Breeding’s Next Crop Begin Their Journey

Seventeen new Fast Track trainees began their journey into the world of thoroughbred breeding on Monday with the aim of building successful careers in the industry.

Launched last year by Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) in collaboration with TAFE NSW in response to staffing shortages in the breeding sector, the Fast Track training program offers passionate horse people a formal pathway into the industry.

Over the next 12-months, trainees will study for a Certificate III in Horse Breeding at TAFE NSW Scone while completing full-time traineeships with some of the country’s most respected stud farms.

More than 250 applications were received from around the country, leading to an increase in the number of places offered on the program.

“The response to this year’s intake has been outstanding, with double the number of applications from last year,” said TBA Chief Executive, Tom Reilly.

“It demonstrates to us that there are plenty of people out there who would love to build a career working with horses and who are just looking for a start. Fast Track offers exactly that; 12 months practical experience working on a reputable farm combined with a formal qualification. It is the perfect entry-level pathway.

“The program is really starting to build momentum and I am confident that we can continue to grow Fast Track into something that is of real benefit to breeders,” added Mr Reilly.

Widden Stud principal Antony Thompson, said the program plays an important role in addressing a major issue for breeders.

“Staffing has been identified as an area of concern for breeders and there is a real need for an initiative like this. We took a trainee on last year and were determined to support the program again in 2019.

“The course content does a great job providing the trainees with the foundational skills and knowledge needed to get started. They really seem to hit the ground running when they get to the farms.
“TBA has shown great leadership in this area and I am confident that we’ll continue to see the benefits of their hard work.”

The 2019 cohort is made up of students from New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. Among the intake is a qualified accountant, a beauty therapist and a dive master. The majority of the group have had little to no exposure to thoroughbreds.

The group will spend the next four weeks at TAFE NSW Scone campus where they take part in an intensive learning experience designed to prepare them for life working on a stud farm.

Trainees return to Scone in late July for another two weeks of structured learning before re-joining their farms where they continue their on-the-job learning for the remainder of the 12 months.

“A first for the industry, the Fast Track program allows students to combine their TAFE NSW studies with paid employment as they gain the essential knowledge and practical skills employers require of successful participants in the thoroughbred breeding industry,” said TAFE NSW Scone Head Teacher, Animal Care & Management, Suzanne Walsh.

Along with the formal units of study, TBA has organised a host of additional lectures and field trips to ensure trainees get the best possible introduction to the industry.

There is also a strong focus on personal development with the group taking part in first aid, defensive driver training, a personal finance workshop and mental health first aid.

The first crop of Fast Track trainees are nearing the end of their 12-months in the program and have made positive impressions on the farms where they are undertaking their practical work placements.

Trainee Alyssa Pickels is based at Kitchwin Hills and like many others in the first group, will stay in the industry after graduation.

“The Fast Track program has introduced me to the wide range of opportunities in the thoroughbred industry. The many experiences provided through the program have shown me that I can have more than just a job, I can make it a career,” said Pickels.

“It’s really exciting to see our inaugural intake near completion. I have had the pleasure of getting to know this group over the last year and I am extremely proud of how far they have come in what is a relatively short period of time,” said Fast Track coordinator Cecelia O’Gorman.

“Watching them grow to become valued team members on their farms has been hugely rewarding and I can’t wait to see what they go on to achieve in our industry.”

For more information please contact:
Tom Reilly 0423 146 334
Cecelia O’Gorman 0411 696 036

Nominations Open For 2019 Australian Stud And Stable Staff Awards

Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Award nominations are now open (Godolphin)

The day after Winx won her final race, her long-time strappers Umut Odemislioglu and Candice Perisijn were back in the real world, mucking out the boxes of regular racehorses.

Like the thousands who do what they do, they awoke at an hour closer to midnight than midday and went to work in the twilight world that is essential to the survival of the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries.

Odemislioglu and Perisijn are lucky enough to have had a world champion to look after.

For the rest of the unknown and largely unheralded workers on whom racing depends for its existence, it can be a thankless occupation.

To recognise their value to the industry and to showcase their roles, there are the Stud and Stable Staff Awards, for which the 2019 entries are officially now open.

First staged in Australia in 2015, the GSSSA, an initiative of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia and Racing Australia and sponsored by Godolphin, offer recognition to everyone in every “backroom”, every stable, stud or office in the Australian thoroughbred world.

