Mill Park Stud hoping for Booker page update

5 min read
Mill Park Stud has transformed from a sheep farm into a serious sales presence and even though the farm is now a commercial operation it still retains its small farm DNA.

When Mill Park Stud's yearlings arrive at a revamped Oaklands Junctions late on Saturday ahead of the Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale, a star colt from the draft may just have been provided with a timely and much-deserved pedigree update from sprinting mare Booker (Written Tycoon).

The 4-year-old mare is already a G3 and G2 winner but is unlucky not to have a top level win on her resume and contests Saturday's G1 Oakleigh Plate 12 months after she was a half length fourth in the race.

Mill Park Stud's 11 horse draft features yearlings by star stallions I Am Invincible and Zoustar but also a half-brother to Booker by Starspangledbanner (Lot 348) that strikes a strong resemblance to his big sister.

Lot 348 - Starspangledbanner x Noondie colt

"Fingers crossed that Booker can breakthrough at top level because she certainly deserves it," Mill Park Stud's manager Chris Watson told TDN AusNZ. "She is a top race mare, but that was one of her best runs last year. It would be terrific to for us to arrive in Melbourne with that page update."

"Fingers crossed that Booker can breakthrough at top level because she certainly deserves it,"- Chris Watson

Trainers Matty Ellerton and Simon Zahra are sending Booker into the race first-up but a recent jump-out against a decent benchmark in G1 Lightning Stakes fourth Graff (Star Witness) was a great sign.

"She runs well fresh and it seems like she is back in the same sort of form she was last season," Watson said.

Booker's dam Noondie (Flying Spur) is out of Creatrix (Umatilla {NZ}, three quarter sister in blood to dual G1 winner Umrum (Umatilla {NZ}) and top producing mare Tan Tat Star (Umatilla {NZ).

Booker was Noondie's first foal and was a $230,000 purchase from Mill Park Stud's 2016 Premier Yearling Sale draft and yearling pics show Lot 348 is of a similar colour and build, if only a little bit behind his big sister in terms of development at the same stage.

Booker pictured as a yearling

"They are quite similar horses, big, strong powerful horses that's for sure," Watson said. "She was really well put together, she had muscle definition and was all power and ready to go. He is taking a little longer to furnish, but is big strong colt. He will go as a 2-year-old but I would imagine his best will be as he progresses as a 3-year-old."

Undoubtedly a big day

It was on the corresponding Caulfield race day in 2005 that crack colt Undoubtedly (Redoute's Choice) emulated his sire and won the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes, a victory that continued the family-run farm's transformation.

In the late 1990s, Mill Park Stud's focus was livestock and while the family's passion-project has turned into a commercial venture, the Watsons haven't lost the type of attention to detail synonymous with smaller operations.

Undoubtedly won the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes in 2005

Helping maintain that high standard is Watson's wife Sian, an experienced vet, who provides the type of around-the-clock, hands-on care a farm with around 80 broodmares requires, while Watson's parents Peter and Serena are still heavily involved.

It's been an exciting 20 years and breeding is something we are still very passionate about. - Chris Watson

"We have been a commercial operation since 1999 and we have been lucky to have those stakes winners," Watson said. "It's been an exciting 20 years and breeding is something we are still very passionate about. We keep aiming to the highest possible level when it comes to producing horses on our farm.

"We are still a family-run operation, and we still breed merino sheep, but the horse operation remains a passion. Sian is hands-on, so am I, as are my parents in the way that we study pedigrees and nutrition. We are lucky to have a very temperate climate and this area is renowned for having high quality primary production stock, with sheep and cattle."

Prime pasture

Situated on prime pastoral land south east of Adelaide, Mill Park Stud boasts an incredible honour roll for an operation of its size. G1 winners Fawkner (Reset), Happy Trails (Shamardal {USA}), Gold Guru (Geiger Counter {USA}), Princess Coup (Encosta De Lago), Mummify (Encosta De Lago), Rebel Raider (Reset) and Divine Madonna (Hurricane Sky) are just some of the 15 top grade winners from the farm.

Mill Park Stud

This year's draft reflects the growth of the stud from family-run sheep farm in the 1990s to a serious player in the sales ring. Lot 98 is a half-brother to classy colt Mickey Blue Eyes (Medaglia d'Oro {USA}) by Shooting To Win, while the lots by Zoustar (Lot 399) and I Am Invincible (Lot 411) are sure to attract attention.

"We think it is a well-rounded draft with something for everyone," Watson said.

"We think it is a well-rounded draft with something for everyone," - Chris Watson

Positive political outlook

While much of the news out of South Australian racing in recent times has been negative, with the catalyst seemingly being the controversial point of consumption tax, with the departure of top level trainers and even stallions, Watson is retaining a positive outlook for the "resilient" state's stakeholders.

"Obviously it's been widely reported the South Australian thoroughbred industry is having a tough time since the introduction of the POC tax," he said. "It has created a stagnation within the industry. We have had jockeys and trainers leave, and just in the last week we have seen Akeed Mofeed (GB) leave the state so it's hurting us.

"We are doing everything we can and getting behind the TRSA (Thoroughbred Racing SA). They are well aware of the state the industry is in and we will be putting as much pressure as we can on the racing minister and the treasurer. It's the third or fourth biggest industry in South Australia so to reach the situation we are currently in is diabolical. I am hopeful the situation can be rectified by the next state budget."