The first name that one will think of when talking about the Segenhoe Stud is the word ‘historic’. The age-old farm is steeped in rich heritage and legacy of champions. Located in the gorgeous Hunter Valley, Segenhoe is a perfect home for horses that are one day expected to conquer the world. Sitting at the helm of these affairs is their General Manager, Peter O’Brien. Assuming his duties in late 2013, Peter is revered in the Australian thoroughbred community. Backed with 30 plus years of experience, Peter took no time in taking the stud to new heights. His knowledge of all the facets of thoroughbred racing truly makes him on the few true masters for this job.
O’Brien talks to The Impact about the secret of Segenhoe’s success at the digital Easter Yearling Sale in an exclusive interview:
Q: Segenhoe sold two yearlings for A$ 1.1m each. Could you please tell us more about those sales? Did the Coolmore and Ciaron Maher Racing teams visit the horses for inspection? Could you tell us more about the story around how these sales were precipitated?
A: We are delighted with the two million dollars (A$1.1m X 2) yearlings. The Deep Impact yearling was bred by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa. He raised Amanee and sent her to Japan. The resulting foal was the beautiful yearling here that we sold. He was a beautiful big scope horse with great action.
Interestingly enough to Katsumi Yoshida ended up being the under bidder. Ciaron (Maher) has bought him for the syndicate. But he was the magnificent horse and a great athlete. He was a great advertisement for the stallion.
Captivating Claire (NZ) has always thrown great types. And this was the best in my humble opinion that this is the best she has ever thrown. Coolmore bought her full brother last year and he obviously goes well, because they were really interested in this one as well.
She is the best-looking filly that I have ever seen and the best-looking filly I have seen prepared. She is a beautiful racehorse and I was absolutely delighted that John Magnier and his family bought her. I think they are going to have a lot of fun with her.
Q: Were you happy with the prices (overall) or do you feel Segenhoe's draft would have done much better in a live auction?
A: We sold all our horses, which was a big surprise. A few weeks out we would sell forty to fifty per cent of our stock. But we placed realistic reserves. And at the end of the day, they were nice horses. And nice horses always sell well. Of course full credit to Inglis. They managed the situation well.
Q: If this format of digital sale needed to be extended, after this experience what changes would you hope to see in the future for yourselves as vendors but also for the benefit of the buyers?
A: The digital sale was fantastic. We are used to them here now as we have monthly (digital) sales for general racehorses, weanlings and mares. As for yearlings, even though it went off brilliantly. You still need people to see the horses as they are buying athletes. Having them at the sale in one area means more people will see them. Also, the buzz of an auction and having people around means that we (the vendors) get the extra dollar for a variety of reasons. So, we would always hope to sell the horses as we used to (at a live auction).
Q: As over half the catalogue was either withdrawn or passed in, do you have any concerns over the early 2YO races which highlight Australia's racing season?
A: Although over half the catalogue was withdrawn or passed in, but at the end of the day horses are still going to be broken in and they will still go to trainers. So I don't think there will be any impact as horses were sold already through other sales – Classic, Melbourne and Magic Millions. So I don’t think this will have any impact on Australia’s 2YO early races in the next season.
Q: What do you feel about the future of the Australian racing industry in the near future?
A: Future of the Australian industry is very bright. During this crisis, we have been able to keep racing going. Firstly, it exposes our industry to people who may have never seen it. It has also allowed us to keep the income from gambling. And that is possible because it's the only sport on television. So, online gambling revenue is up. Unfortunately, not having people at the races and in bars or outlets it does have a disappointing impact on gambling but as long as racing continues through the crisis, the future will be sound.
Q: And finally, how is your family and your team doing in these troubled times? What measures have you had to implement in order to maintain the lockdown restrictions?
A: With regards to lock down on the farm were in great shape. Because it is a farm we can move around freely. And we as horse people were so used to dealing with diseases like ringworms and quarantine etcetera. We are used to dealing with things like this. So we are well ahead of the pack.
Of course, we can’t do certain things like go down to a restaurant or to the races in Sydney. But everyone is in good spirits.
The unfortunate part is that the team will not be able to go away for the upcoming holidays. We have overseas workers who go home to see their families. That is disappointing for them but will make it up to them. After the season is over.
In the meanwhile, everybody has to keep their chins up. And we need to be looking forward to the mares and weanlings sale.