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Segenhoe Races Into A New Era

Segenhoe Races Into A New Era

As one of Australia's oldest Thoroughbred stud farms, Segenhoe Stud is one of the most recognizable names in the Australian Thoroughbred business. While Segenhoe may be old by name it is far from old-fashioned, however. The historic operation, which is busy preparing 17 yearlings for this week's Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, is on the cutting edge of modernity, recently doubling in size under new ownership and undergoing state-of-the-art renovations for both commercial and personal purposes.

"It's a management system from conception right through to their racing career," explained General Manager Peter O'Brien of the business plan undertaken by Kevin Moloney and his family since they purchased the Hunter Valley property in 2010.

Segenhoe was born in 1824 when Thomas Potter Macqueen, a British member of parliament, cashed in a land grant he was entitled to in New South Wales, acquiring 8,100 hectares (about 20,000 acres) that he coined the Segenhoe Valley. The community was built largely from personnel, livestock and materials shipped from Britain. Thoroughbred operations began on the land in 1913 after it was sold, but the farm truly rose to prominence after its purchase by Lionel Israel in 1938. He was associated with such Australian turf legends as Star Kingdom (Ire) and his sons Biscay (Aus) and Kaoru Star (Aus).

Segenhoe remained under Israel's care until the entire package, including livestock, was sold in 1986, and it changed hands again in 1990 to a group that included Michael Sissian. Sissian later owned the farm outright and sold it to American George Hofmeister in the late 90s. The original Segenhoe property became, and still remains, Vinery Stud, and Sissian took the Segenhoe named with him when purchasing the nearby property that is Segenhoe today.

Kevin Moloney, a businessman based in Sydney and involved in retail banking and finance, became the new owner five years ago. Moloney had previously raced trotters and greyhounds but had not been heavily involved in racing Thoroughbreds. That has changed very quickly.

"Kevin has an absolute passion for racing, and always has since he was a boy," explained O'Brien, who was recruited by Moloney last year after 25 years with Coolmore. "He raced trotters and greyhounds when he was younger, and now he's a significant player in Thoroughbreds. The whole family are extremely passionate about it."

The first step in Maloney's business plan was to upgrade his broodmare band, and within a year of buying Segenhoe he purchased Group 1 winner Hurtle Myrtle (Aus) (Dane Shadow {Aus}) and group winners Sister Madly (Aus) (Redoute's Choice {Aus}) and Mimi Lebrock (Aus) (Show A Heart {Aus}).

"Since then, we've been actively purchasing mares that their offspring could get into Magic Millions or Easter--premier mares," O'Brien noted. Segenhoe has also been a frequent shopper at the yearling sales, buying well-bred fillies and colts. O'Brien noted that Maloney currently has about 40 horses in training, with the broodmare band set to reach about 60 next breeding season.

In the meantime, the farm itself has undergone a makeover. Maloney has added five new properties to the nucleus of the farm, more than doubling its size.

"The farm, in my humble opinion, is probably the most beautiful farm in Australia," O'Brien said. "It has 10 kilometers of river frontage and we're right beside the dam, so we get the first river out of the dam. It's a stunning farm; probably the only thing that was missing was large, undulating paddocks for yearlings, so this year we've done that. It's been a multimillion dollar expansion. We've built a new yearling complex with paddocks up to 25 acres, all undulating. At the end of the day we're trying to breed not only sales horses, but athletes."

The expansion has also included a new 200-acre spelling facility that is gaining recognition from Sydney trainers. O'Brien noted that the goal is to be able to provide clients a complete service from conception of the horse through training. O'Brien was quick to point out that Segenhoe is very much open for the business of outside clients. Indeed, Segenhoe's clients include Gilgai Farm, the breeder of Black Caviar (Aus), for which it is selling four yearlings.

"This year there is probably a misconception that it's a private farm, which it's not," he said. "We're lucky enough to have a very large client base of significant breeders who also race a lot of horses, and we're always looking for more clients. The spelling complex is starting to get the support it deserves from the leading trainers in Sydney."

"In saying that, looking after the animals is tantamount to the business, so we're not going to overstock the farm," O'Brien added. "We're lucky to have a variety of flat irrigated paddocks, dry undulating paddocks and lovely winter paddocks for mares, so it gives us plenty of options and we have plenty of room to rest paddocks."

Despite the speed at which Segenhoe has grown over the last five years, O'Brien revealed there is much more to come from the business plan.

"It's a long-term strategy," he said. "We're not here for the short term. We have an incremental business strategy and we're achieving that as we go along."

"People have been asking us about standing stallions, but at the moment that's not in our strategy," O'Brien added. "We want to get our broodmare band up to where we want it. We want to get the farm infrastructure where we want it, then in a couple year's time we may look at standing stallions, but not in the short term."

As for the highlights of Segenhoe's Magic Millions draft, O'Brien pointed out a pair of colts from the first crop of Sepoy (Aus) (Elusive Quality), who won Australia's two most important juvenile contests--the G1 Golden Slipper and G1 Blue Diamond--before becoming the world's top-rated 3-year-old sprinter of 2011. Lot 613 is the first foal out of Sister Madly, who finished second to Sepoy in the G1 Manikato S.

"[Sepoy was], in my opinion, the best racehorse that's raced in my time here in Australia," O'Brien said. "[Sister Madly] was a superstar racemare from a great family. Sepoy's trainer, Peter Snowden, was here yesterday, and he said he's just a clone of Sepoy."

Lot 252 is bred on the same cross as the aforementioned colt, and he is the first foal out of the G3 Gold Coast Guineas winner Florentina (Aus) (Redoute's Choice {Aus}), a half-sister to Group 1 winner Gathering (Aus) (Tale of the Cat). The page traces back to the great family of Redoute's Choice under the third dam.

"He's a big, scopey horse and a great mover," O'Brien said. "Our two Sepoys have been equally popular."

Lot 153 is by well-established champion sire More Than Ready out of the multiple group winner Chinchilla Rose, a half-sister to the dam of champion and exciting young sire Star Witness (Aus) (Starcraft {NZ}).

"It is probably the most current family in the book at the moment," O'Brien said. "He has a great shoulder on him and he's a great mover. He's an ideal horse both on pedigree and looks for this sale."

Image and story by Kelsey Riley, TDN