The art of the pinhook


A good type, a good eye and a good environment. They are the factors which keep coming up when you talk to pinhookers about what it takes to achieve success in their line of business.

Last week’s Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale saw some spectacular results for those who backed their judgement at the weanling sales in 2019, with 23 lots returning a better than $100,000 profit on their sales price for their vendors in Book 1.

They were highlighted by the $650,000 that Redwall Bloodstock, selling through Widden Stud, got for Lot 301, a filly by first season stallion Frosted (USA) out of Fast Fleet (Fastnet Rock). It was an increase of $350,000 on what it paid for the half-sister to Santa Ana Lane (Lope De Vega {Ire}) as a weanling.

Ampulla Lodge, another specialist at pinhooking, achieved an excellent result of $520,000 for Lot 160, a Not A Single Doubt colt it purchased last year for $280,000.

Both of those success stories were based on the pinhooker backing their judgement, understanding the market and seeing the potential of the foal to develop.

“It was a slight gamble as Frosted is an unproven stallion, but we ultimately felt that she was such a good physical as a weanling and she is a half to a champion sprinter,” Redwall’s Hannah Wall said after selling Lot 301.

“So as a type, on pedigree and the fact she is a filly where there was always going to be residual value there anyway, we were pretty strong on her as a foal. We all knew that it just had to come together here.”

Their judgment was ratified by the status of those who bought them, with Spendthrift buying the Frosted colt and Newgate/China Horse Club/WinStar Farm acquiring the colt by Not A Single Doubt.

Ampulla Lodge’s Stephen Jostlear had the January Magic Millions Sale picked out as the destination for Lot 160 as soon as he saw the colt ahead of the 2019 Magic Millions National Weanling Sale.

“When you are looking at a weanling, you should have in the back of your mind what sale he will go to,” Jostlear told TDN AusNZ.

“He was just a straight-up Magics horse. It wasn’t very difficult to see what he was going to grow in to. He was a typical Not A Single Doubt, an early maturing horse and Magics suited him perfectly.”

The importance of type

The key aspect for Jostlear when picking out a potential pinhook, beyond anything he may notice on the pedigree page, is type.

“We look for something that we think is a beautiful type or is going to grow into a beautiful type. You have to look into the crystal ball a bit. That’s our main idea behind it, to make sure you have the right type and have the sale picked out,” he said.

That is echoed by Eva Heron, who runs Highline Thoroughbreds in Cambridge with her husband Cam, and will offer three pinhooks of their own at the upcoming New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sale at Karaka.

“We always go on type first and foremost,” Heron said. “We look for type and obviously size. Then we go through the pedigrees as we are going through the sales. We look for the pedigrees that are current pedigrees, in terms of what is around racing at the time.

“There’s some really nice up-and-coming and new sires and we tend when we are pinhooking to like those new season sires. It can go either way, but it comes back to if you have a nice type and you’ve got a new sire, I don’t think you can beat it really.”

Pastures at Highline Thoroughbreds

The other advantage which the Herons have is access to an environment which is renowned for producing world-class horses.

“We are looking for those ones that might be slightly weak at the time and bringing them back here to New Zealand. They are going to grow well in New Zealand, where they build a lot of strength. We are always looking for those weanlings we think we can make a lot of improvement on,” she said.

“There’s no better place to grow them than New Zealand. We are lucky with the environment that we have got and the good grass. Being in the Waikato, we get the consistent rainfall as well.”

Lot 374 – Dundeel (NZ) x Ubiquity (colt)

Fitting the bill perfectly in the catalogue for Karaka is Lot 374, a Dundeel (NZ) colt half-brother to Listed juvenile winner Horizons (Choisir), who Highline Thoroughbreds paid $115,000 for from the draft of Attunga Stud at last year’s Magic Millions National Weanling Sale.

“He’s improved 10-fold and he’s a beautiful type. I can’t get past his type. I can see him going on to the racetrack, he just looks like that type of horse. He’s got a good mind and a good mentality,” she said.

