The 2018 Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour takes a new turn with a visit to South Korea on September 8 & 9.
The Tour coincides with the Korea Cup (1800m) and Korea Sprint (1200m) in Seoul and it also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first air-charter of horses from Australia to South Korea.
Industry pioneer Frank Ford sealed that 33-horse contract in 1968 and special permission was required to use the runway. It was the first-ever flight out of Tullamarine Airport – a year before its official opening to the public. Prior to that flight, horses were sent by sea to Pusan and then by train to Seoul.
Ford was also making headlines in 1968 as racing manager for Felipe ‘Babe’ Ysmael who bet in telephone numbers. He won that year’s Victoria Derby with champion colt Always There but within months was disqualified over the running of Follow Me at Moonee Valley.
Legendary bookmaker Bill Waterhouse recalled those tumultuous times in his autobiography ‘What Are The Odds’ published in 2009. “Genial Frank Ford was one of the best judges of horseflesh in Australia and an honest man. I instinctively trusted him. Ford was no gambler and he valiantly tried to curtail Ysmael’s betting but he may as well have tried to hold back the dawn.”
Ford’s sons John and Peter both built careers as successful bloodstock agents and are long-time members of Federation of Bloodstock Agents Australia. FBAA secretary Tracy Howard also has a family link with the early days of international sales through her father Bryan Muschialli who kicked off trade to the Middle East and later sent horses to South Korea.
John Ford recalls travelling to South Korea in 1968 with Aussie jockeys Jim Johnston, Geoff Lane, Kevin Mitchell and Alan Simpson for an invitation race series organized by his father. “He had contacts right through Asia. There weren’t many agents around in those days apart from John Inglis, Bill Stutt and David Coles.”
Broadcaster John Russell called the races in English and photographs from the historic afternoon’s racing are on display in the Korean Equine Museum.
Ford sold 1965 Cox Plate winner Star Affair to Japan and even found a suitable mount for Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos. “Dad told me she had never been on horse before so he made sure it was quiet and well-educated. It wasn’t easy but he finally got her into the saddle and it was fine after that.
“One day, Dad received a strange export request from ‘The Babe’. He wanted a piebald stallion and mare, a palomino stallion and mare and a skewbald stallion and mare. They were going to be feature horses at his riding school in The Philippines.”
Ford, as always, filled the order. Another client was VRC Chair Amanda Elliott. Her father bought her first pony off Frank when she was a young girl growing up as Amanda Bayles at Chatsworth Park near Seymour.
John Ford also recalls buying champion colt Divide And Rule for Ysmael at the 1968 New Zealand Yearling Sale. “He went through the ring early on the first day and we got him for $16,000. It was a steal. Bart and TJ both turned up and wanted to buy him but they were too late!”
Divide And Rule won the 1969 AJC Derby by five lengths and the following year landed the Stradbroke Hcp – Doomben Cup double in Brisbane. By then, Ysmael was persona non grata in Australia but rumours persisted he was behind a massive plunge in the Stradbroke.
John, who took over the business when Frank retired, was an International Show-Jumping Rider and Polo Player in his younger days winning the Grand Prix at the 1965 Royal Melbourne Show on Highlander, as well as representing both Victoria and Australia in Polo Tournaments locally and overseas.
“The Koreans like their horses to have plenty of size about them and the market kept building after that initial flight in 1968. We were chartering Jumbo Jets for over 100 horses at a time in the 1980s. We had moved from Oakleigh to Euroa by then and it looked like a real convoy when all float companies ferried them to Tullamarine.”
John has also been retained by VicRoads and the Dept of Sustainability and Environment in matters relating to the compulsory acquisitions of horse properties. At times, it can be a thankless task. One of the farms resumed for the Calder Freeway was Shirley Park where David & Jenny Moodie raised Redoute’s Choice.
Federation of Bloodstock Agents Australia (FBAA) was formed in 1988 to maintain, improve and develop the standards, status and services of bloodstock agents throughout Australia. Its members operate with the utmost integrity and professionalism and are bound by the strict Industry Code of Conduct.