Swettenham Stud Bloodstock Agent Profile – Tim Stewart
There are many important players that ensure the viability and success of the Victorian thoroughbred breeding industry. From stud managers to breeders, trainers to owners, their success can often be underpinned by the pivotal role bloodstock agent’s play.
Not only utilised for their knowledge of breeding and commercial mating trends, bloodstock agents act as an advisory service, assisting both the small and the large stud farms to generate future financial success and security.
One Victorian bloodstock agent that has helped the industry through a lifetime of loyal service is Tim Stewart.
A life member of Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria and as principal of Tim Stewart & Associates Bloodstock Agency, Tim has served the thoroughbred industry for decades, with a great deal of distinction & success.
Tim Stewart (left) with John & Laurie McCarthy and their Street Boss colt at the Vobis Gold sale (photo: Sharon Chapman)
Tim’s love of horses began early when he would muster the cattle and sheep by horseback around his family’s station, “The Hummocks” in the Western Districts.
Based at Cavendish, 20 miles north of Hamilton, the neighbouring properties opened Tim’s eyes to the world of thoroughbred racing.
“When I was young I became close friends with the Seymour family, who had 10,000 acres further north at Balmoral, called Yat Nat Homestead. Famous for standing Our Boy, it was through their other stallion Farquhar, that I achieved my first homebred winner at the age of only 15.”
Another influential neighbour were the Reid family at Waratah Station. Becoming great friends, they were exceptional breeders, producing 16 stakes winners, and stood the Group 1 winning stallion Money Moon and Ballarat Cup victor, Redwood Park.
“They had an exceptional strike rate considering they only had six mares in their broodmare band at any one time.”
The two Reid brothers, Malcolm and Clifford, enjoyed Melbourne Cup success, owning and breeding Rainbird in ’45, Gatum Gatum in ‘63, and the ‘back to back’ Cup’s with the champion, Rainlover in ‘68 and ‘69.”
“I used to ride my pony three miles up the road to help them feed their mares. One filly, called Stepney Green, by Aurum (GB) from Cheapside (Money Moon) caught my eye. I ended up buying her first foal, Diamond Park, who I retained, and she became my foundation broodmare.”
Tim leased out Diamond Park to race, to a group of young lads, including future great friend and long-term client David Kobritz from Musk Creek Farm.
“She was David’s first racehorse and was very successful winning eight times in the city. I have now acted as David’s consultant for the past 25 years, finding him the dam of Rock Kingdom, the dam of Group 1 winner Newport and Man of Illusion who won in Kentucky on Oaks Day.”
“I was also lucky to become great friends with bloodstock agent, the late Jim Shannon, who was the worldwide racing manager for Texan oilman, Nelson Bunker Hunt. Touted at one time to be the richest man in the world, Bunker Hunt owned a thoroughbred empire throughout Kentucky, the champion stallion Vaguely Noble, and was the founder New Zealand’s Waikato Stud.”
“Jim used to tell everyone the story about the 15-year old that bred his own winner, so we arranged to meet for afternoon tea. He was wonderful; he took me under his wing and taught me so much. During my boarding days, we would do pedigrees all day at his house opposite Caulfield racecourse, bookended by my compulsory attendance at the school chapel service.”
With thoroughbreds now running in his blood, Tim headed to the big smoke at the age of 18 to work for the Victorian Racing Club (VRC) to study Racecourse Management, as well as continuing with bloodstock research.
“I bred a couple of foals through Jim Shannon and incredibly after meeting Nelson Bunker Hunt myself, he ended up sending me out a son of Vaguely Noble to stand at “The Hummocks”. I was only about 25 at the time.”
“It was a wonderful experience, but busy, as I was trying to juggle the farm and the VRC. I would start very early to earn extra money doing pedigrees, and each Saturday I would assist the stewards by keeping a keen eye on betting prices, before driving 200 miles to the Hummocks to manage the stallion.”
After meeting his wife Fiona, the youngest ever winner of Australia’s most prestigious equestrian turnout, The Garryowen, Tim’s frantic pace slowed and the family settled in Melbourne.
“The stud saw it’s self off, but I continued my work with the VRC for a decade. One of my biggest and proudest undertakings was being responsible for the computerisation of the Australian Stud Book along with becoming second in charge of the Racing Services Bureau, now known as RISA.”
Instrumental in transcribing all the information into the digital form, Tim was in awe of the enormity and the significance of the project, especially as he “proofread the whole thing!”
“The VRC, as the foremost racing club of the time, drove the projects independently, and through their dedication in time and money, we now have these voluminous resources available to us at the touch of a button.”
