Milan Park's Tony Rider  Photo: Trish Dunell

Meet The Breeder: Tony Rider

7 May 2023
NZTBA caught up with Tony Rider of Milan Park to learn more about how he became involved in the New Zealand breeding industry and what he's learnt along the journey.

How did you get into thoroughbred breeding?

My love for it has probably come from my daughter. She has been riding ponies since she was four years old and about 18 years ago we bought 50 acres off David Benjamin up Kaipaki Road which was really to put her ponies on. He also offered me three weanling fillies at the time, one of which was Vickezzchardonnay. It had all the post and rail and was set up for horses so I thought oh well, I will just get into a bit of racing and that is when I bought the three fillies off David and it started from there.

I did know Mark Chittick at the time and he has kind of guided me on the way through.


How many mares do you breed from?

At this stage we have 35 broodmares

What else do you have in your bloodstock portfolio (youngstock, racehorses etc)

I do go into most of the stallions that come out but this year I have cut back. I own 20% in Wrote and 20% in The Chosen One so I bought mares to go to them and my mares got up to 50 last year and we had a sale on and there were some very good in-foal mares but our numbers just got too high. Ideally, I will get down to 25 K1 mares.


Do you breed to retain or breed to trade?

Breed to sell as yearlings but we keep a few fillies that we race and take through. Karaka this year, we didn’t have a very good sale, the year before we did, we had a boomer sale. But Karaka 2023 we ended up keeping roughly 18 to race or trade.


Do you have a favourite cross?

Without giving too much away we try and breed back to Natalma as much as we can on both the dam and sire side.


Do you seek advice on your breeding decisions?

I have done a lot of study and I have a mate that together we use a computer system that he has been using for 30 years and we breed from that. It is what we call linebreeding, we do a lot of line-breeding. We have only just got up to 35 mares as we have always sat around the 20-25 mark and for a small stud, I think we do reasonably well.


Best breeding advice you have received?

Take your time don’t rush, your numbers can get up very quickly. You can get very easily emotionally attached and that is where you can fall over.


Who do you admire in the thoroughbred breeding industry?

You just got to take your hat off to Waikato Stud. Also, Brendan and Jo Lindsay who were previously straight out racing and they have come in and have now got a very good broodmare band.

You just can’t say enough about those who are importing stallions, and horses and who keep trying to grow the industry.

My own personal thoughts with the industry is that until that prizemoney picks up, we are going backwards. I believe we only breed about 2,800 mares last year but go back 15 years ago, there used to be about 5,000. There is definitely concern there.


If you could own any broodmare (past or present), who would it be?                                                                                                                                                                                   
Well I tried to buy into Baggy Green’s family. I was the underbidder when you Yulong purchased the 2yo Ocean Park x Baggy Green filly (full-sister to Tofane) for 460k, I really like that family.

As I get older and look at reducing my mares, because it has turned into a reasonable size business, I am now looking at more stallion families. The Not A Single Doubt’s, Redoute’s Choice families, the ones that you know just keep going on, and if you look at the top horses from those families, a lot of them are line-bred.

I have a couple of broodmares from Not A Single Doubt’s family and I have got Bruce Perry looking at some mares at the upcoming Magic Millions that are part of Redoute’s Choices family.


What advice would you give someone entering the industry as a breeder?                                                                                                                                                                 
Look at farms that are doing it well. Don’t rush and take your time. Get as much advice from everyone because everyone has different opinions; but just look at where those successful horses are coming from.

I am a big believer in that once the stallion has done his part, the time going forward is the most important part of the breeding operation. Once the mare is in-foal, it is everything you do from there onwards right up to the racetrack that makes it successful.


Proudest moment as a breeder?

When you see one of your own that you’ve bred and raced, comes through and wins a Group One. I bred Irish Fling who won the Telegraph and Adventador who won the Telegraph. It was the day he went through the rail before the race, I was walking up the grandstand and Brent Taylor was with me and he said “oh well, you won’t be winning he has already run his race.” As he had got away and done a half a lap of the course. He was a big horse and they just let him get away that day, he was out by 15 or 16 lengths. You just don’t know where the good ones are going to come from. When he won that day, he had already had a wind-operation and had a steel plate in his cannon bone. When we needed to do these operations, I had said to Guy Lowry ‘do you really want me to spend the money on him?’ and he said ‘Tony, he has got ability.’ So Adventador was one of my greatest wins and moments on a racetrack.

I remember when Vickezzchardonnay run in the Oaks, she finished 5th and Noel Harris rode her. She came around the bend and Noel looked down and her shoe was hanging on and it was out to one side, he could see it had come off but not right off. He didn’t whip her or anything from that moment onwards and he just let her come home. She went over the line, and it took them ages to get her off the track because she was so sore with her shoe in her foot. And Noel just said what a massive heart she had, she just kept on trying and trying. She was just a great mare and you can sort of see that in Aromatic now too. Mark Walker just thinks she is amazing, she is so honest and just gives, gives and gives.


Finish this sentence: The best part of being a thoroughbred breeder is…

Seeing the horses you breed, come out and win races.


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