The halo effect of Mystic Journey's (Needs Further) amazing success extends far further than just the popularity of the Armidale Stud stallion parade over the weekend, but if the numbers and spread of those who braved the Tasmanian winter are any guide, the revival of the local breeding industry continues to build momentum.
Twelve months ago, there were slivers of hope on the horizon as the Tassie industry slowly emerged from a lull which Armidale's David Whishaw describes as near terminal. Alpine Eagle's first foals were due to arrive that spring, while Needs Further had produced the two leading Tassie 2-year-olds of the previous two seasons, including a promising filly bred on the farm and trained by Adam Trinder.
However, those slivers of hope weren't enough for Armidale, located at Carrick, outside of Launceston, to hold a formal stallion parade in 2018.
"We only do a stallion parade when we have a new stallion standing on our roster. They can lose their relevance a little bit unless there is something new to showcase," Whishaw told TDN AusNZ.
What has evolved since is something Whishaw couldn't have scripted, even for a Hollywood movie. That promising filly has turned into a superstar, with Mystic Journey becoming the first Tasmanian-trained horse in over a century to win a Group 1 equivalent race in the Australian Guineas and then backing that up with a victory in the inaugural All-Star Mile.
It has not only propelled her sire Needs Further into the spotlight, it has provided a spark across the entire breeding and racing industry across the island state. Suddenly there is a wave of optimism.
So while Armidale Stud didn’t necessarily have anything new to show to their clients and supporters, they were determined to make the 2019 stallion parade a celebration of everything that has been achieved.
"Saturday... was more of a focus on a celebration of what has happened in that time. To... celebrate the success of what the local breeding and racing industry has achieved." David Whishaw
"I guess the difference between last time we had a stallion parade two years ago and Saturday was it was more of a focus on a celebration of what has happened in that time. To get everyone together to celebrate the success of what the local breeding and racing industry has achieved," he said.
"Historically, we have struggled to get the interstaters to come to our stallion parade, but this year we had people from Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, which was good," he said.
Needs in demand
The most immediate impact of Mystic Journey's successes has been the numbers booked to Needs Further. Having served book of fewer than 50 in the past two years, his numbers are set to catapult to around 120 on a service fee which has increased from $5500 (inc GST) to $13,750 (inc GST) in 2019.
"The response has been strong and it has been from mainland Australia. He's got mares booked from as far as Queensland and from New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria as well," Whishaw said.
"The locals are also now realising what good a job he has done. Maybe for the past couple of seasons, when we launched Alpine Eagle, there is only a finite number of mares in Tassie and only 240 foals each year being bred, Alpine Eagle probably took some of the mares from him,"
"Now he's thrown a Group 1 winner in his second crop, it has convinced a lot of the local breeders to support him again, which is really good."
And as Whishaw points out, he is far from a one-horse wonder. He has had 27 winners this season, including the dual stakes winning Mystical Pursuit, the three-quarter sister to Mystic Journey, as well as Tasmania's other star 2-year-old, Deroche.
"It's not like he has had one good horse a year. He's had multiple well above average 2-year-olds off a pretty humble book of mares," he said.
"He'll be stallion of the year and juvenile stallion of the year, and for a stallion to do that with only three crops of racing age, he's done a great job." - David Whishaw
"In terms of the local awards, he'll have the 2-year-old of the year, the 3-year-old of the year, the filly and mare of the year and the horse of the year, you would think," he said.
"He'll be stallion of the year and juvenile stallion of the year, and for a stallion to do that with only three crops of racing age, he's done a great job."
Eagle takes flight
The immediate impact is also being felt by Alpine Eagle, who has served books of 106 and 91 in his first two years.
The stallion parade on Saturday gave him a chance to show some potential new supporters what sort of stallion he has furnished into.
"Alpine Eagle is such a stunning individual and everyone loves him when they see him. A lot of people hadn't seen him since he let down. They would have seen him a couple of years ago when he first arrived as a boy, and he has really thickened up through the shoulder and strengthened through the hindquarter. He's put on 100kgs since they saw him last," Whishaw said.
"People were very impressed with him and with his weaners. We paraded four of them and they paraded well and they are nice types and that got people talking."
"If you look at both stallions in the same time of their careers, Alpine Eagle has covered more mares and he has covered better mares. He's got a better turn of foot than Needs Further did and he is by that High Chaparral sireline that is doing so well."
Confidence flows through
With success breeds confidence and Whishaw has seen firsthand the growth in the number of broodmares being either purchased in Tasmania or brought to the Apple Isle.
"We've seen some breeders go out and buy some new broodmares to send to him. We’ve seen more mares come from the mainland, not just to go to him, but to stay and have their progeny and grow them out. Whether they are being sold or bred to race, we are definitely seeing some more investment and positivity," he said.
"Whether they are being sold or bred to race, we are definitely seeing some more investment and positivity." - David Whishaw
"We are coming off a lowly base. The reality is if we had have gone much more backwards on where we were seven or eight years ago, we wouldn't have had an industry, but the needle is definitely swinging back."
There is growing confidence at Tasmania's other major stud, Grenville Stud 10kms down the road at Whitemore. Having stood Zululand for his first season last year, Snitzel's son Stratosphere makes his debut in 2019 in another significant boost for the local industry.
Smaller breeders to drive growth
Whishaw believes the Tassie revival, sparked by Mystic Journey, will be driven to its next stage by the confidence of these smaller breeders willing to invest in local stallions.
"I think Mystic Journey has given a lot of small breeders a bit of hope again that you can breed a really good horse without spending a fortune on service fees, if you mate your mare right and grow them out right," he said.
From that point, Whishaw feels that champion filly's efforts on the track will drive more interstate buyers to the Tasmanian sales and get the product to a further broader audience.
"We feel that spotlight is on the Tassie industry right now and we will get more of our horses go to mainland stables straight up, which gives us chances to get runners on the mainland, which we need," he said.
"You need those winners in those states for people to take our stallions seriously."
Armidale is ready to capitalise on the success of the past 12 months and Whishaw hopes the rest of the industry can follow suit.
"It's taken our business to a new level, and hopefully, it will be the catalyst to really turn the industry and we can get back to a sustainable level," he said.