Foal-buying takes new shape at Silverdale Farm

Silverdale Farm is having a halcyon week at Magic Millions, so it was an opportune moment for its Principal, Steve Grant, to reveal his lively new foal-buying strategy for 2022.
Cover image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

If there were any doubts that Silverdale Farm was an emerging force in Australian bloodstock, they were quickly dispelled by Day 3 of the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

Late in proceedings, Lot 590, a Snitzel filly from the Bel Esprit mare Sweet Sherry, dropped the farm a huge result, its best yet, with her $1.35 million price tag.

The filly was sold to Badgers Bloodstock and Glentree Thoroughbreds, the fifth most expensive yearling sold at that point of the Sale (and the second-most expensive filly overall). Pre-selling, the Silverdale Stud Manager, Rob Petith, had waxed lyrical about her, picking her on type, temperament and everything in between.

Snitzel x Sweet Sherry filly, pictured as a yearling at Silverdale Farm

There were plenty ringside that agreed with Petith as Lot 590 spiked to her final price of $1.35 million.

She planted Silverdale Farm at the top of the tree on vendor averages. The operation was well clear of its nearest rival, Segenhoe Stud, with six lots sold by Day 4 to an average of $612,500.

It was an outstanding effort for such a small draft, but then Silverdale Farm is punching with the best of them.

Though a long-time breeder, studmaster Steve Grant is a businessman with a businessman’s acumen, and he hasn’t been afraid to run his horse farm as such.

This week, Grant revealed a new farm strategy that will see the operation target weanlings outside of the sales circuit. Silverdale Farm wants to invest in very young horses at the weaning stage, bring them to the Southern Highlands property and then grow them out towards the yearling sales.

It sounds simple and obvious, but it’s not often done in Australian breeding.

Next-level pinhooking

“We’ve been buying a few pinhooks, as everyone will have seen,” Grant said. “It’s something we’ve been doing for a heck of a long time, going back many years, but particularly since we’ve started selling our own horses in the last two years.”

By way of pinhooks, Grant partnered with Suman Hedge at the 2020 Inglis Sydney Weanling Sale, buying the filly Pantonario (Not A Single Doubt) for $280,000. On the Gold Coast in January 2021, in its debut draft, it sold Pantonario for $750,000 to Gai Waterhouse, Adrian Bott, and Bruce Slade’s Kestrel Thoroughbreds.

Silverdale started selling under its own banner as recently as the 2021 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, and some of its results since then have been notable.

“We’re always looking for top-quality foals and weanlings to acquire and we have, in the past, bought shares in weanlings,” Grant said. “So now we’re making that offer to people that might have a really nice foal and are looking for an opportunity to, rather than sell out completely if they don’t want to, partner with us.”

Grant’s idea is to get hold of A-grade bloodstock very early in the cycle, before foals head to the weanling sales. Ideally, Silverdale wants August to early October stock.

“Our records show that as soon as we get them down to our farm, settle them in and start them with our processes, the sooner we know we can get those horses to improve,” Grant said.

Growth strategy

Silverdale is looking for the best in very young bloodstock. This new strategy, of reaching out to breeders outside the sales circuit, is a new effort to deeply improve its future yearling drafts, as good as they have been to date.

Grant said he will entertain buying a percentage of foals (at a minimum of 50 per cent) or buying foals outright.

“Very happy to buy outright and we’ll settle the sale very quickly so breeders can move on,” he said. “They can take their profit and protect their downside right away.”

The farm, however, is chasing the best stock.

A foal at Silverdale Farm

“We’re looking for the top-line horses,” Grant said. “We’re not looking for the lesser sale horses. We’re looking to increase the appeal of our draft, and with that we’re seeking the very best.

“We’ll end up paying more for them at this point than we would if we waited for them in the sale ring, but that’s not what we’re after. We’re after getting them on our farm as quick as possible, because that’s where we know we’ll get the best return.”

The strategy was in place for the Silverdale team last year.

Grant and Petith did widespread farm inspections and made offers, but this year they’re reaching out to smaller breeders that might be addressing finances or looking for an early return. Additionally, because Silverdale doesn’t offer a yearling-prep service, it’s an opportunity for people to sell under the Silverdale banner. The outfit’s success in the last few days will certainly help.

“Our plan is not to take outside horses, so this is an opportunity for people who like what we do and who like our brand to sell through us,” Petith added. “For us, this is all about backing the processes we’ve got in place to get the best out of our horses.

“The earlier we can get horses, the more weight they’ll carry for buyers that they’ve been reared on our property and grown on our hills.”

The concept is attractive, particularly with the success that Silverdale is having, and it’s all in aid of growing the farm’s portfolio.

“We want to present a very strong lineup of horses at sales,” Petith said. “We need stock on shelves to do that, so as we build our broodmare band, this is a way that we can make sure we’ve got the best possible line-up of yearlings to offer at sale each year.”

Written by Jessica Owers, originally published in TDN Australia New Zealand

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