Industry Mentors: Craig Rounsefell

Craig Rounsefell has worked with a number of widely-respected Australian horsemen and international identities, household names in the racing and breeding world, and he’s made the best use of the bloodstock knowledge and life skills gleaned from them.

The principal of Boomer Bloodstock operates across the globe, attending all major domestic and overseas sales with a Group 1 track record that has earned him a growing following.

And when it came time to come home to Australia and establish his own company, Rounsefell didn’t have to think hard about a trade name.

Craig Rounsefell, Boomer Bloodstock

“I got the nickname of Boomer in the first week when I was on the Flying Start programme,” he said. “It stuck and then after the course I was working in Kentucky and everybody referred to me there as Boomer.”

Precisely how he earned the moniker is a story for another day, but he’s universally known as Boomer in and outside the bloodstock world.

“Even my mother in law and father in law called me Boomer,” he said. “Most people call their agencies by their name, but everybody uses Boomer so it was an easy choice to make.”

Family connection

Boomer’s earliest introduction to the industry came through his parents John and Diane.

“My father had an insurance business and he was best mates with Bob Logan and he looked after Queensland for him,” he said.

“I’d always go to the sales with him growing up. My great-grandfather and great-great grandfather on his side, the father was a trainer and the son a jockey, and they had a horse called Master Bernie.

“He won the 1899 Queensland Derby and 1900 St Leger. My grandfather on Mum’s side was an amateur jockey in central Queensland.”

Boomer's introduction to the industry came through his parents

While attending school in Brisbane, Boomer worked during the holidays with Terry Catip.

“He’s a long-time family friend and my first mentor. In my early teenage years I spent all my time working with him,” he said.

“I still work with him now. He’s one of the best horsemen I’ve been around and he’s got a lot of knowledge through his time spent as foreman for TJ Smith and with Percy Sykes, legends of the Australian turf.

“Terry is one of the best horsemen I’ve been around.” – Boomer.

“He instilled all the basic horsemanship in me from the start and focussing on core values. He’s part of my team, he does all my spelling and transport and helps me at the sales.”

Boomer also excelled in whites and his skills as an opening bowler and batsman earned him representative cricket honours and sent him overseas where he gained further thoroughbred experience.

“I got the opportunity to be play cricket overseas and made contacts while away,” Boomer said.

In 2001, he landed a role as a sports coach at The Royal Military School in England and a trip to Ireland led to a chance meeting with famed trainer John Oxx. Every ensuing holiday was spent at Oxx’s Currabeg Stable in County Kildare.

Gai Waterhouse was a strong influence on Boomer's career

Boomer returned to Australia to attend the University of Queensland for a Bachelor of Commerce degree and took the opportunity to work at Tulloch Lodge for Gai Waterhouse during breaks.

“Obviously, Gai was a strong influence and so was the late Steve Brem. From that time until he sadly passed he was a real mentor in that bloodstock role.

“Obviously, Gai was a strong influence and so was the late Steve Brem.” – Boomer.

“Steve was a very well read man, he instilled knowledge. You can have your ideas when you look at a horse, but you need to back it up with the integrity aspect. He drove home how important that was.”

When Henry Field, these days successfully operating Newgate in the Hunter Valley, left the Waterhouse operation to attend the Godolphin Flying Start course, it left an opening for Boomer.

“I took Henry's role with Gai and when I finished university I went full time with her,” he said. “Then when I got on the Flying Start, James Harron took my role there.”

Neil Drysdale offered Boomer a job while he was on the Godolphin Flying Start

“The first week I was on Godolphin Flying Start there was a sale in Ireland at Goffs and met John Tyrell, part of the BBA. From that time in 2005 to now we’ve been very close and he’s been a mentor to me on the bloodstock side.

“The thing that he really instilled was building relationships - playing the long game and having clients for life.

“When I was with Flying Start I was in Dubai and met Neil Drysdale, a trainer in California, and he offered me a job. After I finished Flying Start I already had a position at Keeneland doing an internship there for seven months through the sales and during that time I met Mr Arthur Hancock of Stone Farm.”

Hancock influence

That introduction in 2007 led to Hancock having a profound effect on Boomer.

“I got to know Mr Hancock and he was a mentor to me. He’s been so successful in breeding and racing and the one thing that sticks out is to be uncompromising on integrity, honesty and transparency. He’s someone that I really admire.”

Video: Mr Arthur Hancock has been a mentor to Boomer

With his internship over, Boomer headed to Neil Drysdale’s stable.

“I spent a year with Neil and in a month or so of arriving I met my future wife McCall and her father Mike Mitchell was also a trainer in California.

“He was another huge influence to me during the five or six years we had before he passed.

“He taught me how to look at a horse, he was one of the kings of claiming horses in America. He had a lot of horses through run through his hands with flaws and various conformational issues and he taught me horses to steer clear from.

“Mike was the one that really supported me when I kicked off. I was engaged and we moved to Australia to set up Boomer Bloodstock in 2008.

“Through the first five years we didn’t get a lot of support in Australia and he was really supporting me and we had a lot of success together. It was headlined by Obviously who won a significant number of Group races.”

While working for Neil Drysdale Boomer met his wife McCall

Group 1 success

Purchased for 130,000 guineas and trained by Mitchell, Obviously (Ire) (Choisir) gave Boomer his first Grade 1 win with a victory in the Shoemaker Mile. Mitchell retired soon after and handed the reins to his assistant Philip D’Amato.

Under D’Amato’s care, Obviously went on to win two more Grade 1 races including the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

That Breeders’ Cup victory led to a very exciting three weeks of racing, including the Boomer-purchased Scales of Justice (Not A Single Doubt) winning the G1 WATC Railway S., earning him Western Australia’s Horse of the Year title for 2016-2017.

Obviously (Ire) was Boomers first Grade 1 victory | Image courtesy of Boomer Bloodstock

“Unfortunately, I lost two of my mentors in Steve Bren and Mike Mitchell, who have passed away. Terry Catip, Arthur Hancock and John Tyrell are people I speak to regularly and still seek advice from,” Boomer said.

“Tony Patrizi is another person I regularly seek advice from. I went to a dispersal sale in Western Australia five or so years ago and met him.

“He’s very successful in the mining industry. He became a client and a very good friend."

“Tony is very successful in the mining industry. He became a client and a very good friend.” – Boomer.

Patrizi also enjoyed an ownership in the multiple Group 1 winner Northerly (Serheed {USA}).

“I try to uphold the values my mentors have taught me along the way. Being successful in bloodstock is built on playing the long game and doing the right thing by my clients,” Boomer said.

“I’m very close to my mother and father, my family has been very supportive, as is my wife McCall who is involved in the business.”

Boomer's business in Australia has increased as such he spends less time in America

With growing trade in Australia, Boomer doesn’t spend as much time overseas as he has in the past.

“I don’t spend as much time in America as I used to. My business here has significantly increased, but I would still spend a minimum of three months in a year in America.

“I’m also the North American representative for Inglis. It’s an exciting role and I think North America is a market in the future that’s going to step up investment in Australia and make more of an impact here in the next five or 10 years.”