Developed into an internationally acclaimed thoroughbred breeding showpiece property by the late Jim Fleming, Tyreel Stud has earned a reputation as a first class source for quality horses.
This is a reputation well appreciated by Linda Monds who, along with her husband Laurence, purchased the Hawkesbury Valley property a few years ago.
“There is a history here that we are fully aware of,” she said, “and it comes with a certain amount of pressure”. But Linda is handling this pressure extremely well for someone who gave up the safe world of employment to take over the ownership and management of more than 40ha (100 acres) and around 30 mares and their progeny.
How did you become involved in the thoroughbred world?
“My parents had a cattle breeding property at Bylong and were also involved with cropping and haymaking. Dad had a few broodmares and so I was around horses from a very young age and have early memories of going to the sales. The lovely process of watching foals develop into yearlings made quite an impression on me as a teenager and has a lot to do with where I am now.”
You were out of the game for a while, what brought you back in?
“I was always very independent and wanted to make my own life, so for 20 years I was in the business world. Laurence and I worked hard on our own small bit of land in the Hawkesbury district and raised our two boys. For 10 years I ran an office for a builder, a very different world to that of horses. With the boys grown up we wanted to get back into it.
“Tyreel was not immediately in our sights, we didn’t really envisage ourselves being involved in such a large sized operation but when the opportunity arose we dived right in. We really didn’t want to move out of the Hawkesbury area, it is where we have made our life, where our friends and family are, where our sons could continue to have university and career opportunities. And the timing was right as this is not something I could have done when the boys were younger.”
Being involved a couple of decades ago and now coming back recently, have you noticed many changes?
“Oh yes things have changed quite a lot. Prizemoney has increased and the whole industry has become a lot more professional. Everyone strives to develop and breed the best possible horses for the sales and the track. The sales ring is now like a fashion parade catwalk!”
Your parents have been a major influence?
“None of this would have been possible without them and one of my biggest joys is watching them sit back and enjoy the whole Tyreel adventure unfold. Every day at the sales I get a good luck text from Dad and when he is there he gives me a hug and tells me to hold my head high. There is just so much encouragement there.
“Mum and Dad race a horse called Gone With The Wind (a High Chaparral four year-old home-bred who has won two of his six starts to date). He is not going to set the world on fire but he has a bit of potential and when he wins it is an absolute joy to see how they react, they are having so much fun with him.”
Being hands-on at Tyreel must be a major undertaking?
“It is a year-round job and we have not had a holiday since July 2015. During the breeding season we work seven days a week, Laurence does all the walk-ins and I do the foalings. We work solidly for four months or so and I also run the office, which is a full time job in itself. I keep hoping for another holiday but don’t think it will come soon.”
What is your driving force?
“I just love the animals. That moment when a foal arrives, it is so beautiful and it never ceases to amaze me. Then to watch that bond between mare and foal develop, I absolutely love that, I could not miss out on a foaling.
“And then at weanling stage, it is wonderful to witness the bond between horse and human that continues through the yearling preparation. I love watching it all unfold, that slightly nervous young horse at the start who has confidence in himself and his handler by the finish. And when they succeed on the track, well you are so proud as they are your kids! It is all rather addictive and there is a lot to learn, I don’t think I will ever stop learning.”
How do you cope with the many downs involved with thoroughbred breeding?
“Not well, as there is a lot of pain in an operation like this. You have your losses and I must admit that I tend to struggle with them. When a foal dies I grieve, I shut down and take a while to get over it. It’s horrible and I keep telling myself that I do need to toughen up.”
Aside from your own quality group of mares you look after horses for a number of clients?
“Yes and I am honoured in people’s faith in us and take great pride when they enjoy success, I love to enjoy the journey with them. When I get a phone call from a potential new client who says they have heard great things about Tyreel I feel happy and extremely humbled. It is also a great thrill to have successful sale results for clients, such as when we sold Jeremy Smith’s Blackfriars-Simply Wicked filly for $330,000 at this year’s Magic Millions.” This was a great result but we also sold the Not A Single Doubt-Card Queen colt for Jeremy’s Scenic Lodge at the Classic for $210k which he was also extremely happy with)
Your sons are a great support?
“Ben and Blake are both busy with their own lives (both serving trade apprenticeships) but they are great. Ben is a whizz with all things technical and takes interest in our marketing and our social media. Blake flies all around the country with his job, but is always happy to pitch in when he is around. At times I feel like they must think they have lost their mum to the farm but they are terrific kids and old enough to stand on their own two feet, I am so proud of them both.”
Tyreel has a dedicated and loyal staff and you love being a part of that?
“It has been quite a stressful experience getting used to having staff, I was always an employee rather than an employer and sometimes I forget that that is what I now am. I prefer to think of us all as a team and I am continually grateful for our wonderful staff, they are phenomenal. I so admire their passion and their work ethic, they are totally committed to the ongoing success of Tyreel. Our Manager Robert Sims has been instrumental in guiding us towards success and directing us towards the right people to advise us in certain areas of development of the bloodstock business.
“There is a sense of fun here too. An example is our yearly foaling sweepstake. We have a big chart on the wall listing all of the mares and their due dates and everyone has to guess the foaling date and sex of the foal. There is a nice cash prize awarded on Melbourne Cup Day to the most successful participant and it has been fun to watch how competitive everyone has become; a lot of research goes into it.”
What are some of the main challenges of running an operation like Tyreel?
“Trying to switch off as I find it very hard, I might have to be taught how to do that. I am up early, but late at night I will be thinking ëoh I must get this or that done’ and I wake up in the middle of the night with numbers and horses in my head.”
How many mares of your own do you have at Tyreel and what are your plans regarding mares?
“We have 25 of our own mares, mostly acquired at the 2014 and 2015 broodmare sales. We had to go in hard to build up the business and stock numbers as quickly as we could, we didn’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting. We purchased at three levels; top line mares, medium range mares and mares who were good physical types without necessarily having the big pedigrees.
“It has been interesting to study which ones we have fared best with, to date it seems to be those in the middle range. We have been buying mares straight off the track, which is another test. Tyreel will always sell broodmares and we will be turning them over all the time as we constantly refresh our broodmare band. And we are happy if someone makes money out of a mare we have sold, that gives us a lot of pleasure.
The 2017 sales are yielding outstanding results for Tyreel and that must bring you great satisfaction?
“It still hasn’t sunk in, the $625,000 yearling (More Than Ready-Catalonia) at the Gold Coast Magic Millions and having the top two sellers at the Inglis Classic (a $400,000 Not A Single Doubt-Pinocchio colt and a $360,000 I Am Invincible-Family Crest filly), it has all been rather surreal. I am really proud of how we have been received. Aside from the success, there is nothing quite like selling horses you have bred and raised yourself. It is a bit like sending your kids off to school and it can be quite an emotional experience.”
And you have enjoyed racetrack success as well?
“We bred Champ Elect (Choisir-Champalou), who won the Listed Calaway Gal Stakes at Doomben before running a very good seventh in the Magic Millions. We went to the races to cheer her on, it was a great day, she looked wonderful and she made us very proud.”
Are there special challenges being “new” to the breeding world?
“It has been hard at the sales being relatively unknown but all I’ve ever wanted is support and respect and we have been blessed with both.”