Prizemoney increases can help stimulate South Australia’s shrinking thoroughbred breeding industry, but don’t expect an immediate influx of commercial stallions into the state.
That’s the view of Cornerstone Stud’s Sam Pritchard-Gordon, who welcomed the recent announcement by Racing SA that prizemoney across all levels of the sport will be lifted off the back of a change in the Price of Consumption tax structure by the State Government.
Like the racing industry, the local breeding industry in SA has struggled amid dwindling prizemoney levels and a subsequent lack of investment by owners and breeders.
The quality and depth of the state’s stallion ranks has declined markedly and many mare owners have shifted their interests interstate.
While Pritchard-Gordon isn’t expecting things to change overnight, he is optimistic the tide can slowly turn.
“It’s not even a chicken-and-egg scenario,” Pritchard-Gordon said.
“It’s the catalyst and without prizemoney, there is no confidence, and without confidence, people will continue to look interstate to breed their mares, raise their stock and sell interstate.
“A rising plane of prizemoney will inspire confidence and Vaughn Lynch and the crew at Racing SA have done a wonderful job to do that in the last 12 months.
“They seem to have created a really good relationship with the Treasurer and hopefully it’s the start of a resurgence.
“If you have a resurgence then people will start looking at South Australia – the land and the history of the horses raised here is probably unrivalled in terms of what it does from such a small population of horses.”
Despite some renewed optimism within the state’s bloodstock industry, Pritchard-Gordon confirmed that Cornerstone will stand only two stallions this spring, with American shuttler Sir Prancealot not returning to Australia in 2023.
During a six-year tenure between 2017 and 2022, Sir Prancealot served more than 450 mares and, while his progeny enjoyed solid success in SA, he sired only one Stakes winner, Lindsay Park’s talented filly Caste, who landed the Group 2 Queen of the South Stakes (1600m) and the Listed Nitschke Stakes (1400m) during the autumn.
Valentia and Akeed Mofeed will occupy the famed Barossa-based stallion barn in 2023, although Pritchard-Gordon said the farm will hone its focus on bloodstock sales rather than its stallions.
“Sir Prancealot has been sold and he’s not coming back,” he said.
“We’re going to stand two stallions, but our focus is not so much on the stallions as it is on raising better stock.
“The profit drivers have gone from agistment, stallions and bloodstock sales all being a third of the pie to it being 70 per cent bloodstock sales now.
“We want to make the most of some pretty special land to raise good racehorses.
“The land here promotes a horse, it doesn’t hold it back.
“As a farm now, we are much smaller in personnel and our operation has gone from probably 18-plus employees when I arrived in 2018 to being an operation now that is basically six or seven of us.
“Last year we foaled down 75 mares – this year we’re sending our mares interstate to foal down, but we anticipate a foal crop of around 25 to 30 foals.
“Some of them will hopefully sell into the top-end sales to showcase what South Australia can do because we’ve got the best climate and environment for it.”
It’s the sales circuit in which Cornerstone has really kicked goals in 2023.
In May, Pritchard-Gordon and his team sold the sale-topper at the Magic Millions National Weanling Sale when Yulong paid $925,000 for their Frankel x Upside colt, while the farm was leading vendor by aggregate at the Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale for the third-consecutive year.
Pritchard-Gordon said his focus will be to consolidate the farm as a leading vendor at some of the country’s high-end bloodstock sales over the coming seasons.
“To sell the most-expensive weanling in the Southern Hemisphere this year – one of the most-expensive weanlings ever -is a big feather in our cap,” he said.
“We would like to think that it will encourage the next Harry Perks to consider us as an option to grow out their stock.
“You’ve got to hang your hat on your racetrack results and when you stand stallions, you’re always at the whim of the ability of your stallion and the quality of their stock.
“If you don’t stand a successful stallion, then it can hold back what your brand is able to do on the track.
“Chris Watson’s success at Mill Park has been because of his diligence with matings and developing families and you can only do that when you’re able to choose which stallions you use.
“Now that we are mating in order to create both sales and racetrack success, we’re going to have a bit more fun.
“I took great pleasure from seeing Caste, with the great CS brand, win the Group 2 Queen of the South Stakes and she looks like a filly that is probably going to win a better race than that in the spring.”