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AS a 28-year-old busy in his role with Lexington-based company Equix Biometrics Scott Williamson had a crucial decision to make..
He sensed America was not the place to be raising children and his thoughts turned to Australia. Scott had first met Sarah, the then personal assistant to Widden’s general manager Derek Field and wife of the stud’s assistant manager Grant Burrell, as a teenager.
He had also come to know Grant during his time in Kentucky so he rang asking whether there were any vacant positions and fortunately the role of assistant yearling manager was available.
The year was 2008 when, coincidentally, David Kobritz, the managing director of Melbourne property development group Deal Corporation, founded Musk Creek Farm on 140 acres at Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula. Now a Moonee Valley Racing Club committee member David had raced the iconic 1992 VRC Melbourne Cup-Gr1 winner Subzero and the STC Golden Slipper Stakes-Gr1 winner Danzero.
With his thoroughbred interests expanding he decided to establish Musk Creek Farm as a boutique operation providing services including agistment, foaling down and weaning as well as yearling and sales preparations.
Three years after being founded the Musk Creek draft at the Gold Coast Magic Millions featured the colt by Lonhro from Miss Right Note (IRE), by Daylami, who was sold to Gai Waterhouse for $230,000. That was the brilliant Pierro, who captured the ATC Two-Year-Old Triple Crown in 2014 and went on to become Australia’s Champion First, Second and Third Season Sire for Coolmore. With its reputation established the farm has since been enjoying a highly respected place in the industry.
It was in 2017 that Scott arrived at Musk Creek as farm manager with his wife Bec being appointed as administration and marketing manager. On leaving Widden Scott had spent time at Twin Palms, Edinglassie and Yulong Thoroughbreds while Bec, who is a graduate of the Total Agriculture College, had also been personal assistant to Derek Field, office manager at Twin Palms, stud secretary at Vinery and operations and accounts manager at Yulong Thoroughbreds.
“We were very fortunate to be given the opportunity at Musk Creek Farm,” Scott says. It is fantastic to be involved in a high end boutique farm and I have been heavily involved in decision making with David, who understands he has hired myself and Bec for a reason.”
“Craig Rounsenfell, of Boomer Bloodstock, is helping us with purchases and matings and David pretty much leaves that to our knowledge and experience.
“Over the last 12 to 18 months we have started to see positive results and I have no doubt there are exciting times ahead.”
Scott’s journey to Musk Creek had begun in his earliest days when he was immersed in the finest traditions of racing. He was born at Epsom General Hospital and lived his first 18 years only “a stone’s throw” from the famed downs racecourse, which has been the site of the English Derby since 1780. His father Paul, who was a detective at New Scotland Yard in London and for a time was a member of the elite Flying Squad, had interests in a few racehorses while his mother Carol was busy raising Scott and his elder brothers Grant and Craig.
“Dad was involved in horses trained by Philip Mitchell, whose Downs House is quite literally on the racecourse at Epsom,” Scott says. The Derby field crosses his driveway about 100 yards after the start and you can see his house when you watch the Derby on television.
“As we were growing up I was going to the Derby each year and I can remember horses like Slip Anchor, who was trained by Henry Cecil and was ridden by Steve Cauthen. Then you go onto winners like Reference Point, Nashwan and a favourite of mine in Commander in Chief, who was a Khalid Abdullah horse. With Philip being my godfather it was a great place to grow up and we’d often go to watch the gallops of a Saturday morning so that’s where my immediate interest came.”
“When I was eight or nine I started going to the races at tracks like Lingfield, Kempton and Sandown in Philip’s truck and after we arrived the truck driver would lift me over the fence to join my family.”
Scott ‘s involvement went further when Grant began working at Woodcote Stud in Epsom, which was being managed by Barry Reilly.
“It was only a 70-acre stud but they have bred some outstanding horses such as Danseuse du Soir, Where or When, My Best Valentine, Don Corleone and in more recent times Kingston Hill, who was second in the Derby and won the St Leger at Doncaster,“ he says.
