Tim Faras

published: 13 Aug 2013 in Personality profiles

Tim Faras has packed an amazing amount of experience and gathered a wealth of knowledge in a lifetime devoted to horses, and these days is putting it to good use as the manager of the well-appointed Royston Stud at Innisplain in Queensland, home to sires Longhorn and Cheval de Troy (NZ).

WHEN it comes to working with high profile stallions Tim Faras has quite a unique record. In a career extending over more than four decades he has handled champion stallions in his home country of New Zealand, in Australia, the United States and Japan and his journey through the thoroughbred world has left Tim with vivid memories of three horses in particular . . . Vain, Sunday Silence (USA) and Alleged (USA).

More than half a century ago the Wilkes (FR) horse Vain proved to be a superstar of the Australian turf with 12 brilliant wins, including the 1969 STC Golden Slipper Stakes-Gr.1, and two seconds from just 14 outings. Secured on retirement for the Thompson family’s Widden Stud in NSW, Vain (ex Elated by Orgoglio (GB)) added to the aura surrounding him by winning an Australian Sires’ Championship, two Champion Two Year-Old Sires’ Premierships and becoming a champion sire of broodmares. Looking back over his years in the business, Tim described Vain as “the greatest stallion I’ve ever been associated with. He was a brilliant racehorse and just a phenomenal horse to deal with after he went to stud.”

Tim spent more than a decade at Widden during Vain’s reign and in an exceptional career he also worked at Shadai Farm on Hokkaido Island during the heyday of 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence (Halo-Wishing Well by Understanding). “He was another outstanding racehorse and he absolutely dominated the Japanese sires’ list for a dozen or more years.

“He was a lovely horse and he was like a machine when it came to serving mares. He could be brought into the breeding shed five times a day and it wouldn’t worry him in the slightest. His amazing fertility enabled him to serve massive books of mares, up around 250 and 260, and he didn’t miss them.”

Tim also worked at Walmac Farm in Lexington, Kentucky and singles out the stallion station’s 1977 and 1978 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged (Hoist the Flag-Princess Pout by Prince John) for special appraisal. “Alleged was probably the meanest stallion I’ve ever had anything to do with,” he said.

“He would tear you apart if he had the chance and he was always a two-man stallion, but in his defence I had the feeling he might have been badly treated by someone earlier in his career.” With a wealth of experience behind him that few can match Tim is very much at peace these days in his latest role as manager of the Kelly family’s Royston Stud at Innisplain in the Gold Coast hinterland about 85km south of Brisbane. “I am really enjoying getting back to a smaller farm where you can concentrate on the individual,” he said. “I think attention paid to the individual is something that has tended to be lost over the years and yet it is a vitally important part of developing a racehorse. I am happy to be in a position where I have the opportunity to concentrate on doing that.”

Casting his mind back Tim said his experiences and evaluation of horses had their foundations when, as an eight year-old, he began riding at pony clubs and in shows. Born in Hamilton he spent most of his childhood in and around Gisborne, in the north eastern region of New Zealand’s north island. His father Jack, a publican, had a hotel near Gisborne’s sale yards and, fatefully as it turned out, the pony club. As well as riding his ponies Tim started going racing with his father, who had a keen interest in the thoroughbreds.

“Dad raced some horses and for a while he had a 40-acre farm where he had a few broodmares. I remember that I wasn’t very old when I realized I wanted to work with horses.” On completing his secondary education, Tim joined Blandford Lodge, at Matamata where David Benjamin was in charge. At the time Copsale (IRE), a capable stayer by King’s Bench, and Shifnal were standing under the Blandford banner. Shifnal was modestly performed, but being by Star Kingdom (IRE) from the Colombo mare Oceana (IRE) he had the distinction of being a brother to the champions Todman and Noholme, who were stars on the racecourse and in the breeding barn. Not to be outdone at stud, Shifnal who was New Zealand Champion Two Year-Old Sire in 1972-73 and 1981-82, played a significant role in spreading the influence of Star Kingdom across the Tasman.

However, following a season at Blandford Tim felt he needed to improve his academic qualifications.

He began a degree in agricultural commerce at Lincoln University, in Christchurch, before transferring to Western Australia to study at the Muresk Institute in the wheat belt 90km from Perth. “I did a horse management course at Muresk in 1979 and 1980,” he said.

After completing the course he joined Widden, in 1981, as an assistant stud manager. “I was employed by Henry Plumptre who was running the stud at that stage. The stud’s roster was star studded with Bletchingly, Vain and Marscay standing there, so it was an important time in Widden’s history.

“Bletchingly was in the middle of winning his three consecutive Australian Sires’ Championships, Vain was on his way to becoming a champion two year-old sire and Australian Champion Sire, while Marscay was probably the most exciting young sire around. I did a bit of stallion work but mainly I was looking after the dry mares and the broodmares.” That appointment led through to Tim spending six months at Walmac Farm. “Coincidentally, I went over at the same time as Peter Orton, who of course has gone on to become Vinery’s supremo. We worked together on the stallions at Walmac when the line-up included the likes of Nureyev and Miswaki as well as Alleged, so it was great experience.” Tim went back to Widden on returning “down under” and worked through the breeding season and the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale. “That was 1984 and we topped the sale with a Biscay colt.” Not long afterwards Tim left Widden when he was appointed manager of Bracken Stud at Grose Wold in New South Wales. While at Bracken Stud he married Joan McGee, “an Irish lass with a wealth of horse knowledge”.

