GARRY Cuddy thanks his lucky stars for having an uncle who introduced him to the world of the thoroughbred at a very young age. This exposure, and encouragement from his first employer Vin Cox, set him on his life path and today the 27 year-old is general manager of the Australian arm of Spenthrift Farm.
FOR nearly half a century, after being established by Leslie Combs II in 1937, Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky was an undisputed leader in the world of thoroughbred breeding. The farm’s reputation soared to great heights in 1955 when Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Nashua was syndicated for a then unprecedented $US1.2m to stand at Spendthrift.
A dominant force in the yearling sales market Spendthrift later stood such distinguished performers as Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Affirmed. After going public in 1983 the empire began to lose traction but this situation has been remedied since billionaire B. Wayne Hughes purchased Spendthrift in 2004. Over subsequent years he has rebuilt the farm into one of America’s top stallion stations.
Three years ago, in a tribute to the appeal of the Australian thoroughbred industry, B. Wayne Hughes took on the challenge of expanding “down under”. Once he tested the waters at the 2014 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale his enthusiasm for the project intensified.
This led to the foundation of Spendthrift Australia and the appointment of 27 year-old Garry Cuddy as general manager.Despite his youthfulness Garry, by then, had many years of experience. His learning curve began when he was in short pants, to use old terminology, under the tutelage of his uncle Peter Boyle, who took him racing and taught him the rudiments of stud work.
On completing his secondary education Garry’s CV was sufficiently impressive for Vin Cox to employ him in his bloodstock agency. With Vin having become Keeneland’s Australasian representative in 2003 arrangements were made for Garry, then just 19, to attend the 2007 summer sale in Kentucky. Subsequently, when B. Wayne Hughes was seeking a spearhead for his Australian venture, Chauncey Morris, the executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and Vin both recommended Garry and the position became his.
“It all happened very quickly and it was all very exciting to have such an opportunity at such a young age,” he said. “It came about through the contacts we had made and the work we had done in America in the previous years. Being in a position to be able to establish a farm and to be putting everything together with a brand as big as Spendthrift was obviously a great thrill, it was unbelievable really.”
A boy from Revesby in Sydney’s southwest, Garry says he will be forever grateful to Peter for the direction his life has taken and the opportunities he has been presented with. Peter, who is now the farm manager at Emirates Park, began having an influence on Garry’s future during the days he was at Byerley Stud, which was then at Cudal in the central west of New South Wales, about 300km from Sydney.
“Pete later moved to the Hunter Valley,” Garry said. “We worked at Byerley, when it was shifted to the Hunter Valley, as well as other studs including Baerami Thoroughbreds and Segenhoe. As I was growing up I spent most of my school holidays and other times working on the farms with my uncle. We’d muck out boxes, do feed runs, help out in the vet crush, holding foals and doing just about everything. It could be tiring but it was great fun.”
Along the way his uncle also gave Garry his introduction to the racing side of the industry as a seven year-old on Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill Gardens on March 30, 1996.He still vividly remembers the flying Danehill (USA) filly Merlene defeating Paint and Flavour in the Slipper and Octagonal, like Flavour, carrying the all cerise of the Inghams’ Woodlands Stud Syndicate, winning the STC BMW-Gr.1.
“As a kid growing up Octagonal was a stand out for me and he still is to this day. That Golden Slipper day was the first time I’d been to the races and I’ve had the all cerise embedded in my brain ever since.
“I followed the fortunes of the Inghams right through because they obviously were such a dominant racing force and made a great contribution to the Australian thoroughbred industry. It is interesting too that through Spendthrift I now have a connection with John Hawkes, who was the Inghams’ trainer in those days.”
In addition Garry was “lucky enough” during his time at Picnic Point High School to undergo a stint of work experience at Woodlands Stud. “It was supposed to be for only a week but I went back and did another two weeks at Woodlands during the breeding season,” he said.
So by the time his graduation from Picnic Point High was approaching Garry had received a thorough grounding in both the racing and stud side of the business. “By then I had the bug for the game and I was in hook, line and sinker.”
With his future pretty well decided at the beginning of 2006 he put his experience down in resume form and sent the information to 15 NSW bloodstock agents he found listed in the Australian Federation of Bloodstock Agents. The only one to reply was Vin Cox, who five years later was chosen to be managing director of Magic Millions. After joining William Inglis & Son in 1988 Vin had formed his own bloodstock advisory company in 2002 on his way to the Magic Millions appointment in 2011.
