Birdsville bonus fuels Gordo's sales dream

6 min read

By Belinda Meyers

Sales season is full of buyers with stories to tell and money to spend. But few stories can match that of Shaun 'Gordo' Gordon, who has parlayed a $200 raffle ticket investment into a syndicate of owners who were able to secure their dream filly at the recent Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast.

This story starts with a priest from Quilpie and ends with a group of lifelong mates doing something they’d never dreamed possible.

A few years back, ‘Gordo’ – as he’s known within his syndicate of 16 Queensland mates - was quite partial to flicking through Country Life magazine and had seen the ads for a raffle to win a service to a stallion. He’d grown up around racing and had been wondering how to get back into the game, so when he got the call from Father Scully - a family friend - asking him to buy a ticket for charity, he decided to throw his hat in the ring.

The raffle was drawn at the Birdsville Races and the following day, Fr Scully was back on the phone telling Gordo that he’d won a service to Queensland sire Jet Spur.

Jet Spur

One problem… there was no broodmare in the picture.

The group rallied around to find a suitable candidate. Someone had a friend with a mare but when it came time to put her on the float, she wouldn’t go. They tried again with another mare - four times in fact - and she failed to get in foal.

Not to be discouraged they sourced a third mare, and for a third time they failed. The fourth mare came from Caboolture but the foal died during the birth. Fearing they were running out of time to get a live foal on the ground, they asked for one more chance and were given six weeks to find another mare.

The last chance

By chance Gordo was at a party soon after and word got around that he was looking for a broodmare. Enter Hidden Savings (Secret Savings {USA}), who raced only once before injury ended her career.

She had only a couple of previous foals get to the track, but both had been winners. The fledgling breeders were excited by the cross, the deal was done and the filly, to be named Tina Melina was born in October 2011.

It was to be a great ride for Gordo and his mates. He can recite the date, track and result of all 17 starts highlighted by six wins including the Listed Nudgee Stakes, two wins at Doomben and a metropolitan win at the Gold Coast which saw her win the first ever wildcard into the 2016 Magic Millions Fillies & Mares. She would run third in that race and was retired later that year with more than $350,000 in prizemoney in the bank.

Tina Melina winning the Listed Nudgee S.

With much of that in the bank and dreams of finding another racetrack star, Gordo and his mates went to the Gold Coast earlier this month to reinvest. They wanted a Magic Millions horse in their home state and buoyed by the recent sale of a Snitzel mare in foal to Spirit Of Boom which turned a more than handy profit, the search was on.

Executing the plan

It had been months in the making, with endless hours spent poring over the catalogue. Inspections were carried out in the stifling heat of the Gold Coast surrounded by the likes of Gai Waterhouse and Chris Waller who had been there countless times before.

The boys hard at work inspecting on the Gold Coast

The plan was to focus on older, proven sires, and they had fillies on their mind for a bit of residual value down the track. Trainer of choice David Vandyke did the final inspections and the extended shortlist soon became a wishlist of just one - a Lonhro filly out of the Fastnet Rock mare Regatta Parade from Three Bridges' draft that would go through the ring on Day 1.

“It was mainly because of what went on in the Oaks. Everybody loved the cross, we loved her. We found a few Lonhro fillies but nothing that matched up to her,” Gordon said.

"Everybody loved the cross, we loved her. We found a few Lonhro fillies but nothing that matched up to her." - Shaun Gordon

The opening couple of hours of the Gold Coast sale were a flurry of activity with two $1 million-plus yearlings going under the hammer.

Much of that buzz had subsided by the time Lot 60 came into the ring, but for Gordo and his mates, it was their moment to shine.

Bidding opened at $80,000 and with the excitement of a child on their first day at school, they were in the game. The hammer came down at $120,000 and after celebrating like they’d won the Magic Millions, disbelief set in again. They’d come to play on the big stage and they’d got their girl.

Lot 60 Lonhro x Regatta Parade

“We weren’t really fussed by that (bidding at auction) because we knew we had a limit and we weren’t going to break it. If we couldn’t get Lot 60 we knew we were going to move on. For me it was relief. I put the work in and to see the other boys so happy that’s the best thing feeling ever,” Gordon said.

A rare experience

Having outlayed almost nothing but the initial $200 cash for the raffle ticket, Gordon and one of his fellow syndicate members Reid Muirhead (who now owns Tina Melina) are well aware how rare it is to experience such good fortune as racehorse owners.

“We’ve been really lucky, we keep it very in-house, it’s never been about making money but we just love it." - Shaun Gordon

“We’ve been really lucky, we keep it very inhouse, it’s never been about making money but we just love it. We know that if it wasn’t for this ride that we’ve all been on, we probably would have drifted apart over all the years,” Gordon said.

The happy owners, L-R: Ben Cameron, Wade Lynch, Reid Muirhead, Peter Liston (Three Bridges Thoroughbreds), Shaun Gordon, Russell Williamson, Warren Connelly

They’re also realistic about finding that level of success again.

“I wouldn't be surprised if we’re racing a horse at Emerald,” Muirhead joked.

Gordon concluded: “We know we’re just the luckiest blokes. The four of us (who run the syndicate) have been the best of mates. Country boys meeting city boys and somehow we just stuck together. We’ve never had to ask anyone for extra money and we know we’re very very lucky and we’ve just loved it. We appreciate the system and we just continue on.”