Devon Dancer provides Rea some sunshine

6 min read
Devon Dancer, the dam of Group 3 winner Turnitaround (Hard Spun {USA}), has been the mare on which Warrnambool breeder Michael Rea has built his racetrack success.

When it comes time for Warrnambool-based breeder Michael Rea to work out which yearlings he sells and which broodmares he moves on each year, there's one family that never makes the list.

Devon Dancer (Royal Academy {USA}) was the first filly that Rea ever bought and given what she has done for his breeding operation as a broodmare, she will be free to stay on at his 60-acre Wangoom farm for as long as she wants.

It’s the same story for any of her progeny, which include the city-winning mare Lady Selkirk (Von Costa De Hero) and the stakes-winner Turnitaround (Hard Spun {USA}), who resumes in Saturday's Vobis Gold Bullion at Pakenham on Saturday.

"Normally I might retain one a year, but out of that mare I keep all of them." - Owner/breeder Michael Rea

"Normally I might retain one a year, but out of that mare I keep all of them," Rea told TDN AusNZ.

"We actually bought her as a late 2-year-old. Lindsay Park had her and at her second start for us she won a maiden at the Warrnambool May races, which gave us a bit of a thrill."

Lady Selkirk's connections following a win at Flemington

"She's gone on from there and we retained her and bred from her. We sold the first few but not since. They all can run. She's not the biggest mare in the world, but she produces."

Adding to the success of Turnitaround, who has won 8 races and over $600,000, and Lady Selkirk, a winner of 5 races and just under $280,000, the 4-year-old Talk'Emaround (Poet's Voice {GB}) recently won his maiden at Terang and fronts up at Ararat on Tuesday.

Rea has also just sold shares in a 2-year-old Sepoy filly out of Devon Dancer. The mare missed to Kermedec (NZ) last year before going to Coolmore's Churchill (Ire) this year.

Careers in parallel

All of these horses have been, or will be trained by Rea's neighbour Matthew Williams, a horseman that Rea has a lot of admiration for and whose career had paralleled the rise of his own breeding interests.

"His sister worked for me in accounting and I got to know him through there and we’ve had that association since," Rea said.

Trainer Matthew Williams with Turnitaround and strapper, Sarah Woodhouse

"Matthew would have 60 in work there, including pre-trainers, he's even got some trotters on the walker over there."

"He has a budget and his owners have a budget. That makes it a little bit harder when you are competing against $200,000 horses." - Michael Rea

"He probably doesn't get that super quality horse that a lot of the trainers get. He has a budget and his owners have a budget. That makes it a little bit harder when you are competing against $200,000 horses."

"He does a great job with them. He's a great conditioner of horses."

Back for more at eight

Turnitaround, who races in Rea's brown, green and red colours, has been a stable star for the better part of five years. He is a three-time Flemington winner, a winner of the G3 Eclipse S. at Sandown and has twice won during Warrnambool's famous May carnival.

"Matthew reckons he is going as good as he ever has and his trial the other day was very good." - Michael Rea

His first start as an 8-year-old this Saturday comes after a long-term breathing issue was resolved and expectations are high that he can get back to the winners' circle for the first time in over two years.

"He's been going really well. In the Ballarat Cup a couple of years ago, he cracked his nose on the stall. And it made the flap on his nose keep falling in, so we had to fix that as he wasn't getting the oxygen in," Rea said.

"We hope that now he is right and we are just going to keep him to 1400m. He seems to do better at those distances.

"Matthew reckons he is going as good as he ever has and his trial the other day was very good."

Lady Selkirk, a winner of the Silver Bowl Final at Flemington two years ago, has recovered from a suspensory injury and is expected back on the track in January.

Readying for sales season

As well as readying for the return of his two stars, Rea is also preparing for the sales season, with five yearlings to take to market, three of them at the Melbourne Premier Sale.

Bucklee Park are offering Lot 307, a filly by Shooting To Win out of Merge (Commands), the daughter of Group 2 winner Seika (Canny Lad) and Lot 571, a filly by Kermedec (NZ) out of Casigris (USA) (Cozzene {USA}).

Miranda Park are offering Lot 564 on behalf of Rea, the colt by Dawn Approach (Ire) out of But One Regret (Redoute's Choice), the half-sister of G1 Caulfield Guineas winner Kenwood Melody.

Rea will also offer two lots by Brazen Beau at the Sydney Easter Sale through Holbrook Thoroughbreds.

Rea will be offering two lots by Brazen Beau at the Inglis Easter Sale

Heartland for racing but not breeding

While the south-west coast of Victoria is known as one of Australia's heartlands of racing, Rea remains as one of only a handful of breeders in the Warrnambool region.

"I don’t think there is anybody else silly enough." - Michael Rea

"I don’t think there is anybody else silly enough," he joked.

"There's no problem with the climate. I can grow them out as good as anybody. It's just how much people want to get into it."

Lady Selkirk

"There is a lot of risk in it. One of the colts I had this year bit one of the other ones and punctured a hole in his oesophagus, he died in two days. That's how it can go, you can have a lot of down side with the upside."

"You need every year to have a good sale, a $100,000 to $200,000 sale."

Rea said the secret to his success has been Inglis' bloodstock consultant Mark Dodemaide, who has helped propel his business to another level in the past decade.

"If I hadn’t had run into him at one of those stallion trips that Inglis did, I was going nowhere until I met Dods. He has got that commercial aspect about him and he picks all the mares for me conformation wise," he said.

"He's a very, very astute guy. He's very good."