From stable workers to exercise riders, to float drivers, to secretaries, to stud grooms, to foaling supervisors, to the growing band of “re-homers” who provide care and a future to horses who can no longer race, the GSSSA’s are open to everyone.

In so many cases, the industry workers who the Awards seek to recognise, perform their jobs simply because they love horses.

As the 2018 Thoroughbred Excellence Award winner, the trackwork rider, Joe Agresta says: “You couldn’t do it if you didn’t love them.”

“None of us does it for money, because there isn’t any. We do it because we love horses, love being with them, love looking after them.”

Jenny Watson, whose 35 years on the night watch looking out for mares to deliver their foals, at Armidale Stud in Tasmania earned her the Thoroughbred Excellence Award in 2016.

“I still think this is the best job in the world,” Watson says.

“To see a mare and a foal survive just because you are there is the most wonderful thing.”

To find the most deserving recipients, the GSSSA relies on anyone being able to nominate anyone.

It isn’t necessary for a nomination to come from a boss or someone more senior than the nominee. You can propose someone on the same level as yourself, someone more senior, or more junior, someone from within your own organisation or from another.

Nominations will close on Monday, 1 July, 2019, and can be completed online via the Stud and Stable Staff Awards website

The GSSSA’s provide total prize money of $100,000 in seven categories plus an overall Thoroughbred Excellence Award made to the one of the five category winners.

The awards for the categories include $10,000 and a trophy, with $3,000 to their employer to be shared among fellow employees.

Tom Reilly, CEO of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association said: “These awards celebrate the most deserving people in the thoroughbred industry; the workers whose energy, endeavour, passion and resilience keep breeding and racing going all year around.”

“To trainers, breeders, business owners and administrators, I would encourage you to think of the people who are most deserving of recognition and nominate them. The finalists and award winners, not to mention their employers, get a huge thrill from being involved on the night that it is well worth making the effort of an entry.”

Greg Nichols, Chairman of Racing Australia said: “The Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards, now in its 5th year, are a wonderful recognition and reward for the outstanding skills, commitment and contribution by the unsung heroes of our sport to the unparalleled success of Australian horseracing that is enjoyed today.”

“Racing Australia is greatly appreciative of the generous and unstinting commitment by Godolphin in establishing these awards and continuing its support culminating in the Stud and Stable Staff Awards being regarded as a pinnacle achievement within Australian thoroughbred horse racing.”

“We encourage our vast band of breeders, trainers, owners and racing management to participate by nominating those individuals who represent excellence in their chosen field of expertise.”

For further information please go to

Breeding industry mourns loss of Basil Nolan Jr

TBA Media Release

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Basil Nolan Jr of Raheen Stud.

TBA chief executive Tom Reilly said everybody who knew Basil would be mourning his loss.

“On behalf of the directors and staff of TBA we extend our deepest sympathies to the Nolan family.

“Basil was one of the industry’s true gentleman. Not only was he a great horseman but, more importantly, he was a warm and generous man who always seemed to have a smile on his face.

“He was also a devoted father of four and it was always a highlight to have a chat to Basil and his children when Raheen had a draft to sell.

“I’m sure anyone who had dealings with Basil will be grieving his loss and that the whole breeding and racing community will be thinking of the Nolan family at this difficult time.”



Prime Minister Backs Breeding Industry

TBA Media Release

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed the thoroughbred breeding industry, declaring horse racing a crucial part of Australian culture.

Mr Morrison was joined by MPs from all sides of politics at Parliament House in Canberra to rally behind the industry in an event organised by Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) and the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Producers.

“It is a fair dinkum, very serious business and industry,” Mr Morrison said.

“It is one that provides significant economic and employment opportunities especially for rural and regional Australia.”

He said racing was synonymous with the identity of Australians, pledging to help ensure it remained a crucial part of the country’s fabric with ongoing drought support.

“This is a very big deal when it comes to the livelihoods and lifestyle of Australians,” the prime minister said.

TBA chief executive Tom Reilly was delighted at a huge turnout for the organisation’s event.

“We come to parliament house to talk about breeding and share the industry’s story, and tonight we had all sides of politics line up to pledge their support for what we do,” said Mr Reilly.

“It is testament to the fact that breeding and racing are truly part of the fabric of Australian society that so many politicians are here tonight.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who has both Flemington and Moonee Valley within his electorate, said his side of politics heard the industry “loud and clear” on issues like drought relief and labour shortages.

