Garry’s Corner – 4 October, 2019

Garry Chittick

We are back… A quick turnaround from Sydney to the Hunter Valley and back home full of… I won’t say knowledge, but plenty of opinions.

I am a little unusual in that I actually really like Australians. Sure, they have the confidence of the lucky country, yes, they are in your face, and yes, any opportunity to stick it up their Kiwi cousins delights them. However, they are not all Cheika’s and I think our ability to be impervious to their barbs doesn’t restrain them, but more puzzles them.

After all, they can be brutal, don’t take them on is the secret, just let them feel the frustration of being not as smart, seems to do the trick.

For all that our brief visit was worthwhile, the purpose of the trip was to inspect Coldplay’s Snitzel two-week-old filly. She was just as we expected, a first foal with everything in the right place. Why Snitzel you may ask? Well as Gary Wallace (Coldplay’s owner) was keen to kick her off with a proven stallion, the opportunity here was limited for a Savabeel daughter of an O’Reilly mare. After this mating she will return.

This was Gary’s first visit to the Hunter Valley. After passing the canyons of former coal mines then arriving at Yarraman Stud, Gary thought he had landed on the moon. The area is in the grips of a 100-year drought and the Mitchell brothers had just drilled a 300-metre bore for a limited supply of what they described as, “unsatisfactory water”. While the square oaten hay bales from Victoria are in short supply, some at $530 a bale the stock we saw looked well. These bales are placed for the horses to free graze, this is for the bulk feed, supplemented with daily lucerne and grain. I am not sure the cost, but Neil Ross who was good enough to drive us confirmed he was paying $38 for a regular sized bale of lucerne. Looking across the horizon I chose not to confirm that our cattle, some 1500, plus 600 horses were nowhere close to managing our feed…

We saw a number of stallions, but I don’t intend to pass comment on them with the exception for I Am Invincible, he is a champion sire who has the looks and physique to go with it. Purchased for a modest price, the Mitchell brothers are reaping the benefits of recognising a natural athlete and giving him a chance. Good on them, it won’t change them. It probably won’t significantly change the farm either, the fifty-year-old covering barn has no effect on their conception rates.

We lunched in Scone and then headed on to Arrowfield. The contrast seen here with the opportunity to irrigate was like comparing chalk and cheese. John Messara had the vision to pump water from a nearby dam over a significant hill some 20 years ago. I am not sure what area they can irrigate but certainly not all. John tells me they are very close to the cut off supply level of the dam, so they have purchased land in the southern highlands with an eye to safer summer grazing. The capital improvements here are as you would expect of international quality. We looked at the stallions of interest to us then moved on to Coolmore.

Coolmore have water rights and supply well in excess of their requirements and irrigate to meet their needs. An oasis in the region with capital improvements to match. With limited time we only inspected four of their sires, interesting to see both Justify and American Pharaoh. Back to Sydney, three and a half hours through the moon’s surface.

Did we learn anything? Yes. Can we pass it on? Probably not. We all view things differently so better we use our views to our perceived advantage. Many years ago, a breeder said to me, “better not to look at the sires you intend to use”. I couldn’t do that; I know they run all shapes and sizes, but I like to expect a resulting foal that may have the physical attributes I aimed for.

If I didn’t know before our visit, I certainly had a lesson in the varying sales pitch given. Out of the three pitches we received, one was of our style. The others obviously felt my vision was impaired by my failing years. They may be right, but I am pleased I went and could work out my own views. I strongly recommend any breeder to look before you leap.

We attended Rosehill on Saturday; these are very nice facilities it’s just a fair drive to get there. Fortunately for Gary and I, Stu Ramsey drove us. This was a further opportunity to extend our knowledge: one hour each way with no way out and a volume that negates the need for hearing aids. Something must get through. No, I am kidding, I have great regard for Stuart’s stockman skills and his ability to both breed a winner and sell a yearling. I have seen most of Australia with him and others and constantly remind myself of my father’s advice, “talk and you will hear nothing”, so listen I do.

I had an hour with John Messara whom has confidence RITA is moving in the right direction, any information he had he kept close to his chest. My point to him was, we need a credible update! I have seen the replay of Weigh In where our chairman was given the opportunity to perhaps leak a little. I know it may be a transitional time for the new board, but everyone has an opinion on where we are financially placed right now, and I think we are entitled to know. The season ended in July; with the urgency the participants would apply to their own business, they can’t see an acceptable reason for being kept in the dark.

Never mind, we are having a charmed run in Australia. Nine starters and seven winners (including the Group Two Guineas Trial – a 250k race) are keeping the racing account healthy, let alone the increased value to the sires as a result of Australian form.

Finally, I have read with interest the guru’s selection of the sires of the future, these gurus of course don’t put their capital on the line, probably just as well.

It’s a hard call, but I have recorded their pearls of wisdom so I don’t forget… Good on them for having a go, I just hope they take it on the chin when reminded.

As always stick to it.

Cheers, G.

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