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Encouraging times ahead for the New Zealand Breeding Industry and for Nick King of Brighthill Farm

Dalghar stands at Brighthill Farm 2016 fee $8,000 + GST (lfg)
Dalghar stands at Brighthill Farm 2016 fee $8,000 + GST (lfg)

After yet another successful autumn carnival by New Zealand bred horses it seemed only fitting that the NZB National Weanling, Broodmare and Mixed Bloodstock sale be buoyant, however the record breaking sale was beyond the expectations of everybody involved.

The overall statistics tell a heartening tale of the state of the industry with receipts for the three day Sale totalling $8,915,200, up $4,830,100 (a 118% increase) on last year with clearance at 91%. The overall median price settled 188% up at $8,000 (from $2,775 last year) with the average at $19,989 compared to last year's $9,589.

Over the first two days 238 weanlings were sold for a total of $5,740,300 resulting in a 91% clearance rate. This strong demand saw the median up 175% on the previous year's sale to $11,000 (from $4,000 in 2015) and the average settle at $24,119, a 90% increase on the $12,113 recorded last year.

The leading lot was an O'Reilly colt from the multiple stakes-winner in Singapore Mexican Rose, consigned by Hallmark Stud for breeders Mr David Ellis and Nearco Stud, the colt was secured by Dean Hawthorne who was bidding on behalf of Kacy Fogden of Queensland-based Aquis Farm for $185,000.

Brighthill Farm consigned the second highest price of the day with $180,000 paid by Ascot Farm and Ampulla Lodge for the Tavistock colt from the Thorn Park (AUS) mare Once More. Brighthill's well-prepared draft was highly sought-after with 13 of 13 sold to see them sit second in the leading vendor table behind Gordon Cunningham's Curraghmore which emerged the leading vendor at the sale for the 11th year running.

Curraghmore's two top-priced colts were also by Tavistock with the colt out of the Volksraad(IRE) mare Sentura selling to Lyndhurst Farm for $170,000 and the Lamington Vegas colt selling for $140,000 to NZB as agent.

There is no denying the impact that Tavistock had on the sale as the top priced broodmare Galatika a Thorn Park half-sister to Volkstok'N Barrell topped the broodmare sale at $405,000. She was in foal to Tavistock carrying a three-quarter relation to that multiple Group One winner. She was purchased by Rosemount Stud who will stand the dual Group One winning son of Tavistock, Tarzino at stud this spring.

Of the five top priced broodmares sold at the record breaking sale three were in foal to Tavistock.

Brighthill Farm was fortunate enough to have three Tavistock's in their weanling sale draft. Proprietor and NZTBA Councillor Nick King, believes that the sale indicates that the industry has really turned a corner.

"It was a great sale and it galvanised everything that we had expected following on from the yearling sales and the great autumn racing results," enthused King.

"In New Zealand right now we are fortunate to have some really good young sires, helped by the likes of Tavistock, and in his case, breeders are poised to make a lot of profit off a really successful stallion at a low service fee".

"The overseas buyers are returning to buy our horses. A few years ago it was suggested that we didn't have enough good stallions, but now the quality of the young stallions that have come in over the last few years has improved, and we are starting to see the results of that filter through.

"We have always been supporters of the weanling sale, and have always selected a certain type of horse to market there. Our clients know this and have given us the right foals to sell at this sale, all three of our Tavistock's we decided to target this sale with. Particularly as we have a track record at this sale and the fact that he is the sire of the moment".

"All three made more than we budgeted for, and all three were particularly nice horses. The Duchess of Bedford owned the Times Remembered colt who sold for $155,000. Chris Luoni owned the Head Enfilade filly that sold for $130,000 while David and Mary Bodle owned the Once More colt".

"The One More colt at $180,000 definitely benefited from being late in the sale. But it just shows and we have long discussed this theory, that as soon as a horse cracks it at an elite level in our biggest markets Hong Kong and Australia, your stallion is on fire. Tavistock is a case in point.

"But it wasn't just the Tavistock's we had good activity on all our weanlings, right through to the one we sold for $3,500, and that is reflected in the fact that we sold our complete draft".

"We had two Tavistock colts two years ago that had good x rays, they were nice individuals but we couldn't get a bid on them. It's a fantastic boost for everyone who has supported him, he wasn't a hugely expensive stallion, and it proves that you can have an inexpensive stallion that can still become a successful sire."

The success at the sales has topped off a great few weeks for the Kings and Brighthill Farm. At the end of April their young stallion Dalghar (FR) (Anabaa[USA]- Daltawa[IRE]) was credited with his first stakes winner when Astara won the listed Champagne Stakes at Auckland.

