Henry Field Q&A: “The Winning Post Trumps All”

In a little over a decade, Henry Field has built Newgate into one of the leading stallion operations in Australia and a force to be reckoned with on the international thoroughbred playing field.

   Foxwedge got the stallion arm of the operation up and running in 2012 and, since then, the roster has grown exponentially, with Capitalist and Extreme Choice some of the more recent additions to the farm.

   In this week’s Q&A, Field explained the key principals that helped him build Newgate into what it is today, discussed the thinking behind partnering up with Rathbarry Stud to buy State Of Rest and much more.


Brian Sheerin: You have achieved a lot at Newgate in a little over a decade. If you could take me back to the beginning; what were your key principals in getting Newgate off the ground?

Henry Field: We didn’t specifically set out to try and make Newgate a big stallion operation, it just grew organically. When we started out in 2010, we had a leased farm of about 200 acres, a couple of mares and borrowed a bit of money to get up and running. Thankfully, through my good friend James Harron, who had a good client in the Bateman family, they boarded a few mares on the farm. The Bateman family also gave me the opportunity to syndicate Foxwedge (Aus), a good stallion who shuttled between Australia and Europe, and that’s what really got us going on the stallion front. At the same time, I had built up a really good relationship with Gavin Murphy and Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock and we decided to embark on a joint venture at that time and build Newgate with SF Bloodstock as a major partner. Matthew Sandblom, one of my oldest clients, is an educational entrepreneur in Australia, and he also came on board in the partnership with Newgate. Between us all, we built Newgate into what is something pretty cool.


In many ways, you ripped up the playbook. Do you take time to look back at what you have achieved or are you someone who concentrates only on the future?

Always looking to the future and always trying to get better. The key to our success has been our personnel and the team. Obviously our farm is headed by Jim Carey, who I was lucky enough to work with at Coolmore 20 years ago, and I think he’s the best stud manager I’ve ever worked with. I couldn’t believe it when he came on board to work with us and he has been a huge part of our success story. On the bloodstock and sales side of things, we have Bruce Slade and Tony Williams, who are very experienced guys. Between us all, we’ve got a strong team that allows me to grow the business. I obviously work very closely with my partners in growing the business and, having the likes of Jim, Bruce and Tony managing the day-to-day running of things, that allows me to use my time on growing Newgate. It’s grown exponentially since we started out.


You obviously built your brand with speed horses in Australia but now seem to be diversifying the business with more stoutly-bred horses. State Of Rest (Ire) is a good recent example of that. That may have come as a surprise to a few people. Why is it that you felt he’d be a good fit for Newgate?

Australian speed sires have been the bread and butter of the Australian sires’ table for decades. Most people would agree that what we do best in Australia is speed horses and we probably have the best speed horses in the world down here. It is a high quality product, the Australian speed stallions, and it has really got our product going in Newgate, with Extreme Choice (Aus), Capitalist (Aus) and Deep Field (Aus), who have been so dominant here and in Hong Kong and broader Asia. Russian Revolution (Aus), the champion first-season sire in Australia last season, is another example, so they are all very fast horses, but we had been talking about diversifying over the past number of years as we felt there was an opportunity to bring in a high-class middle-distance horse into the operation. They are hard to get and obviously Coolmore and Godolphin have a stranglehold on the majority of the high-class horses who are retired to stud in Europe each year. Conceptually, I think that horses who can perform well in Australian conditions, they are often the ones who make the best sires and the fact that State Of Rest was good enough to come down and win the Cox Plate, our premier weight-for-age race where he beat our champion three-year-old Anamoe (Aus) and our horse of the year Verry Elleegant (NZ), it showed that the horse had top-class mile-and-a-quarter talent. Not only that, the fact that he did it after landing a Grade 1 in Saratoga, it showed that he had the tenacity and toughness that comes with travelling all over the world and succeeding at the top level, which is very important for us here in Australia. When State Of Rest became available with Rathbarry Stud, we jumped at the opportunity to partner with them to buy him. He went on and confirmed himself an outstanding racehorse when winning Group 1s in France and at Royal Ascot. But we had taken a view that, if we are going to stand a middle-distance horse, it has to be the right one for Australian conditions, and we are confident that State Of Rest is the right fit.


So this had been on your mind before State Of Rest became available?

Yes, we had discussed it with the team and were actively trying to find a middle-distance horse with the right attributes, but obviously they are hard to find. As soon as State Of Rest won the Cox Plate, it became obvious that he was the play. Also, Nick Williams, who is a big owner in Australia and in Joseph O’Brien’s yard, told me the massive opinion that Joseph had of the horse before the Cox Plate so that performance did not come as a major surprise and the wheels had been set in motion. What the horse did after the Cox Plate, in winning Group 1s in France and at Royal Ascot, confirmed that he was a great investment for us and our partners in the China Horse Club.


