Breeders brace for quiet season


Operators of smaller, non-commercial stallion farms in Victoria are bracing for a quieter spring in the covering shed.

Russell Osborne, who manages six stallions at his Riverbank Farm property, said several of his clients have already flagged their intention to downscale their interests.

He said the rising costs to breed and race a horse, as well as increased administrative requirements under new equine welfare and traceability rules, have made things tougher for smaller breeders, many of whom breed to race themselves.

Riverbank’s pin-up stallion Dalasan served more than 75 mares in his first season at stud in 2023 but Osborne said it is difficult to gauge interest this year given mare bookings happen close to and during the season, which begins on September 1.

“I think it will be a really quiet season,” Osborne said.

“You’ve only got to have a look at the horses getting sold in the online sales to get a bit of an idea where things are at.

“The top end (of the market) is still going good but there’s not much in the middle and the bottom has fallen right out.

“It’s a lot harder for the smaller bloke to do it these days.

“A lot of our previous clients were in the older demographic, elderly people looking to breed a horse and race a horse as affordably as they can.

“It’s very hard to gauge the interest in stallions these days – 10 or 20 years ago when the stallion book came out you knew from the number of enquiries how you were going to go, but now that everything is online you don’t really get a feel for it until the season is underway.

“People book their mares in later for that reason and at the lower end of the market none of the stallions have a full book, so there’s no need for the mare owners to panic and book in early.”

Larneuk Stud’s Neville Murdoch is remaining optimistic about the season, although he is fully expecting his stallions to serve fewer mares than they did in 2023.

Larneuk’s roster will feature new additions Lauda Sion and Impending, while Wandjina and Wolf Cry will return.

Murdoch said the challenging economic environment is a catalyst for smaller ‘hobby’ breeders to take a year off or attempt to downsize their numbers.

He said the number of horses for sale in regular online auctions is indicative of a softening of demand for thoroughbreds.

“We’ve got a reasonably good line-up of stallions so we should have a solid season,” Murdoch said.

“I suspect Impending and Wandjina will go very well and I think Lauda Sion will get plenty of interest from people with that Japanese factor.

“But it’s tough everywhere, whether it be at the sales or online via Inglis Digital or Bloodstock Auction.

“Mum and dad can’t afford to buy milk, let alone breed a horse.

“Right now, it’s still too early for us (to tell) but I’m definitely expecting it to be a bit quiet.”