Pinhooker enjoying return to the ring

6 min read

Written by Paul Vettise

After another Group 1-winning pinhook on the weekend with Spright taking out the G1 Sangster Classic, a refreshed and reinvigorated Gary Mudgway is back doing what he does best – seeking out young thoroughbred talent. Following time away from the ring, he has returned with a fresh sense of purpose.

Mudgway is well known as a successful pinhooker, both in Australia and Europe, and he’s enjoying a return to his first love.

“I got out a couple of years ago when the market was getting a little bit rich,” Mudgway said. “It was a good time to take a personal break.

“I did a few things that I’ve always wanted to do. I did a bit of travelling and off road driving through the outback of Australia.

“I did a bit of travelling and off road driving through the outback of Australia.” – Gary Mudgway.

“I did a few of those bucket list things like the Darwin Cup, I took a step back and reassessed the market.”

Gary Mudgway with the Alice Springs Cup

Drawn back in

Mudgway made a quiet return at the recent Inglis Weanling Sale where he put his toe back into the water.

“I got one and was the under-bidder on a couple. I dabbled and really wanted to see what the market was doing, get a feel for it,” he said.

“I thought that the prices were competitive again." - Gary Mudgway

“I think the vendors at Inglis were pretty good and were culling the horses they should have been culling. There wasn’t an awful lot that appealed to me, although there were obviously some nice horses there.

“I thought that the prices were competitive again. I could see horses that there was a profit in.

“My circumstances have changed a little bit in that I don’t have the farm anymore. I had to remodel my selections based around that.

“Most of the pinhookers out there, the professionals that have been doing it for a long time, have their own properties. But there are guys that have been doing it for a long time that don’t have their own properties.”

Gary Mudgway

Mudgway’s services and experience have also been sought out by a number of clients.

“I’m availing myself to doing some work for other people,” he said. “I’m doing some short lists for people and I’ve been a bit lucky buying racehorses out of weanling sales.”

Top buying record

With a record like his, it’s little wonder Mudgway’s talents are being utilised.

“It’s a bit hard to find someone that’s bought a couple of Group 1 winners in a year and another stakes filly,” he said.

A prime example is the Garry Frazer-trained Spright (Hinchinbrook), winner of the G1 TAB Sangster Classic at Morphettville which took her earnings to $1.2 million.

“I bought Spright for $12,000 and she was a good pinhook, we sold her for $100,000,” Mudgway said.

“I bought the Derby winner Extra Brut for $50,000 and sold him for $100,000 and in the scheme of things a good profit.

Extra Brut

“It’s very exciting to see those horses go on and I bought a good filly that year called Aristocratic Miss and she’s a multiple Group placegetter.

“She’s been struggling a little bit for that form, but she has been very unlucky this year, and another one to pop out of the system.”

Aristocratic Miss (Foxwedge) was a $25,000 Magic Millions Weanling Sale buy and on-sold at the Inglis Melbourne Premier Sale for $65,000.

“From small numbers I’ve had a lot of success,” Mudgway said. “All the good pinhookers are professional in their manner and they buy the right horses at the right money.

“I’m going to try and maintain some balance in my life and concentrate on weanlings and foals.”

Aristocratic Miss as a yearling

Mudgway also has an impressive strike rate record in Europe.

“I’ve pinhooked in the Northern Hemisphere with 33 per cent of them stakes performers,” he said.

“Not always fancy, but I bought horse for 8000 euros that won the Swedish and Norwegian Triple Crown – a Derby and two Guineas. I bought a Group 2 winner in France.

“At the end of the day, I’ll stake my reputation on buying a horse that can run rather than try and buy a horse that I can make money out of.

“It’s a funny way of going about it, but if you’re trying to sell a yearling that looks like it can run you’ll find the buyers. Every now and again you strike it lucky and get the overs.”

Spotting the hidden gem

Mudgway said it wasn’t an easy craft and a case of what you put in, you get out.

“You do what you’re good at and finding the right horses at a weanling sale is a lot of hard work,” he said.

“I will look at every horse in a sale and in two weeks’ time I’ve got 700 foals to look at. What you’re trying to do is find the horse the vendor shouldn’t be selling, he’s making a mistake.

“At the end of the day, I’ll stake my reputation on buying a horse that can run rather than try and buy a horse that I can make money out of.” – Gary Mudgway.

“Also find the horse that your competitors, who are very good at what they do, don’t find and then price it right so there’s profit at the end of it.

“It’s a little battle and people don’t realise how much work you have to put into it to be successful.”

Mudgway said there was never room for complacency in the business and had a motto for survival and profitability.

Gary Mudgway believes there is never any room for complacency at the sales

“I’ve got a few grey hairs and every one of them is an experience. The only way to last in the horse industry is to learn by every mistake you make and from others mistakes, that’s even better.

“I’ve got a few grey hairs and every one of them is an experience.” – Gary Mudgway.

“Most of us who have been around have all learned the hard way, spending your own money and making rash decisions in the ring. It’s a place to leave your ego behind, but it’s a lot of fun.

“We had a good weekend with Spright and then we had the horse Lieder that won the Alice Springs Cup on Monday. I purchased him with Michael Hickmott privately for $50,000 and he won $30,000 two weeks later in his first start for us.

“There’s a lot going on and I’m excited. To me there appears to be a lot of opportunities opening up. There’s a large crop of foals and a few less players in the market from what I saw at Inglis, which means more opportunities for blokes like myself.”