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Welcome to Country for million-dollar Easter baby

7 min read
Lime Country ticked off a bucket-list item at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, selling its first million-dollar yearling for good friend and good neighbour, trainer Jean Dubois of Woodpark Stud.

Cover image courtesy of Inglis

It was Day 2 of the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, early in the morning before trade kicked off in the sale ring, and early enough for Lime Country’s Jo Griffin to be getting her bearings. Less than 24 hours since Lime Country sold its first million-dollar yearling, Griffin was still a bit wordless.

The colt, Lot 187, was by Not A Single Doubt from the French-performed mare Aloona (USA) (Smart Strike {Can}). He was correct in type and temperament, and got plenty of traffic.

“We prepared some beautiful yearlings this year,” Griffin said. “But this one, of all the yearlings we consigned across four sales, was my favourite.”

Bred by French couple Jean and Karine Dubois at nearby Woodpark Stud, in the French-like countryside of the NSW Southern Highlands, the colt was a half-brother to one-time 2-year-old sensation Aylmerton. Aylmerton won the G2 Todman S. in 2018 before an unplaced effort behind Estijaab (Snitzel) in the G1 Golden Slipper, and he retired to stand at Woodpark Stud in late 2019.

Just three days before the Sale, on 3 April at Kembla Grange, a second half-brother by Astern, Arnaqueur, broke his maiden in good style for Dubois, making it two winners from three foals for the handy Aloona.

Jean and Karine Dubois | Image courtesy of Woodpark Stud

Love thy neighbour

The ties between Lime Country and Woodpark Stud are as deep as they are recent. Lot 187 was the first Dubois yearling consigned by Greg and Jo Griffin, but the two families have crossed tracks for years.

“We both moved over to Australia not far apart,” Jo Griffin said. “I think we met at an Inglis function, and it was nice to know some new people in the area at that time. We got on well, and we’ve built on that relationship over time. You could say we had a shared perspective on handling horses and horsemanship, and the importance of attention to detail.”

"I think we met at an Inglis function, and it was nice to know some new people in the area at that time. We got on well, and we’ve built on that relationship over time." - Jo Griffin

The Griffins moved from New Zealand into the Southern Highlands in late 2016, to the fulsome hamlet of Burradoo, about 16km south of Woodpark Stud. Jo Griffin said that Jean and Karine Dubois, who were ringside for Tuesday’s million-dollar result, were the classiest of clients.

“Karine is very invested in the horses on a personal level,” she said. “She handles them a lot and does a lot with the foals, and she likes access to see them while they’re going through the prep.”

Lot 294 - Capitalist x Emirates Comfort (Ire) (colt)

Lime Country also sold Lot 294 for the Dubois family at the Sale, a Capitalist colt from Emirates Comfort (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) that fetched $150,000 for a Ready to Run syndicate in New Zealand. Like so many of Jean Dubois’s choice mares, it’s a stiff European family.

French fare

As well as breeding, Jean Dubois is a Goulburn-based trainer, in partnership with his son Pierre. He has Julian Rock (Fr) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) in his yard, a talented gelding from his own mare Soneva (USA) (Cherokee Run {USA}).

Julian Rock is a half-brother to Group-placed See You Soon (Siyouni {Fr}), who was served by The Autumn Sun last season and who boasts another formidable pedigree in the paddocks of Woodpark Stud. Soneva’s latest yearling, Lot 94 by Fastnet Rock, also sold on Tuesday for $550,000 to Yes Bloodstock in partnership with Balmerino Racing VIC.

Lot 94 - Fastnet Rock x Soneva (USA) (filly)

Dubois, for his part, is something of a quiet achiever.

“He is French, so he’s very charming,” Griffin said. “And he’s very stylish. If you can be pragmatic and effervescent at the same time, he is, but he’s also very understanding of the industry through experience. The good comes with the bad, but he has a very positive outlook too.”

At Woodpark Stud, former Slipper fancy Aylmerton stands his second season at $2500 (inc GST). He isn’t the most commercial of sires, covering only seven mares in his debut season, and most were from Dubois’s private band.

“It’s a beautiful farm,” Griffin said. “There’s 500 acres of rolling country, a very European style of set-up. Massive big paddocks, and they’ve got some world-class European families there.”

Tom and Sophie Magnier, Georgia, Jamie, Greg and Jo Griffin | Image courtesy of Lime Country Thoroughbreds

People-powered selling

Jo Griffin knows her clients well. It’s one of the things that has stamped Lime Country so successfully and, in the run towards the 2021 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, the operation used its people-power effectively.

In a rare move, Lime Country marketed its Easter draft on the owners of the yearlings it was selling, names like Stuart Ramsey of Turangga Farm, Samantha Armytage and Rich Lavender, Michael Crismale and Linda Huddy, and, of course, outifts like Makybe, Kia Ora, Think Big, Jamieson Park and Woodpark Stud.

“I am so proud of our breeders, and so proud to be associated with them,” Griffin said. “They are such good people, and they’ve had massive results. Who wouldn’t want to promote the people that have had the results and got the runs on the board for us?”

“I am so proud of our breeders, and so proud to be associated with them. They are such good people, and they’ve had massive results." - Jo Griffin

In a series of beautiful photographs by Sharon Chapman, Lime Country highlighted its friendships with its clients.

“These pictures were taken in my kitchen or against the black-rubber background of the wet-mare crush,” Griffin said.

“We tried to do each photo tied to something that was personal or explicit to our owners. You’ll notice that we did the Stuey Ramsey brand on the cattle hide, because Stuey’s a massive cattle breeder. And Linda Huddy is infamous for her love of her champagne at any event, so we piled up all the corks to go with her brand.”

Griffin was thrilled with Tuesday’s result for former Sunrise host Samantha Armytage and husband Richard Lavender, young breeders in only their second year of commercial selling, with Lot 68 by Lonhro going for $260,000.

“We sold a yearling for Rich last year for the first time,” Griffin said, “so it was brilliant to see their result here at Easter.”

Lot 68 - Lonhro x Sea The Sparkle (GB) (colt)

Bucket-list brag

It’s a short time since Lime Country’s arrival in 2016, but the impact of the operation is significant. The brand is high-end and the message is strong – Lime Country is riding on the shoulders of its people.

“We are only young, with big plans,” Griffin said. “But we want people to come here and shop with confidence for results. It was a brazen, commercial decision to come to Australia from New Zealand, and we did it because it was open here. Australia is a thriving, beautiful market to be involved in.”

By the close of Easter trade at Riverside on Wednesday evening, Lime Country had put 13 yearlings through the ring. They grossed $3,920,000, with an average of $326,667 for 12 different stallions. And the team cheered every result.

However, Tom Magnier’s million-dollar purchase of Lot 187 was a sparkling achievement on Tuesday, and Jo Griffin was all over it.

“Any consignor who tells you that it’s not one of their bucket-list things they want to smash out, they’re maybe lacking just a little bit of honesty,” she said.

“Selling a million-dollar yearling is a target that every commercial consignor aims to hit, so it was fantastic to have ticked that one off.”

Lime Country
Jean Dubois
Jo Griffin