By Philip Antonacci
Since August, I have been immersed in the Australian thoroughbred industry as part of the Godolphin Flying Start program. Godolphin Flying Start is a two-year scholarship fully funded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum within the thoroughbred industry, where over the course of two years you visit and work within Ireland, England, The United States, Australia, and Dubai. On its 16th year of intake and boasting over 220 graduates, “Flying Start” has accomplished Sheikh Mohammed’s vision of cultivating the thoroughbred industry’s thought leaders and innovators. As part of the program trainees spend time with industry professionals in “externships” where the trainee takes on an apprenticeship role to learn the selected professional craft. Because of the smashing success of “Flying Start” graduates in the industry the program has come full circle as many graduates are now those industry leaders that trainees aspire to learn from.
I was privileged to spend my externship with 2007 graduate, Craig Rounsefell. Operating Boomer Bloodstock for 10 years now, Craig has established himself as one of the premier transpacific agents, with success at Group 1 level in both the United States and Australia. Additionally, Craig has established himself as a thought leader and innovator in a field where innovation seemed impossible. Craig epitomizes “Flying Start’s” vision of innovating an industry that is often stagnant and accepts the status quo.
Over the past three weeks I have traveled with Craig from Queensland to Sydney to Western Australia inspecting horses and meeting people that will have a forever impression on me. Throughout all it was evident with Craig that the agency business more than anything is about cultivating relationships that resemble a family much more than a business transaction. Craig has created a reputation that is built around trust, clarity, and clean business which attracts a group of clients that are equally as reputable and reflect these same qualities. Homes were opened to us in Sydney and Perth where we shared meals with Craig’s clients. It was remarkable how welcoming Western Australia can be to an American from the farthest place geographically away from Perth: Boston, Massachusetts. For someone like myself who aspires to follow Craig’s entrepreneurial spirit and open an independent bloodstock agency in the future this experience was invaluable for me.
The ability to travel across Australia with Craig was full of valuable experiences. In Western Australia we visited trainer Lindsey Smith. Lindsey’s innovative sand training captured my attention as I constantly thought how beneficial it could be to American dirt horses where racing is dictated by who has the stamina to power through the line. Lindsey also utilizes beach training where he trots his horses through the surf which keeps his horses fit while giving them a mental break. Following this, we traveled down the coast to Capel, Western Australia’s Bluegrass. Along the way we stopped at Yarradale Stud, Geisel Park, Neville Duncan’s Oakland Park, and The Patrizi family’s Misty Valley Thoroughbreds and their redevelopment of the once famed Greenfields Stud. Seeing Western Australia was a brilliant experience as I was able to familiarize myself with the market, its unique rearing conditions, and the players that make the industry.
From a business perspective Boomer Bloodstock is on the cutting edge. Implementing a strategic marketing plan, Craig is launching a fully transparent informational website that will serve as an introductory tool to new owners looking to learn everything there is to know about the industry. Additionally, Boomer Bloodstock is utilizing social media and video to create content that garners interest and creates buzz. For Craig, his mission towards making the agency game as transparent as possible is clear and it is reflected in his marketing strategy. Challenging the status quo and innovating a field which has accepted operating to a bellow optimal level of standard is certainly a daunting task; however, Craig’s focus on doing so will put him in a position for great success in the future and will change the agency business for the better.
Despite a short period of time with Boomer Bloodstock, it truly could not have been a better learning experience. Being able to see someone who was in my shoes 12 years ago, reach a level of success both on the racetrack and within the business world shows that the thoroughbred industry rewards those that operate ethically, display talent, and work hard. I thank Craig and McCall Rounsefell for welcoming me in and allowing me to be part of the Boomer Bloodstock team and as always “Flying Start” for providing such remarkable experiences to trainees.