Dealing with the risk

Focussing on the success stories makes pinhooking look like an easy game, but it is anything but. For Jostlear, there is always an element of risk, but the key to successful results is simply backing your judgement, experience and your processes.

“I think it’s a matter of doing it, wasting a bit of money and getting hungry. Of our last 23 horses we have sold, we have made a loss on just one. We’ve broken even on a few but most have been profits,” he said.

“The more experience you’ve got, the less mistakes you make. When you are dealing with your own money it hurts. It’s different from a bloodstock agent, where you are spending other peoples’ money, where if you are spending your own, you get pretty shrewd.

“My wife and I have foaled down so many foals over the years and we’ve watched them grow and develop. We did that for 20 odd years before we started pinhooking. Really, if we can’t pick a good weanling out, we shouldn’t be in the game.”

Stephen Jostlear

Financial returns are obviously what the business is about, but they are not the only measure in which the Herons of Highline Thoroughbreds judge their success.

“You have to back yourself 100 per cent. There is always the risk no matter what you do with horses, whether it is pinhooking or racing,” Heron said.

“At the end of the day you can have some great successes. It’s not just about the return you get. You might have a horse that might not get as much as you want, but then it goes out and does something on the track. We get a lot of pleasure out of that.

“We want to make money, but it goes back to the basis of our pinhooking, finding a nice type that can go and do it on the racetrack.”

Putting it on the line

While the Heron’s judgement will go on the line when they offer the Dundeel colt, plus colts by Deep Field (Lot 98) and Preferment (NZ) (Lot 133) at Karaka, Ampulla Lodge’s season has just begun with another six pinhooks catalogued at the Inglis Melbourne Premier Sale and three at the Magic Millions Adelaide Sale.

Jostlear is also excited about taking a colt by Exceed And Excel out of Zenaida (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}), which was purchased for $240,000 at the Inglis Great Southern Sale, to the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.

The colt, from a half-sister to New Zealand Horse Of The Year Vosne Romanee (NZ) (Electronic Zone {USA}) was set to be offered at the Gold Coast but was withdrawn.

“It would have been nice if we could have got him to Magics but it wasn’t to be. I think he is that classic type that Easter will love,” he said.

The art of the broodmare purchase


‘What you see is what you will get’ is an approach agent James Bester has long used to his advantage when purchasing broodmares.

“In my case, performance and physique come ahead of anything within reason. I tend to look for high-class race mares who have the sort of physique I want to see in my foals,” Bester said.

“Of course, you get high-class race mares that can buck that trend and win Group 1s with what I would call compromised physiques, but I have no interest in such mares, irrespective of their race records, because black cats have black kittens.

“I want in my foals what that mare took to the racecourse. I am very, very particular about physique.”

‘What you see is what you will get’ is an approach agent James Bester has long used to his advantage when purchasing broodmares.

“In my case, performance and physique come ahead of anything within reason. I tend to look for high-class race mares who have the sort of physique I want to see in my foals,” Bester said.

“Of course, you get high-class race mares that can buck that trend and win Group 1s with what I would call compromised physiques, but I have no interest in such mares, irrespective of their race records, because black cats have black kittens.

“I want in my foals what that mare took to the racecourse. I am very, very particular about physique.”

A shining example of that was his involvement in securing Atlantic Jewel (Fastnet Rock), who would go on to win four Group 1 events and a burgeoning career as a broodmare.

James Bester

“When Demi O’Byrne bought Atlantic Jewel as a yearling her mother was a winner and nothing more. The mother only raced a few times,” Bester said. “We had it on good authority from the mother’s owner Lloyd Williams and that mare’s rider Danny Nikolic that she was every bit as good as Efficient.

“It was unusual for Lloyd Williams to have a mare racing, but she was one. We looked into the dam so I will buy a mare without performance with a really strong pedigree if something went wrong and she should have been a Group 1 winner.

