Shane McGrath might now be in “opposition” to the powerful Tony Fung Investments racing division, but he couldn’t help but feel immensely satisfied after seeing Williamsburg win the April 9 Grainshaker Vodka Fernhill Handicap at Randwick Racecourse.
Poached to lead another Hong Kong-based racing and breeding start-up late last year, McGrath selected the Gerald Ryan and Sterling Alexiou-trained Williamsburg as a yearling, the latest stakes-winning colt the Irishman has bought for his former boss Fung, a list led by none other than 2020 Longines Golden Slipper (G1) winner Farnan.
The son of Snitzel an AU$470,000 (US$360,231) purchase at last year’s Inglis Easter sale, is slated to back up in the April 16 Champagne Stakes (G1) to add to his record which already sits at three wins from five starts with a Schweppervescence (G3) to his credit.
“With Williamsburg whilst he certainly wasn’t cheap, we were delighted when the hammer fell as we were ready to go all 12 rounds for him,” McGrath told ANZ Bloodstock News from Hawaii April 10.
“Sally Gordon from Arrowfield came over (after he was sold) and her first words were, ‘You guys have stolen him’ and it looks like he is one of the success stories for the Fung family.
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“They have put a lot of money into racing and they have stumped up again in a strong fashion again this year. They’ve got him, they’ve got Voldemortthey’ve got Boyfriendwho ran second in the UNSW Todman Stakes (G2), and Best Of Bordeaux.
“They’ve had a phenomenal couple of years with their 2- and 3-year-olds and I suppose it’s full credit to the systems that are in place. It was a big thrill cheering him home from over here.”
While McGrath, taking his family on a short break after a hectic yearling sales season, was happy to reflect on the racetrack results, his focus is now on helping new player Shen You Holdings establish itself in the Australian racing and breeding industry.
Last December, McGrath was recruited to lead Shen You Holdings, which has the support of Hong Kong businessmen Josiah Ma and Alex Leung and a number of other big backers, many of them prominent racehorse owners with the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“Aquis’s success over the last couple of years has certainly been well noticed in Hong Kong and there is a desire to replicate that for our investors,” McGrath said.
“From my time at Aquis, the criteria was to find fast-looking colts by proven sires and generally stick with colts who are out of mares who have proven they can do the job or are first, second, third foals.
“It is a simple enough formula and it has obviously worked. It is not rocket science—there are plenty of other people doing the same thing.”
Shen You Holdings’ racing and breeding investment arm, which is trading under Harbor Equine, signed for five yearlings in partnership at last week’s Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.
They partnered with James Bester and trainer Ciaron Maher on a Written Tycoon colt for AU$375,000 ($278,298), an AU$300,000 ($222,639) Snitzel colt with Maher, agent John Foote and trainer Tony Gollan on another Snitzel colt out of Seven News Australian Oaks (G1) winner Gust Of Wind for AU$360,000 ($267,166) and an AU$410,000 ($304,273) son of Capitalist with trainers Tony and Calvin McEvoy and Belmont Bloodstock’s Damon Gabbedy.
McGrath also signed up for an AU$650,000 ($482,384) I Am Invincible colt out of New Zealand group 1 winner Miss Wilson alongside trainer Annabel Neasham and her bloodstock manager Brian McGuire. The colt held a special significance for McGrath.
Shane McGrath at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale
“In a past life, myself, Michael Kirwan (now at Kia Ora) and (Coolmore Australia principal) Tom Magnier owned the dam of Miss Wilson years ago (Cierzo),” he said.
“Kia Ora bred the horse and they have retained part of him themselves and that is obviously Ananda Krishnan, Michael Kirwan, and Shane Wright, so it will be nice if something were to happen there for old time’s sake.”
Shen You Holdings’ Leung has been by McGrath’s side for the majority of the Australian yearling sales this year while fellow Shen You Holdings director what is expected to be in the country ahead of the Magic Millions National Broodmare and Weanling Sale on the Gold Coast in May .
They also bought shares in a Written Tycoon colt sold by Rushton Park to trainers Mick Price and Michael Kent Jr for AU$275,000 ($204,085) at the Inglis Premier sale in Melbourne and a son of Camelot who was bought for fellow Cranbourne trainer Clinton McDonald for AU$380,000 ($282,009) at the same Oaklands Junction auction.
As part of its trading model, Harbor Equine will offer its crop of weanlings to the market at Magic Millions while it will also offer two shares in sire sensation Extreme Choiceone at the Chairman’s Sale and one at the Gold Coast auction, while the group is also close to reaching deals to buy into multiple as yet unidentified stallion prospects.
“We didn’t have a set number that we wanted (at the start of the year) but we could end up partnering in about 40 colts across all sales and there’s a couple of stallion prospects that we’ve identified that we’re negotiating on at the moment,” he said.
“One is a first season sire who has just been announced and then there’s some stallion prospects who are still racing that we’re hoping to get involved in as well.
“We are just trying to have a nice spread on our portfolio and we’ll have the upcoming broodmare sales to support those stallions. We’ll be actively looking to partner with key industry players who would like to have us on board and can see what we’re trying to achieve.
“At the end of the day, I think this industry, for most, if not all people, is high risk, high reward, but everyone is there to make a dollar and turn a profit and we’re no different to anyone on that scale.”
Drawn on the pressure of trying to emulate the success of colts led by Farnan and other stakes-winning colts such as Anders, Pragueand Mo ‘ungaMcGrath said: “Well, the way you look and evaluate a horse doesn’t change, but as we know, there are so many things that have to go right from the fall of hammer.
“Sometimes it feels like buying them is the easy part. If it was as easy to buy good luck we all would be driving Rollers and living the life of Reilly.”