Focus now on youngsters

With another stud season behind us, St Fort is now excited to be concentrating on 40 plus well bred yearlings.


“There are some lovely looking youngsters in the group and it’s exciting to have a lot of them from some of Australia’s leading sires,” Tony said.

“I really like a few by Mach Three, but there are some spectacular looking types by Rocknroll Dance and Auckland Reactor, and he’s certainly been making his mark in recent months with some impressive winners.

“In addition we have others by Tintin In America as well as a few by our own farm based stallion Genuwine (Cam’s Card Shark-Beverage).”

Genuwine had a strong racetrack career with 15 wins and 19 placings for over $325,000 and a best time of 1.50-4.

“It’s a great time of year because you know there are some handy performers in the making among the group of babies — maybe even that superstar we’re all looking for!”

Tony said weaning had finished for the season, and that was the beginning of the hard work. The weanlings are well-handled, then as they mature into yearlings they are taken through a breaking-in program.

“That’s where they yearlings are at now — they’re going through breaking in and will develop their experience and manners over the next few weeks,” he said.

“They’ll end up in the cart, allowed to bowl along, and then get put out for awhile before undertaking a second preparation,” he said.

“There will be some who will pick up the caper really quick, while others will take a bit of patience. But it’s the part of the job I really love, because you see that potential starting to turn into ability and the work and care that you put in now will stand these youngsters in good stead through their careers.

“Of course we are all driven by the thought of unearthing that special one.”

Tony invited anyone interested in purchasing a two-year-old or a yearling to make a call and “try before you buy.”

“We’ve sold a few really lovely two year olds in recent months to some of the leading stables and they are reportedly all going along nicely so that’s what we like to hear,” he said.

Tony said he was contemplating having a “ready to run” type sale.

He said he was fine tuning a few of the details and an announcement would be made as soon as possible


More foals on the way!

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New foals bring new hope

But weather makes it a tricky breeding season

This week promises to be another hectic one at St Fort, with at least another eight broodmares expected to foal.

“While we have cut back this season in numbers, there is still plenty to do,” Tony said.

“And probably even moreso with the drought conditions.

“The price of feed is increasing and there is the ongoing problem of sourcing good-quality bales - but we all in the same boat at the moment.”

Tony estimates he is spending $2000 a week on feed for the mares, foals and racehorses on the property.

Broodmares are on barley, maize, coprice and other nutritional supplements as well as lucerne hay.

“There are no shortcuts in this caper - it’s vital the mares get the very best,” he said.

“In regard to rainfall, we have had only half our yearly average, with 200 mills. Our wettest months were January and last month with about 30 mills apiece — other than that the monthly rainfall’s been peaking at less than 10 most months.

“I’ve been told that back in November of 2009 over 150 mills fell for the month - wouldn’t that be brilliant?!”

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St Fort stud season update




The stud season is well underway at St Fort with more than 30 foals so far being born.
And there’s more to come as well.
“It certainly has been busy, but also exciting as some of the newborns are absolute eye-catchers,” Tony said.
“In addition we have got probably at least 32 mares in foal.”
A handsome colt out of For Dear Life has attracted plenty of attention.
Sired by Always B Miki, the leggy chestnut with a small white blaze, is well put together. *See previous post for more on Always B Miki, standing at Alabar Stud.
If the youngster can emulate the deeds of his mum, there’s certainly thrilling times ahead!
For Dear Life (Life Sign-Express Post) was bred by Wayne Honan, who back in the day with his late father Jack, was a powerhouse of the industry with a barn full of horses you’d give your right arm to get hold of.
Let’s just recap for a bit on For Dear Life.
Her dam Express Post faced the starter on just 18 occasions and won 11 of these for nearly $90,000 in stakemoney.
For Dear Life raced during 2008 through to 2010, but only had 28 starts over this period. But didn’t she leave her mark with 14 wins and six placings for earnings of $322,000. Without doubt one of her greatest victories was in the $100,000 NSW Oaks in 2009.
Her latest foal is her sixth with two winners in Dream Fulfilled (4 wins from 6 starts) and Majestic American who is still racing in the care of Matt McCarthy, with one win and four placings to date.
*Always B Miki was a champion American pacer, winning 30 from 53 starts for $2.82M. In October, 2016 at The Red Mile track, Lexington, Kentucky, as the course broadcaster stated.....”we have just watched an incredible moment in harness racing history” when Always B Miki clocked a world record 1.46. And it was on a night when conditions were not ideal for speed with the temperature a brisk 18deg Celsius. Sixteen of his last wins followed a 10month lay-off with a broken hind pastern—what a sensational horse!

