Northern Irishman Finds Success Down Under

In six years of operating James Harron Bloodstock in Australia, the Northern Irishman by the same name has already accomplished what few achieve in a lifetime. He has bought Melbourne Cup, Golden Slipper and Classic winners both privately and at auction, done multi-million dollar stallion deals and has more recently launched a public syndication company. James Harron Bloodstock was also the owner of the slot occupied by Redzel (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}) when he won the inaugural A$10-million The Everest on Oct. 14. TDN‘s Kelsey Riley caught up with Harron to talk about past success and plans for the future.

TDN: You grew up in Northern Ireland and competed in showjumping, and also worked at Coolmore from age 15. Can you explain how you first came to work in Australia, and why you decided to settle there permanently?

JH: My first foray into Australia was to do a three-month yearling preparation with Coolmore in 2004. I’ve been here pretty much ever since, working alongside some of the leaders of the industry here in Australia. That time was punctuated by two years working alongside Hubie de Burgh, based in Co. Kildare in Ireland with frequent travel to sales around the world and particularly to Australia. James Harron Bloodstock was set up here in Australia in 2011. I think that anyone who comes to Australia and experiences the horse industry down here cannot help but fall in love with the place. It’s a fantastic model in terms of great prize money, a very accessible market and, of course, sensational racing.

TDN: A few years after launching James Harron Bloodstock, you made a decisive move to corner the market for stallion prospects with your colts’ syndicate. Can you talk about the Australian stallion market at the moment, and why it’s important for your clients to be involved in it?

JH: We are very fortunate in Australia that the vast majority of the cream of the crop in terms of yearlings are offered at public auction, and that gives everybody a fighting chance in terms of securing those rare colts who can become stallion prospects. We spent a lot of time analysing the market and where these horses are coming from, alongside putting together a bespoke management system which allows us to get the very best out of the colts we buy to try and find those stallions. We feel that combining our selection criteria along with this management system gives our clients the edge that we are looking for in producing stallions, and it goes without saying that a huge part of that system is the incredible horsemanship and attention to detail provided by having the horses with Peter and Paul Snowden.

The market for farms to secure stallions for stud duties here is fiercely competitive, which is obviously a major driver behind our intentions with the colts. If you have the right product, developed and presented in the right way, then there are several farms which are able to bid strongly in order to secure the best colts to stand at stud. While the financial rewards for our clients in producing a stallion are obvious, the majority of the owners in the colts are also breeders and very much see the long-term picture of maintaining equity and breeding to these colts when the time comes.

Another key piece of the puzzle is the Australian model of great prize money and a strong Asian on-sale market, which together go a long way in terms of covering costs. However, as with most jurisdictions, the major upside for owners is in the generation of stallion prospects, which is why it is important for our owners to be involved in this sector, and correspondingly why we put so much research, analysis and management into making sure that the colts we purchase have absolutely every chance to make it if they are good enough.

TDN: You were involved with the win of Triple Crown Syndications’ Redzel in the inaugural running of the A$10-million The Everest on Oct. 14 as the slot owner. When Racing NSW announced it was bringing the concept of that race to Australia, what were your initial thoughts? Did you want to get involved right away?

JH: When The Everest was announced I thought it was a very exciting concept, and one which is tailor-made for the sprinting division in Australia which always has great depth to it. In addition, given what we are trying to achieve with the colts, The Everest is a great fit for us. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by some great owners who have come together to purchase the slot and having discussed it with them they gave me great confidence to go forward with the slot. The final key piece of the puzzle was the track record of Peter V’Landys in getting things done. He’s done great things for Sydney racing, and having a spearhead like that as the driving force behind The Everest, alongside Australian Turf Club CEO Darren Pearce, Chairman Lauri Macri and their fantastic team, it really was an easy decision in the end.

TDN: You secured Redzel for your slot about a month out from the race. Was there a lot of competition at that time among the slot holders for the top sprinters?

JH: It was a fascinating thing to be a part of. Things were very much unfolding like a game of poker with nobody wanting to let their guard slip, or make the first move. Obviously we were keen to utilise our slot for a horse owned by the group if possible, but once it became clear that wouldn’t be the case we moved quickly to secure Redzel, who was at the top of our ‘wish list’ at that point. He had won his two starts this preparation in lightning-quick times, his reappearance effort in the G2 Concorde S. under 61kgs being the highest-rated performance in that race by Timeform in over 20 years. To have a horse who combines a perfect preparation, super times and almost infallible reliability was our aim, and this led to us being very focused on Redzel.

TDN: Did your very successful association with the Snowdens have any impact on the decision to secure Redzel for The Everest?