After doing the hard yards, Tim gathered a small stable of noteworthy clients, as he embarked into his independent bloodstock consultancy at the age of 28.
“Through the VRC I met many influential people in the industry and was fortunate to develop strong and highly valued working relationships.”
A few of those original clients included Bruce Gadston at Brolyn Park, The Cockram Family at Arundel Farm and the Leighton Family at Moormoot Stud who stood, the champion stallion, Century. Today Tim works closely with good friends David Kobritz at Musk Creek Farm, The McCarthy’s at Greta West Stud, and Ken Breese.
Continuing his dedicated service to the industry, Tim combined his agency with his appointment as Honorary Secretary of the Victorian Bloodhorse Breeders Association from 1983 to 1988 and Vice President in 1991.
Tim was a founding member and Chairman of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents Australia from 2007 to 2013, formed to maintain, improve and develop the high standards, and services offered by bloodstock agents nationally.
“I have an advisory role to play, doing valuations, insurance, purchase of the breeding stock and to act as their agent in selecting and choosing the matings. I can also assist in stud budgets and future planning, enabling a band of mares to perform to their best financial potential.”
“I specialise in mares and foals, rather than yearlings as often when I am at a sale I have many clients selling. I see that as a conflict of interest, as how can I only buy from one?”
Tim purchases weanling for clients predominantly to pin-hook, and has had great success, most famously in selecting the Triple Crown winner and now highly promising stallion Pierro.
Humble to a fault, Tim has every right to occasionally put his own weights up, being able to claim around 180 stakes and city winners from arranged matings. They include the dam of Chong Tong, Heart of Dreams, the dam of Tickle My, Group 1 winner Lady Plutus, Bank Robber, Ascorbic, Chattanooga, Bacchanal Woman and Brooklyn Dodger.
Tim Stewart (right) receives his TBV Life Membership along with Tony Cavanagh and Rosemary Inglis
With the majority of Tim’s clients based in Victoria, he is upbeat about where the Victorian breeding industry is currently headed and with a solid group of stallions standing at stud, he is confident things are certainly moving in the right direction.
“Victoria has a long and illustrious history of standing some of the best stallions in Australia’s history including Better Boy, Century, Showdown, Encosta De Lago, Flying Spur, Danzero, Invincible Spirit and Swettenham’s Danehill Dancer.”
“There is great positivity in Victoria at the moment with the current success stallions are achieving on the track through Written Tycoon, Reward For Effort, Magnus and Manhattan Rain.”
“The next few years Victoria is going to give the rest of Australia a run for its money, and with Adam having a real dip, and Toronado being a standout, I’m sure his first crop of yearlings at the upcoming sales will validate his popularity.”
“I was very impressed with Toronado, and as a sign of my appreciation and support for what Swettenham is doing, I booked in the first five mares to him.”
“I would have done over 200 matings with Swettenham Stud stallions over the years, going back to Scenic and the Collingrove days that produced many stakes and city winners. They have a fabulous vet, John Hurley, and a fantastic rapport with breeders. I don’t think I have ever heard any complaints from clients.”
However Tim’s most valued service to the Victorian thoroughbred breeding was lobbying for and establishing VOBIS in the 1980s, and Tim can be proud that Super VOBIS and VOBIS Gold and VOBIS Sires combine to be the most successful and lucrative owners and breeders incentive scheme in Australia.
Now based down on the Mornington Peninsular for around 30 years, Tim is still kept busy, mucking out the boxes at 6.10am every morning of his daughter, Julia’s Grand Prix dressage horses. He also has his retired geldings happily living in the paddocks, and his much-loved broodmare band residing at Greta West Stud with old friends, the McCarthy’s.
“My group of mares are direct descendants of the family I started with all those years ago, out in the Western Districts. I have continued on the bloodlines for over 50 years.”
“There is one mare, No Vanity, that goes right back to Diamond Park, and from her I bred Brooklyn Dodger, runner-up in the Australian Darby. Her half-sister, Artful Lass, threw five metropolitan winning fillies that combined won over a million dollars.”
Tim is more famous for his equine brain that brawn in the sales ring, and it has certainly paid off with Tim’s shrewd and clever buying skills contributing to 250 individual winners of more than 550 races. As an owner he has had 77 winners, and has bred himself 55 individual winners of 220 races.
“When it’s all been said and done, nothing with horses can be controlled 100%. However if you draw on a lifetime of experience and knowledge, you can reduce the risks, and make the best possible choices to maximise the chance of success for everyone – the vendor, the breeder, the agent and the owners.”