Who’s on the move? People and farms changing bases

12 min read
The Thoroughbred Report has summarised the significant property and staff movements throughout 2023. This year has seen several properties hit the market, and breeders, such as John Singleton who too sold his Strawberry Hill property to Coolmore, sell their world-renowned breeding stock.

This year has seen numerous established thoroughbred properties sold or up for sale. Meanwhile, organisations will bid farewell to several key staff as they say ‘g’day’ to new opportunities. The Thoroughbred Report will reflect on some of the changes as we approach the end of the breeding season.

News broke in October that Vin Cox, the managing director of Godolphin Australia, will depart the global superpower to take up the general manager role at Yuesheng Zhang’s Yulong; an emerging global superpower.

Cox first took up the role at Godolphin in 2017 and has been at the forefront of the organisation through the Anamoe era and the careers of the Champion gallopers Bivouac and Alizee (Sepoy). Cox will join Yulong in early December, where an all-star broodmare ensemble, the Champion sire Written Tycoon, and host up-and-comers such as Grunt (NZ), Alabama Express and Pierata will greet him.

There will be no royal blue for Cox anymore but the bottle green of Yulong’s growing racing team that includes the multiple Group 1 winner Alcohol Free (Ire) (No Nay Never {USA}) and the Group 3 victress Sigh (No Nay Never {USA}).

Vin Cox | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

In an exclusive interview with The Thoroughbred Report in October, Cox said, “I’m very proud of what the team has achieved at Godolphin,” he said. “And it’s a big team. I was just one part of it the last few years, but my time in the role is full of very lovely memories, both on and off the racetrack, and I will greatly miss so many parts of my everyday working life.

“They are truly wonderful people in that organisation,” he said. “The staff is just short of 300 people, and every one of them wears a blue shirt proudly. I’m going to miss them and miss representing them.”

Godolphin has yet to announce a replacement for Cox’s role, who finishes up with the organisation imminently.

Also departing Godolphin in early December is Carbine Lodge's senior foreman and raceday representative, Sean Keogh.

Sean Keogh | Image courtesy of Racing Photos

Keogh, who served Godolphin for six years, will take up a position with Coolmore's September purchase of Strawberry Hill Farm. Like Cox's position, a replacement for Keogh's role is yet to be announced.

End of an era

Many industry participants were shell-shocked when the announcement came that John Singleton would disperse his vast bloodstock and property in July through a standalone sale facilitated by Magic Millions during August. Singleton, one of Australia’s most successful owners and breeders, raced the likes of the Champion mare More Joyous (NZ) (More Than Ready {USA}) and the Golden Slipper winner Belle Du Jour (Dehere {USA}).

Singleton's success on the racetrack was relayed into the breeding barn at his state-of-the-art facility, Strawberry Hill Stud, located on the picturesque Central Coast in New South Wales. Inaugurated in 1984 and rebuilt in 1994, it had been Singleton’s pride and joy for around 40 years.

John Singleton | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

The respect held for Singleton’s breeding stock was shown in August with the 55-lot Strawberry Hill Stud dispersal grossing $15,597,000 and a top price of $1.85 million handed over for the homebred Group 2 winner Miss Fabulass (Frankel {GB}).

In September, it was revealed that Singleton had accepted a deal from Coolmore Stud brokered by Clint Donovan’s Donovan & Co agency in partnership with Magic Millions for the property. Reportedly, the purchase price was over $30 million.

At the time of the sale to the press, Singleton commented, “Strawberry Hill has been home for about 40 years, but it’s time to move on. I’m feeling a little nostalgic about selling, but nothing stays the same forever.”

Strawberry Hill Stud during the dispersal | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

Coolmore’s Tom Maginer revealed the world-class property will play an essential role in the Australian operation.

“The plan is for Strawberry Hill Farm to be a world-class spelling farm for the best horses. We have had lots of success at Coolmore with breakers including Shinzo, Fangirl, Jacquinot and Home Affairs, and we want to complete that circle by having the best place to spell them at Mount White,” Magnier said at the time.

“The plan is for Strawberry Hill Farm to be a world-class spelling farm for the best horses.” - Tom Magnier

Edinglassie winds down

The Thoroughbred Report published in May that Mick and Michelle Talty would wind down their breeding portfolio and vacate their Muswellbrook property, Edinglassie Stud, after 32 years.