JH: Yes, for a number of reasons. We’ve had a great association with the Snowden stable and have a lot of faith in them to prepare a horse to peak on the big day, which was naturally the aim of the game when it came to The Everest. Redzel is a 5-year-old now, they’ve had him a long time and have really worked him out–he was always going to be given every conceivable chance to peak for the race, which was very important to us. (Editor’s Note: since this interview was conducted, Redzel won the G1 Darley Classic on Nov. 11 at Flemington)

TDN: In the end, did the race and the day as a whole at Randwick meet your expectations?

JH: It was a sensational day. The crowd was enormous, and very pleasingly there was a huge number of young people getting a great first experience of the races. The lead up to the day was, quite literally, the talk of the town, and all anybody wanted to talk about was The Everest, which I think speak volumes for the success of the project. There was great camaraderie between slot holders and everyone in the industry in the lead up, which really added to the whole experience. Attendance on the day at Randwick was well over 30,000, which is a record since the course underwent redevelopment, with the all-important betting turnover also exceptional, the highest TAB betting turnover in NSW on any day outside Melbourne Cup day and the highest turnover on a single race ever outside of the Melbourne Cup. When you consider that this is comparing a race first run in 1861 vs the first running of a new race those are extraordinary figures. Also impressive was how all this translated to the all-important and intangible quality of atmosphere. I have never experienced the roar of a crowd as the gates open in a race in Sydney, but they all roared for The Everest.

TDN: You’re not just involved with stallions, and one of your new ventures is the JHB fillies’ syndicate, which was launched last December. It’s early days, but how is that venture doing?

JH: I’m hugely excited by the fillies of JHB Syndications, which are different to the colts in that we offer shares to the general public and so far we have owners from all over the world investing in these quality racing fillies. We set out with a clear goal of securing the very best physicals that we could and they are developing beautifully. We have had a number of them already head to the barrier trials and jump outs and they have all performed very pleasingly as they head towards the races in the coming months, which will be the next big test for the project.

We have these fillies based with leading trainers in New South Wales (Bjorn Baker) and Victoria (David Hayes and Tony McEvoy) and very much kept the same approach and criteria that we have used with the colts in terms of selection and management. It was a logical progression for the business and it gives me great personal and professional satisfaction to be able to offer a way in for everyone to enjoy racing with shares starting at A$3,225 (US$2,500), with our number one goal of getting horses past the post in front.

TDN: You have also been active at sales across Europe and America over the years. How much business do you do in these other countries, and could you see that expanding?

JH: We’ve very much taken an approach to focus hard on Australia, we have some great clients here and are very focused on handling not just the selection and purchase of racehorses, but also the management of their racing careers as well as the breeding careers of some great breeding portfolios. All told that is a time consuming affair and our aim is always to be the very best at what we do, so I am very conscious of any overseas projects not distracting from or cannibalising what we are doing in Australia. We collaborate with some great people in Europe and America when circumstances permit and allow, and I have a great respect for people with an intimate knowledge of the intricacies of the industry in their own back yard. Our aim is that they see us in the same light and we are the first port of call for people looking to explore options within racing and bloodstock in Australia.


Practical Joke, Cupid Stud Fees Announced

Three-time Grade I winner Practical Joke (Into Mischief–Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor) will retire to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud following a start in the Dec. 2 GI Cigar Mile and will stand for $30,000 in 2018, Coolmore America announced Tuesday. The farm also released the 2018 fee for their recently retired GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita S. hero Cupid (Tapit–Pretty ‘N Smart, by Beau Genius), who will command $12,500.

Victor of the GI H. Allen Jerkens S. this summer and the GI Champagne S. and GI Hopeful S. as a juvenile, Practical Joke finished fourth in the GI Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last Friday and will take another crack at his elders in the Cigar Mile next month. Owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, the Chad Brown trainee’s record currently stands at 11-5-2-2 with $1,1720,800 in earnings.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Cupid collected three Grade II victories during his 2016 sophomore campaign, in addition to his top-level success this term. Retiring with a record of 13-6-1-0 and earnings of $1,701,873, the $900,000 KEESEP yearling has arrived at Ashford and is available for inspection at the farm’s open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this week.

Practical Joke and Cupid join champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) as the three new stallions on Ashford’s roster for 2018. Classic Empire’s stud fee was previously announced at $35,000.


Street Sense Filly Makes Early Waves at FTKNOV

The foal section of Monday’s Fasig-Tipton November sale was off to a flying start when hip 21, a filly by Street Sense-Quickest, by Forest Wildcat, was hammered down for an even $1 million to Jon Clay’s Alpha Delta Stables. Consigned by Paramount Sales, Agent I, the March-foaled bay is a full-sister to GI Las Virgenes S. winner Callback and to SW Defy Gravity (Bandini). The dam of hip 21 is an unraced half-sister toGI Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, while the further female family includes Grade I winners Rhythm, Girolamo, Imagining and Got Lucky. The price far exceeded last year’s foal topper, a Galileo (Ire) filly that fetched $550,000.

