Vanbrugh Scores For Australia And America

The renowned Irish bloodstock agent Mick Flanagan makes it sound like the most logical thing in the world. Maybe because it is. “The economics of Australian racing are so attractive that you can’t ignore them,” Flanagan says. “If you want to buy and race horses, this is a great place to do it.” Admittedly Flanagan (pictured below at 2014 Easter with Gary Murray) was talking after Vanbrugh, one of his first Australian purchases for the Merriebelle Stables of American owners John Moores and Charles Noell, had won the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick on Saturday. Gary Murray and Mick Flanagan IMG_0311_edit But his views on Australian racing were formed long before Saturday. Flanagan put his opinion on the line when he encouraged Moores and Noell, two of America’s most pragmatic, and successful, racing figures to get involved in Australian racing. One of his first purchases was Vanbrugh, along with another two yearlings. And the reasons were clear. Not only did the horses look the part, so did the industry that produced them. A major attraction for Moores and Noell was the drug-free nature of Australian racing. Another was the balance between the costs of buying and training a racehorse and the returns available through prizemoney and residual value. To Flanagan and his American clients, it added up. “I was managing John and Charles’ racing interests in Ireland and America and I suggested to them that they might like to look at buying a yearling or two in Australia,” Flanagan said. “So they decided to dip their toes in the water and we came to Australia with a small budget and bought three colts. “There are so many positives – the prizemoney, the conditions, the price of yearlings, the stallion market and the demand for Australian horses from places like Hong Kong – economically it’s a very good proposition. “To be honest, getting a couple of people like John and Charles into Australian racing wasn’t very difficult.” Flanagan spent $430,000 on the three yearlings he selected, one of which was moved on relatively quickly while another showed good promise and was sold to Hong Kong The other was Vanbrugh, a son of Encosta De Lago for whom Flanagan paid $100,000 at last year’s Inglis Sydney Easter Sale, and who has now won more than $520,000. After the colt came into work with Chris Waller, Moores and Noell sold a share in him to stable client Francis Kennedy and his wife Barbara. Moores, a former owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team, and Noell are longtime business partners whose main business is the development of computer software companies. Both dabbled in horse racing for several years before deciding to get more involved, buying farms in Ireland and Kentucky. With their attention focussed by Vanbrugh’s Champion Stakes win, their Australian interests are now likely to expand. “We will definitely be back to buy more yearlings next year, we have a commitment to Australian racing,” Flanagan said. That commitment may well extend to breeding, with Vanbrugh a possible candidate to play a part. “One thing that is clear is that Australia has a very strong stallion market – a lot stronger than in the United States,” Flanagan said. “And a horse like Vanbrugh could fit that bill.” Neither Moores nor Noell made it Randwick on Saturday, but Flanagan said the success has made a visit a certainty. “They had to call off their trip at the last minute,” he said. “But once I get them down here I’m sure they’ll become a lot more interested.” Vanbrugh’s win came at a race meeting at which another example of the growing American interest in Australian racing was delivered. Cana, a filly by Fastnet Rock, scored her second win from as many starts in a 1400m 3YO event at Randwick. A daughter of the Tale Of The Cat mare Scattered, Cana was bought for $650,000 by B Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm at the 2014 Inglis Sydney sale and was the famed US operations first city winner in Australia. She was one of the three fillies bought by Spendthrift at Australian sales in 2014 with six more purchased this year. As well as buying locally-bred horses, Spendthrift demonstrated its faith in the Australian industry earlier this year with the purchase of the former Yallambee Stud in Victoria. The American owner and breeder Barbara Banke also invested heavily in Australian thoroughbreds, her most notable purchase the Blue Diamond Stakes winner Miracles Of Life for whom she paid $900,000 for at last year’s Teeley Assets reduction sale. Banke also paid $840,000 for Kangarilla Joy, a daughter of Lonhro who won at Warwick Farm on debut in August. The same sale also attracted the interest of another Kentucky-based breeder, Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms which bought the broodmares Taste Of Heaven for $1.5 million and Drifting Cube for $1.1 million. Both mares are closely related to Australia’s champion sire Redoute’s Choice. American interest continued to grow at this year’s sales. As well as Flanagan regulars like John Moynihan, new interest came from bloodstock agents like Alex Solis, son of the US Hall Of Fame jockey, Elliott Walden, president, CEO and racing manager of WinStar Farm and Bradley Weisbord, advisor for Al Shaqab Racing’s American operations.
The Power of Passion