“Vin rang me the week before the Classic sale in Sydney,” Garry said. “He said we could meet up at the Classic sale, which we did. I sat down with Alice Minter, who was working with Vin then and later married Paul Messara. She asked me what seemed like a million and one questions and then after about half-an-hour or 45 minutes of grilling from Alice, Vin came along. He said ‘right we’ve got to go and look at a horse’, so the interview was cut short because off we went and I’d say I had the job by then.”
The review was of a filly by Beautiful Crown (USA) from the Centro (NZ) mare Lae Lady Lae, who was subsequently knocked down to Vin Cox Bloodstock for $28,000. Raced as Weekend in Paris by Vin and friends she was trained by Gary Portelli to win in Sydney at two and three as well as registering a fourth in the AJC Gimcrack Stakes-LR.
In the months after Garry joined the firm another Vin Cox Bloodstock purchase named Down the Wicket provided some excitement while proving himself a top class two year-old.Bought at the 2005 Classic sale for $38,000 the colt by Over from the Groucho mare Golf Circuit won the following year’s Canberra RC Black Opal Stakes-LR. He then went on to finish fifth behind Miss Finland in the Golden Slipper before being beaten a nose by Excites in the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes-Gr.1.
“He was the only horse to compete in each of the three Triple Crown races that year, which was quite a thrill for someone so new to the company,” Garry said. Demonstrating Vin’s eye for a bargain Down the Wicket earned nearly $300,000 in prize money before being sold to Hong Kong.
Adapting quickly to the new environment Garry soon found himself comfortable with the tasks involved.
“We were attending the sales, doing bloodstock valuations, arranging private sales, studying pedigrees and watching races looking for suitable horses to buy for our clients. It was everything you could wish for and more, really.
“I remember in those early days Vin asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. At first I wasn’t sure, so he said ‘go away and think about it’ and after about 30 seconds I had an answer and that was to be like Trevor Lobb. Vin agreed that it was an exceptional objective to have and since then I’ve tried to emulate what Trevor has done.”
With Garry becoming so efficient and effective in his role with Vin Cox Bloodstock, which had its offices in Paddington, he was sent to the Keeneland November sale in just his second year with the company.
“It was a fantastic experience, I love a broodmare sale because when you go through the pedigrees you are trying to predict the future. When you go over to the sale like that where there are something like 5000 horses on offer it is very interesting.”
The groundwork for the trip had been put down earlier in the year when Keeneland Sales Director Geoffrey Russell and Chauncey Morris had visited Sydney for the Easter sale. This initial trip to the Blue Grass was followed by other visits during the next six years. On each of these occasions Garry extended his contacts and developed lasting friendships.
“I later came to know Chauncey very well by going to Keeneland and during his years as chief executive of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, when his offices weren’t far from ours,” Garry said. “Over the years Chauncey and Geoffrey have become supporters and mentors of mine and I talk to them quite often.
“Tim and Lisa Turney, who took Vin in when he worked in Kentucky in the late 1980s, also looked after me at their Shamrock Glen Broodmare Farm. The Turneys are some of the best people you would meet anywhere in the world.
“If we recommend people going to Kentucky they will take them in, they’ll let them stay at their house, take them to dinner and make them feel like they are part of the family. Also among the people I came to know was a lady named Helen Alexander, who owns Middlebrook Farm and is a member of a family which is one of the big-time breeders in American thoroughbred history,” he said.
“They owned the old King Ranch in New South Wales before the Inghams bought the property. Helen races a few horses in Australia and breeds a mare here and there. I started looking after her horses down here and still do, because she only has a few mares
in this country.”
While his journeys to the US each year were a highlight everything kept bubbling along at home. “The broodmare market became really strong for us. We did a little bit with Nathan Tinkler’s Patinack when it started and I was lucky enough to buy Nathan his first ever Group winner in his early, early days.”
That was Laura’s Charm, who was by Encosta de Lago from the Prego (IRE) mare Laura’s Express. “We bought her from Lee Freedman’s stable two days before the race and sent her to Patrick Payne, who received the trainer’s trophy and the bonus after she won,” Garry said. “Throughout the years we were able to buy some really nice mares from America.”