“When I got to about 14 I started working at Woodcote at weekends and during school holidays.” During those years Grant “headed off” to Writtle College in Chelmsford to undertake equine studies and his middle brother Craig began studying grounds management. This has led through to Craig’s current appointment as head groundsman at Sandown Park and Epsom Downs racecourses.
“Around those years my parents became worried I was only copying Grant when I said I wanted to go to Writtle College to do equine studies,” Scott says. “After leaving Writtle Grant had gone to Lane’s End and when I was 18 I went over to visit him and while I was there I worked the September sales at Keeneland.
“It was a phenomenal sale with horses making $US6.8 million and $US4.4 million and the average price for the 50 yearlings in book one from Lane’s End was over a million dollars.
“It was freakish and it was great to be involved in it. When I came back from Keeneland my parents realised that I had the right reasons for going to Writtle College and they agreed I could take the course my eldest brother had.”
In the middle year of the three-year course Scott did a ‘six-month placement’ at Coolmore in Ireland. “I worked out on the mares’ side and did some work in the breeding shed while I was there, he says. By the time I came back my parents had moved to Wincanton in Somerset and there is a very good stud farm near there called Stowell Hill Stud, which is owned by Bob McCreery. Bob is a very good breeder and a very influential person in the racing industry in England as well as one of the nicest guys you would ever meet. I completed my gap year at Writtle College by working at Stowell Hill for six months.”
On completing his degree Scott went back to Woodcote Stud for a few months before securing a position at Darley’s Dalham Hall Stud at Newmarket, handling the mares and foals. Around a year later he began working with the stallions, which included the likes of Machiavellian (USA) Mark of Esteem (IRE), Polish Precedent (USA) and Singspiel (IRE).
“It was a pretty good time to be around the Dalham Hall stallions and I worked with some really good horses,” he says.
“It is a pristine property as all Sheikh Mohammed’s studs are and it was a brilliant experience.” After nearly four years at Dalham Hall he felt he wanted to ‘scratch an itch’ by gaining further experience in America and he joined his brother Grant at Lane’s End Farm where he began in the yearling barn, doing preparations and attending the sales.
“My first year was spent in the main yearling barn and then I was put in charge of division of the farm named Fort Blackburn where they have three 20 stable barns full of yearlings,” he says. The staff was made up mainly
of Mexicans, who were great guys and really hard workers. I was very lucky that the yearling manager was a great guy named Tod Claunch, who was a phenomenal horseman and I learned an awful lot from him. He is one of the greatest guys I’ve met in the industry and we got on really well.”
After completing his time with the yearlings Scott was transferred to the stallion barns where among the 24 on the roster were the likes of 1992 U.S. Horse of the year A.P. Indy (USA), the triple Gr1-winning Danzig horse Langfuhr (USA) and the Canadian star Smart Strike (CAN), by Mr Prospector. Another of those standing was Kingmambo (USA), also a son of Mr Prospector, who had won the Royal Ascot St James’s Palace Stakes, Longchamp Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Prix du Moulin at the elite level.
‘He was a very interesting horse to be around,” Scott says of Kingmambo. Unfortunately towards the end of his days he had physical issues with his withers and neck and was in a bit of pain.
He was a tricky horse to look after and if somebody new came along he would really test them so you had to be confident with him to stay out of trouble.”
“It was full on working with the stallions but I thoroughly enjoyed it until an opportunity to try my hand in another side of the industry came along.”
That was with Equix Biomechanics, which by using data models takes a series of measurements including heart scans to predict growth patterns, racing potential and overall efficiency. “That was back in 2007 and it has only been coming in down here in the last couple of years,” he says. I know Mick Price and Michael Kent junior are using the technique a lot and have received very good results from it.
“Being at Equix provided a great learning curve for me in how a horse uses itself. For instance using a biomechanic study of a horse you can see the correlation between limb lengths and I am sure it can give you invaluable information when people are spending a considerable amount of money on a horse.
“By then I knew I wanted to settle down and have a family but I didn’t want that to be in America. We had visited Australia when I was a kid and I knew the industry down there was really making its presence felt in the global scheme of things. Also people I’d spoken to said I had to go to Australia because it was such a great place to work.”
