It’s backwards for bacon: Nocab making a splash

7 min read
There was a new player on the scene at last week's Inglis broodmare sales - Nocab Racing making their mark firstly at the Chairman's with the purchase for $450,000 of Rocket Science (Ire) (Fastnet Rock) and the next day for $175,000 of Shihonka (Capitalist).

Cover image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

So who is Nocab Racing? Well it's backwards for Bacon - the Brisbane couple Steve and Tina Bacon who, after a lifetime of background interest in racing and eight years of ownership, have taken the plunge into the heady world of thoroughbred breeding.

Steve's grandfather was raised close to Deagon racecourse in a racing family; trainers and jockeys amongst his relations. Whilst Steve was growing up there was always racing on the radio though his parents waited until their kids were older to get into ownership.

“And I replicated that,” Steve said - “once I had a bit more time and the finances.”

It was a trip to the Melbourne Cup and a visit to the popular yearly function held on the day after the Derby at the Flemington stables of Waterhouse and Bott that saw the Bacons put their hand up for their first horse.

Tina and Steve Bacon

It wasn't the purpose of the day, there were no plans to buy a horse but everyone knows how persuasive an enthusiastic trainer (yes, we mean Gai!) can be and “the next thing we knew we had a share in a horse!”

Beginner's luck

It was a definite case of beginner's luck with that first horse being the very handy Embracer (Sebring) - winner of seven races including the Listed Gold Rush at Hawkesbury.

Enjoying racing horses with Steve's parents Geoff and Jan, the Bacons were even luckier next time around, cheering to a G2 Golden Pendant victory the smart mare Vangelic (Vancouver) who upon her retirement last year was sold at the Magic Millions Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale to Tom Magnier for $1.5 million.

From those two early successes the enthusiasm for ownership has flourished, the Bacons now involved in “forty to fifty” horses with Waterhouse and Bott as well as Tony Gollan.

Vangelic was sold at the 2023 Magic Millions Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale to Tom Magnier for $1.5 million | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

It was their involvement with Waterhouse and Bott that led the Bacons to teaming up with Bruce Slade whose idea for a syndicate focusing on fillies appealed to them.

Named the Valerie Partnership in honour of Gai's late mother (racing in her favourite colour - aqua), the group enjoyed instant success with its first three purchases Platinum Jubilee (Zoustar), Sicilian (I Am Invincible) and Taormina (Written Tycoon) all displaying talent.

A debut winner of the G3 Gimcrack S., Platinum Jubilee - who was also second in the RL Magic Millions - has had her value increased with the deeds of her half-sisters Lady Of Camelot (Written Tycoon) and Queen Of The Ball (I Am Invincible) whilst the stakes placed Sicilian hails from the same family as She's Extreme (Extreme Choice) who sold for $3.4 million at the Chairman's.

Gai Waterhouse with her late mother, Valerie Smith | Image courtesy of Steve Christo

Both fillies (Lots 513 and 540) go under the hammer at the upcoming Magic Millions Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale and the next group of the Valerie Partnership fillies are also displaying ability - including the Queensland carnival bound last start winner Toque (Street Boss {USA}).

Fillies and strategies

It was whilst listening to Bruce Slade discussions regarding his strategies with these fillies and their long term value as broodmares that the Bacons started to think about breeding.

And so, half way through last year, they made the decision to become breeders; establishing a plan to buy a couple of mares in Sydney, another couple at the Magic Millions and another two next year.

“The idea is to get up to about ten mares within three to five years,” Steve said.

“The idea is to get up to about ten mares within three to five years.” - Steve Bacon

At the moment the mares are being purchased - on the advice of Bruce Slade - with two stallions in mind; Ozzmosis who they bought a share in, and Storm Boy (Justify {USA}) in whom they are already part owners.

That RL Magic Millions win came to be part of the Nocab Racing portfolio more by chance than planning - “we don't race many colts, preferring to concentrate on the fillies and we did originally say no to Storm Boy,” Steve recalled.

“I wasn't really interested in him,” he admitted, “and I still have the emails where I kept saying ‘no’!"

Storm Boy | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

“But they were having trouble selling him and when he was very close to trialling they asked me to consider to taking one of the last shares so they could get him named.”

“I said ‘yeah ok - but you owe me!’”

Nocab mares to call Ridgmont home

The next path on the road to breeding horses was to find a place to foal down and rear and after a visit to Ridgmont in the Hunter Valley the decision was made.

“We already had a connection - and a rapport - with the Cunninghams as they are also in Storm Boy and we have been so impressed with the amazing job they have done with Ridgmont over the last couple of years.”

It was at the Chairman's that Nocab Racing signed for a foundation broodmare - the imported Rocket Science ticking the boxes in regard to performance, pedigree and suitability firstly for Ozzmosis and maybe later down the track for Storm Boy.

“She was a good buy for us for those reasons but we also have that connection to Justify being Storm Boy's sire, and she is in foal to him - and of course he will be a scarcity in the future.”

The next day they were back in action securing Shihonka, a mare they already had a connection with - racing her along with Steve's parents to a couple of metropolitan victories and a Group 3 second in the Vo Rogue Plate.

Fitting the criteria

“Having raced her is a bonus,” Steve said - adding that they also named her (“it is Japanese for capitalism”).

“But the main reason to buy her was that she also fit all of our criteria. Adrian (Bott) had a massive opinion of her speed. She was stakes placed at two and three and a city winner and she fit within our budget. She was unlucky not to have won at stakes race and that would've made her a much more expensive mare.”

It has been a fast learning experience for the family and a passion they are able to share, their children also interested - especially their youngest son Liam who has been working part-time (whilst finishing his university degree) at the Tony Gollan stables, getting ready for a breeding season stint at Newgate this year.

“He then hopes to get over to the UK and Ireland and get as much experience as he can,” Steve said - “he is very passionate about it.”

“But the main reason to buy her (Shihonka) was that she also fit all of our criteria. Adrian (Bott) had a massive opinion of her speed. She was stakes placed at two and three and a city winner and she fit within our budget.” - Steve Bacon

Meanwhile Steve is already thinking what selling his own horses will be like.

“I will be extremely nervous! When you are buying you may have a list of 20 horses you like but but when you are selling you can't just turn the page and find the next one!”

A keen student of all things racing and breeding, Steve is self taught though happily lapping up advice - “Adrian and Bruce must be getting sick of my phone calls!” he laughed, adding that whilst Tina is not so interested in the logistics (“though she may become so down the track”) she loves the horses, attending the studs, sales and races.

Liam, Tina, Steve and Isaac Bacon

And he knows there is much more to take in - “I envisage that in this game ten, twenty, thirty years on you are still learning,” he said.

Nocab Racing