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Esteemed New Zealand bloodstock expert Ric Wylie of Ric Wylie Bloodstock in Manamata, New Zealand, will be joining the Cape Thoroughbred Sales (CTS) inspection team in September to select yearlings for the 2020 Cape Premier Yearling Sale.

Wylie will be on board alongside Grant Pritchard Gordon, director of both the UK Thoroughbred Breeders Association and Federation of Bloodstock Agents on the CTS team, following Pritchard-Gordon’s successful first stint last year. This will complete the team with knowledge and skills from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Wylie, whose services are especially sought after in his home country, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, spoke to us about his background in racing and breeding, his experience and his forthcoming visit to South Africa.

What are your day-to-day functions as bloodstock man in Kiwiland?

I own and run my own business, consulting to a varied group of owners and breeders around the world.  These include the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Mr Kevin Hickman of Valachi Downs Stud and Racing Stables, Mr Alan Osburg, original owner of Exceed & Excel and more recently the Group 1 winner Dixie Blossoms, who was home-bred out of a mare I bought for him 15 years ago. I also manage several portfolios of horses here in NZ that are nurtured through to racing careers in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong as well as in New Zealand.

Do you have any previous involvement with SA racing/breeding?

Prior to this trip I have only been to South Africa once to visit my old friend John Slade, when he was managing Maine Chance Farms, for two days on my way to the UK. So I am looking forward to an extended visit, and to experience the farms and studs of your country.  I have built up a few friendships including Form Bloodstock’s Jehan Malherbe and Mike de Kock, through competition at yearling sales around the world.  I look forward to renewing these acquaintances in their own country.  Through my involvement with the HKJC, I have a close-working relationship and appreciation of your international vet practice, Baker McVeigh and its principal, Dr John McVeigh.

Previous duties at inspector at various sales and what you learnt from them? I gained previous inspector experience via five years in the bloodstock division of New Zealand Bloodstock (previously Wrightson Bloodstock).  I have over forty years in the industry working with such great trainers as John Hawkes in Australia and Ivan Allan in Singapore and Hong Kong.  More recently I was a short-lister for executives of the HKJC in both Europe and Australasia.  These platforms and individuals like Trevor Lobb, and the late Keith Gudsell, have given me a plethora of experience from some of the best yearling judges in the world.  Also, I am continually competing against great judges like Mike de Kock and Angus Gold, which gives me confidence that I have learnt my lessons well.

What are your impressions of the SA-breds? 

I have seen a few in Hong Kong and Singapore.  They appear similar to Australian and New Zealand horses with good bone and overall strength.  JJ the Jet Plane was the first one on the international stage that I saw in action when he was in Hong Kong.

What do you look for in a yearling? 

Yearling selection can be a varied science as the different training regimes and facilities influence one’s final decisions.  Types and pedigrees differ around the world, e.g. what suits Newmarket or Chantilly may not be suitable on Singapore or Hong Kong training tracks, so understanding the requirements of the future experiences that the horse will encounter are paramount to my choices. My specialty is confirmation and assessing what a horse may develop into.  Foals can change dramatically from May to March in their growth and a successful sale depends on a satisfied buying bench.  That starts with selection of the right individual for that specific sale

Who are the best yearlings you have selected or been involved with? 

Recent success for HKJC include Pakistan Star; Octagonal for John Hawkes and Derby winner Holy Grail in Hong Kong for Ivan Allan stand out.  While Manager of Bloomsbury Stud in New Zealand, we bred and sold Tavistock, now a leading New Zealand sire.

What are your views on the future of horse racing given the setbacks/lower turnovers in various jurisdictions? 

No racing jurisdiction can survive without adequate funding and management.  Again my experiences in Hong Kong and Australia show it can be done, but those making their incomes on racing’s coattails need to pay for the product. Race field legislation pushed by John Messara and his team at Racing New South Wales, have shown the world what can be achieved and should become a template for similar racing countries around the world. Horse racing is in my blood as a seventh generation Australian growing up with the Melbourne Cup stopping the nation on the first Tuesday in November.  My first five cent sweep-stake was at the age of seven at primary school but present generations have much busier and more diverse childhoods so we need to be proactive.  We need to make racing relevant to them.  People much smarter and younger than me, like TDN’s Vicky Leonard and Jack Cantillon achieve this and the growth of racing attendances and turnover in Australia is proof it can be done.

What are your personal interests? Are you still a betting man?

As an Aussie I enjoy a bet, but my interests centre around my work. I am fortunate to have worked within my hobby and passion for 43 years, and I am always excited by a unopened catalogue on my desk. Pedigrees have always fascinated me and developed further through my friendship with Leslie Harrison, when managing the Australian horses for his boss, Lord Howard de Walden of Slip Anchor, Deisis and Kris fame.