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Craig Anderson has spent a lifetime accumulating thoroughbred lore, starting with a very good mentor in the shape of his father Syd. Now this is paying big dividends as his Amarina Farm, which he owns in partnership, is recognised as one of the nation’s leading consignors of yearlings and one of the best farms in the Hunter for broodmare agistment.
IN JUST 10 years Amarina Farm has risen to the forefront of Australia’s yearling sales consignors. During that time Amarina, whose manager Craig Anderson owns the property in partnership with the New York-based couple Gavin Murphy and Cath Donovan, has prepared a long list of successful racehorses.
Holding pride of place is everybody’s favourite Catkins, whose record stands at 16 wins, 12 in stakes races, nine seconds and four thirds for earnings of $2,008,310. By Dubawi (IRE) from Salix Caprea by Catbird, she was sold to Ingham Racing for $85,000 at the 2011 Gold Coast Magic Millions. Amarina’s consignment to the Magic Millions that year also featured a colt by Fastnet Rock from Queen Mother (USA) by Kingmambo (USA), who was knocked to Mark Kavanagh for $150,000.
Racing as Super Cool, he won the 2013 VRC Australian Cup-Gr.1, as well as the MVRC Moonee Valley Vase-Gr.2 and MRC Autumn Classic-Gr.2. He also finished second to Fiveandahalfstar in the VRC Victoria Derby-Gr.1 and has earnings of more than $1.5m. Then there have been other Group and Listed winners such as Aeronautical, Anevay, Brilliant Bisc, the exceptional three year-old filly Gallica, Krupt, Miss Marielle, Shamillon, New Zealand Two Year-Old of the Year The Heckler, War Ends, Work The Room, Wowee and Yourein.
Significantly, leading trainers including Gai Waterhouse, Mick Price, Kris Lees and Lee Freedman have bought Amarina’s stock, as have buyers from Great Britain, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa. At this year’s Gold Coast Magic Millions buyers of Amarina prepared yearlings featured Gai Waterhouse/Julian Blaxland, George Moore Bloodstock, the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Shadwell Estates.
As Magic Millions chief executive Vin Cox says, “Amarina Farm produces well grown and presented yearlings for the sale ring and more importantly as racehorses of the future. The farm is centrally located in the Hunter Valley, with a terrific aspect.”
Amarina is on 170ha (420 acres) about 10kms from Denman, some 230km north of Sydney, in the Upper Hunter Valley.
Besides quickly establishing its place among leading yearling sale vendors Amarina is highly respected as a broodmare farm.
“I suppose you would say we specialize in professional breeding services,” says Craig, whose wife Sue plays an important role in managing the office, along with Pam Parry who has been with the Andersons for 20 years. “We are close to all the major studs so it is an ideal place to board a mare, whether its for agistment, walking-out mares or foaling down. Our priority is the safety of the horses and we have designed all our facilities with that in mind.”
These include two horse walkers, yearling barns, two sets of covered yards, crushes for veterinary use, a dedicated floodlit foaling area, grassy nine-day yards, yearling runs and top quality pasture. This success has all come about from Craig spending a lifetime among thoroughbreds and having the total support of his wife Sue as well as Gavin and Cath.
These achievements, and the contribution he has made to the industry, were recognized last May when he was the recipient of the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Murray Bain Service Award. It is an award his father Syd, who was a very highly respected horseman, received 22 years earlier.
Born at Parramatta, near Rosehill racecourse, some 24km west of Sydney, Craig grew up in the shadow of his father. “I got my main grounding from my Dad,” Craig said. “Growing up he gave me my foundation in the industry and I worked for him, on and off, before striking out on my own. It was all good experience and has helped me a lot later in life.”
During Craig’s early years his father managed Coolamon Farm, at Luddenham, near Penrith in Sydney’s west, for veteran Sydney bookmaker Jack Muir. The family moved from there to Sylvania Lodge at Bylong, before Syd transferred to Byerley Stud, at Martindale, via Denman.
