The Business of Black Caviar
11 JUL 12 @ 08:49AM BY KERRY DAVIES
Black Caviar returns home… now the business begins
At the 2012 Inglis Australian Easter Sales, Sydney, lot 200 played with a plastic milk bottle hanging by her stable door, then buried her nose in hay. Foaled on the 29th September 2010, the unnamed bay filly was described in the catalogue as sharing the same Dam (mother) to “Black Caviar Horse of the Year in Australia, Champion Sprinter in Australia. Unbeaten.” Two days later, the playful filly, nicknamed Pippa for her admired rump like that of her big sister, would set a record of 2.6 million dollars, more than double what Nathan Tinkler, owner of Patinack Farm, paid for another Helsinge sibling to Black Caviar, All Too Hard, the previous year.
It’s all part of the business of Black Caviar, where a few lucky syndicate owners, the farm where she was born, and powerful studs such as Patinack Farm have cashed in on the unbeaten race horse’s superstar status. After her nose-bitingly close win at Royal Ascot, Black Caviar is unbeaten from 22 races, surpassing all previous champions in Australian racing history. Now the question is if she will retire or risk her record at this year’s Spring Carnival.
See our gallery of Black Caviar photos here
If she is retired, bloodstock agent Peter Ford, who bought Black Caviar’s mother, Helsinge for owner Rick Jamieson declares that she will be “the most valuable mare in the world” . However, her ability to only have one million dollar baby a year will ultimately cap her value, compared to champion stallions who can potentially have over 120 foals a year and command six figure fees. “If she was a colt, you couldn’t begin to value her,” says Ford.
It’s a decision that will weigh heavily on those who benefit from Black Caviar’s success.Commenting on the business of Black Caviar, trainer Peter Moody said, “She’s a phenomenon that we haven’t seen before.” While arguably Phar Lap galvanised a similar phenomenon in the 1930s and earned a then fortune of 70,000 pounds – in today’s terms around $15 million – the star sprinter goes further with her own Facebook page (Black Caviar “athlete”, 19,141 likes); Twitter account, and a Black Caviar online shop in which you can buy official posters, t-shirts, cufflinks, keyrings, hats and magnets through to replica silks ($795). According to the Black Caviar official website, all profits made by the fan merchandise is donated to the Olivia Newton John Cancer Centre.
There’s also the secondary ripple effect on race courses; Morphettville, South Australia, had a sell out 30,000 capacity crowd when Black Caviar raced there recently, while Royal Ascot sold out on the day Black Caviar raced June 23. CEO of Patinack Farm, Peter Beer agrees, “Black Caviar has had a positive impact on racing around the country.”
Bought by Moody for $210,000 at the Swettenham Stud draft for the Premier Yearling Sale, Black Caviar is now owned by a syndicate of friends: Colin and Jannene Madden, Gary and Kerryn Wilkie and Neil Werrett , Jannene’s sister Pam Hawkes (who named the horse Black Caviar because of the Scandinavian connection to Helsinge ) and Melbourne real estate agent David Taylor, who joked that his wife said at the time: “You aren’t buying a bloody racehorse” given that they often cost, rather than make a fortune. Wilkie has commented that he’s still amazed he has equity in such a horse.
In racing alone, Black Caviar has delivered the syndicate a five million dollar return in wins, to date and in the unlikely event that a member of her syndicate would part with a share of her, they would expect to see a slice of her estimated four million plus value, from just a $42,000 investment. In fact the only people not making money on Black Caviar seem to be the adoring punters who bet on her, with bookies unwilling to take a risk, and during a recent race in Sydney refused to go above 1:1 odds.
However in racing, everything is a gamble. For those who are on the lookout for investing in the next Black Caviar, Peter Beer, CEO of Patinack Farm, advises, “There is always an element of risk with buying thoroughbreds, these risks are somewhat weighed up by pedigree and type.“ Bloodstock agent Peter Ford agrees, “They do become like a trophy. People who are in horses are using spare money. At that level of the market though, it’s a business.”
Tinkler and Beer have stuck by their belief in pedigree and type by investing in the Black Caviar genetic brand, buying All Too Hard, half brother to Black Caviar, last year. Showing the level at which thoroughbred breeding can operate, Tinkler’s Patinack Farm employs just under 200 staff at the height of the breeding season and has four racing stables (as well as its own broodmares). “Investment in high quality stallions and broodmares for both commercial and private purposes has been a major contributing factor to the business.” Says Beer about All Too Hard. So far he’s pleased with the investment. “There was always going to be an element of expectation from All Too Hard being a half brother to an undefeated champion. However, he has well and truly lived up to the hype that has surrounded him.”
It was a canny investment by Tinkler in the business of Black Caviar: All Too Hard’s future breeding fee potential, combined with success on the track, has already given the stallion a ten million plus value. “All Too Hard was the outstanding in the Easter sale that year,” Beer says. Regarding the astonishing 2.6m paid for Black Caviar’s latest sister this year, Beer comments: ‘We weren’t surprised by the price the filly fetched.” The filly is now trained by Danny O’Brien for a syndicate operated by BC3 Thoroughbreds, and has, according to the group, successfully started breaking in at Connewarre, in rural South Australia as big sister Black Caviar headed to Royal Ascot.
It all began at a small broodmare farm on the Goulburn River, Victoria, in 2005. Peter Ford, Bloodstock agent and friend of Ric Jamieson, the owner of Gilgai Farm, found a powerfully built mare in the supplementary draft of a 2005 Sydney broodmare sale, and bought her for $115,000. It would prove a stunning investment. Farm manager, Meaghan Strickland-Wood remembers being impressed by the mare’s size when she arrived at the farm. “She was a stand out. And she was massive.” They renamed her Helsinge, and Black Caviar was the first of her multi-million dollar babies.
After Black Caviar was born at 5.20 am on August 18, 2006, Strickland-Wood bottle fed the colostrum milk to her because Helsinge’s teats hadn’t yet stretched a lot from foaling. After that, Black Caviar chose her moments to display her speed. “She was first to the feed bin,” says Strickland-Wood. “The others were the same.” To date, Jamieson has made over three million dollars in foal sales – the latest being Pippa the filly – on the back of Black Caviar’s success. There’s another colt due to be sold at the Easter Yearling sales in 2013, and Helsinge is pregnant with another filly, due after August, but Jamieson is yet to confirm whether he’ll invest in future breeding by retaining the foals, or will sell them at future sales for short term spectacular results.
“From my point of view, aside from the horses’ welfare, it’s a business with a product,” says Strickland-Wood of Black Caviar and her other million dollar babies. “ They are animals and athletes and anything can happen. It’s quality, not quantity.” That’s what everyone else with a stake in the business of Black Caviar thinks too.