Does State Of Rest represent a new challenge in terms of marketing him in Australia as he is something different for Australian breeders?

I think he will be received extremely well. For a brand like ours, that really specialises in Australian speed, for us to go and buy a Cox Plate winner, I think people take note of that in a very positive way. This is not a decision that was taken lightly. It has been well thought out and I think people notice that and I think they will support the horse heavily. I am sure that State Of Rest will be booked out within weeks of announcing his fee for this year.


You have set the rock-solid foundations with your sprint stallions at Newgate but, along with State Of Rest joining the roster, it seems as though there is plenty to look forward to on the track with the more stoutly-bred Militarize (NZ) (Dundeel {NZ}) shaping up to be a smart runner.

The reality is that the Australian sires’ championship is dominated every year by the fastest horses, for the most part.There are some exceptions to the rule and there are some very good shuttle stallions, no more successful than Danehill (Ire) and more recently More Than Ready, so there are examples of very potent shuttle sires. Then there are some very successful middle-distance stallions, the likes of Zabeel (NZ) and So You Think (NZ), along with a horse in Melbourne, Shamus Award (Aus), who started from a low base. We don’t want to be long in these types of horses but when there’s one we have belief and high conviction in, we’re certainly happy to take them on board.


What does the future hold for Militarize? He looks like a smart prospect.

He’s more of a seven-furlong to a mile style two-year-old. There are two Group 1 races in the Sydney Autumn Carnival, the Group 1 Sires Produce Stakes and the Group 1 Champagne Stakes. We’ve won both races before and they are the two races we could target with him. Hopefully that will set him up for being an important middle-distance three-year-old for us.


The stallion partnerships are obviously very popular in Australia but what is it that you set out to buy when sourcing a yearling that you hope to stand at stud one day?

For me, first and foremost, they’ve got to be athletes. I’m far more focussed on buying runners and horses who are built mechanically-muscle tone, athleticism and class-how I like them. I probably work hardest to try and buy the racehorse first and am a big believer that horses can make their own pedigrees. It’s a big bonus when these horses have a page behind them, and we’d never underestimate that, but I try to buy the best racehorse we can. The best stallion prospects are almost always the best racehorses.


It’s almost becoming a buzz word in Europe, ‘we need to be more like Australia,’ but in reality, that’s one of the few countries where spending a million dollars on a yearling can be justified given the prize-money on offer.

For sure. The reality is, it only makes sense if you are buying stallions and you won’t last very long unless you are producing the goods and buying horses who end up on the roster as it’s a very expensive game. We don’t take for granted that one or two bad years could really put us in a bad spot. We’ve had a huge amount of success doing it and, alongside China Horse Club and our other partners, we’ve raced 12 colts who have gone on to be stallions in a seven-year period. We’re probably averaging on purchasing 20 colts a year and, at the end of the day, results are what matter so we’re lucky to have had success. With success, it gives longevity to the programme.


What would a day in the life of Henry Field look like? You are dealing with a lot of powerful people and there must be a lot of communication involved to keep everything moving in the right direction? If there’s a lot of pressure involved, you seem to be dealing with it very well.

Obviously when the horses are winning, and we’ve been on a massive run with our two-year-olds this year, that makes it feel a lot easier. When they are losing, it can be a bit lonely. The one thing I would say is that we are massively selective when it comes to choosing our partners. Each and every one of them are outstanding and we’re all close friends. We’ve a very strong social group and, even though we have some of the most successful business titans in Australia within the group, we’ve all got mutual respect for each other. I’ll tell you what else is great, whether we have a good or a bad day, we all stay strong. We’ve been together for long enough that we can ride the ups and downs. We share the ambition to have success, which is imperative to keep the whole thing rolling, but we also have close relationships and friendships with the people who are involved in these partnerships. That’s a wonderful thing.


You were in attendance at some of the biggest meetings in Britain last season courtesy of Artorius (Aus) and State Of Rest. What were your key takeouts from that trip?

For Australians, taking  horses to Royal Ascot is probably the ultimate in racing. It was an honour to win the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes with State Of Rest and come so close to winning the Platinum Jubilee Stakes with Artorius, who got held up before flashing home and just failing to get there. Bottom line, you need a hell of a good horse to take up there. There’s no point in bringing a second-rater. We’ll certainly be trying again this year and Artorius will go back for another crack at the Platinum Jubilee. Hopefully with an ounce of luck, he can be winning there this year.

Artorius could be earning a lot more money staying in Australia but international competition is what underpins meetings like Royal Ascot.

