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Ron and Debbie Gilbert’s Highgrove Stud sits not far from Toowoomba at Westbrook on Queenslands fabled Darling Downs. Since its first venture to Easter in the year 2000 with six yearlings, a lot has changed in the industry, but the fire to keep producing premium drafts for the major sales has remained a constant with Ron Gilbert.
Bluebloods’ Andrew Reichard discussed the farm’s 2021 Inglis Easter draft, fittingly another six of the best with Ron.
How would you describe your approach to preparing an Easter draft?
We try to plan everything, picking the stallions that will be commercial, designing the matings carefully, raising the horses as well as we can, but you need a bit of luck too. I’ve found over the years that market perceptions can change in a few months, yearlings can make better or worse progress than normal, and you need good X-rays to have a strong sale. It doesn’t always work out.
How did it go for this sale?
I couldn’t be happier than I am with this draft, three colts and three fillies, all with good pedigrees, all have developed well physically and the X-ray Gods have smiled on us. I realise that we will be judged on all this by astute buyers at the sale, that’s when I’ll really find out if the draft meets my expectations.
Have you noticed many changes since you took that first draft to Easter 22 years ago.
Quite a few actually. There have always been clever horse traders, but over recent years there has been a lot of hard work put in by professional buyers, they do their research thoroughly, which means if you have a good product and a good reputation, the benefits can be rewarding.
How do you think Highgrove is seen by these modern professional buyers?
Highgrove and indeed the Darling Downs was not regarded as being at the pointy end of the industry when I entered, but I think that has changed to a large extent. The Darling Downs has a fantastic reputation for producing quality thoroughbreds, it’s great horse county. Highgrove’s reputation stands and falls on our results, and fortunately they’ve been really good. Our percentages of stakes winners sold, which I check on stallions.com.au put us in the top handful of farms in Australia, while recent topliners we have sold include Summer Passage, Thronum, Global Quest, Noire and Attention.
Our whole aim, our business plan if you like, is to breed and raise and sell the best yearlings possible. Watching the youngsters being foaled, grow and develop, then do well on the track after we sell them is what I’m passionate about. To be honest, I prefer that part of the business to racing horses as I can’t really put the time into both from Toowoomba. As a result, buyers have come to appreciate that we usually set very realistic reserves, we want to sell. Very few come home.
The Highgrove youngsters will enter the ring in the following order –
LOT 31 bay colt Russian Revolution – Quaintly by Giant’s Causeway.
This colt is out of a stakes placed mare who has had two to race, both winners. The third dam Number is racing royalty being closely related to such giants of the breed as Sadler’s Wells, Nureyev, Yeats, Jade Robbery. This is a colt with a genuine stallion’s pedigree.
LOT 106 chestnut filly Snitzel – Subsequent by Encosta de Lago.
This filly is a full sister to Gr.1 winner Summer Passage by multiple champion sire Snitzel, a noted sire of fillies such as Golden Slipper winner Estijaab. Great racing potential and great residual value as this is also the family of Shania Dane and Scintillation.
LOT 334 bay filly I Am Invincible – Helena’s Secret by Five Star Day.
This filly is a half-sister to Gr.2 winner, Gr.1 placed Thronum whose first crop have sold up to 200K already this year. Her third dam is the blue hen Helen Street whose son Street Cry is the sire of Winx. Street Cry’s sister is the dam of influential sire Shamardal, while the crack galloper Victor Ludorum (unbeaten 2YO winner, dual Gr.1 winner), is by Shamardal and also has Helen Street as his third dam. I Am Invincible is a wonderful sire of Gr.1 fillies such as Loving Gaby, Viddora, I Am A Star and Invincibella. A prospective foundation mare when her racing days are over.
LOT 359 bay filly I Am Invincible-Japhils by Choisir.
This is the second living foal of a multiple winner and SW by the prolific sire Choisir. I Am Invincible is clearly established as one of Australia’s best sires of Gr.1 fillies such as Loving Gaby, Viddora, Oohood, Invincibella and I Am A Star plus Fiesta, Libertini, Dame Giselle etc. This filly is bred on the same I Am Invincible/Choisir cross as the brilliant performer Eckstein ($1.1m) and the I Am Invincible nick with Danehill line stallions such as Choisir, Danehill Dancer, Flying Spur and Snitzel is consistently outstanding.
LOT 390 bay colt Pierro-Limerock Lass by Rock Of Gibraltar.
This colt is by one of Australia’s best young sires, already sire of six individual Gr.1 winners with ALL SIX featuring Danehill line mares or a return of Danehill. His dam is a half-sister to the proven Gr.1 sire Foxwedge, so this colt also has a genuine sire prospect’s pedigree.
* Stop Press: As we were going to press this colt’s half-brother Litchfield County (by Sebring) scored an authoritative win at his second race start at Werribee after being sold at the 2019 Inglis Classic to Aquis for $190K.
LOT 440 chestnut colt Russian Revolution-Museo by Teofilo.
This Highgrove youngster is from the family of four current or recent sires, Street Cry, Shamardal, Territories and Thronum, with a fifth Victor Ludorum soon to join the ranks. His third dam is the great Helen Street who is rapidly establishing herself as one of the world’s most influential mares. Russian Revolution won two of Australia’s greatest speed tests, the Galaxy and The Oakleigh Plate with dominant on pace speed displays, the ideal profile for stallion success. This is a great sire producing family.
Bluebloods left the last word to Ron Gilbert
“It’s always nerve wracking heading to a major sale with what you consider is an outstanding. Will the market agree or are we as owners biased because we love our horses. But looking over this draft again I believe it’s our best ever for this number of yearlings and I look forward to being back at a live sale again for Easter as well as catching up with regular clients and meeting some new ones”.