Mill Park Stud is a 10,000 acre property on the limestone-based country of South Australia with 2000 acres dedicated to their successful thoroughbred operation. TDN AusNZ’s Paul Vettise chatted with Chris Watson about their thriving business.
Paul Vettise: How many broodmares do you currently have on the farm, and what is the farm's approach to selecting stallions?
Chris Watson: We run about 80 mares for clients and ourselves. We look at all aspects involved when selecting stallions for mare bookings. Type, pedigree and commercial appeal are all important criteria when choosing a stallion for a mare.
PV: Any notable new mare additions to the 2018 line-up?
CW: G2 Doomben Roses winner Arabian Gold produced a lovely first foal, a colt (pictured below) by Snitzel and she is being covered again by Snitzel.
Arabian Gold will be covered by Snitzel and has a colt foal by the same sire
"Type, pedigree and commercial appeal are all important criteria when choosing a stallion for a mare. " - Chris Watson, Mill Park Stud
Beluga Blue, winner of the Listed Hill Smith S., and second in the G2 Wakeful Stakes has produced a really nice colt foal by Snitzel and is to be covered by I Am Invincible.
G2 Wakeful S., runner-up Glam Guru, who is a half-sister to the Group 3 winner Gamblin’ Guru and out of a half-sister to Gold Guru, was retired this season and is going to be covered by American Pharaoh.
Gold Coast Magic Millions Mares winner I Am Zelady is a full-sister to Comprendre and she’s produced a lovely first foal filly by Snitzel and is being covered this season by Zoustar.
Mella Maria, winner of the G2 Turffontien Spring Fillies’ Challenge, produced a first foal by Golden Horn and is being covered by Not A Single Doubt.
PV: Who is involved in the mating decisions?
CW: This is usually a long, drawn-out process taking weeks and involves the whole family. A good few arguments and bottles of red are involved before a decision can be made!
PV: How much do sales trends inform your decision making?
CW: We try not to be influenced by sale trends as we feel this is being reactive to historical market occurrences. We try to be proactive and focus on racetrack results and what we believe will be the next success stories in the stallion ranks.
We feel it’s important to go out onto the farms and look at the first couple of crops of foals on the ground of new stallions to get a guide on what types the stallion is throwing and what style of mare will mostly likely suit the stallion.
"We try to be proactive and focus on racetrack results and what we believe will be the next success stories in the stallion ranks." - Chris Watson, Mill Park Stud
PV: What about first-season stallions, how do you assess them and which stallions do you look to target?
CW: We don’t tend to trade too much so we aren’t heavily influenced by first season sires. As our clients and ourselves tend to try and buy quality blue chip mares, we therefore generally target proven stallions.
Of the first season stallions we do use, we are suckers for a deep pedigree, a quality type and proven ability on the track showing a bit of brilliance.
"We are suckers for a deep pedigree, a quality type and proven ability on the track showing a bit of brilliance." Chris Watson
PV: Where are some of your higher profile mares going this year?
CW: Dane Belltar, the dam of Fawkner is going to Sebring;
Go Indy Go’s dam Elegant Eagle is going to American Pharaoh;
Noondie, the dam of Booker, will be covered by Written Tycoon
and Divine Maddona's three-quarter sister The Good Wife will be covered by Zoustar.
Written Tycoon will cover Noondie, to produce a full sibling to Booker
PV: Do you race many horses?
CW: Generally, each year around a dozen yearlings are kept to race between us and clients. A few clients race all their stock and some, like us, retain fillies to race to possibly add to the broodmare band if successful on the track.
PV: Can you give us a couple of youngsters to keep an eye on?
CW: Lonhro’s daughter Secretly Discreet, the first foal out of the G1 Oaks winner Maybe Discreet. A filly trained by Phillip Stokes which will be one to keep an eye on in the autumn. Has needed some time but showing raw talent at this stage.
Galahad Guru, a Camelot colt, who is a half-brother to Glam Guru and a colt that Leon Macdonald has a bit of an opinion.
Raised and sold by Mill Park horses to watch this season include Booker and Crown Towers, a Camelot colt in South Africa that the Snaith Team think is of Group 1 ability.
Group 2 winner Booker
PV: Mill Park enjoyed another successful season in 2017-18, what were your highlights?