A highly successful import was Roses ‘n’ Wine (CAN), who when mated with Redoute’s Choice produced ATC Spring Champion Stakes-Gr.1 winner and now Spendthrift stallion Hampton Court. Other superior broodmares brought to Australia include Ballet d’Amour (USA), the dam of Russian Revolution, who is now a Gr.1 winner of five of his six races; Sprung (USA), the dam of Listed winners Tawteen and Well Sprung; and Listed winner Thronum’s dam Helena’s Secret (USA). Others include the winning Gulch (USA) winner Cinnamon Dove (USA), who is the dam of this year’s Gai Waterhouse-Adrian Bott-trained Canberra Cup (2400m) winner Dark Eyes.
However, the era of Vin Cox Bloodstock wound up in 2011 when Vin became chief executive of the Magic Millions. At that stage Garry switched to bloodstock.com.au at Inglis.
“That’s the digital Website that Inglis runs and I was there for two years. During that time I was responsible for on-line sales and was effectively a bloodstock agent while I was there.
“Then one day in September of 2014, when I still with Inglis, my phone rang and it was Ned Toffey, the general manager of Spendthrift. Ned said that Spendthrift was looking to set-up an operation in Australia.
“He told me that Vin and Chauncey had sung my praises during a meeting with Mr Hughes and himself. Knowing Vin and with Chauncey having just spent three years in Australia, they had decided I was the person to speak to.
“I was flown up to Kentucky the next week and had an interview over two days with Mr Hughes and Ned at the farm. It was an exhausting but good trip because I arrived back in Australia four days after leaving Sydney with a dream job.”
Originally the Spendthrift’s intentions were to send stallions to stand during the Australian breeding season but because of a number of complications that was not viable. This then segued into the idea of establishing a farm and by April of 2015 Spendthrift had acquired the 138ha Yallambee Stud at Kerrie about 50km north west of Melbourne.
“Mr Hughes came to Australia for the Easter sale and to inspect the property,” Garry said. “We could see its potential and from the minute Mr Hughes stepped out of the car at the head of the driveway he was putting together a list of jobs that had to be done straight away, that’s the sort of guy he is.
“We have pulled out all the old fencing and have brand new Kentucky style four board post and rail fencing along the road and the driveways. We don’t have all the infrastructure in place yet but it is on its way to becoming a world class facility.” With the farm operational Spendthrift stood the Into Mischief horse Can The Man (USA), Hampton Court, Jimmy Creed (USA), who is by Distorted Humour, and the Gr.1-winning Medaglia d’Oro horse Warrior’s Reward in 2015 and again last year.
“We found 2015 a tough year because we were trying to do too much too quickly but last year was completely different,” Garry said. “By then we had the right team in place with Grant Burrill coming in as farm manager and there are plenty of people to share the work load so it all went pretty well.”
With its move into Australia Spendthrift has also become a notable player in the yearling sales market over the past three years. The company’s first winner in Australia was the Fastnet Rock mare Cana, who was a stakes place winner of three races after being purchased at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale in 2014.
Spendthrift’s first Group winner came up when the Redoute’s Choice three year-old Swear, a $725,000 purchase, won the Tattersalls Club (NSW) Ming Dynasty Quality-Gr.3 last spring. He continued on to finish second to Yankee Rose in the ATC Spring Champion Stakes-Gr.1 and fifth behind Prized Icon in the VRC Victoria Derby-Gr.1.
Others displaying promise coming out of the Hawkes stable and carrying the predominantly purple and orange quarters include Into Orbit, by Northern Meteor, the stakes-placed winner Redouble, by Redoute’s Choice, and the handsome Spirit and Fire, who is a son of More Than Ready (USA).
Another is the smart Fastnet Rock mare Ameristralia, a winner of four races who was secured for $400,000 at that 2014 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale. Soon after being Gr.3-placed at Caulfield on February 11 Ameristralia was among a band of five Australian-bred mares sent to Kentucky on February 25 to be mated with Spendthrift stallions.
“The farm has bought minimal numbers of horses at the yearling sales and we are pretty proud of what we have achieved so far. The majority of our horses are trained by Team Hawkes, which is special for me and we are very pleased with the way the farm and the racing interest is going.” n