Wonder Waller

With six of the 14 runners in the G1 Kennedy Mile, Chris Waller had the decks stacked in his favour and Sydney’s champion trainer notched not just another top-level win but was also responsible for three of the first four home, led by Shillelagh (NZ) (Savabeel {NZ}), who had missed out on a run in the G1 Myer Classic earlier in the day.

The 6-year-old mare stayed on strongly to overhaul her year-older stablemate Tom Melbourne (Ire) (Dylan Thomas {Ire}) after the OTI Racing representative had taken up the running from fellow Waller representative All Our Roads (NZ) (Road To Rock {Aus}), who faded to finish fourth. With a string of second-place finishes to his name, Tom Melbourne once again had to settle for the bridesmaid role but was nevertheless dogged in his pursuit of Shillelagh, chasing her all the way to the line to finish just a neck to the deficit. The pair drew three lengths clear of the Michael Kent-trained Wyndspelle (NZ) (Iffraaj {GB}) in third.

I was very lucky to pick up the ride for Mr. Waller and the team, said the trainer’s fellow New Zealander, jockey Michael Dee, who was notching his second Group 1 victory. She’s been racing well and I was able to get on the back of the right horse and she took me right into the race and let down really well.

Third behind Global Glamour (Aus) on her previous outing in the G2 Tristarc S., Shillelagh was recording her seventh victory and a second group win in 19 career starts.

Waller said, Winning any race on Derby day is special and when it’s a Group 1 it’s fantastic. It doesn’t get any better than Derby day. Shillelagh’s a good horse and she’s gone to a new level this preparation. She came to me from New Zealand in good form and she had been trained just up the road from where I’m from.

Pedigree Notes

The mating of the unraced Trocair (Aus) (Flying Spur {Aus}) with Savabeel (NZ) had already produced the G2 Brisbane Cup winner Tullamore Dew (NZ), while Shillelagh’s younger sister Grazia (NZ) won the Listed Easter Classic earlier this season.

Trocair, a half-sister to G3 All American S. winner Our Nautique (NZ) (Pins), was sent to Pins herself and has a 3-year-old gelding by him named Sligo (NZ), while her sixth tryst with Savabeel the following fall led to a filly named French Success (NZ), who was sold for NZ$340,000 at Karaka this year. She also has an unnamed colt by Ocean Park (NZ). Click for the free catalogue-style pedigree.

Saturday, Flemington, Australia

CANTALA S.-G1, A$1,002,500 (US$767,261/ 586,740/660,764), VRC, 11-04, Open Quality, 1600mT, 1:35.01, gd.

1SHILLELAGH (NZ) , 52.0, m, 6, by Savabeel

1st Dam: Trocair, by Flying Spur

2nd Dam: French Tide (Can), by Dauphin Fabuleux (Can)

3rd Dam: Miss Tidal Wave (Can), by Captain’s Gig (USA)

1ST GROUP 1 WIN. O-C R Grace & Mrs S Grace; B-C R Grace,

Central, (NZ); T-C J Waller; J-M J Dee; A$602,500. Lifetime

Record: 19-7-2-1, A$850,320. *Full to Tullamore (NZ), GSW &

G1SP-Aus, $661,589; and Grazia (NZ), SW-NZ. Werk Nick

Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*. Click for the

eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.

2Tom Melbourne (Ire), 53.5, g, 6, Dylan Thomas (Ire)

Roshanak (Ire), by Spinning World (USA). (5,000gns ’12 Ylg

TAOOCT). O-O T I Racing (Mgr: T Henderson), Kiwiana, A & Mrs

P Goodfellow, D & Mrs D Miller, L Webb, Ms D McKeown, Ms

M Webb, W Bowker, J Higgins, Bobbin Along & Uthmeyer

Racing; B-Mr D. Ledwith, (Ire); T-C J Waller; J-G Boss;


3Wyndspelle (NZ), 52.0, c, 4, Iffraaj (GB)Western Star (NZ),

by High Chaparral (Ire). (NZ$75,000 Ylg 2015 NZB National

Yearling Sale). O-Ms J M Campin, J R Frew, Mrs S E Hanna & N

P Randles; B-Mrs S D Hart, Auckland, (NZ); T-M C Kent; J-Craig

Williams; A$90,000.

Margins: HD, 2 3/4, SHD. Odds: 11.00, 4.00, 40.00.

Also Ran: All Our Roads (NZ), Radipole (Ire), Omei Sword, Sovereign Nation, Tosen Stardom (Jpn), Sense of Occasion, Egg Tart, So Si Bon, Dibayani (Ire), Lucky Hussler, McCreery (GB).

Click for the Racing Post chart.