Established in 2014, Balius Farm Thoroughbreds is owned and operated by Jacqui Sushames and Tam Dieu. A boutique broodmare farm, they are beautifully positioned in Darnum, West Gippsland, famous for its rich, lush pastures and consistently high rainfalls.
Originally from Tasmania, Jacqui grew up with horses, competing successfully in dressage for a number of years, whereas Tam developed his passion for thoroughbreds, through frequently attending the races during medical school.
Meeting through their specialist professions, with Jacqui an anaesthetist and Tam, a Plastic Surgeon, together they bought their first racehorse at the 2006 Magic Millions Tasmanian Sale, a mare called Luscious Lips.
“Tam won the battle, and I was back into horses, and into the world of thoroughbred breeding. Until last year, Luscious Lips had been with us for 13 years. She only had an average pedigree, but she was so special to us. She was our first racehorse, our first winner and the mother of our first homebred winner.”
Her first foal, Toothless (named after the very cute cartoon dragon) was a talented sprinting son of Old Deuteronomy, who won 5 races and was stakes-placed.
“Toothless is still at the farm, as the old grandfather. He looks after the young colts as a nanny, keeping them all in line. He has an important job to do, a purpose in life.”
Tam and Jacqui have also enjoyed international racing success, racing a few horses with Irish master trainer, Dermot Weld, including their first Group winner, Storm Fly.
“Our trainer Mick Kent organised a tour while we were travelling in Ireland of Dermot’s stables, and when a filly became available, we jumped at the chance. Our first race mare, Celtic Cutie is now at our farm. She wasn’t fast enough, unfortunately, but being beautifully bred by Teofilo, we bought her out to Australia as a broodmare.”
“She has visited a couple of Swettenham stallions and will be covered by Puissance De Lune this year. Her Toronado weanling made $30,000, a lovely filly with a beautiful rangy walk. I think the Toronado’s will come out and do something amazing.”
“We also sold an Americain weanling at that sale out of Iffraaj mare, Socialize, who was a well-grown, lovely boy. He made $65,000 to good judge, Damon Gabbady’s Belmont Bloodstock.”
“We do breed a lot in Victoria, and it is our preference to breed locally whenever we can, and if any mares need to go north, they will always come home and foal down with us at home on the farm.”
“We have been very lucky, as many lovely people have offered us sound advice. We have been able to call up and say, we are not quite sure what to do, and they have shared their knowledge and experience.”
“Adam Sangster along with the rest of the Swettenham Team has been a huge resource for us, extremely kind and helpful and James O’Brien at Lauriston has been great too. They truly love the Victorian breeding industry and genuinely will do what they can to support and encourage small breeders.”
Balius Farm are working on upgrading their group of broodmares, improving their racetrack performance, quality and commercialism.
“We have about 15 mares in our band at the moment, with nine foals expected on the ground this year, and six dry mares going in foal. That includes a couple of our race fillies that we have just retired, city winner Jinx (Starcraft) and Gingie (Shaft), who was our first homebred city winner with wins mid week at Sandown and Caulfield. Gingie was from one of our Tassie mares, Fabulously Fake.”
“Over the years we have visited many Swettenham stallions, including Host, Kaphero, Equiano, and we still retain a big Americain colt from Socialize, and have a beautiful Americain filly on the ground out of Kooshi (Commands). Americain has put a lot of refinement into her, as the mare can be quite coarse, but this filly is beautiful, definitely one of my favourites.”
“We purchased the Mare On A Limb from Adam Sangster recently, with a lovely Puissance de Lune filly on the ground and she will be returning to Americain this season, as will a quality maiden Mastercraftsman mare.”
“We are also partners with old Tassie friend Debbie Thompson in her mare Silver Barbie, who is heading to exciting new boy, Mshawish. She has helped and mentored us along the way, so I want to get a good result for her and have some fun together.”
Jacqui and Tam have formed a great partnership, both enjoying getting out and working on the farm.
“Being a city boy, Tam had no experience handling horses but since we bought the farm he jumps on the tractor and can help bring up a mare and foal. I have even handed him the reins to manage the farm. As I come from the country, I take farm life for granted, as it is what I have grown up with, but it is new to Tam, and he is doing a fabulous job.”
As if life wasn’t busy enough juggling the property and professional careers, Tam and Jacqui have three children, nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old twins.
“Although the kids need to be careful around the thoroughbreds, I want them to appreciate and love horses as I did. Being able to come home from school and pop a saddle on their pony and ride around the paddocks. At the end of the day, Tam and I love our horses and our racing, but we are building this for our family, for our children to enjoy and share the journey with us.”
“We are lucky we both have very good jobs, so we can do what we love to do, and as we race as well, we get great joy throughout our horses life journey.”
“Breeding mares is tough, not only financially, and physically, but emotionally as well, and even though we are both in human medicine, and understand better than most about loss, you still cry a river when you lose one.”
Balius Farm is blessed with a constant water supply, facilitated by a plentiful supply of underground spring-fed dam water and high rainfall. Based on 110 acres of undulating hills and flat plains, the lush pastures encourage the natural growth of bone and muscle in young horses.
The property has been laid out cleverly to accommodate broodmares, foals, weanlings, yearlings, and spelling racehorses. With premium fencing, their equine residents are safe and secure in a quiet, relaxing environment.
“The property is so green and so peaceful, your blood pressure drops as soon as you drive in the gate.”
“Together we have built a beautiful farm where we can offer top class thoroughbred care, and we are excited about our mares and our future breeding plans.”
"It is such a thrill to breed, raise and race horses, and hopefully, we will have many more stakes winners from Balius Farm, thanks to Swettenham Stud stallions in the future.”