CW: These are the stakes-horses produced off Mill Park pastures in the last year or so:
Waging War (Rebel Raider-Fartoo Flashy by Galileo}), won the G3 SAJC Chairman's S.;
Heart Of A Lion (Lion Heart-Madame Flurry by Perugino) won the Listed Oakbank S.; Booker (Written Tycoon-Noondie by Flying Spur) won the G2 Thousand Guineas Prelude and the G3 McNeil S.;
Gogo Grace (New Approach-Starmon by Monolith) won the G3 Bow Mistress S.;
Pretty Punk (Rebel Raider-Reliability by Kurofone) won the G3 Hobart Cup;
All Too Huiying (All Too Hard-Madame Flurry by Perugino) won the Listed Batman S.;
Glam Guru (Medaglia d'Oro-Glory Guru by Fusaichi Pegasus) finished runner-up in both the G2 Wakeful S., and the Listed Hill Smith S;
It’s A Myth (Sepoy-The Good Wife by Redoute's Choice) placed in the G3 National S., and the Listed Queen Adelaide S;
Naafer (Lonhro-Very Discreet by Exceed and Excel) was second in the G1 Turffontein South African Nursery;
Danish Twist (Dane Shadow-Madame Flurry by Perugino) ran third in the G1 Coolmore Classic
and Guard Of Honour (Northern Meteor-Victory Cry by General Nediym) was runner-up in the G3 Eskimo Prince S.
On a day that features nine stakes races across Australia, Saturday’s Super Vobis 3-Y-O Hcp (1500m) at Moonee Valley carries no black-type and may get lost in the scheme of things, but it will go a long way in determining the classic aspirations of several of the runners.
Not the least of those is the nominal favourite Approach Discreet.
The Darren Weir-trained son of Dawn Approach (IRE) is coming off an eight and a half-length romp over 1508 metres at Morphettville on August 25.
On that occasion, he looked to be struggling on the turn when his stablemate Reward For Silence set up a commanding lead. That quickly changed in the straight when Approach Discreet needed little more than a hand ride by Mitch Aiken to dominate his rivals.
With Aiken’s allowance, he carried just 54.5kgs that day but will be asked to carry 4.5kgs more on Saturday in a considerable stronger race.
But he does look a progressive type and the stable has stated the Victoria Derby is the goal this spring. He improved from a career debut third over 1200 metres at Cranbourne on July 26 to a comfortable win over 1300 metres at Sandown three weeks later.
Another from that amazing stakes producing factory at Mill Park, Approach Discreet (pictured as a yearling above) was purchased by D Weir / John Foote Bloodstock for $360,000 at the 2017 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.
A year later at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, Godolphin outlaid $450,000 for his full brother.
That makes them the top two most expensive yearlings by the 4-time Group 1 winner Dawn Approach (IRE) to be sold in Australia.
But that is nothing new for Approach Discreet’s 4-time stakes-winning dam Very Discreet whose son Naafer was the most expensive yearling by champion sire Lonhro sold in 2016 when he was knocked down to Shadwell Stud for $560,000 at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.
Trained in South Africa by Mike de Kock, Naafer (pictured below) was runner-up in the Group 1 South African Nursery but has not been seen out since finishing runner-up in the Group II Merchants Stakes at Turffontein back in November last year.
This is the famed ‘Discreet’ family of South Australian breeder David Peacock.
A daughter of Exceed And Excel, Very Discreet was not just a star on the track she is also very well-related.
She is a three-quarter sister to Group III Edward Manifold Stakes winner Serenely Discreet and Group III SAJC Spring Stakes winner Just Discreet and a half-sister to Listed winner Forever Discreet (Bernardini) and dual Listed winner and multiple Group placed I’m Discreet (Elusive Quality).
David Peacock obviously has an affinity with Darley stallions as he sent Very Discreet to visit Frosted (USA) last spring after she had foaled her first filly, a daughter of Street Boss (USA).
Exceed And Excel is starting to make his mark as a broodmare sire.
His daughters have produced the outstanding Medaglia d’Oro colt Astern and Sepoy’s top-class daughter Alizee as well as Lonhro’s star filly Bounding who was purchased by Stonestreet Thoroughbreds for $1.9 million at the 2016 Magic Millions National Broodmare sale.
Bounding’s dam Believe'n'Succeed is also the dam of the high-class Galileo colt Anthony Van Dyck who recently won the Group II Futurity Stakes at the Curragh and just last week, one of Europe’s highest rated 2yo’s Ten Sovereigns (No Nay Never) won the Group III Tower Stakes at the Curragh. He is out of Exceed And Excel’s daughter Seeking Solace.
