This week we had a chance to sit down with Josh Rix, Nominations Manager at Spendthrift Australia based in Melbourne.
TDN: What is your background and how did you begin working in the thoroughbred industry?
Josh Rix: I didn’t start off by having a family in the industry, I developed a passion for horse racing growing up with John Sadler’s kids and going to the races with them. Eventually we ended up in a race horse together. I had a passion for the animal and bought into some broodmares with mates and it went from there.
I used to be a professional triathlete and when it was time to retire I wanted to continue on in an industry that I had a passion for. When I saw an ad that Spendthrift had listed, I applied and was lucky enough to get the job.
TDN: Who is someone that has helped you a lot?
JR: I would definitely have to say Garry Cuddy. He gave me my start in the industry and has been a great mentor along the way, helping educate me. Whether it’s picking a pedigree apart or picking a horse apart, he’s been happy to spend time teaching me what he knows. Same with Grant Burrill, our farm manager, it’s great to go out around the foals in the paddocks with Grant and listen to how he thinks they’ll grow out. Both Garry and Grant have been very patient and kind answering all my questions.
Another in the industry to be an excellent friend and support is Mike Kneebone from New Zealand Bloodstock, who helped me right from the beginning. It’s been great to have someone outside the Spendthrift organisation help me along.
TDN: What is a piece of advice you could give someone wanting to break into the thoroughbred industry?
JR: It’s not enough just to have your passion – there are plenty of people that want to work in the industry, but you have to really back it up with research and depth of knowledge in the area you want to work in. If you want a job in nominations, I would recommend getting across every component – knowing the rankings in the sire premiership and what stallions stand at which farm and for how much. You have to understand the whole market, not just one particular farm or one or two stallions.
TDN: What is the most rewarding part of your role?
JR: I really like going out to the client’s farms and seeing how happy they are when their mare has put a quality foal on the ground by one of our stallions. Being part of that journey. You start off talking to them about why you think that stallion would be suitable and then when they get a great result on the ground through to getting a good sale result, it is really rewarding. I can’t wait for our first two year olds to hit the track by the group of exciting young sires we have already.
TDN: What does a normal day look like for you?
JR: I don’t think there is a typical day in this role! We are a pretty small team and we all share the load together, and as a result, you get to experience all areas of the organisation and stay abreast of everything.
For me a normal day would be to head out to the farm, brief myself on the news of the day, check what is going on in racing that day, call up a few clients and have a chat, maybe head out to a local farm visit and see foals that our stallions have put on the ground there. It really could be anything, from starting the day at jump outs at Flemington to inspecting yearlings at the sales.
TDN: What are some challenges of selling stallion nominations?
JR: It is becoming an increasingly more competitive market. There are plenty of stallions coming off the track each year and everyone wants to stand a commercial stallion prospect. I think the challenge is finding a horse that is sexy, then getting clients and breeders to see the appeal, and making sure the end user customer is going to want to buy the yearling by that stallion.
It’s a challenge but we are counteracting that at Spendthrift by offering terms that are user friendly for the breeder and looking after them. Leading into the yearling sales, we support the breeder by marketing those stallions to bring them to the forefront. We try give a little bit more value to the breeder and support them as much as we can in that process.
TDN: What is it like to work for an international brand such as Spendthrift?
JR: One of the best assets of Spendthrift is the tag of Spendthrift – we call ourselves the breeders’ farm and we really care about the breeders. We have a couple of different, unique, contractual terms for our service fees that present a strong point of difference. It shows the fairly tough low to middle market that we are there to help. If you use our Breed Secure contract and you don’t have a win, you’re not paying the service fee. Then with Share The Upside, you’re earning a life time breeding right, and if you take that in the right stallion that kicks, you are making a lot of money along the way.
TDN: Your job is obviously very important to the public Spendthrift brand, how does everyone else fit in together to help ensure the organisation runs smoothly?
JR: We are a really small team, but work really well together. Our manager Gary Cuddy is running everything and anything, whether it is the day to day stuff or overseeing new capital development projects for the farm. He also manages our racing team, sources mares for the farm and deals with bloodstock agents regarding trading stock.
We have Grant (Burrill) who runs the farm, he’s been doing that for a long time and is great at it. He’s got a great team that make themselves readily available, which is great for me because sometimes I need to show clients yearlings in the paddock and they are always there, even if they have to cut their lunch short.
The atmosphere and the team we have together are all there for Spendthrift and for each other. Steve Toole is the stallion manager, it’s particularly busy during the season for him when you are trying to cover lots of mares but also show the stallions to clients to get them to sign up. They start super early in the morning and are still going late in the day, and they are always available.
In the office, Sally Warner is the ultimate professional and makes it look easy whether she’s juggling mares for covers or managing contracts. It makes my job so much easier when everyone is so good.