"We are obviously really excited about the start Dalghar has made at stud," he enthused, "Astar winning the Champagne Stakes was a huge thrill. The Indian summer has meant we have had good tracks right through autumn and that has shown up some nice two-year-olds benefiting from the good tracks. To win in the manner in which she did was amazing and to break a New Zealand record by two seconds is just great.

"He has had a number of place getters and trial performers and all the reports are that they are awfully nice horses that people are getting enthusiastic about. He is certainly at the point where a lot of the guess work has been taken out. His second crop of yearlings sold well and his weanlings sold well at these sales".

"He was a top sprinter, and should have some really lovely spring three-year-olds, we have had really good reports on his stock from the Australians as well."

"And from leftfield Lagaro recently won the Czechoslovakian 2000 Guineas, which may not sound that impressive but he beat a couple of quality French imports. He will probably be aimed at French racing himself now."

Dalghar served one season in France, where he raced successfully winning four races including the group three Longchamp Prix du Palais-Royal, before his owner West Australian businessman Neven Botica relocated him to Brighthill Farm. He retired very late off the track in the middle of the GFC and he got a limited number of mares.

Botica selected New Zealand for his stallion as he believed that New Zealand breeders understand how to breed classic horses, and he felt Dalghar is a stallion that will cross well with the type of mares found here. He also owns and races Astara.

"After what Neven invested in him and the mares to go to him, he decided not to shuttle him after the first season. He is delighted with the way he is being received and he bought six new mares to visit him this season, three at Karaka and three at Sydney. It's a show of confidence in the horse and what he has done so far, he is definitely very supportive of the horse".

"We got some nice mares at Karaka, it was a step up on what is usually available at this sale and it's nice to be able to buy them locally and not have to fly them in. Let's hope that it is a sign of things to come as well".

"We have increased his fee and that wasn't purely on the back of what Astara did, it was based on a few things, like how confident people were about his yearlings. We felt we priced him sharply in the beginning and were conscious not to increase him too much and we have had a lot of interest from new mares, and great client support from existing clients."

Brighthill Farm was established by King and his wife Anne-Marie in 1996, he an Irishman who came to this part of the world as a groom accompanying shuttle stallions for Coolmore Stud and Anne-Marie an English groom travelling for legendary equestrian rider Jeff McVean.

They met on a horse plane returning to Ireland, kept in touch, met again at the now defunct Glenoaks Stud where they were both working and married.

"We were working at Glenoaks, and we got the offer to go to Japan, and thought we would probably go back to England or Ireland after that. But once we were in a completely neutral land, we knew that we wanted to go back to New Zealand, in fact I would suggest that the day we landed in Japan I knew I wanted to settle back here in New Zealand," recalled King.

"When we got back we bought the farm, and we grabbed the opportunity with both hands, raised our family and established the Brighthill brand."

The Kings have four children and all were actively assisting at the sales.

"It's not often these days that we get them all working together in one place, so it was a bit special having them there when we had such a successful sale. They are now all heading off in different directions," he mused.

"Sophie (20) is off on her OE in England, she has been a great asset to the farm and has become very adept at leading weanlings and yearlings, and she would be one of the best in the business at the moment. Sophie has lots of friends and extended family in the UK and will work for the Duchess of Bedford over summer".

"Harry (22) was toying with a business course but has accepted a position with Roundhill Stud in Ireland and will work there for a season, they are a nice farm and good vendors he will learn a lot there. He is planning to study business by correspondence".

"Benji (24) is working with Emma Lee and David Browne and their racing team. He is now learning the ropes around breaking in and training, and preparing horses for Ready to Run sales. It's an area that he became interested in when he was fortunate enough to spend time at Ballydoyle while on the Sunline Scholarship last year. It is important also to know from a breeder's point of view what trainers look for in the horses they buy."

Benji has worked extensively in the industry since he was 17 and as well as the Sunline Scholarship has completed the Thoroughbred Course at the Irish National Stud.

The youngest King, Charlie is still at St Peter's in Cambridge, very much involved in the first fifteen and described as the 'brains of the family' he is destined for university next year.

"For young people today the opportunities are increasing to travel the world, they make great friends working abroad. New Zealanders do produce high quality staff, they are good at what they do. With the scale of farming we have here you have to turn your hand at everything, you are not pigeon holed into one division, and that makes New Zealanders highly sought after".

"For Anne-Marie and I New Zealand has been wonderful for us, it's an amazing country. The people are straight up and easy to do business with. It's been a wonderful place for our kids to grow up, we miss our families but we never doubted being here".

"Obviously I am still Irish and Anne Marie is still English, but our children are Kiwis and I have to put up with 80 minutes of hell whenever the Irish play the All Blacks, but," he added "they do sometimes support Ireland if they are playing anyone other than the All Blacks, after all they know when to support a winning team." - Michelle Saba