Making his debut on Saturday at Kenilworth for Snaith Racing, three-year-old colt Crown Towers impressed all, and further cemented the high regard held by his trainer, winning by three and a quarter lengths over 1200m.
A son of dual Group 1 Derby winner Camelot, Crown Towers is the second foal and second winner for the stakes performed Galileo mare Miss With Attitude, and many would suspect that a sprint trip would see the him running on at the finish, but not troubling the leader.
Starting the race favourite Crown Towers was jumped away well by jockey Richard Fourie to settle just off the leading division, which was headed by the Mike Stewart-trained Tintagel.
Working out of the pack with 400m to go, the classic-bred colt powered away from his opposition to take his maiden victory with ease, becoming one of four winners for the Snaith – Fourie combination on the nine-race card.
Bred by Mr Lelio Bibbo, the colt is raced by great Snaith Racing clients Mr Jonsson and Mr Mitchell.
Snaith Racing’s Jonathan Snaith gave the colt high praise after the impressive win.
“Crown Towers is an exciting individual who stamped himself as a serious Guineas and Derby contender,” stated Snaith.
“He’s the real deal and one to follow.”
Sold through the draft of Mill Park Stud at the Inglis Premier Yearling Sale to Heywood Bloodstock and Mayfair Speculators for $280,000, the colt headed to South Africa and the stable of Goodhope Racing’s Joey Ramsden.
Due to circumstance outside the control of the Ramsden yard, the colt then headed to a recent Central Route Trading Mixed Sale where Snaith Racing were fortunate enough to purchase the 80% of the colt on offer for R1,7m - the rest is history so they say.
The current Snitzel two-year-old from the mare was sold to Darren Weir and John Foote Bloodstock at the 2018 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale for $450,000 and has been named Snittitude, while she has a Sebring yearling colt and is due to foal this season at American Pharoah.
While much of the hype in Darren Weir’s stable centres around his older horses leading into the spring, the master trainer is bullish about the prospects of one of emerging three-year-olds.
Dawn Approach colt Approach Discreet, underlined his talents with a dominant 8.5L win over 1500m at Morphettville on Saturday and will likely rise to Stakes grade in next month’s Listed Morphettville Guineas (1600m).
While he also holds an entry for the $2 million Caulfield Guineas (1600m), Weir said his best may come over 10 furlongs and beyond, indicating the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) could be his ultimate goal this spring.
“The opposition wasn’t great (on Saturday) but he is definitely a nice colt going forward,” Weir said.
“He is owned by Peter Law who buys a lot of horses with us and a lot of them go to Hong Kong he might be one that heads there but hopefully he can at least hang around for the spring.
Purchased from the draft of Mill Park Stud at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale for $360,000 by outstanding judge John Foote and trainer Darren Weir, Approach Discreet is out of the stakes-winning Exceed And Excel mare Very Discreet, from the prolific black-type producing family of Halo Again which also includes Gr3 SAJC Dermody Stakes winners She's Discreet & Be Discreet, Morphettville Guineas winner Forever Discreet, and Gr3 Bloodhorse Breeders' Stakes winner Gilded Angel.
TRSA has announced another fantastic incentive for owners and trainers to further the excitement of Spring Racing in South Australia.
Six individual race Series have been created, each named after iconic South Australian horses such as the outstanding mare Viddora, who has accumulated more than $2 million in prizemoney to date, and warhorse Riziz, whose strike rate was to be envied, to be held in September, October and November 2018.
Heats will be run at Metropolitan, Provincial and Country race meetings throughout South Australia, with a Final for each Series to be held at Morphettville during the Spring Carnival.
These Series will be held over a range of distances to provide opportunities for as many horses as possible, with the following Series Finals:
Saturday 20 October $100,000 Rebel Raider Series Final (3yo), 1200 metres
Saturday 27 October $100,000 Viddora Series Final (Mares BM 80), 1300 metres
Saturday 3 November $100,000 Riziz Sprint Series Final (BM 75), 1100 metres
Tuesday 6 November $100,000 Skybeau Stayers Series Final (BM 75), 2000 metres
Saturday 10 November $100,000 Happy Trails Series Final (BM 7), 1400 metres