Two years later the Andersons moved to Castlereagh Stud, just outside Denman, were they lived for 13 years, standing horses such as the 1976 VRC Victoria Derby-Gr.1 winner Unaware, by Without Fear (FR). Even as a youngster Craig was too bulky to be much of a rider but from the time he was “about 11 or 12” he began helping his father with the horses.
“I’d give Dad a hand and I gradually became more and more involved from there,” he said. A distraction from the horses came as a youngster when he began showing ability as a rugby league player while completing his secondary education at St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen. He also played, as a front rower, for the Denman Red Devils and that led to his selection for a New South Wales under-18 representative team.
For a while a career as a rugby league player beckoned and on leaving St Joseph’s Craig went to Newcastle, the capital of the Hunter region, where he played rugby league for a season. After 12 months he transferred to Caloundra on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast 90km north of Brisbane. Tragically, at 20, he suffered a serious knee injury during a match.
Without the benefit of the healing processes that have evolved over the years since, the damage brought a premature end to his playing days. At that stage Craig decided join his father and a short while later Syd was co-opted by Geoff and Beryl White to run their newly founded Robrick Lodge at Richmond, on the outskirts of Sydney.
“After giving Dad a hand at Robrick Lodge for 12 or 18 months I moved into Sydney to work for Ray Guy at Rosehill,” he said. The classy Gr.1 winners Itchy Feet and Sovereign Slipper had gone through Guy’s stable by then, leaving the Steele Pulse (GB) gelding Trench Digger, a multiple Gr.2 winner of 15 races, as the mainstay of the stable. Craig remembers Indentation, a winner of nine races by Biscay, and the Tattenham mare Stately Queen, who won eight races, being other valued members of the Guy team.
“Indentation was the first horse I strapped at the races and he won a mid-weeker at Rosehill at 33/1. I picked up quite a bit while I was at Ray Guy’s place. I would help do all the feeds, the feed mixes, the blood work and the drenches with the horses in the stable.”
It was while working with Ray that Craig first met Sue and he remembers the occasion vividly. “It was at the Sandy Hollow Cup meeting on March 9, 1984. I can’t remember much else about the day apart from meeting Sue and we’ve come a long way together since then.”
Craig and Sue were married in 1986 and have a daughter Elizabeth, who is a marketing executive with Adhesive P.R. in Sydney. “Elizabeth has always been interested in the farm and she is currently redeveloping Amarina’s website and is going to help with the marketing of the farm.”
In between meeting Sue and their marriage, Craig had “taken a job looking after the stallions” at the historic Segenhoe Stud, which had been established 160 years earlier by Thomas Potter McQueen. At the time Segenhoe was still owned by Lionel Israel, who had bought the stud in 1938. The brilliant Star Kingdom (IRE) horse Kaoru Star, who had been represented by the likes of STC Golden Slipper Stakes-Gr.1 winners Luskin Star and Full On Aces, was the feature attraction at Segenhoe. Standing alongside him were Aurealis, by Kaoru Star, Turf Ruler, by Ruling (USA) and the Northern Dancer (CAN) horse Yallah Native (USA).
“I handled Kaoru Star while I was at Segenhoe,” he said. “He was an outstanding horse and a great sire so that was quite a privilege.” After being at Segenhoe for a “couple of years” the Andersons moved, with their young daughter, to Gooree near Mudgee, 280km west of Sydney.
The headliner on the stud’s roster was the Arlington Million-winner Tolomeo (IRE) (Lypheor), who had been purchased for $4m by a syndicate including Gooree principal Eduardo Cojuangco and Arrowfield’s John Messara. The Gooree line-up was completed by the Foolish Pleasure horse Dash O’Pleasure (USA), Pre Emptive Strike (USA), who was by Blushing Groom, and the Lyphard horse Realisateur (USA), whose second dam was the VATC 1000 Guineas-Gr.1 and AJC Flight Stakes-Gr.1 winner Reveille.
After 12 months at Gooree Craig went back to Segenhoe where his duties involved looking after the broodmares and preparing the yearlings for the sales. In 1990 Craig accepted a position from David Bath to become manager at Bhima Stud, near Scone. During his stay at Bhima the sires Alquoz (USA), Bataan and Nanutarra stood seasons.
