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Steve Morris was a racing fan long before he made the grade in AFL ranks with Richmond.
The 25 year-old has a winning pedigree in racing as well as football and is odds-on to make a success of his new company First Class Bloodstock.
Morris and Australian Test cricketer Cameron White are partners in the business and they have brought highly-respected racing professional David Raphael on board as a partner and key bloodstock advisor.
First Class Bloodstock entered the market with the purchase of an Equiano – Gilded Minstrel colt at the Inglis VOBIS Gold Sale last month. Morris and White will race him with friends and relations before launching the company to the public prior to the start of the new racing season on August 1. Steve’s sister Jacqui is Cameron’s partner.
“The Equiano colt will be prepared by Amy Johnston down at Mornington,” Morris said. “She is a young trainer on the way up and we will grow the First Class Bloodstock brand together.
“I like Equiano and hope he can get us off to a good start. He was a genuine Group 1 sprinter and our colt’s dam is a half-sister to a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner. There are Group winner right through his pedigree.”
Johnston has a blueblood pedigree of her own being a grand-daughter of legendary horseman Jim Houlahan. And her horses will continue the dynasty carrying Jim’s famous light blue, black and maroon colours.
Morris learned the racing ropes growing up north of Melbourne at Toolern Vale. “I started helping out with Mike Becker at Independent Stallions as a kid,” he recalled. “Everyone knows what a top bloke Mike is and he’s a good teacher, too.”
A link with the harness industry also gave Steve an insight into what it’s like to race a top-class horse. His parents Kevin and Jan bred and owned Djerriwarrh who won the 2000 Breeders Crown 3YO Trotters Final at Ballarat.
“Mum and Dad have been pretty successful at the gallops as well,” Morris explained. “They bred the stakes performers Sure Bet and Arazamataz and Dad’s latest is a smart one called El Mandoma.”
Kevin Morris is partners with Kevin Sheedy in recent Sandown winner El Mandoma. They’re old team-mates from the glory days at Richmond winning back-to-back flags in 1973 and 1974.
Steve followed a roundabout route to wear his father’s No.38 jersey for the Tigers.
After missing out on selection in the 2008 AFL rookie draft, he moved to the SANFL and starred for West Adelaide before Richmond picked him up in 2011.
That same level of determination and passion will be invaluable as First Class Bloodstock enters the cut-throat world of syndications. “We’re not kidding ourselves thinking it’s going to be a breeze,” Morris admitted. “We will begin with three or four horses in the first year and then start building up the numbers.
“The fact that Cameron, David and I all have high profiles isn’t enough to make a point of difference if we don’t make it affordable and fun. I also believe it’s vital to keep members engaged, involved and informed with weekly videos and updates.
“But winning races is obviously the key element and that’s why we hooked up with David. Besides being a Richmond supporter, he knows the market and sourced horses like this year’s Blue Diamond Prelude winner Rubick.”
Rubick is by Encosta de Lago from a three-quarter sister to champion sire Redoute’s Choice and is already slated for a stud career at Coolmore.
Among Raphael’s other yearling buys last year were Washington Heights (Commands) who was runner-up on debut in the G2 Kindergarten Stakes at Randwick last month and Jetwings. The latter is by Jet Spur and looked a very promising type when second at his only start to date at Canterbury in December.
While AFL remains a No.1 priority, Morris is extremely dedicated to the thoroughbred industry. “Richmond encourages a healthy balance between football and personal development ,” he explained. “I’m looking long-term with First Class Bloodstock and, hopefully, it will develop into a full-time job after I finish footy.”