Kevin Hickman named 2014 New Zealand Breeder of the Year

Canterbury NZTBA branch members Kevin and Joanne Hickman headed back to Christchurch from Hamilton with quite a bit of excess baggage in the form of three Horse of the Year Award trophies.

The Hickman's were voted Breeder of the Year, Owner of the Year and their exquisite mare Silent Achiever (O'Reilly – Winning Spree) Stayer of the Year.

"It was a heavy night in the end, we were a bit lucky," said a delighted Hickman.

And talking specifically about the Breeder of the Year award he said it was a nice feeling.

"It's a nice feeling to know that you are doing things reasonably well and it reinforces that we are doing something right."

Hickman joins some elite company in winning the Breeder of the Year and Owner of the Year Awards in the same season. That feat has only been achieved twice before, in 2002 by the Vela brothers and in 2004 by Sir Patrick and Justine Lady Hogan, and as he only started in the industry in 2006 he has achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time.

As well as breeding the Stayer of the Year, they also bred the two-year-old Vespa who was unanimously voted the Champion two-year-old and the listed two-year-old winner in Victoria, Merion. As an owner he raced a tidy team of winners the best being Silent Achiever who won three Group One races from four starts in the autumn, and Emerald Queen (O'Reilly-Scarlet Queen) the winner of the Listed Valachi Downs Canterbury Breeders' Stakes.

Hickman has a broodmare band of around 40 mares which reside at his boutique farm Valachi Downs in Matamata. He developed an interest in pedigrees as a hobby for his retirement and admits to putting a great deal of time into his matings.

"I try and get as much information as I can to get the best matings for each of the mares. I combine, physicality, sex balancing, pedigree analysis, with the stallions I have shares in and the stallions that are doing well.

"I have done all the matings for this year so it's time for a bit of a rest and to wait for all the foals to arrive at Valachi Downs," he added.

On the subject of Valachi Downs, the farm now has a new manager with Jonathan Scully returning from Australia to take up the position.

Scully grew up in the Manawatu and started his career in the industry with Herrick Perry. From there he was awarded an NZTBA Scholarship to study at the English National Stud, and when he returned, worked at Windsor Park and Waikato Stud before heading across the Tasman in 2000.
Recently he was the manager at Bell View Park on the South Coast in New South Wales. He is excited to be returning to New Zealand with his wife Leigh and their three children.

"It's such a unique role. It's an amazing boutique stud, with beautiful broodmares and a quality racing team. What Kevin does is very different from any other operation.

"Winning all the awards this year I think is just the tip of the iceberg and I think that's what is so exciting. I would never have a job like this working for any other stud and" he enthused "that was enough to lure me back to New Zealand after so many years."

In other breeding awards at the Horse of the Year Awards Silent Achiever's sire O'Reilly once again made a clean sweep winning the Dewar, Grosvenor and Centaine Awards, and Stareel the dam of the Horse of the Year Dundeel was awarded the Broodmare of the Year.

- Michelle Saba


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