Talty stated at the time in an interview with The Thoroughbred Report that he and his wife had decided to pull reins for a few reasons. One reason was the proximity of the Mount Arthur coal mine and the increasing difficulty in getting staff.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find staff, and, as I said, we’re not getting any younger. We want to have less responsibility and more time for ourselves, not necessarily be tied to the farm, and do things like travel more, for instance. After 32 years, it’s time to sit back.”

“We want to have less responsibility and more time for ourselves, not necessarily be tied to the farm, and do things like travel more, for instance. After 32 years, it’s time to sit back.” - Mick Talty

The Taltys won’t be lost to the industry despite vacating Edinglassie. They will move to their 70-acre farm - Akuna Park on the Hunter River.

“We’ve been building this farm for the last five to 10 years, and it’s time for us to appreciate it now,” Talty said. “We bought it as vacant land, and we’ve gradually built a house on it, put up fences and yards. As I said, it’s time to appreciate it before we get too old to do that,” Talty told The Thoroughbred Report.

“We’ll have all our own horses and what I call a few low-maintenance types who’d be dry or maiden mares,” Talty said. “We’re just trying to get away from all the tough physical work in terms of foaling down and yearling and weanling preparation, all that.”

Mick and Michelle Talty | Image courtesy of Edinglassie Stud

The future of Edinglassie has yet to be revealed, whether it will be retained as a thoroughbred breeding facility or repurposed for another use.

Altomonte family purchase Invermien

In November, the Altomonte family of the famed Corumbene Stud purchased the historic Scone-based property Invermien from Duncan and Jill Macintyre. Sam Triggs of Inglis Rural brokered the deal.

Corumbene Stud, established in 1980 in Dunedoo by the Altomonte family, had seen their orange and brown spotted silks carried to success in races the calibre of the G1 Golden Slipper by Outreach (Exceed And Excel) and the G2 Expressway S. victor Standout, who now stands at the Dunedoo property.

The Altomonte family of the famed Corumbene Stud purchased the historic Scone-based property Invermien in November | Image courtesy of Inglis Rural Property

Invermien's history can be traced back to 1822 when Doctor William Bell Carlyle received a 2000-acre grant in the Kingdom Ponds area. Carlyle was followed to the area by his nephew Francis Little, who named his piece of land Invermien.

The Altomonte family has yet to confirm if they will move their bloodstock portfolio to Invermein from their current property.

Kitchwin Hills reshape as Malone goes ‘North’

September saw Kitchwin Hills’ CEO Steve Brown announce that the Hunter Valley-based farm will take a new direction, teaming up with Alma Vale Thoroughbreds with Verna Metcalfe, who was appointed responsible for the horses' day-to-day care.

The press release also stated that longtime stud manager Mick Malone and assistant stud manager Pauline Alix would be parting ways with the company.

Verna Metcalfe | Image courtesy of Inglis

“The decision to part ways comes after carefully considering the best interest of our clients and their horses. We understand that this change may bring about some uncertainty, but we want to assure you that it is a necessary step to ensure the continued excellence and growth of Kitchwin Hills,” the statement read.

Kitchwin Hills still stands two young sires in Graff and the recently acquired first-season sire Dubious.

Meanwhile, Malone and his wife Alix have relocated to Kanangra Stud in Scone. Fred and Mary Moses previously owned Kanangra Stud, and it is understood Malone has renamed the property North.

Mick Malone has relocated to Kanangra Stud in Scone, with the property now renamed to North | Image courtesy of Inglis

Under the North banner, Malone has begun a full-service broodmare and sales consignment and is set to offer yearlings as soon as 2024, with drafts expected at several Inglis’ sales, including the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.

On the market

Earlier in 2023, The Thoroughbred Report wrote that the prominent breeder Ian Smith of Edinburgh Park sold his breeding stock at May’s Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale and had listed his New South Wales Mid-North Coast property with Raine + Horne Double Bay, Donovan & Co and Magic Millions.

Edinburgh Park remains unsold | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

Clint Donovan of Donovan & Co shared earlier in the year that interest in the property had been strong given the quality of the offering and success Smith had had breeding from the property. However, as of November, the property remains unsold.

Magic Millions and Donovan & Co will also facilitate the sale of David and Kayley Johnson’s Rushton Park Farm - the property based in Victoria is nestled between Tatura and Murchison.

