Tara Madgwick (of Breednet)
… an interview with Suzy Jarratt
Tara’s not an ‘academic’ expert on thoroughbreds she is one who’s ‘hands on’.
She’s worked in all facets of the industry and has trained with the best – she is a true horsewoman.
The Thoroughbred Sport Horse Association couldn’t have a better advocate.
Max Presnell – legendary racing journalist
Every job Tara has ever had has been related to horses.
She was totally obsessed with them as a child and that passion has never faded. In 2005 she established Breednet with the help of Craig Tompson.
“He’d already developed the racing and punting website Racenet,” explained Tara from her headquarters in Milton on the NSW South Coast. “Breednet’s now the biggest and most influential thoroughbred bloodstock website in Australia.”
When she was five her family relocated from Sydney to the South Coast.
“They were looking for a better lifestyle and the move provided me with an opportunity to badger them into allowing me to learn to ride and ultimately have a pony.
“They weren’t horsey at all but they were avid $10 punters and had been great racegoers when we lived in the city. I grew up listening to the races every Saturday afternoon on the radio and, as a result, the horses, trainers and jockeys through the seventies became very well known to me.”
Over the years Tara has absorbed a vast amount of information about racing; her knowledge of thoroughbred breeding statistics is exceptional. She is also a supremely capable horsewoman who has trained with the best – including Maree Hewitt – who coaches her children in showjumping today. Tara was a competent showjumping rider – rapidly rising to compete in the 1.20m classes on her thoroughbred Greensleeves.
“But my parents weren’t made of money. After doing work experience in Year 10 for our local thoroughbred trainer, Bede Murray, he offered me a job and at 16 I was working full time as a strapper/work rider. That was the end of show jumping – the racing bug had taken hold of me!
“Most of what I know about riding and handling thoroughbreds was taught to me by Bede Murray. And he fuelled my keen interest in pedigrees by bringing home all the catalogues from yearling sales which I’d read from cover to cover memorising the bloodlines and how they worked. There was no internet back then so to learn anything you had to read – and read a lot.”
At 18 she moved to Sydney to work at Randwick for leading trainer Les Bridge who had won both the Golden Slipper and Melbourne Cup.
“His stable was filled with quality horses and I learned a great deal there particularly regarding riding gallops to time and rating horses in their work at the correct speed. One of the leading riders then was Mark de Montfort, who was a great help, and being able to ride every morning watching the best jockeys in the country elevated my riding skills to a new level.”
The next few years included stints working at Lindsay Park for Colin Hayes, and back in Sydney at Crown Lodge for the Ingham family before eventually settling full time with Gai Waterhouse.
“She’d just taken out her licence and was still training with her father, TJ Smith. My years there remain some of the best of my life. Every morning experiencing the thrill of galloping some of the best in the country with favourites for me, at that time, being horses like Coco Cobanna, Protara’s Bay, Light Up the World, Flight to Fantasy, All Our Mob, Assertive Lass, Juggler and Golden Slipper winner Ha Ha.
“In 1995, while working at the Brisbane Winter Carnival for Gai, I saw a job advertised at Inglis for a pedigree consultant and decided to apply. I ultimately got the job, with Gai’s reference and blessing, although I continued to ride work for her in the mornings as well as having the day job at Inglis in their pedigree department.”
Undoubtedly Gai Waterhouse was pivotal in helping Tara make the transition from racing to bloodstock – it proved a great career move.
“I worked at Inglis for 10 years during which time the internet came along and I was able to use my knowledge and writing skills to move into media. After a regular job on 2SM as a bloodstock expert and tipster on the Racing to the Max radio show with Max Presnell, Craig Tompson and Paul Joice, I went to Thoroughbreds, a very popular TV show with Caroline Searcy.”
And it was during this time she had the idea to establish Breednet, which has proven so successful.
Along the way she married and later divorced Richard Haynes, and had twins Jack and Jasmine, now 16-years-old.
“When Richard and I met he also worked in bloodstock and he’s also moved into media as a Sky Racing presenter. We remain great friends.
“After the divorce I moved from Paddington to my hometown of Milton as by then the children were 10 and were keen to ride and have their own ponies which was just not doable where we were living. I bought 5 acres in 2013 with stables and a modest arena and Jack came up with the name of Daybreak Farm.
“We bought some nice ponies and they progressed through Pony Club competing at State Championship level and eventually moved onto OTT thoroughbreds that we trained ourselves and we probably would have stayed at that level if not for the events of 2016.
“Apart from when my Dad died when I was twenty-seven 2016 was the worst year of my life. It began with the loss of Bede Murray due to cancer, then my close friend Sandra, who’d taught me to ride as a child and remained a lifelong friend, was killed in a freak horse accident in the UK and, to top it off, my mother died. To say it left me shattered would be an understatement.
“Out of all that grief did come a positive in that my inheritance money has allowed the children and me to pursue the show jumping dream under the guidance of Maree Hewitt, who’s sourced some amazing horses for the kids, and we can now work them on a top class arena built by Tim Hessell of Equestrian Services.
“We’ve five horses in full work which keep us busy, and my chief role as Breednet editor keeps me focused on all things racing and bloodstock when I’m not riding and schooling jumpers with the kids!”
One of their OTTs is Lunar Rise, a.k.a. Lenny, who won the G3 Carbine Club Stakes for Bart Cummings in 2012 as a three-year-old. During his career he’d netted over $500,000 in prize money.
“The bloodstock agent who’d purchased him as a yearling and had managed his racing career, wanted him to have a good home. He said the horse was ‘a nice person’,” said Tara, who went to Think Big Stud at Burradoo to look at him.
“I rode him once and we brought him home. He’s jumping 90cms to a metre and Jack’s riding him in the thoroughbred classes.
“Our other OTT has a lot of sentimental attachment. Bede Murray had contacted me when the children were 11 about a horse which he felt would be perfect for them. Del Pietro is by champion NZ sire, Pins, from a stakes-winning Grosvenor mare. He’d been a pretty smart stayer winning five races and over $100,000 in prize money before retiring after bowing a tendon. He’d had a year off before we got him. Jasmine started riding ‘Pie’ when she was 12 and he took her all the way through to the Pony Club State Champs. Absolutely amazing horse that will never be sold.
“There are a lot of TBs out there and you’ve got to give people a reason to want to own one,” concluded Tara. “Having these thoroughbred classes offering generous prize money at shows around the country provides people with an incentive to have one on their team.
“Given my background you can understand why the Thoroughbred Sport Horse Association has become something I’m very keen to support and see flourish.”
Breednet will be sponsoring several thoroughbred classes at Jumping@Willinga Park to be held in Bawley Point from 12-15 September 2019.