Alquoz had won in England and Italy before taking the STC Theo Marks Quality-Gr.2 in 1990, Bataan was a brilliant horse by Adraan (GB) and his efforts had featured a second to champion Bounding Away in the 1986 VATC Blue Diamond Stakes-Gr.1 and Nanutarra was a multiple stakes winner by Biscay.
“From Bhima we went to Middlebrook Valley Lodge for about 10 months. After that we went to Bellerive and established the property as a yearling preparation and agistment farm for Roy Thompson.”
Among the yearlings sold from Bellerive in the five years Craig was there was the Danehill (USA) speedster Shovhog, who went for $450,000 at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale in 1997. “I think that was the year we topped the averages at Easter with the five yearlings we sent down there.”
During his time at Bellerive Craig struck up a friendship with Scott Perrin, who asked him to buy some fillies. The first of his buys was Countess Christie, by Biscay, who won the STC Magic Night-Gr.2, Sweet Embrace-Gr.3 and AJC Widden Stakes-LR. Another was Tennessee Midnight, by Danehill, who has a stakes winner at Flemington before becoming the dam of the ATC T.A.D. Kennedy-Gr.1-winning Encosta de Lago filly Aloha.
He also bought the Belong To Me (USA) filly Lady Larissa, whose half-brother Casino Prince later became a Gr.1 winner and a highly successful sire for Vinery. Craig moved on after there was a dispersal sale in May of 2000 at Bellerive, which was subsequently sold to the adjoining Arrowfield in 2005.
On leaving Bellerive Craig was engaged by Madelaine Koureas to run Yarrandi Farm, where he spent two years. That led through to him leasing Lark Hill, opposite the famed Kia-Ora Stud, in partnership with Bill Rose and Tony Bott. “We leased Lark Hill from Kia-Ora and during the four years I was there the named was changed to Broadwater.”
Among those foaled and raised at Broadwater were the STC Queen of the Turf-Gr.1 and MRC 1000 Guineas-Gr.1 winner Mnemosyne, More Than Ready’s AJC Champagne Stakes-Gr.1 winner Carry on Cutie and the CJC New Zealand 2000 Guineas winner The Pooka, by Tobougg (IRE). “Mnemosyne was the highest priced Encosta de Lago filly at the Inglis Australian Easter Sale in 2004 when she went to Woodlands Stud for $400,000,” he said.
Other mares bought for clients over the years include Early Song (UK), the dam of 2003 Canterbury Guineas-Gr.1 winner Fine Society, Super Cool’s dam Queen Mother, Categorical (USA), the dam of multiple Group winner Krupt, Crazy For You (USA), the dam of Gr.3 and Listed winner Afraah, and Feminine Wiles (USA), whose progeny features multiple Gr.3 winner Neena Rock.
While at Broadwater Craig was continually building up the client base and everything was working well when in 2006 the opportunity arrived to purchase Lurline Lodge. The property had been run as an agistment farm by Bill Mordey, who had been a high profile sports reporter on the long defunct Sydney Daily Mirror and a fight promoter.
It was then that Gavin and Cath combined their resources with Craig and Sue to purchase the property, which was re-named Amarina Farm. Gavin and Cath had been among the clients during their days at Bellerive and had, over the intervening period, become firm friends of the Andersons.
“I think it was about 1998 that we had first met and everything has gone along from there,” says Craig of the friendship with Gavin and Cath, who had both developed an interest in horses as they had been growing up. After studying economics and law in Brisbane Gavin went to Sydney where he met Cath, who had also studied law. The pair married and moved to New York in 1992 where they purchased their first broodmare Divine Blade, who had been a winner and they have been quietly enjoying their bloodstock holdings ever since.
“They have around half-a-dozen mares at any one time and through that connection we have developed we have found we get along really well. Gavin always talked about buying a farm and when the four-year lease at Broadwater was coming to an end what is now Amarina Farm came on the market.
“In 2006 we formed a partnership to buy the property and we’ve gone on from there. Gavin and Cath come out from America three or four times a year and I know they really like having the involvement in Amarina and the mares. Together our aim now is to keep poking along and trying to make more of a name for ourselves in a tough business.”