Rushton Park was listed for sale in September and has now been listed as being under contract.

Rushton Park is currently under contract | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

More recently, James O’Brien listed his Lauriston Park Thoroughbreds for sale through Magic Millions and Donovan & Co.

O’Brien, director of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA), explained his decision to scale back the breeding side of his business to The Thoroughbred Report.

“Nowadays, fewer people grow up around horses compared to years gone by. So, having people with expertise around horses is always a problem.

“It hasn’t been the main driver; it’s a decision to consolidate the mares with a focus on quality rather than quantity. It’s an economy of scale.

“The property has served its purpose for the operation, which no longer needs the facilities to operate under the future direction of the business.

“The property (Lauriston Thoroughbred Farm) has served its purpose for the operation, which no longer needs the facilities to operate under the future direction of the business.” - James O'Brien

Discussing what comes next, O’Brien said, “On a separate farm, we are operating pre-training facilities, we have three uphill tracks, and I think that’s a great competitive advantage, along with access to the beach.

“We’re quite busy in that area.”

Historic Upper Hunter Valley property still on the market

The Thoroughbred Report recently covered the news that the historic Upper Hunter Valley property Wakefield Stud is still for sale via Hamish Firth of Ray White Scone.

The 244-acre property is currently on lease to Henry Field’s Newgate Farm until Sunday, June 30, 2024.

Wakefield Stud | Image courtesy of Ray White Scone

Firth stated in an interview with The Thoroughbred Report there had been strong local and international interest in the property. However, when writing this summary, Firth confirmed the property is still on the market.

Wakefield Stud has a vast history. It was once owned by Brian Agnew, who stood Kala Dancer (GB), the sire of the 1992 Melbourne Cup hero Subzero. Brian Nutt then purchased the property and became Attunga Stud before Yarraman Stud held the property for some time.

New Zealand's Wellfield Lodge up for sale

Across the ditch in New Zealand, news broke that Wellfield Lodge, located in Palmerston North, would be sold via Bayleys.

Farm manager Peter Didham is focused on building his training operation, and with Wellfield Lodge no longer standing stallions, farm director Bill Gleeson felt it was the right decision to disperse the majority of bloodstock and sell the property.

Wellfield Lodge | Image courtesy of Bayleys

“Wellfield Lodge was under Peter Didham and myself. We got to a stage in our life where we wanted to downsize a bit, and Peter wanted to go training,” Gleeson told loveracing.nz.

“We have done a development at the farm. There are sections for sale, and we just want to downsize now.

“When we first bought the farm, we bought four or five blocks. Over the last four years, we have progressively sold down some smaller blocks, leaving us with the two main blocks, which can be sold as one block. We are also going to do a dispersal of the bloodstock, which will be done over two or three sales on Gavelhouse.”

“We have done a development at the farm. There are sections for sale, and we just want to downsize now. We are also going to do a dispersal of the bloodstock, which will be done over two or three sales on Gavelhouse.” - Bill Gleeson

Maluka relocate to Spendthrift

In December 2021, Spendthrift Farm closed the Australian arm of their business and put their Romsey, Victoria property, including their breeding stock and stallions, on the market.

November 2022 saw the prominent Victorian-based breeders David Moodie and Ash Hardwick of Hesket Bloodstock reach a deal with Spendthrift for the property formerly known as Yallambee Stud and the stock. Shortly after, Moodie and Hardwick agreed for the stallions Dirty Work and Gold Standard to join Widden Stud Victoria.

Fast forward to November 2023, Spendthrift has a new tenant with Luke and Mags Anderson relocating their Maluka Thoroughbreds brand to the property.

Gallery: Spendthrift Farm

It was reported the couple are looking to expand their Victorian broodmare, spelling and sales preparation business. The Andersons original leased property was the Avenel-based Pisa Lodge, which was put on the market with Magic Millions and Donovan & Co.

It is understood that Hesket Bloodstock will run cattle on the property. However, Maluka Thoroughbreds have complete control over the horse side of the property.

Vin Cox
John Singleton
Magic Millions
Strawberry Hill Farm
Inglis Rural
Corumbene Stud
Maluka Thoroughbreds
Hesket Bloodstock
Wellfield Lodge
James O'Brien
Donovan & Co
Rushton Park
Kitchwin Hills
Mick Malone