Mystic Journey and Needs Further are going a long way to saving the Tasmanian breeding industry.
At least, that’s the view of Armidale Stud’s Managing Director, third-generation breeder David Whishaw.
“My great grandfather settled here just after the first World War, so we’ve been here for four generations and my grandfather started breeding thoroughbreds in the 1960s and started a commercial stud in the early 1970s so it’s definitely not a business that has been built overnight,” said Whishaw.
“The family has had a great history of standing stallions.
“The last time we had a stallion that threw a Group 1 winner was Sydeston back in the 1980s and he stood here until the mid-1990s.”
Armidale Stud have a new pin-up boy in Needs Further, the sire of champion three-year-old filly Mystic Journey.
“Needs Further is the stallion at the moment that has put the farm and Tasmanian breeding back in the national spotlight,” explained Whishaw.
“Needs Further was the first stallion that I purchased since my father’s passing so I felt a lot of pressure and I felt I really wanted to get it right – so we did a hell of a lot of research into stallions. We knocked back over 100 stallions before we took Needs Further on.
“He was poked under our nose by a family friend who has retained an interest in the horse.
“Something told me we had to give him a go … I guess the rest is history.”
Needs Further was far from an instant success story as a stallion though: “We did our best to launch him in what was a very difficult time for our local breeding industry.
“He covered about 70 mares in his first crop, which was a wonderful book for a stallion down here in Tassie but for the mainland stallions it was a third of what they call a full book these days.
“He’s really flown under the radar, even locally.
“His first runner was a winner and she broke the track record. He was the leading first-season sire in Australia before Christmas and no one had recognised who he was.
“He’s continued to fly under the radar, even to our local breeders. There’s a mentality in Tasmania at times that the mainland is always better.”
However, thanks to an incredible autumn campaign from Mystic Journey – or ‘Betty’ as she is affectionately known by those close to the wonder filly – Needs Further is gaining a reputation as a burgeoning sire in the Australian ranks.
“It wasn’t until Mystic Journey won the Group 2 on Cox Plate Day that (Tasmanian) breeders sat back and said ‘We’ve got a stallion that’s the real deal down here’,” Whishaw said.
“It’s been wonderfully gratifying to see the interest that’s come from the mainland now.”
Mystic Journey didn’t turn many heads at the sale and clearly those who attended the 2017 Magic Millions Tasmanian Yearling Sale weren’t expecting the black filly that paraded as Lot 43 to become one of Australia’s brightest stars – Betty was knocked down to her trainer Adam Trinder for a paltry $11,000 after receiving just five bids.
“I was lucky enough to help foal Betty down and she was just born a pretty plain, black filly by Needs Further,” Whishaw said proudly.
“She was very uncomplicated as a filly but had quite an inquisitive nature and I think that’s followed her through.
“She was probably slightly backwards and one of the smaller foals by Needs Further in that crop but continued to catch our eye in the paddock being a black filly. You’d drive around and you all knew that was the White Gold filly.
“Come yearling sales time the girls fell in love with her because of her great demeanour.
“My wife did quite a lot of work with her and she loved her attitude, there’s photos of the staff cuddling her when she’s sleeping in the boxes because she’s got such a great demeanour.
“Unfortunately, she didn’t fetch a lot of money through the sale ring.”
According to Whishaw, the Tasmanian breeding industry has been through some tough times but Betty and Needs Further have reinvigorated breeder interest in The Apple Isle.
“There’s no doubting that Betty has already put the spotlight back on Tassie breeding and racing,” he said.
“What she’s done for us is something that we’ve only dreamed of. You hear Matt Hill say ‘She’s what dreams are made of’ and I truly believe, she is.
“She gives every small breeder hope. She gives businesses like us hope. We’ve been working at this for three generations and to get a horse like that which the rest of Australia fell in love with, is what dreams are made of.
“The interest it has brought to the state I think will stimulate enough interest to save our industry.
“Our industry was in a terrible state of decline. It may not have been viable to continue standing stallions here unless we attracted outside investment, and I think she’s going to do that.
“I get out of bed and pinch myself about the wonderful ride we’re going on. You get out of bed believing you can not only make a difference here in Tassie, but also nationally.”