“Sarah had gone to Writtle College with my brother Grant and I’d known her since I was 15 or 16 and she has become a family friend. I’d come to know Grant Burrell through Sarah in Kentucky so I thought he would be the right person to speak to. I jumped at the chance when Grant said the role of assistant yearling manager was open and within a matter of weeks I had my visa and was on my way to Sydney. I caught the train to Muswellbrook and Sarah picked me up at the station.”
Scott’s stint at Widden hardly began promisingly when on his first day he was left standing at his quarters relying on a ‘lift’ to the yearling barn, which failed to materialise. As he says he was ‘waiting, waiting, waiting’ without access to mobile service or a two-way radio when Grant realised that something was amiss and drove to pick him up. He later discovered that Bec, his wife-to-be, had been his designated driver but she remains adamant she was not told about the arrangement.
“Everything settled down after that and as I had arrived late in 2008 that meant going almost straight into the Gold Coast Magic Millions yearling sale, which was amazing and like nothing I’d ever seen before, Scott says. The Widden draft, as always, sold very well so that made it even better.”
After about a year with the yearlings Scott became wet-mare manager, which entailed having around a hundred broodmares and foals to look after.
Ironically in 2011 his brother Grant, who had been flown down from Kentucky, and Scott were both interviewed for the position of manager at Philip Esplin’s Twin Palms Stud on the Hunter River at Luskintyre. “There would have been difficulties arranging visas and that sort of thing to have Grant and his family come down from America so I was selected,” he says.
“When I started at Twin Palms Bec handled the day-to-day running of the farm. Philip had different theories on breeding to other people but he had a lot of success and was very well respected in the industry.”
Following Philip’s death Scott joined Mick and Michelle Talty’s Edinglassie Stud, at Muswellbrook, as assistant manager. “Mick and Michelle are two of the greatest people I’ve worked with,” he says. They are great horse people and they let horses be horses and their results speak for themselves because in the space of 10 years they had three Caulfield Guineas winners in God’s Own, Shooting to Win and Wonderful World.”
It was while at Edinglassie that Sheamus Mills approached Scott and Bec with an enticing package to join Mr Yuesheng Zhang’s fledgling Yulong Thoroughbreds, which had its base at Bayles 75km south-east of Melbourne. Mr Zhang’s venture has proven to be a most exciting project and has since had a significant impact on the racing and breeding stage not only in Victoria but around the nation as well.
However, the time was not right for the Williamsons. “Mr Zhang was buying a lot of horses and among the ones I bought was Extremely the dam of Extreme Choice, who won the Blue Diamond Stakes at two and the Moir Stakes at three,” Scott says.
“The operation was growing rapidly and they certainly were exciting times. I met a lot of people, which has helped me in what I’m doing now but I was spending a lot of time away and Bec and I were trying to start a family so it became almost too much for us.”
“I heard of the position coming up at Musk Creek, I was interviewed by David and was offered the farm manager’s position, which I accepted and we moved to Flinders.” With Musk Creek’s yearlings selling up to $500,000 this year the policy in place at the farm is certainly reaping rewards. Besides that everything is also falling into place on a personal level for Scott and Bec.
Married at a winery in the Hunter Valley in 2012 they had been ‘trying for years’ to have children when in September of 2020 their daughter Ivy Rose was born. “We were at the point where we didn’t think we’d ever have kids, Scott says. We were over-joyed when we found out Bec was having a child and we are both really enjoying being parents of Ivy Rose, who is just the best kid.”
Added to this he and Bec have bought a property at Bayles where they ‘dabble in breeding’ on their own account with Scott’s father being a shareholder in the horses. This has been accompanied by success on the racetrack with Mockery, by Verrazano (USA) from the family of Shooting to Win and Deep Field, winning the VRC Festival Racing Stakes-1000m-LR at Flemington in March of 2019.
That was a superb result and now Mockery has an American Pharoah colt and is in foal
to Written Tycoon, so there is a lot to look forward too,” Scott says.