This week in Dunstan Meet The Breeder we talk to Joan Egan. As well as being a Group One breeder, Joan is a big supporter of the New Zealand breeding and racing industry.
How did you get into thoroughbred breeding?
It was quite by accident. We will living at Clevedon at the time and Brian and Sandra Townsend lived down the road from us and I had a riding horse, I was still doing dressage at that stage but having awful trouble with artificial hips and things like that which are not good for riding horses. One of them said to me ‘why don’t you breed a racehorse, and the one little filly I had there riding, she actually was a racehorse so I bred ‘Such Fun’ as my very first racehorse and he won five races before I sold him. I was away laughing then and thought this is great fun!
How many mares do you breed from?
Four. Although last year I sent all four to stud and two of them said ‘no thanks, not interested, don’t want to do it’ so I only ended up with two foals. But, the year before that I sent four and thought two of these probably wont take and they said ‘oh yes that’ll be fine, we can do that’ so it actually sort of helped balance things up a bit. I have recently retired Penny Bright as she had eight foals and that’s enough.
What else do you have in your bloodstock portfolio (youngstock, racehorses etc)
Well I have all my old mares that have retired that Brent calls them ‘the live on-farm forever’ group like Belle Femme and Bunyah and those sorts of mares. The two that have given me the group ones I have put them out of commission as they have had enough foals and they are getting into their twenties.
Trelawney Stud look after all my young horses, they are foaled there, they are raised there, we are just too old to do it quite frankly; and I think you need decent conditions with the young horses, you can’t just bring them up anywhere.
I think I have eight horses in work at the moment, raced and unraced. I have a really nice Tavistock horse with Stephen Marsh, Charlemagne, he is getting ready to trial. I have a few that are coming on.
I am a bit of a kleptomaniac; I like to keep everything!
I used to sell them all, but I got thoroughly fed up watching them get pushed too early. When you breed and sold the 2yo winner of the year, Flying Babe, like Marilyn and I did (under their Chantilly Partnership banner), she was well looked after. A lot of them, they’re pushed, they’re hurried because there has been a fast horse in the family or a successful horse in the family, they think this one will do that too, but you just can’t rely on that. They are all different and I got sick of watching the horse that I sold, sometimes for very good money and then I felt terrible because they didn’t step up but I came to the conclusion that it was because everyone was in too much of a hurry. I don’t care how much time my horses need, I make dam sure they get it and I am very fortunate that I have back up income and that I can afford to do it but I know it is not that easy for other people.
Do you have a favourite cross?
No I wouldn’t say I do. I like to look at everything and I try and find what I think would suit my mare. I am willing to try most things, they don’t have to be expensive stallions. I really wanted Lady Eiko to get in foal to U S Navy Flag, but she said ‘no, no we can’t be doing that one;’ and it was a brilliant cross.
I do like pedigrees, if the pedigree appeals to me well I am really interested. Anything with Storm Cat in, I really like.
Do you seek advice on your breeding decisions?
No not really. I used to when I first started. I think where I am quite lucky is that these mares I am breeding from, I have had over 20 years; and that is a big help as it does help you recognise what they are likely to do.
I do look at how other people breed their horses, like I will look at a pedigree in a horse that is racing because that helps you recognise crosses. But I don’t really have a favourite cross as I am quite willing to try anything. That is how I ended up with Beauden, that was something I did right out of left field and look what I got. Not quite a champion but it takes a good horse to win 12 races and four cups on end takes some doing so you have to give some credit. But that was not a cross that people would have recommended or said I should go for but I liked the look of it and thought I could get a really nice horse out of it. Belle Femme was a Gr.2 winner and she hadn’t left much at all and low and behold we get this chestnut and away we go.
Best breeding advice you have received?
Talk to people who have been successful with their breeding, a lot of people said that to me early on. Brent and Cherry have been a big help to me, they sort of know the pitfalls and that.
I can’t give you a definite answer there as there isn’t one. I just sort of got started, and I have had horses all my life so I know a lot about horses. For me, I think the biggest advantage is having the same family for years and years; and they have all had very good horses among them.
Who do you admire in the thoroughbred breeding industry?
When I first started I thought Sir Patrick and Lady Justine Hogan had done an amazing job from where they started, and then what they were able to achieve.
Marie Leicester who has followed on from her parents and has done an absolutely brilliant job.
If you could own any broodmare (past or present), who would it be?
In New Zealand it would have to be Eight Carat, she was simply outstanding. However, I have always liked the mother of Carnegie. She won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the low and behold the son comes along and does it too, I mean that is something special – so she is one lady that I have admired a lot.
What advice would you give someone entering the industry as a breeder?
You need to have someone that you can go to for advice and from a finance point of view you need to be sure that you have got back up income because I think that is the best way to start. You need to put some money aside to keep you going for a few years because starting out to make money from the get go is just too tough; and it is getting tougher. With all the increases that are coming through at the moment, it has been tough for a while, we really do need better prizemoney.
Proudest moment as a breeder?
I think when Concert Hall won the Zabeel Classic. She was right at the back and I said to my husband Peter, ‘oh this is not looking good, she is much further back then we hoped’, but to come from last and pick it up at the end was just a great feat, so that would have to be my proudest moment.
Finish this sentence: The best part of being a thoroughbred breeder is…
I think it’s the relationship you get with the horses. If you are lucky enough like I am to have them around you, you build up a relationship with your mares. I admire the mares so much, they go through so much and that would be my biggest thing, the rapport with the horses.
I went out to the farm on Monday and I have a very soft spot for Lady Eiko, she hasn’t done anything fabulous yet except for Charlemagne who I am excited about, and all four mares are in the paddock right over the side, they all start to come towards myself and Pauline, and Eiko comes straight to me; she ignored Pauline and was like ‘it’s Joan’. Now, it might be the carrots, it might be the pats I don’t know but she knows me and she picks me out so that’s why I love the relationships with the mares, I like mares, I get on with mares.