This week we talk to Windsor Park Stud’s Rodney Schick. The Waikato farm has had a fantastic few weeks with their home-bred horses doing well in both domestically and across the Tasman.
How many mares do you breed from? 120
Do you support any stallions outside of Windsor Park Stud’s roster? Yes, we do support a lot of stallions from other stud farms. We have shares in a lot of stallions who aren’t at Windsor Park, these include Sword of State Derryn, Ocean Park, Hello Youmzain, Savabeel, Proisir, Darci Brahma, Armory (who we bought in with Mapperley Stud) and Contributor, Time Test. I’ve also sent mares to Shocking, Ghibellines, War Decree and Satono Aladdin. We also have mares that go off to Australia. We support a variety of stallions and try to buy shares where we can in new stallions.
What is the process for making mating decisions? We look at the stage of the mare, the stage of the stallion, type and of course whether they are genetically compatible. We tend to start with physical attributes and then make sure the pedigree works with that family.
Do you breed any with the intention to retain to race? Yes, we do we do retain some fillies to race.
What is it about New Zealand-bred horses that makes them successful? I think horses have a better chance to reach their genetic potential in New Zealand than any other country in the world that I’ve travelled to. It’s not just about our land, of course we have terrific soil type and climate and there’s very few places in the world like New Zealand. We have the right amount of rainfall and right amount of sunshine, and we’re very lucky in that. However, I really believe we’ve also got some of the best horse people around. What is unique about studs and breeders in New Zealand is that we’re still quite hands on. There are a lot of places around the world now that the owners of the studs are not hands on, so they are not making the final decisions.
In New Zealand the majority of the breeders actually look after their horses and do the breeding and matings themselves. A lot of thought goes into these processes and I think there is great benefit in New Zealand with most studs being owner operated. A lot of overseas farms are more commercial and operated by staff rather than the actual owners themselves, with stud masters in New Zealand hands on they are kept closer to what’s happening on the ground.
How many yearlings are Windsor Park preparing for the 2023 sales? We probably have around 60 this year which is pretty normal for us.
Do you have a favourite cross? Not particularly, I think there are some great crosses in New Zealand. For me every horse is different, there’s obviously different breeds we like but fundamentally I like breeding fast horses. We are breeding athletes and we are doing well - we’ve bred five stakes winners this season already.
Proven stallion or new season sire? Being a Stud Master I have to support both, we buy new stallions so have to support them and of course you don’t know who’s going to be the next best thing. We try to send mares to a proven sire for their first three years to set them up, but really it’s a mix of both as you have to support the new boys too.
Best breeding advice you have received? For me as a breeder I really believe you must treat all the horses equally because you never know where the fast ones are going to come from. Its’s not always the most expensive yearling that’s your fastest for example Callsign Mav, I sold him for $3,500 and he’s won four Group One’s. I tell my staff you treat them all equally and that way they’ve got the best opportunity to reach their genetic potential which can’t happen if they get hurt or aren’t looked after properly. We need them to reach their pinnacle and for some it’s not a very high pinnacle but for some it’s the highest and you don’t know which one it’s going to be.
Who do you admire in the thoroughbred breeding industry? It’s not one person but obviously for me it’s my parents who I admire most in this industry and what they have achieved. There are plenty of people in the industry I admire though and one thing we have in New Zealand is great camaraderie between our studs and breeders. It’s unbelievable, especially between the stud masters, you don’t get that anywhere else. I’m really proud of the fact that I’m best mates with other stud masters, it’s a really cool and unique thing. I’ve learnt lots from different guys, whether it be John Thompson, Mark Chittick, or Mark Chitty - there’s things I learn off them from by just talking.
If you could own any broodmare (past or present), who would it be. Eight Carat, we’ve had some good broodmares, but none were like her.
If you could spend a day learning the tricks of the trade on any farm in the world where would you go? If there was anyone I could go and spend the day with, it would be John Messara, and then of course John Magnier from Coolmore Stud.
Proudest moment as a breeder? Might And Power winning the Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup.
What do you think contributes to Windsor Park’s success? Its People.
Is there a race you would love to win with a Windsor Park-bred horse that hasn’t been won before? We took Falkirk to Royal Ascot which was amazing, I would love to go back to Royal Ascot and win a Group One, that would be fantastic. Actually, to take a horse to Europe and win a Group One up there would be fantastic
How satisfying is it to see Windsor Park Stud-bred horses go on to succeed in their lives after racing? My wife Gina runs a business called Eventstars which specializes in rehoming retired racehorses. We want to breed fast horses with longevity and that longevity is sought after in New Zealand for sport horses across many codes. I get a lot of pleasure out of horses going onto a second career. My wife Gina and I still have Kingsguard (Rip Van Winkle x Her Royal Highness) who was a Group Two winner.