- Georgie Dennis, TDN AUS NZ
Yarraman Park Yearling Manager Lance Forbes is quickly stamping himself as a rising star among the breeding industry. Having being born into a renowned Kiwi horseman-family, racing has always been in his blood.
Hailing from New Zealand, Lance Forbes has been around high-quality horses from a young age, with his first job being at the large operation of Cambridge Stud.
“I started off when I was about 13-years-old and on my school holidays I used to go to Cambridge Stud and work on the broodmares and the yearlings for bit of pocket money,” Forbes told TDN AusNZ. “I also used to ride growing up as well, so I always had an interest in horses through showing and things like that.”
Things really kicked off when Forbes was offered a job by Bruce Harvey to work at a breeze-up sale in Hong Kong, and he has been full-steam ahead in the industry ever since.
“I finished school and I was at a crossroads about whether to go to uni or not,” Forbes said. “I was working a ready to run sale for Mana Park when Bruce Harvey came up to me and offered me a job to do the Hong Kong breeze-up sales.
“I took that job and ended up staying there for three and a half years and Bruce was a really good mentor to me, he pretty much taught me the majority of what I know.
“They just had a small draft of yearlings and did a breeze-up sale in New Zealand as well, but the main focus there was doing the international sale in Hong Kong which was a great experience.”
Having returned to Cambridge Stud again after his time at Bruce Harvey’s Ascot Farm, Forbes was then awarded the NZTBA's Sunline Trust International Management Scholarship where he was able to gain valuable experience at farms across the world.
“I started working at Cambridge Stud again after my time at Ascot Farm with Bruce Harvey and I was Yearling Manager there,” he said. “In the off-season I was on the Sunline Scholarship, a New Zealand-based program that took me travelling around the world.
"I went to England and worked for Cheveley Park and worked for Goffs UK and Coolmore Ireland and Taylor Made in America as well.
"And then I came back to my job at Cambridge Stud and finished off the prep there. I always had an interest in Australian racing, and I think the opportunities in Australia compared to New Zealand are far greater for a younger person like myself.”
It was then while working for Bhima in Australia, that the job as Yearling Manager at Yarraman Park came up.
Forbes saw the job advertised and was encouraged to go for it by Yarraman’s General Manager Matt Scown, and he has been there ever since.
“I was working for Bhima at the Easter Sale and I’d seen that advert (for Yarraman),” Forbes said.
“Matt Scown, who I used to play rugby with, said to me that I should go and have a chat to Harry (Mitchell), so I did and then ended up coming over two weeks later for an interview and I’ve been here ever since.
“I’m coming up to three years now and this is my third Magic Millions Sale in 2021.”
Despite working with horses from a young age, Forbes said he didn’t decide to pursue it as his career until much later on in the piece.
Now in the ever-growing operation at Yarraman though, he said he loves his job and the people he has around him and has fostered some big goals for the future.
“Until I was about 17, I didn’t really have much interest in it at all,” Forbes said. “It wasn’t until I left school and started doing breakers and doing trackwork that I really fell in love with it. Just educating young horses, really tendered to my passion.
“I love being busy and I like to think that I thrive under pressure and I try and rise to the occasion wherever I can.
“We have a great crop of horses and from the day they’re born to by the time I get them (as yearlings), they’re well-handled horses from foals to weanlings and it makes my job a lot easier.
“We always have a great team of staff here at Yarraman and Harry and Arthur (Mitchell) are both extremely hands-on.
“They come in the morning and do a feed run and they’re pretty much there every single day to see what’s going on.
“Harry has always been good to me, we can always have a good chat about things and see how we’re going. He’s always someone I can talk to when I’m a bit unsure.”
With less than a month to go until the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, this is one of the biggest times of the year for any yearling manager. Next year will see the first crop of exciting young sire Hellbent go through the ring, Yarraman's Group 1-winning son of their other resident Champion sire I Am Invincible.
"The Hellbents are a great group of yearlings with excellent quality," said Forbes. "We've obviously had a lot to do with his sire, and it's exciting to see how similar the Hellbents are to the Vinnies, being bay in colour, great walkers and plenty of quality. They look like speed horses too which should stand him in good stead for the sale ring."
He said the farm has been busy parading their yearlings and putting the final touches on them before they get set for Gold Coast sales ring, which is one of the most exciting periods of the year for Forbes.
“It’s a very exciting feeling,” he said, “It’s not even the big ones that get you buzzing the most, it’s some of the horses that you don’t expect.
"Last year we had a No Nay Never colt that our vet was a part of and we thought he would make somewhere around the $150,000 to $200,000 mark and he ended up making $575,000.
“That was probably the biggest thrill of the Sale, Bridget (Bester, vet) is an extremely hard worker and they just got blown away with the sale.
“Obviously we’ve had some pretty good horses, Gotta Kiss is probably the best horse that I’ve prepped at Yarraman so far. She was a Group 1 runner-up to Rothfire (in the G1 JJ Atkins) and she was just a Not A Single Doubt filly that tries her heart out every time, and that’s pretty much how she was when we had her as a weanling and as a yearling, she was very straightforward.”
Forbes has had an incredible grounding and said both the Harveys and Sir Patrick Hogan from his days at Cambridge Stud, have been the biggest influences on his career so far.
“Bruce Harvey from Ascot Farm and Maureen Harvey his wife, they taught me a lot to start off with,” he said.
“Obviously Sir Patrick Hogan was a huge influence for me. I loved working for Patrick because he was such a perfectionist and I think he stepped up my professionalism a lot.
“I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for those two people.”
Going forward, Forbes’ main goal is to one day present his own consignment at the sales and with the support of the Mitchells at Yarraman, he believes he is well-placed to reach that goal.
“My goal pretty much since I turned 20 is that I want to have my own consignment and that’s something that I like to think I’ve worked hard towards,” he said. “Every day I always have that in the back of my mind that that’s what I want to do one day.”