This week in Dunstan Meet The Breeder we chat to Singapore-based Ben Kwok who is particularly fond of the New Zealand thoroughbred breeding industry and has had great success on both sides of the Tasman.
What made you interested in breeding horses?
In the very beginning I was a very small-time breeder and then I met the team at Windsor Park, Rodney and Steve and everyone there; they taught me more and more and so I became more and more interested.
How many mares do you breed from:
Around 15 in New Zealand and 20 in Australia
What else do you have in your bloodstock portfolio (youngstock, racehorses etc)
I have a mare called Yearn that I bought off Gavelhouse.com, who has a foal by Circus Maximus and is in foal to Turn Me Loose, and another called Bellacontte. I also bought Bellacontte’s dam Devon Doll, and another couple of stakes placed mares – Karalino and She Brings Joy. I have another mare Aumale, who’s pedigree wasn’t that good when I bought her, but her relation recently got black type in Italy – won a Gr.3 and then Gr.1 place and she has an Ocean Park filly.
I have and have had shares in many racehorses including Noverre and Sword of State.
What do you love about the NZ thoroughbred breeding industry and why do you support it so much?
New Zealand is one of the best places for thoroughbreds to live in because of the place, the weather, the grass and more importantly the people. New Zealand has the most genuine people I know, and they are great horsemen and women and I feel I have to do my utmost to support the industry.
I also love to race fillies to increase my broodmare band and previously I have had a bit of success with Te Akau with the likes of Amarehlina; and currently Andrew Forsman, we run second in the Karaka Millions with Ethereal Star and I also have Wessex with him who I think could one day go to Australia and perform well.
What interests me a lot is the value of the horses. We breed a lot of good horses that can be competitive in Australia and we aren’t paying a 100k-200k service fee for the stallions. They are practical and they are very good racehorses.
I think what is also very good in New Zealand is that everyone at the are good people, but they are also very friendly together. All the people at the studs are friends – I have so many friends there but the list is so long I could go on. I always say to my wife we should move to New Zealand!
There is only thing I stress about is that the industry is very hard in New Zealand so I hope that the government can support it more and make stakemoney more on the racing side because if it becomes a trade-horse only country, it will become harder. I hope that the government and the governing body can have more incentive for the races to stimulate domestic spend as it will be better for the breeders and will benefit everybody. I see a lot of young talent in the next generation of horse people, they are hard-working, they are genuine, and they are good people.
What advice would you give to someone entering the industry as a breeder?
Oh I don’t like to give advice because I am just learning myself but just enjoy it!
Proudest moment as a breeder?
To be honest, my proudest moment as a breeder has been making such good friends. In terms of achievements, I cannot compete or compare with others as they are all good friends. I have a lot of good friends who can I talk to, relate with and who have helped me.
Where does the name Lionrock Bloodstock come from?
It has two meanings! Since I am originally from Hong Kong, Lionrock Hill is located somewhere between Kowloon and New Territories; and New Territories is where Sha Tin racecourse is. There is a Lionrock tunnel and you have to go through the tunnel to get to the racecourse. Before I loved breeding, I was thinking of doing some trade horses into Hong Kong and so my original thinking was that before anyone got to Sha Tin, they had to go through me!
The other way of thinking was that in Hong Kong we have ‘Lionrock spirit’; and Lionrock spirit is from my dad’s generation. Hong Kong used to be such a poor country and we used to have build everything with our hands, so we had to climb our way to the top – that is the Lionrock spirit.
Throughout the interview Ben was extremely appreciative of everyone who has helped him along his breeding journey – there is too many to name, but we are sure you know who you are. Ben has kindly donated stallion services to the Flood Relief Fund which we are all very appreciative of his support from afar.