“I would rate Atlantic Jewel and Global Glamour as the best looking fillies I’ve bought for racing purposes. I can’t think of any others that I had such strong feelings about.”

A $320,000 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale purchase, Atlantic Jewel’s two foals to race are winners with Russian Emperor (Galileo {Ire}) successful in the G3 Royal Ascot Hampton Court S. and a leading contender for this weekend’s G1 English Derby.

Fastnet Rock x O’Marilyn (NZ) (colt) when sold for $1.8 million at Inglis | Image courtesy of Inglis

Bester was also part of a major broodmare success story when he had a hand in securing the Group 1 winner O’Marilyn (NZ) (O’Reilly {NZ}).

“She was a particularly good-looking individual that I bought in conjunction with Paul Moroney and Glen Harvey,” Bester said. “She had outstanding physique and a deep, deep pedigree as a half-sister to Headturner and Anacheeva.

“She was purpose bought for Fastnet Rock, who appreciates quality, good head, refinement and athleticism in his mares. O’Marilyn offered that and her first foal by Fastnet Rock went through the ring at $1.8 million and was bought by George Moore.

“The second foal went for $600,000 and was bought by Katsumi Yoshida and the third foal made $540,000 through the ring and bought by myself for a Coolmore syndicate.

“The fourth foal is by I Am Invincible and is every bit as good as the previous. When one gets it right and you have performance, physique and pedigree and correctly mate the mare to the stallion you have in mind and get the required product it comes together in a beautiful way.”

Fastnet Rock | Standing at Coolmore

More mares on list

Yulong will this year launch the stallion careers of Group 1 winner Alabama Express while associate sire Grunt (NZ) will stand his second season and the Victorian operation is continuing to add to its broodmare band with them in mind.

“We try and get nice looking mares and those that have worked with similar sire lines previously to increase our chances,” Chief Operating Officer Sam Fairgray said.

“Ideally, we like mares in foal for the first or second time and for Alabama Express, mares that have worked with the likes of Beneteau, Snitzel, Not A Single Doubt and Redoute’s Choice to increase the chances of producing a nice horse.

Alabama Express | Standing at Yulong Farm

“We prefer to try and buy them in foal to a commercial stallion and also we’re keeping in the back of our minds that we’ll have Tagaloa at stud next year. This year there may be some good buying because next year the market could be stronger again.

“We’re still looking to buy more so we’ll go through those at Magic Millions and identify the ones that we think will suit them. We’ll probably go up to the Hunter and look at the ones that won’t be at the sale and go from there.”

Array of factors

Bill Mitchell, who operates Mitchell Bloodstock with son James, said he took an array of factors into consideration when selecting broodmares.

“There’s type, size, what they are going to be mated with and we use G1 Goldmine system to make sure the matings are compatible with all the data that it brings to the table,” said Bill.

“Then of course, we often find that clients have certain criteria. Often people pick out a number of mares and ask us to inspect them. We don’t have anything set in concrete and keep an open mind.”

James and Bill Mitchell

Broodmare sires and race performance were other major factors and both influenced by budget.

“With the internet, everyone knows who the best broodmare sires and most of the leading stallions end up being the leading broodmare sires,” Mitchell said.

“You can take more risk and go with a lesser known sire of a mare or something a bit less commercial and if you think she’s going to throw you a good type, you are probably going to get away with that.

“With regard to performance, it’s about how much you’ve got to spend – you can’t buy champagne with a beer budget. It’s about knowing value and understanding what things are worth.”

Mitchell enjoyed multiple Group 1 successes during his years as a trainer before he retired from that role in 2005 and since then has been working for private clients and as Racing Manager for Kevin Maloney’s Segenhoe stud.

In the latter role, one of Mitchell’s success stories has been Sister Madly (Redoute’s Choice), a half-sister to former Hong Kong champion Silent Witness (El Moxie {USA}).

