It Takes A Team

8 min read

Welcome to TDNAusNZ’s ‘It Takes A Team’, brought to you in conjunction with Thoroughbred Industry Careers. Here we highlight and celebrate some of the heroes of our industry. The strappers, riders, stud-workers and people behind the scenes of our champions. The people who are up late into the night foaling or up at the crack of dawn to trackwork, working tirelessly to keep the industry running.

Today we chat to a young couple who made the brave decision to g out on their own and start up their own stud farm. Bethany Grant and Jack Buckley are the owners of the new Parrakoola Park, who will be presenting their first yearlings for sale this year.

Parrakoola Park - Bethany Grant & Jack Buckley

TDN: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves, how did you get your start in the industry?

Jack: Horses have always been a part of my life ever since I was a little kid. I got my first start when I was 13 at Meredith Park mucking stables, doing feed runs and just learning the ropes up until I finished school.

Once I turned 18 I headed for the Hunter Valley where I took a job at Arrowfield Stud and got stuck in to yearling preparation and thats where I learnt how to present yearlings to the highest standard. I attended my first sale at Inglis Easter, where Sooboog was sold for $1.5 million. After that I was lucky enough to be involved in the Teeley Assests dispersal where a lot beautifully bred mares with incredible bloodlines were put up for unreserved auction.

After the sales season I got my chance at foaling and got the chance to learn little more about that side. After 12 months I headed for New Zealand where I took up a job at Waikato Stud for yearling preparation where we prepared over 60 yearlings and got the chance to attend the Karaka yearling sale. On my return to Australia I moved to Nagambie where I worked for one of Victoria's leading breeding operations, Swettenham Stud, and was given the opportunity to be a stallion groom working with the likes of Melbourne cup winner Americain and world champion miler Toronado.

After 12 months at Swettenham, I took the best part of a year to attend all major sales in Australasia, then went onto being a stallion groom at Newgate Farm for the 2016/2017 seasons. We began Parrakoola Park in 2018.

Bethany Grant and Jack Buckley

Bethany: I've loved horses from before I can remember but coming from a non-horsey family and living in suburbia I had to settle for weekly riding lessons, that was until I was 18 and got my first job in the industry at Broadmeadow Race Track working for Paul Perry.

After six months I gained a position at Evergreen Stud Farm where I worked for two years doing everything from pre-training and riding trackwork, foaling, reproduction work to yearling preparation. After Evergreen I moved to the Hunter and started working for Julie Harris at Holbrook Thoroughbreds, this is really where I learnt the most. Being a small farm we did everything from horse work to farming and after 18 months of learning the ropes I became yearling manager for the 2018 sales season.

I remained at Holbrook until June 2018 when we started Parrakoola Park.

TDN: When did you decide to go out on your own?

Beth & Jack: It had always been on our minds to go out on our own as we believe we are good team but when was the question. We thought about it very seriously at the beginning of this year, we’ve formed some very good relationships over the past couple of years doing sales and purchasing horses, then thought 'why not let's give it a shot?'

Jack and Beth with one of their weanling purchases

TDN: How many horses do you currently have on the property at Parrakoola?

Beth & Jack: We currently run 15 horses, we hope to have more permanent stock in the future which is the goal but that keeps the two of us busy enough. This includes mares and foals, dry mares, yearlings and we are coming off a very busy first breeding season where we ran at almost 30.

TDN: Are there any mentors that have helped you throughout your careers?

Jack: One of my mentors were the late Tim Jones of Swettenham Stud. He gave me a lot more confidence around horses especially in the stallion barn. He was always a big believer in anyone could do it, meaning women can do it too, as it is a very male-dominated industry.

Another would have to be Peter Keating (Newgate Farm Breeding Shed Manager), from his knowledge to his know-how of the industry, his years spent in stallion barns all over the world, and spending two seasons with him I learnt a lot. And of course my Mum and Dad have always believed in me and were very supportive when I told them I wanted to go out on my own and start my own horse farm, especially at the age of 23.

Beth: There have been many people who I believe have helped me in my career and still continue to help. My former boss Julie Harris has to be the biggest influence, not only was she a great boss and taught me a lot but she is also a wonderful person and friend who to this day I still text or ring for advice.

I also lean on some close friends for advice in Chrissy Bambry and Sheerah Sullivan. They are horse women and have been in my position at one time or another. Lastly, my family in all their non-horsiness, still support us even though they know nothing about it. That means the most.

Beth (right) during her time at Holbrook Thoroughbreds

TDN: Tell us about your Inglis Classic Sale draft. How many are you taking to the sale?

Beth & Jack: We are taking five yearlings to the Classic Sale in 2019, by some exciting first-season sires Headwater and Super One. One of the standout lots would probably be Lot 640, the Headwater x Red Duchez colt. He's a great type with a lovely free-flowing walk, good head and eye, and we think he’ll catch some buyers' eyes. We're excited about this horse.

Lot 374, the Super One x House Mistress colt, is a great physical specimen, a real get-up-and-go style of horse with a powerful shoulder and hind quarter. This colt possesses what every Australian buyer wants and that is speed.

Lot 701, the Star Witness x Showusyourcugats colt, is a big strong colt with plenty of scope and a lot of bone, another get-up-and-go horse, by proven sire Star Witness.

Jack working with the Headwater x Red Duchez colt

TDN: What is the most daunting aspect of presenting your own draft?

Beth and Jack: The most daunting part would have to be making sure the horses look their best because they are being judged/critiqued as soon as they come out of the box, so we're hoping that they're on their best behaviour. I think another would be getting them over the finish line and selling them and gaining a reputation as sellers and producers of nice horses.

TDN: How many other sales will you be attending this year, which are you looking forward to the most?

Beth & Jack: Classics is the only sale we will be presenting a draft at, so we are really looking forward to that. We are sending one colt to the Adelaide Magic Millions Sale under another banner. We hope in the future we can present drafts at most sales with bigger numbers and aim to be more involved/active in the pinhooking market also, so we will be attending all weanling sales.

TDN: What is your favourite time of year on the farm?

Beth & Jack: We love every aspect on the farm, but it would have to foaling down mares and bringing a new life into the world. Hearing a foal's first whinny and watching it taking its first steps, that pulls the heart strings a little.

Mares and foals at Parrakoola Park

TDN: What would you say is the most difficult part of starting out on your own?

Beth & Jack: The most difficult part would definitely be building good relationships with clients and gaining horses. Another scary factor is learning to live very minimally and always making sure all bills are paid on time. We don’t get a weekly wage any more and that's scary, but we are learning and adapting to it very well. We are hoping our risks pay off in the future.

TDN: Do you have any advice for anyone else looking to start their own farm?

Beth & Jack: Our advice would be to ask questions. Don’t stop asking questions, gain advice from people that are in the same boat that have started from nothing and have grown a successful business. Always believe in yourself, stay positive and smile.