience and I got to attend my first Melbourne Cup!

So for me I was sold, as you can imagine, and for me today it still is the best decision of my life at that time. And I want to say to every young person to get your degrees and education first and be extremely well-mannered and hardworking and polite and have integrity. But, you must travel, you must follow your dreams and you must do everything, from foaling, to yearling prep, to welcoming owners, do anything you need to do, just work and learn. This is real life, and you have to see the whole process and be with the horses and once you've done that you will know if you really love it.

TDN AusNZ: Could you tell us about your job now and what you love most about it?

MY: I worked for the French Breeders Association from 1992 with the then President Michel Henochsberg and he was the co-breeder of Urban Sea (USA) (Miswaki {USA}), she is of course, the mother of champion thoroughbreds in Europe, Galileo (Ire), Sea The Stars (Ire). You know everyone talks about stallions but I really believe that at the end of the day you need the best broodmares, the secret is the broodmare and when you look at Urban Sea, not only did she win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe she became the most amazing broodmare, she is the goose with the golden egg, the most essential part of breeding.

In my role I began to welcome Hong Kong trainers to Deauville and they were purchasing some yearlings and then I began to manage those purchases for them, and I realised that there was something in that, because these trainers really had no time to manage anything.

"In my role I began to welcome Hong Kong trainers to Deauville and they were purchasing some yearlings and then I began to manage those purchases for them, and I realised that there was something in that." - Marie Yoshida

Things began to change in France and I had to make a decision and in early 1996 I decided to move to Hong Kong, so that is when I started Asian Bloodstock Services Limited which has been my child for 24 years now, and I’ve been so lucky.

I just love it. It is the best time, I don't know why but I just fit with Hong Kong, I love Hong Kong, I understand the owners and trainers and they understand me and we bring each other good luck, it just worked!

I love my job, I never get bored. You know I woke up last Friday morning and was attending an online auction in Tattersalls Newmarket talking to a Hong Kong client and we got the horse. My life thanks to Hong Kong is not boring. You know there is always something exciting to wake up for.

TDN AusNZ: Who do you believe to be a value sire for the upcoming breeding season? Why?

MY: Deep Field is a young, value sire in my opinion. We purchased California Deepshot at Inglis Easter 2018 and he did the impossible in Hong Kong this year. He was in starting gate 13, totally outside at Happy Valley over 1200 metres and he won!

Pride Of Dubai is also very interesting, coming from the Street Cry (Ire) line, we need diversity, and he brings a lot of sentiment for me.

Deep Field | Standing at Newgate Farm

TDN AusNZ: Is there a stallion that you consider to be under the radar?, and why?

MY: I believe that it's important to follow the professionals and ask yourself why they do certain things, for instance Coolmore purchasing Wootton Basset (GB). For Australia and New Zealand you obviously can't go to him, but you can go to his son Almanzor (Fr) who stands at Cambridge Stud. I would suggest that perhaps he is under the radar or up and coming. I think it's important to follow Iffraaj (GB), follow Wootton Basset and follow Almanzor.

TDN AusNZ: Which stallion, ever, do you think was the best type?

MY: Danehill (USA) was my lucky charm, the photo above my desk in my office is of Danehill. I bought so many good Danehills, and then after that it was Fastnet Rock and Fastnet Rock for me is still such an amazing stallion.

It’s important to not run after the dream, sometimes it's wiser to go to an established, very good, older proven stallion.

But Danehill and Fastnet Rock yes, they are strong, they are reliable, they are good on the firm going, they are fast and they are so sound, they are just magic.

Fastnet Rock | Standing at Coolmore

I Am Invincible is also my new favourite and what I purchased last April and last January in fact, this stallion is unbelievable.

But again, it really depends on where you are buying the horses for or where you are racing.

TDN AusNZ: Which first-season sire (other than your own) do you believe is most exciting?

MY: Astern, I love him as a stallion and he was a very good racehorse.

TDN AusNZ: What was your favourite weanling, yearling or mare purchase this year?

MY: We purchased a yearling colt out of a mare called Zimaretto (Anabaa {USA}) and she produced California Zimbol (I Am Invincible). So this is his half-brother and his name is California Zim Zim (Astern). I love Zimaretto, I think she is very special and he is by Astern and I think that Astern may be one to follow.

California Zim Zim as a yearling

TDN AusNZ: Who do you think is a rising star within the industry? (Person not horse).

MY: I have to say I was very impressed with the William Inglis team. You have no idea the support they gave me and the way they worked for the Australian and New Zealand breeders during the second part of March 2020. This William Inglis team which is nearly like a family, Mark Webster, Jonathen D'Arcy and don’t forget Bonnie Connellan they did such a great job to keep everything going.

Jonathan D'Arcy called my hotel ensuring I had everything I needed and then the breeders were all so welcoming, they made me feel like I had not flown over for nothing. We motivated each other.

When the sale was on I was back in Kentucky and the virtual sale was just so exciting! I loved the online auction, it is just so easy and it is at the tip of your finger and you are in charge and you make your decision.

"I loved the online auction, it is just so easy and it is at the tip of your finger and you are in charge and you make your decision." - Marie Yoshida

So I would say it is the young team at William Inglis which have been running since 1867. They are just so young and full of ideas and they’ve adapted and they’ve survived and they’ve kept the industry together. What an amazing job, I don't think people realise how close it was to not going ahead, they really showed the world, and Australia has shown the world how it should be done.

I was so proud of Australia when COVID-19 hit, to keep racing going - this should be admired and never forgotten.

TDN AusNZ: What positive change would you like to see in the industry?

MY: Everybody should really positively encourage more young women to be involved. I believe that it's so sad that really, that it's still just a few women buying horses, myself Gai Waterhouse, Denise Martin and Carmel Size, there are not too many women buying horses. But even in the auction companies you need more women, not for administration jobs, but you need them to look at horses and be in front of the scene, not behind the scenes.

I feel it's so important and especially so for my daughters and the next generation to be encouraged into all roles within the industry.

Frankly we are superwomen, and I believe farm owners, racehorse owners, breeders, auction farm companies and anything with a legacy you need to put as much inspiration into your daughters and your sons.

I strongly believe that the way we approach racing and the way we attract females needs to change, it's not only about fashion and drinking. I think the all-female syndicates and bonus’ are helping this, but we need to do more with the way we market racing to females.

I’d love to see more women in the industry and more female trainers, just more females everywhere.

Marie Yoshida hopes to see more women in all facets of the racing industry

TDN AusNZ: If you weren’t in this industry what would you do?

MY: I would have studied Veterinary Science and I have Dr Phil Redman to thank for that. You know I had just finished my MBA and had all of these degrees, but then, upon coming to Australia I realised what I liked and was good at, was veterinary science. I am also interested in equine reproduction and was good at foaling and weanling etc., you know maybe that is why I married a horse veterinarian? But yes, I think a vet, perhaps specialising in equine reproduction.

TDN AusNZ: How did you keep busy in isolation?

MY: I have been so busy, especially with three kids who are at home studying. I have been five times busier than in normal times! In these times you almost have to recreate yourself, and Hong Kong racing has helped me a lot. Things have become more clear, and it’s reaffirmed to me how much I love what I do, and I want to keep doing it. So it has made me work harder to keep it alive and work harder for my clients and my children and husband, it's been a challenge, but one I feel I have met.