After having a brush with death almost 12 months ago, Tony is starting to do a little more as his rehabilitation program continues in a positive direction.
“I think I may be providing a bit of extra help these days, but there’s a few twinges in my neck that are constant reminders to be careful,” he said.
Tony was pace-working a youngster at his Moama property just before last Christmas when he was catapulted from the sulky, landing vertically on his head. He was flown by helicopter to Melbourne where doctors found his neck to be broken between his c2 and c3 vertebrae. Surgeons then fused the nerves back together.
During a full-body MRI, in an unbelievable twist of events,  a “shadow” was noticed on Tony’s lungs.
“Of course we all started thinking cancer, but the diagnosis was cryptococcal fungus infection, which affects about 100 people each year along the Murray,” Tony said.
“I was told I had probably breathed in a river red gum seed or shaving which got stuck in my throat and then started to grow.
“If I hadn’t been in hospital with the break in my neck, the infection would have likely gone undetected.
“The bottom line is it could have spread to my spine and brain— and I would have then been in some big trouble.”
Tony recently got the “all clear” regarding the fungus infection of his lungs.
“That was a big relief and we had a few celebration drinks!”

They build 'em tough in the bush!

Rob Cook was left paralysed after a helicopter accident, but that hasn't stopped him achieving anything he has wanted to.  Tony recently met up with this remarkable man.

Rob Cook was left paralysed after a helicopter accident, but that hasn't stopped him achieving anything he has wanted to.  Tony recently met up with this remarkable man.

A recent holiday to the beautiful beaches on the far northern  Queensland coastline has been the best medicine according to Tony as he continues his rehab.

“I had been pushing myself a bit hard at home while trying to do my share of the work as we have another busy stud season coming up at St Fort,” he said.

“There’s still a few sore spots on each side of my neck so we decided a short holiday break would be best.”

A track accident just before last Christmas almost claimed Tony's life when he was catapulted from the sulky and landed vertically on his head. The impact broke his neck between his c2 and c3 vertebrae.

While it has been a long and sometimes frustrating recovery process, Tony says many close friends as well as those in the harness racing industry had given him much needed support.

He also gained inspiration during a stay in Echuca Hospital after reading a book titled “When The Dust Settled.”

“It probably took me one and a half days to read it, but I honestly couldn’t put it down,” he said.

The book was written by Rob Cook, who was left paralysed after a helicopter accident in the Northern Territory. He plummeted 60 metres to the ground during a muster on one of Australia’s most remote cattle stations, Suplejack Downs Station, in 2008. The damage was instant as he dislocated his c4 vertebrae.

Tony said that after reading the book, he felt he had to get in contact with Rob.

“Rob actually wrote in his book that if he inspired one person, he’d be very happy - and I was certainly inspired, so I just got on the phone and rang him,” Tony said.

“That chat led him to invite us to look him up if ever we were near Bundaberg.

“We were lucky to spend a few hours with Rob during our recent short holiday and what an inspiration this guy is.

“His courage is unbelievable. His accident hasn’t prevented him from achieving whatever he wants to do - with the help of his wife Sarah, who is amazing.

“The only movement he has is virtually above his neck, so he’s certainly one tough bushie.”

Rob and his family moved from Suplejack Downs Station to Qld’s Bundaberg region four years ago where Rob is constantly trialling new devices to help injured farmers to keep working. This earnt him a Nuffield Scholarship in 2011.  

"When the Dust Settles", by Rob Cook, is available at most bookstores.

Tony on the mend

Back in the '80s, a song written by Bob Corben, and recorded by American country and southern rock band Alabama, sent music lovers into a frenzy.

It wasnt "High Cotton", "Tennessee River", or "If you're gonna play in Texas"!  It was "Can't Keep a Good Man Down"!  It was released in August, 1985, and within three months became the band's 18th-straight Number One song.

The song title became an anthem of resilience and it's certainly applicable to Tony in his recovery since a track accident in December.

Tony was left with a broken neck after being catapulted from the sulky and landing on his head in December.

But after time in the Alfred Hospital, getting back to St Fort has been the tonic for a steady recovery since mid-January. 