“I understand that in this industry for a small number of people we need to bring in people from overseas,” the Labor leader said.

“We don’t have the skills here, we don’t have the people here that we need to have a visa system that brings people in.”

He said racing was a great industry that couldn’t be taken for granted, noting the importance of farming and racehorse ownership.

The Australian breeding industry is the second largest in the world, with an interim economic report showing breeding alone sustained almost 9,500 jobs across the nation.

The broader racing industry contributes over $8.5 billion to the national economy, according to the same research, and is responsible for some 69,000 full time jobs in Australia.

Deputy Prime Minister and keen racing fan Michael McCormack attended, along with Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Special Drought Envoy Barnaby Joyce, Labor senator Anthony Chisholm and Liberal MPs Tony Pasin, Warren Entsch and Nicole Flint also were at the event.

Chief Government Whip Nola Marino and co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Producers said the bipartisan event united politicians.

“This industry is really, really, important, it employs 69,000 people. All of the stud breeders around this room, you know what you mean to rural and regional Australia,” Mrs Marino said.

Hunter MP, and Shadow Agriculture Minister and co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Producers, Joel Fitzgibbon said the event had continued its history of reminding us the racing industry begins on a farm.

“Next time you’re at Randwick, Flemington or Moonee Valley think about where it all begins,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“An industry worth itself much more than $1 billion to our economy and a thoroughbred breeding industry that sustains about 10,000 people across the country – that’s what we want you to be thinking about tonight.”

He was more than happy to claim the association with Winx, who was bred at Coolmore Stud in his Hunter Valley electorate and on Saturday will seek to take her unbeaten run to 29 races.

Winx’s co-owners Debbie Kepitis and Peter Tighe were the star attractions, alongside the champion mare’s three Cox Plates which were on display as she shoots for a record fourth on Saturday.

Mrs Kepitis’s famous Ingham family raced champion and leading sire Lonhro before the Australian-bred Winx took the world by storm.

“Lonhro was bred here. But nothing make me more proud than it’s an Australian product and also to think that I’ve got a better one than my dad and uncle – and my dad’s jealous,” she said.

Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne, who is now forging a career as a trainer, reflected on her path to stardom aboard Prince of Penzance.

“The love of the animal and growing up with them, learning to work with them and building that association is what I absolutely love about the industry,” she said.

Mr Morrison set the tone of the event by lifting his limited edition Winx Carlton Draught can with a toast: “here’s cheers to the racing industry”.

Earlier in the day he had hosted the connections of Winx in his office to offer them a personal message of good luck as the mare seeks an unprecedented fourth Cox Plate.


For more information contact Tom Reilly on 0423 146 334

1. From left: Thoroughbred Breeders Australia President Basil Nolan, Chief Government Whip Nola Marino, Prime Minister The Honourable Scott Morrison, Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon, Thoroughbred Breeders Australia CEO Tom Reilly.


2. From left: Winx owners Debbie Kepitis, Peter Tighe and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten.


3. From left: Winx owners Debbie Kepitis, Peter Tighe and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten.


4. Winx’s Cox Plates and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon.


5. From left: Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne and emcee Caroline Searcy.


6. From left: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Prime Minister The Honourable Scott Morrison.


7. Prime Minister The Honourable Scott Morrison.


8. From left: Patty Tighe, Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, Debbie Kepitis and Peter Tighe.

Strategy Review 2018

As we edge closer to the completion of the yearling sales and start contemplating the 2018 breeding season, I would like to point you to Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) and Aushorse’s recently released report titled Strategy Review 2018.

This report outlines key initiatives undertaken in 2017 and looks at major issues we are trying to resolve in 2018.

We have made significant gains with the Federal Government in 2017. These have included the introduction of the new thoroughbred industry matched levy, making up to $1 million available for research in the thoroughbred industry each year; as well as a recent decision to enhance thoroughbred industry access to 457 and related visas.

In 2018, we have a strong focus on the issue of staff and skills shortages in our industry and finding ways to resolve these shortages particularly through the national TAFE sector.

Click below to read Strategy Review 2018

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me or a member of the TBA or Aushorse team if you would like to discuss any aspect of what we do on behalf of the industry.

Tom Reilly
Chief Executive Officer

T +61 2 9663 8581
F +61 2 9663 8471
M +61 (0) 423 146 334