For a fledgling breeding outfit like Altena Lodge, every little bit of success helps. So when Mister Songman (Your Song) romped to a seven-length win in lightning quick time at Randwick on Saturday, it brought a smile to the faces of Robert and Erika McGraw.
Altena Lodge has been in operation for just three years and early in the journey, the McGraws bought Mister Songman's dam, the Group 3 winner Kats Clause (Weasel Clause) from her previous owner, the late Dr John Burke.
Altena Lodge has bred two siblings, a younger full brother sold as a yearling at the 2018 Classic Sale and a colt foaled in November by Shooting To Win. That pair could be set for a substantial pedigree upgrade with Mister Songman aimed towards a possible shot at one of the big Randwick miles in the coming months according to co-trainer Adrian Bott.
Having his third start for Bott and Gai Waterhouse after being transferred from Tasmania, where he won four races, Mister Songman, who is owned by Dr Burke's children John and Elizabeth, was super impressive, clocking a time of 1:20.55 for the 1400m, just 0.22s outside Trapeze Artist's (Snitzel) track record.
That win came just 24 hours after the 4-year-old's older half brother Sir Simon (Tickets), broke his maiden at his second start in a race at Hobart.
It’s a family that already has black type, not only through Kats Clause, who won the G3 Mannerism S. but via her second foal, Mister John (Strada), who won a Listed Tasmanian Guineas.
It was the pedigree that appealed to Robert McGraw as he looked to build his broodmare band a couple of years ago.
"I deal with Widden and the late Dr Burke was a client of theirs. And he wanted her to go somewhere where she could continue her breeding career. We dealt privately to buy her," he told TDN AusNZ.
"I like those Marscay line broodmares and she being a Group 3 winner herself and she had already produced the stakes winner down in Tasmania."
"We were only finding our feet in the breeding industry, so she was a good mare for us to get a hold of." - Robert McGraw
"We were only finding our feet in the breeding industry, so she was a good mare for us to get a hold of and get some nice commercial foals out of in the twilight of her career."
The first foal was the full brother to Mister Songman, now named Rabbit Clause, who sold for $70,000 to Tricolours Racing at the Classic Sale. He is being prepared by Joseph Pride at Warwick Farm.
"He's probably a bit bigger than Mister Songman and we probably won’t see him until a late 2-year old or a 3-year old," McGraw said.
After skipping a year, the McGraws sent Kats Clause to Shooting To Win, the result a colt born in November who they also have high hopes for at the sales in 2020.
"I liked both Shooting To Win and Deep Field but just on type Shooting To Win matched the mare better. It looked like a good match on paper, so we went ahead with that and we've got a nice foal out of it. Hopefully, he can run as good as he looks," McGraw said.
"He's very nice. He's obviously a November foal but they grow pretty well her foals. I would be hoping Shooting To Win kicks some goals because he's a very nice looking colt and obviously with the other foal doing well, it would be nice to to go to the sales with him and get a good result," he said.
Two foals, but plans to grow
That foal was one of two live foals Altena Lodge bred this past season, the other being a filly by Headwater out of Bella Demure (Beautiful Crown).
With six broodmares and an intention to add more at the 2019 broodmare sales , McGraw says that number of foals will grow to at least five in 2019.
Currently based at Hawkesbury, Altena Lodge was the realisation of a dream for the McGraws, who had both worked in the thoroughbred industry and wanted to have their own breeding operation.
"We are starting to get a few nice mares under our belt. We are looking to move to the Hunter in the next six months and keep going from there." - Robert McGraw
"We’ve only been going for three years. We were always looking at breeding horses with my father in law, but he suddenly passed away. My wife and I decided that you only live once, let’s get into it now, and the Altena name came from a small town in Germany where her father was from," he said.
"We are building up. We are starting to get a few nice mares under our belt. We are looking to move to the Hunter in the next six months and keep going from there," he said.
While they maintain an interest in racing a couple of their own fillies, the primary business remains breeding to sell.
The hard road
McGraw knows it’s a tough road as a small breeder but he and his wife are determined to make it work.
"I think we’re getting a pass mark. It's hard for small people in this industry early on. It’s taken us three years now. We’ve identified a few families that we like, and there's a few things going right with those now," he said.
"We’ve identified a few families that we like, and there's a few things going right with those now." - Robert McGraw
"You just have to be patient. It takes those three to five years to get yourself set-up.".
"We're going to keep on pushing, I want to see that Group 1 winner come out of my farm. That's the ultimate goal."