TDN AusNZ’s Paul Vettise: Bruce, how many broodmares do you currently have on the farm in Cambridge and what numbers do you have in Australia and where are they based?
Bruce Sherwin: In New Zealand we have 15 of our own mares and nine for other owners. In Australia, we have 15, all owned by Raffles, and primarily with Mike Fleming's Bhima Stud and also at Vinery Stud in the Hunter Valley and Maluka Farm in Victoria
“The balance has definitely shifted for us in last three or four years with more mares now Australian-based.”
The balance has definitely shifted for us in last three or four years with more mares now Australian-based. Initially, we travelled mares back and forward, but this was cost prohibitive. The increase in our Australian-based mares is in part indicative of a lack of proven, commercial stallion options in New Zealand at present.
PV: What is the farm’s approach to selecting stallions and who is involved in the matings?
BS: It is a case of striking a balance between physical type, commercial appeal and also looking at how crosses have worked in the family. The starting point for me is a valuation of the mare in question and list of positives and negatives - type, age and previous progeny.
Then they are matched with a list of stallions we would like to support and the portfolio of stallion shares and breeding rights Dato (Yap) has acquired. My list of draft matings/recommendations is sent to Dato who also enjoys input into the process and makes the final decision.
PV: How much do sales trends influence you?
BS: Ultimately we are making breeding decisions for a hypothetical horse, which is more than two years away from a sales ring. We try to follow what the market is demanding, but there is a lot of crystal ball gazing. Apart from sales trends, we are watching race and trials results and keeping an ear to the ground for trainer feedback, particularly on younger stallions’ progeny.
“Apart from sales trends, we are watching race and trials results and keeping an ear to the ground for trainer feedback, particularly on younger stallions’ progeny.”
In the past few years we have seen strong sales trends shifting from new season sires, back to proven sires and now a narrowing focus on top-end products. The one constant that will never change is that good types will invariably sell well.
PV: What about first-season stallions, how do you assess, if and which stallions you look to target?
BS: The only rule is that are no rules! Case in point this past season would be a stallion like Spirit Of Boom. Dato looks for Group 1 race form, a good type, an appealing pedigree and value for investment (if buying a share). Then how that fits with our current mares and, importantly, who the potential buyers will be.
PV: Where are some of your higher profile mares, both in New Zealand and Australia, going this year?
BS: We had been working on sending our best mare Rock Diva, who won the G1 Auckland Cup and is a half-sister to the champion filly Shamrocker, to Japan to Deep Impact, but we couldn't quite get things confirmed and finalised. She holds a booking to Fastnet Rock.
“We had been working on sending our best mare Rock Diva to Japan to Deep Impact, but we couldn't quite get things confirmed and finalised.”
Sacredvista, a full-sister to Long Leaf from the immediate family of Terravista, will go to I Am Invincible. Well performed race mares Spectacular Vision, El Sagrado and Just A Blur will visit Capitalist, Zoustar and Written Tycoon respectively.
PV: Are there any recent additions or acquisitions to the broodmare band?
BS: We generally like to add a couple of new mares each year, but the market has been red hot. We also have three or four race mares at, or close to, retirement so the need to add new blood was not as urgent this past 12 months. Sacredvista and stakes winning Sacred Rhythm, who is by Pentire, readily spring to mind.
The Tattersalls December Broodmare Sale could be an option. We have been there three times since our Raffles Farm inception 10 years ago and been generally pleased with the end result. It is major task though, logistically and financially.
PV: Updates on some of the better-performed members of the racing team both here and in Australia?
BS: Last season was the first in eight years that we didn't produce a Group 1 winner, so we have had a tremendous run. There was a significant hole left by Sacred Elixir's departure to Hong Kong, but we did still have Lean Mean Machine, a 3-year-old colt by Zoustar who won the G2 Brisbane Sires’ Produce. In fact, we were very close to a quinella in the race with Sizzling Ace finishing third.
“Last season was the first in eight years that we didn't produce a Group 1 winner, so we have had a tremendous run.”
Lean Mean Machine has trialled nicely, and will kick-off in early September. His early target is the Golden Rose and then we will make a decision as to whether he sticks to sprinting and a Coolmore or goes down the mile and the Caulfield Guineas route.
Declarationofheart, a son of Declaration Of War, looked a potential top-liner in his 3-year-old return last week at Sandown. He holds a nomination for the Caulfield Guineas. Sizzling Ace and Madam Rouge are a couple of nice 3-year-old filly prospects in Australia.
Closer to home there will be plenty of interest in the first crop of Sacred Falls' 2-year olds. The early feedback from breakers and trainers has been very positive, but we will all be wiser in six or eight months’ time!