I’ve got great admiration for the Japanese, who you could make the same argument for. They could keep their best horses on home shores and run them for a lot more prize-money but they like to travel. We have an obligation to travel our horses. The quality of Australian racing at this point, especially up to a mile, has never been better. We have some very powerful genetics. There is a lot of wealth in the Australian bloodstock industry and that has created a situation, a bit like in Japan 20 years ago, where the Australians are going over and buying some of the best northern hemisphere mares in the world. I think we are breeding some great horses and almost have a responsibility to bring them all over the world and showcase how good our product is.


And I understand there is an exciting chapter about to be written with Extreme Choice?

We are breeding northern hemisphere mares to Extreme Choice, who is statistically the best stallion in Australia and running at 17 per cent stakes horses to runners. He’s obviously had fertility problems but, from his first crop, he’s had a Golden Slipper winner and many more top-class runners. He’s a phenomenal stallion so we are breeding some mares on the northern hemisphere time to him and have set an ambitious goal for one of them to win a two-year-old race at Royal Ascot. We’ve set a long range plan with Extreme Choice and look forward to bringing some of his better two-year-olds to Royal Ascot to take on the best juveniles in Europe in a couple of years. That’s certainly one of the biggest ambitions for our partnerships, to take on the best two-year-olds in Europe and show them that ours are the best in the world!


You touched on the sales; Newgate enjoyed a great start to the new year at Magic Millions.

We had 54 offered and sold 54 at Magic Millions. We were the leading vendor, once again, and also the leading buyer as we bought 18 colts for our syndicate. They will race in our partnership and hopefully we’ll have a lot of success and one or two of those will end up being stallions at Newgate. It was a very busy sale but certainly one I came away from feeling quite satisfied that we did a lot of good business at.


Who would you say your biggest influence has been?

Doing the Godolphin Flying Start programme provided me with a huge head start. From there, I got a great position with Coolmore, where I was given a lot of responsibility and opportunity. To have gained experience with two of the preeminent global stallion operations set me up well for starting Newgate. But as individuals go, I started out in this industry with Gai Waterhouse and she hammered into me the importance of work ethic and integrity. There was no better school to learn the basics than in Gai’s. I only spent a short time working with Tim Hyde in Ireland but I think he left one of the biggest impressions on me. He educated my eye and, a lot of the success we have had in buying horses in Australia down through the years, I would attribute that to Tim. It was such an honour to walk around the sales complex with Tim. There are no finer horsemen than him. He took me under his wing for about six months but it was a time I will never forget. I’ve learned a lot about horses from a lot of good people but he really taught me more than anyone else in this industry. The basis of every horse I buy now, it stems from what I learned from Tim. The other people who have been extremely important to my career have to be my business partners, Gavin Murphy and Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock. They are two of the smartest guys in the game and they make me look very intelligent. It wouldn’t matter what country a mare or stallion is in, they are the sharpest guys I’ve met at valuing horses and buying and selling. I would definitely say that the SF team have been a phenomenal help in driving the success of Newgate, along with my other partner Matthew Sandblom, a self-made businessman. It’s very easy for me to say we’ve built this great business at Newgate but I can assure you that, without Gavin, Tom and Matthew, there’d be no Newgate today.


How would you define success at Newgate?

Success for us is a continuing focus on being the best we can be. I think in this business, all the marketing and sales that you do, none of that really matters. All that matters is the winning post. If I had to define success for Newgate in two words it would be the winning post. I must add that another lightbulb moment came about five years ago when I was lucky enough to visit Arthur Hancock’s Kentucky Stone Farm. Tom Ryan took me out there and their way of raising horses is very organic and natural. It goes right back to how it was done decades back and, over the past five years at Newgate, there would be very few farms with a better record than ours at raising horses. I would credit that to our methodology of raising horses hard and tough. The value of bloodstock had sky-rocketed in the past decade or two and a lot of horses are being raised a bit soft as a result. Arthur raises his horses as naturally as possible and he gets big, strong and tough horses as a result. Certainly at Newgate, there can’t be many farms that raise their horses in bigger paddocks and in bigger mobs than what we do. I am sure that has played a major role in our success. All facets of this business are important but the winning post trumps all. Whether that’s for your stallions or the racehorses that you are breeding, winning races and winning good races is really all that matters.

What has been your best day in racing?

Being involved in the ownership of two Golden Slipper winners in Stay Inside and Capitalist. Winning Golden Slippers is the ultimate for us so, being involved in the ownership of two of them, that is something that was very special.


Newgate has exploded into a global brand and you’ve achieved a lot in 10 years but it seems like there is still a lot more to come. You are clearly quite hungry still.

I feel like we’ve built a great platform. We started off 10 years ago with a dream and now we’ve got great foundations built. Naturally, if you look at where we might be in another 10 years’ time, we’re starting from a far better position than when we set out in this business.

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