Mill Park Makes Worthwhile Journey

It’s a long way from Mill Park Stud in the southeast of South Australia to the Bundell sale complex of the Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast, but for Chris Watson it is a worthwhile trip to present Mill Park’s draft to the Australian and international buying bench that assembles for the Jan. 7 to 10 sale, the first of the 2015 Australasian yearling sale series. 

Watson, who runs the 4046 hectare (10,000 acre) property with his wife Sian and parents Peter and Serena, believes that while they could keep star yearlings for the Magic Millions Adelaide Sale in March, it is an essential exercise to present Mill Park's brand to the leading buyers on the Gold Coast. 

"We take the inland route through the middle of Australia with the first day a good 14-hour trip, and we land at Wellington in New South Wales. We stop the horses overnight there, make sure they are covered well and then they are back on the truck for the second leg up to the Gold Coast, which is about 11 hours," Watson explained. "It is a good trip, but we do a lot of preparation beforehand and they are closely monitored the entire trip. With that sort of preparation and a good transport company [Goldners], a few of them came off the truck bouncing so they have been really good even in this heat.” 

He added, "We have come from 14 celcius up to high humidity and 33 celcius, so I was really amazed how they coped.” 

Watson noted Mill Park has been represented at the Gold Coast for the last six years, and that the stud carefully selects a group of horses for their draft that will be forward in preparation. 

"We are looking for more mature, forward horses to present to the buyers who would not be at Adelaide," he said. 

The absolute example of Watson's selections for the sale is lot 185, the bay colt by Redoute's Choice (Aus) out of the Anabaa mare Dances On Waves (Aus), a winner of five races including the G2 Villiers S. over the tough Randwick 1600 meter course. Dances On Waves is the half-sister to Better Alternative (Aus), who is the dam of Preferment (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}), winner of the 2014 G1 Victoria Derby at Flemington in November; and Rezoned (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}), winner of the G3 South Australia Fillies Classic. 

The colt is very typical of the stock of Redoute's Choice with strength and presence, but Watson has no qualms about presenting him even though he will not be an early running 2-year-old. 

"I think he has the quality on type and ability to go as a 3-year-old. Pedigree wise and on type he will improve as he hits his 3-year-old career," he said. "He is a very impressive colt and oozes quality. He is a lovely, balanced type, well-proportioned with overall strength, and he has a walk that just has to be seen--he is extremely athletic and a beautiful, free-moving horse. He will be our standout horse of the draft.” 

Certainly the swing back by Australian buyers looking for local staying types will mean that this colt has not lacked for inspections. Preferment is trained by Sydney's leading trainer Chris Waller, and last Thursday at Randwick he commented that he was searching for his future stayers in Australasia, with the price for tried horses out of the UK now too expensive. 

Mill Park Stud has presented just the right type for the buying bench in this market, but they also have catered for the Magic Millions early-running market. Lot 534, the chestnut colt by More Than Ready out of the Kenny's Best Pal (Aus) mare Pushing Daisies (Aus), is the half-brother to the ill-fated Captain Sonador (Aus) (Shamardal), who won the G1 Epsom H. over a mile at Randwick and died after serving just three seasons at Raheen Stud. 

Mill Park Stud sold Captain Sonador for A$30,000 as a yearling at the same January Magic Millions Yearling Sale, but there will be a considerably better return for this year's athletic offering. 

"He is exactly what you would expect to see in a More Than Ready colt,” Watson noted. “He is a lovely sprinting type. In most people's minds he will be a Magic Millions type, beautifully proportioned, and he will go early. He is a horse who will be sought after by a wide range of buyers, I would expect." 

The nine-strong draft is in action early on Wednesday, session one of the sale, with lot 13, the chestnut colt from the last crop of Northern Meteor (Aus) out of the General Nediym (Aus) mare Victory Cry (Aus). This is the family of Serious Speed (Aus) (Royal Academy), the winner of the G1 Thousand Guineas. 

"He is a superbly presented, lovely looking Northern Meteor with great overall presence with great muscle definition. He just looks like he has fast muscle twitch fibres everywhere--a big, powerful hind quarter," said Watson. "He is one of those horses in my opinion who will run as 2-year-old and train on as a 3-year-old." 

There are two fillies Watson said he expects to be precocious types: lot 143, the chestnut filly by Sepoy (Aus) out of the Starcraft (NZ) stakes-winning mare Celebrity Girl (Aus) and lot 219, a filly by Snitzel (Aus) out of the Elusive Quality mare Elusive Wonder (Aus). 

Watson said of Lot 143, "She’s a powerfully built filly and has a lot of length and scope to her, great bone and for a bigger filly she is really well proportioned. The Sepoy's, I think, are going to be extremely popular and I think she will fit in very nicely with what is here on the complex." 

And of Lot 219, he added, "She is a great example of a Snitzel filly with power and strength you would expect."  Mill Park Stud has produced 15 Group 1 winners of 29 Group 1 races. The stud enjoyed three Group 1-winning sales graduates in 2014: Happy Trails (Aus) (Good Journey) scored his third Group 1 win in the Mackinnon S.; Go Indy Go (Aus) (Bernardini) won the G1 Champagne S. and Fawkner (Aus) (Reset) added the G1 Caulfield S. to his 2013 G1 Caulfield Cup victory. 

Watson said Mill Park’s unique location and the advantages of large paddocks allow young yearlings to run free to build as young athletes. 

"I think we were do differ from a lot of other places in that we are a large property with the horses on 2,000 acres, and the horses are on large sandy undulating country very different from your highly fertile typical horse country," he said. "With small numbers in a large paddock we can give them good individual attention to detail. And you get a group of horses in there that can move and get a good gallop up--they are then laying down good muscle and bone and that is really important.” 

Mill Park Stud will present yearling drafts at Victoria's Premier Sale, Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale and possibly at the Easter Yearling Sale. But over the coming week the focus is the Gold Coast and the nine yearlings being paraded each day.

By Rob Burnet,