Fast times at Quilly Park

7 min read
With a flagbearer on the track, an emerging stallion in the breeding barn and a draft of yearlings headed to the sales for the first time, things are busy at Quilly Park.

The transformation of Mystyko (NZ) (Sakhee's Secret {GB}) from picnic galloper to possible Group 1 sprinter could prove to be the story of the Melbourne autumn, but his emergence mirrors the rising ambitions of his breeders at Quilly Park.

Mystyko completed a hat-track of wins with a comfortable victory in a BM78 race 1100m at Caulfield on Saturday, just over a year since he was sent to Woolomai to rediscover his confidence.

His success comes at a busy time for Pearcedale-based farm Quilly Park, which is preparing its first draft of yearlings for sale at the Melbourne Gold Yearling Sale in April, while planning the third season at stud for its suddenly-in-demand stallion De Gaulle (Exceed and Excel).

Managing director Richard Anderson set the Quilly Park operation up ten years ago and after an early run of success, highlighted by his Group 2 winning mare Avienus (Reset), it’s been a period of putting in the foundations for realising those strong ambitions.

Mystyko's career in many ways, mirrors that of his breeders, a bright promising start, followed by a period of patience to develop into his potential.


"When he was a youngster, he ran at his second start at Flemington over 1400m. The jockey took off a little early and he ended up running fifth, with one of Hayes' horses (Sebring Dream (Sebring)) winning. He and the second horse (Montoya's Secret (High Chaparral {Ire}) went on to staying, and we thought here we go, we might have a Derby horse," Anderson told TDN AusNZ.

Trainer Trevor Rogers took Mystyko to Queensland, with a view to seeing if he could target the G1 Queensland Derby, but when he stepped up to 1600m on a soft track at Eagle Farm, it was apparent that staying was not his caper.

On the same day Ruthven (Domesday) won the 2017 Queensland Derby, Mystyko was winning a Rockhampton BM55 Hcp over 1050m.

To the picnics

But if Rocky seemed a long way from Doomben that day, a few months later, Group 1 racing seemed even further way as the horse seemed to lose focus.

"He had a horse fall in front of him at Sandown and he lost all of his confidence," Anderson said.

"We decided to take him to the picnics and took him to Woolamai and told our track rider to get him back and ride him through the field. He carried 72kg, and the old boys out at Woolamai said that they'd hadn’t seen a horse run those sort of last 600m sectionals in a long time."

He would win twice over the 1008m at Woolamai before being well beaten over 1600m at Balnarring, but when he comfortably beat a highly-rated rival at Pakenham last March, Rogers and Anderson knew the penny was finally starting to drop.

Richard Anderson and Trevor Rogers with Mystyko

"He's still a bit dumb in the brain but he's grown into his body. As a 3-year-old, he was that much bigger than the other competitors," Anderson said.

"We've learned our lessons along the way and now it’s about keeping him fresh and targeting him at the right races."

"We've learned our lessons along the way and now it’s about keeping him fresh and targeting him at the right races." - Richard Anderson

After a couple of seconds at big prices at Sandown to kick off this campaign, he recorded midweek wins at Caulfield and Sandown before his most recent success, his first in Saturday company.

Keen to strike while the iron is hot, he’ll head to a BM90 over 1200m at Flemington on February 16 before a possible shot at the G1 Newmarket Hcp on March 9.

Lofty ambitions and long-term plans are nothing new for Quilly Park, which sent Avienus to two Cox Plates, for a best finish of sixth behind So You Think (NZ) (High Chaparral {Ire}) in 2010.

Lateral thinking

Mystyko's breeding owes something to that 'thinking outside the box' attitude, with his dam Plan The Peace (NZ) (I Conquer {NZ}) one of the first mares Quilly Park had bought.

"There's an old mentor of mine called Roy Flieter, he was mentoring me on my breeding. He had a mare that I really liked and he was getting out of his horses, so I picked up that one. In return, I said he can work with me and we can find the right stallion to go to that mare and we ended up sending her to New Zealand," he said.

Plan The Peace and Mystyko as a foal

Shuttler Sakhee's Secret stood at The Oaks Stud in Cambridge for five seasons before eventually ending up in Italy. The July Cup winner has had three stakes winners in New Zealand but no black-type in Australia.

"Sakhee's Secret ran the fastest July Cup in England. So he had the breeding," Anderson said. "I liked the match with the Zabeel line, but more importantly, there's a lot of colonial blood in that mare on the bottom line."

De Gaulle fortune

It was that type of thinking which led Anderson to secure an unraced colt as a stallion prospect a couple of years back.

De Gaulle had impressed for Peter and Paul Snowden at three trials but bowed a tendon.

"I always wanted a stallion and I heard that De Gaulle had bowed a tendon and I rang up to see if I could buy him to fix him up, I’d fixed up tendons before," Anderson said.

De Gaulle

"Tim Brown from Magic Millions rang me up and asked me I would like to buy him as a stallion so John Pratt from Brooker Park and I purchased him and we served 20 mares in his first season."

Anderson had intended to utilise De Gaulle mainly for his band of around 20 broodmares, but when the stallion's half-sister Estijaab (Snitzel) won the G1 Golden Slipper S. last year, all that changed.

"It forced my hand a little bit, I was going to keep him private. But now we have got clients ringing up to book to him and he's throwing magnificent types. You never know your luck, he might make it as a stallion," he said.

His first crop of foals hit the ground last spring, among which was Mystyko's half brother, and Anderson is very excited.

"The De Gaulles are unbelievable. They are all crackers. Every trainer that comes out to look at them, asks me if they can come back into in a few months' time. I don’t want to take them to market, but I think I have no option now," he said.

Taking them to market

While Quilly Park has been a breed to race operation, Anderson said that strategy has evolved and he will take eight yearlings to the Melbourne Gold Yearling Sale in April.

"This is the first time we’ve gone to market. We’ve got eight above average horses there," he said. "I'm hoping to start building the brand and I thought for a start to focus on one sale was the way to go."

Things appear to be moving quickly at Quilly Park and the importance of good staff has never been so apparent.

Rogers, who boasts an outstanding background, is key to the success on the racetrack according to Anderson.

"Trev has had a few health programs and he's a single parent with a son. He's been a great advocate of mine and he worked for John Size for 17 years as his foreman. I thought he'd have to have some knowledge," he said.

"After speaking with John Size, he said, he was a fantastic guy and he trusted him with all his Group horses. He was probably the best track rider going around but due to prostate cancer he was diagnosed with, he couldn’t ride them anymore."

"I use all of his other great attributes and he does a great job."