Sister Madly when sold in 2011 | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

She was purchased at the 2011 Magic Millions Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale out of Edinburgh Park’s draft for $1 million. At that time, she had won at Group 3 level and subsequently added the G2 Salinger S. and the G3 How Now S. to her record.

“We paid a lot for her and she had four starts for us for two wins and two seconds and won about $400,000 on the track. We got $1.2 million for her first foal by Sepoy,” Mitchell said.

“Segenhoe have made a lot of money out of her and she’s there for life. She’s got a daughter by Street Cry (Duvessa), who only won one race due to injury, and she’s a beautiful mare.

“Sister Madly’s one of those foundation mares and there will always be a few daughters hanging around at Segenhoe. She went to So You Think and missed so he’d start favourite again for her.”

Sepoy x Sister Madly (colt) | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

Band well-stocked

Dean Hawthorne manages the extensive bloodstock portfolio of prominent breeder and owner Jonathan Munz, who has holdings in recently retired stallions Castelvecchio and Super Seth.

While Munz has a broodmare band of nearly 100, he hasn’t ruled out adding to the tally.

“We’re pretty well placed because we’ve been accumulating mares for the last five years and we’ve got enough mares that haven’t got Danehill or Sadler’s Wells in their pedigrees to go to Super Seth,” Hawthorne said.

Super Seth | Standing at Waikato Stud

“Of course, with Castelvecchio not having Danehill in his blood we’ve got enough mares to send to him as well. We weren’t expecting both of them to go to stud in the same year, but we’ve got enough mares to give them good starts.

“I won’t be able to get to the Gold Coast Broodmare Sale I wouldn’t think, which I find strange given soccer teams and that can go and play sport and we can’t go and do our business. It’s disappointing, but the way it is.

“We will be looking though, whether I do the work or we put someone in place there I’m not sure yet. We’ve also got a leg in King’s Legacy as well, so we’ll be looking ahead for quality mares for him.”

Munz’s broodmare band features a number of seven figure purchases, among them The Broken Shore (Hussonet {USA}). She was secured for $1.9 million from the Teeley Dispersal Sale when carrying subsequent three-time Group 1 winner Shoals.

As a half-sister to the four-time Group 1 winner and champion sire Redoute’s Choice and in foal to Fastnet Rock, The Broken Shore had obvious broodmare appeal and so it proved in the auction ring.

The Broken Shore

Shoals’ brother Groundswell, a winner and Group 1-placed in the Caulfield Guineas, is the only offspring to be offered so far and he sold for $2.3 million to Anthony Freedman Racing at the Inglis Australian Yearling Sale.

“Another one of the best mares we’ve purchased was Miss Sharapova, about the same time we bought The Broken Shore. She was fourth in the G1 New Zealand Oaks and third in the G3 Lowland S. and had a nice pedigree,” Hawthorne said.

“A relation, Villa Verde, was going well at the time and sold as a broodmare for $1 million. Miss Sharapova has been an absolute gem of a mare and a fantastic type.

“She’d be in the top 10 broodmares in Australia for sale ring receipts. She produced this season’s G3 Kindergarten S. winner Domeland and he made $1.1 million as a yearling.”

Physique is paramount, but not necessarily performance as evident with the purchase from Widden Stud’s draft of the non-winner Purely Spectacular (NZ) (Pins) at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

“Purely Spectacular was a mare I paid $300,000 for and she’d left Stratum Star, who wasn’t a Group 1 winner at the time, and went on to win three of them. These mares don’t really have anything in common,” Hawthorne said.

Her son Prague (Redoute’s Choice) ensured a tasty return on investment when he sold for $1.6 million at the Gold Coast last year and has won twice at Group 3 level this season and been Group 1 placed.

Dean Hawthorne (right) believes type always sells

“We’ve got mares that we’ve bred and if they leave good types year in year out then we will hang on to them, type always sells even if they are lower grade sales,” Hawthorne said.

“Now we have the volume we really only target top end mares if they suit our stallions and the quality we have bought as yearlings are coming through as well. We always buy with residual value in mind.”