Mike Becker is one of Australia's most well-known breeders. His farm, Stockwell Thoroughbreds stands three top stallions Artie Schiller, Al Maher, and Rock Sturdy. StockwellThoroughbreds is one of the vendors bringing the maximum number of horses in the Great Southern Sale this year.
Becker spoke to the impact about the highlights of their drafts, his opinions on the Australian breeding industry as well as about their thoroughbred journey
Q: What is the size of your 2019 draft? And what are your draft highlights?
A: We have 18 foals and 13 mares and breeding stock going to the great Southern Sale in June. This is a mix of our own, and client’s horses. The foals to be sold are a wide cross-section of pedigrees by various stallions.
Commercially the highlights will be colts by the emerging sires' Epaulette (Epaulette X Muscatels, Lot 519) and Rubick(Rubick X Indy Rock, Lot 199) as well as the highly credentialed first season Vinery Stud stallion Star Turn (Star Turn X Sunset Coast, Lot 445).
This colt is from a half-sister the Cox Plate winner and now successful young sire, Shamus Award.
Another colt sure to draw attention is the Casino Prince X Scarletta colt (Lot 392), making him a very close relation to the former champion All Too Hard and Black Caviar. He is a particularly well grown and impressive colt.
Also, close two close relations to the smart Perth 3YO Flirtini should attract pin-hooker interest, particularly the colt from Soft Dollar by Bobby’s Kitten (Lot 420).
Of the fillies in the draft, we are represented by two by emerging sire Toronado and they are very forward and strong types. Two fillies by the well-credentialed first crop sireSooboog will also have admirers.
Q: In the Thoroughbred industry it is almost a business norm, to breed a winning stallion as much as possible in his first three
years — when his offspring are still unproven in competition. Would you agree with the statement?
A: While there has been a major emphasis on young unproven stallions both at foal and yearling sales, I believe we
saw this year a move back to proven sires by the yearling buyers. We saw that with great yearling sale results from our own draft
where Artie Schiller, Denman and Reward for Effort colt sold particularly well but that was in most part because they were
simply very nice colts.
I think the buyers do their homework better now than ever and they find the nicer horses in any sale.
Q: In the unproven 1YO – 3YO Young Sires’ category, which sires would you say are underrated?
A: It is hard to pinpoint young sires that I would consider underrated. I think it is easier to find some that are, in my opinion overrated. However, the commercial pressures on young stallions are now harder than it has ever been, success or perceived failure is often determined unfairly before they have 3YO running.
The emphasis in Australia on 2YO sprint racing makes the stallion market a lottery and cut-throat business. As a result, we are now seeing stallions having been denounced in the markets, coming on strong with three and four-year-olds because they have covered large books of quality mares in their early season at stud. This is where, I believe many breeders, trainers, and owners can find some good upside in the market.
Q: Which proven stallions do you have a preference for?
A: In the proven stallionbracket, I think breeders and buyers have a nice selection to choose from. And many of these are stallions now standing at a fraction of their introductory fee. If I might be biased, I obviously rate our own stallions Artie Schiller and Al Maher in this bracket as both have a high strike rate of winners, stakes performers and solid sales results.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you former Stockwell Thoroughbreds?
A: I have been in the breeding industry in Victoria since 1989 when I moved from South Australia to manage Stockwell Stud. In 1993, I formed independent Stallions Pty Ltd at Toolern Vale and at its peak stood 11stallions before downsizing and moving to the Euroa area of the state.
We stood Brief Trucewhom we had purchased earlier from Switzerland and later the champion Arazi. Arazi has turned 30 this year and is great fettle. In 2007 I entered into an agreement to shuttle Artie Schiller who has been a wonderful success in Australia. However, when 50% ownership was sold to Emirates Park Stud, also in Victoria, after Artie Schiller’s great early successes with two Group One winners and taking out Australia’s second season leading sire title, my son Brodie and I moved with him and have taken a long term lease on the EmiratesPark property, which was formerly Stockwell Stud, So, I have come full circle and have the famed Stockwell name back on the gate. This season Artie Schiller has been joined by Emirates Park’s stalwart stallion Al Maher who is receiving wide interest due to his ongoing sales and racetrack successes. Brodie and I purchased outright ownership of Artie Schiller prior to the 2018 breeding season and he no longer shuttles to the US.
I served on the committee of the Victorian Breeders Association for some 12 years, seven of which I was Chairman. I was, for a short time, also President of ThoroughbredBreeders Australia, prior to its merger with Aushorse.
Q: What was the biggest crisis you faced a breeder?
A: The toughest period in that time was the outbreak of EI, a first for Australia which threw the racing and breeding industry into chaos coming on the eve of the 2007 breeding season. It derailed my business as I had two stallions in Desert King and Denon, two popular sires, caught in the quarantine centre at the time and neither was able to serve that season. Fortunately, Artie Schiller had been released two weeks prior to the outbreak.
Q: How has technology affected and influenced your business?
A: Technology changes that I noted mostly is that of the social media platforms, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Studs and trainers have cleverly adapted to these mediums and derived a great network audience. Being from another generation, I have been slow to pick up on this but Brodie and his wife Rowenna are right onto it. It is, however, a great way to communicate with your clients and potential clients.
Published In The Impact 13 Issue, 2 Vol
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