Visits to medicos and hospitals have been ongoing to monitor Tony's progress, but everything is going as well as can be hoped.

"I'm struggling a bit in that I am wanting to get out and lend a hand with so much going on, but i also know i need to be patient and let the body fully-recover," Tony said.

"Then I am sure in the long-run I will be right.

"People in the sport are fantastic in how they come in behind you when things go wrong, and you wouldn't believe how much that support plays in keeping you on track.

"I've had so many phone calls and messages of support from people all over Australia and it's meant a lot to me."


Tony faces long road to recovery - but so far, so good


Tony is now back at St Fort recuperating after his horrific training accident last month.

While he says he is in good spirits, there is a lot of rehabilitation in front of him.

"I'm keeping my chin up and all the calls and message from well-wishers has given me a big kick-along," Tony said.

"The hospital staff in Melbourne were absolutely terrific but I am pretty happy to be back home.

"While everything is going well, I do realise I have a long, long road to recovery."

Tony is lucky to be alive after he broke his neck between C2 and C3 vertebrae.  He was catapulted from the cart and landed vertically on his head while working a youngster at St Fort.

After being found some time later he was airlifted to Melbourne for treatment.

Tony said it was a miracle he didn't require major surgery.

"I definitely think I might have used up one of my nine lives!"

But with the boss recuperating it's been business as usual at St Fort, with nearly 50 live foals on the ground and more than 100 mares in foal. 

In addition, more than a dozen youngsters are being prepared for the upcoming yearling sales.

Farbio cruises to first win

South Australian-owned squaregaiter Farbio landed the money with an all-the-way win at Shepparton.

Farbio didn't put a foot wrong for reinsman Brian Gath and the win, at his sixth start, was a reward for Tony's perisistence.

Farbio, who is raced by Lachie and Paul Cormack, has always shown ability but was just a matter of "putting it all together".

"He's always looked like he had it and I've liked him from day one, but unfortunately he did make a few mistakes here and there," Tony said.

"I drove him at the trials leading up to the win and he didn't miss a beat, so we were hoping he would take those manners to the races, and that's exactly what he did," he said.

"He'll benefit from more racing because he's just got to keep learning at this stage."

Farbio demonstrated his potential with a fourth at his first start at Kilmore and Tony said he was pleased to be able to chalk up a win for the Cormack boys.

"They have raced quite a few with us over the years and it's always great to see them get success," he said.

"We wont be in any hurry to rush him back to the action but try to pick out a suitable race in the next few weeks."

Farbio is one of only four race horses being prepared by Tony as he and the team manage another busy stud season at St Fort.

Grab a future star at the Shepparton sale

It could be a case of the early bird getting the worm, at this Sunday's Shepparton Sale, when St Fort puts its promising youngsters on show in the early-morning pre-sale workouts.

The stud's quality offerings (lot numbers 72, 73, 73, 74, 77, 78, 79 and 88) will all be strutting their stuff on the track from 8.30 on the morning of the sale.

It offers the opportunity for new and experienced owners to watch the workouts and possibly spot a future star.

All of the St Fort youngsters are broken in, gaited and well-mannered and, importantly, all for genuine sale.

"In the past few weeks we have bowled these youngsters along a bit and I'm really happy with the way they're all coming along," Tony said.

"But none of them have had a genuine preparation so far, so their potential is only just starting to emerge," Tony said.

The offering includes youngsters by quality sires Elsu NZ, Shadow Play USA, Altana Christiano NZ, Gold Dust Beach CA, Yankee Boy USA and Tin TIn In America NZ.

Phone bids will be accepted, providing a buyer registration is in place.  Further information is available by contacting Shepparton Club Manager Ian McDonald 0428 231 403. 

Live streaming of the sale will be available on the day.  More information and sale catalogues are available from Shepparton Harness Racing Club's website.




Back at the track - and you can get in on the fun

With the stud season and our massive rebuilding and improvement projects wrapped up at St Fort, our focus in now wholly and solely back on the racetrack.

We've got our eyes on going to the next level this season and have secured first option on a number of quality Kiwi performers -- and we now have opportunities for owners to get in at every level.

A number of the best prospects are ready to race.  All are highly recommended by the experienced horsemen we have looking out for us over there.

We're proud of the huge amount of work and improvement we've done at St Fort over the past six months and owners are always welcome by appointment to come and have a look around.

It's a great time to get involved so please contact Tony for a confidential discussion 0419 331 868.