“Joan and I have two children, Jessica and Patrick, and she was a valuable partner during the years I was at Bracken.” In those days the Brackens were standing the multiple Gr.1-winning Pakistan II (GB) horse Purple Patch (NZ) and Gr.2 winner Private Thoughts who was a brother to the legendary Kingston Town.

In 1986 Tim was drawn back to Widden as stud manager, with the indefatigable Gilbert Rose as general manager of the stud. By then Vain, Bletchingly and Marscay had been joined by Lunchtime (GB) and Salieri (USA), who both went on to prove their worth as sires. In 1988 the BATC Rothmans 100,000-Gr.1 winning Zephyr Bay horse Broad Reach (NZ) and a multiple Gr.1-winning son of Sir Tristram (IRE), Miliiary Plume, were added to the list. Vain had gone into retirement but Don’t Say Halo (USA), Maizcay, Polish Patriot (USA) and Yonder (USA) had begun standing at Widden before Tim decided on a change of scenery.

At that stage Gilbert Rose had departed for the United States and Derek Field had replaced him as general manager. “I think Derek was general manager for about the last two years I was at Widden,” Tim said. “It was a character building time in my life and a time that I enjoyed immensely.” He also treasures a personal triumph from those days when a mating of the Valid Appeal mare Dream Appeal (USA) with Bletchingly created Sydney’s Dream, who was sold to South African interests as a yearling. After racing in South Africa where she was a Gr.1 winner, Sydney’s Dream was brought back to Australia and a 2000 mating with Red Ransom (USA) at Vinery produced AJC The Galaxy-Gr.1 winner and Arrowfield sire Charge Forward.

“I always felt Dream Appeal should go to Bletchingly and when she did go the result was pretty good.” In 1993, two years after Sydney’s Dream was foaled at Widden, Tim elected to move away from the breeding side of the industry for a while and linked up with trainer David Hall who had transferred from Adelaide to stables at Epsom, south of Melbourne.

The smartest horses in Hall’s team at the time were the Bletchingly gelding Khaptingly, who was to win the 1995 VATC Oakleigh Plate-Gr.1 with Alf Matthews aboard, and the Jade Hunter (USA) filly Procrastinate whose wins were highlighted by her victory in the VATC Tristarc Stakes-Gr.3.

“I went to David’s as assistant stable foreman but after five months, through the instigation of the late Michael Walsh who was managing Brolyn Park for Bruce Gadsden, I left to go shoeing,” he said. “Michael’s idea was that I could do corrective work on foals and young horses. It was something we had been doing in the Hunter for a long time and I had been wanting to work for myself, so I started doing that.”

Before long Tim’s services were being employed by Brolyn Park, Chatswood Stud, Collingrove, the Independent Stallion Station, Muranna, Wood Nook and quite a few other places as well. “I really enjoyed the work and I did that for six years until 1999 when I was approached by David O’Callaghan, Shadai Farm’s representative in Australia, and he asked me whether I would be interested in going to Japan to work for Shadai.

“I was, and I went to Hokkaido as commission farrier for the Stallion Station and the Shadai Horse Clinic. Among the stallions I shod were Sunday Silence and Northern Taste, and as well as doing the stallions I did a lot of correctional work on young horses and mares who had laminitis and other problems. The language difference was difficult, especially at first, but the Shadai people were easy to deal with.

“They appreciated everything you did and they paid you accordingly. It was a great job and I spent a very enjoyable five years there.” Tim had settled comfortably into the way of life in Japan when he received an offer to manage Darley Japan, which was establishing an operation on Hokkaido. The stud’s two foundation stallions were the highly credentialled Grandera (IRE) and Moon Ballad (IRE).

A much travelled horse by Grand Lodge, Grandera’s three Gr.1 victories had featured the Prince of Wales’s Stakes-Gr.1 at Royal Ascot while Moon Ballad, a son of Singspiel, had taken the Dubai World Cup two years before beginning his duties in Japan. Soon after starting up at Darley Japan, romance impacted on the direction his working life was taking and following his marriage to Saori Rokuroda he transferred to Taihei Stud Farm, which was owned by his wife’s father.

“I spent two years managing Taihei,” he said. “There weren’t any stallions on the farm. We just had broodmares and young horses. We were looking after mares for people from England and Ireland, who were living in Japan, and we consigned foals to foal sales at Shadai. It all worked pretty well but in 2007, after eight years in Japan, I went back to New Zealand.”

On his return Tim took up the position of manager at Stoney Bridge Farm at Matamata. The farm was standing the Red Ransom horse Ekraar (USA) who had been a Gr.1 winner in Italy; Postponed (USA), a Gr.2 winner in the United States; and Storm Creek (USA) who was a Gr.3 winner at Arlington.

In 2009 Tim decided it was time to move on so he returned to his standby occupation of shoeing horses. He established a base at Pukekohe in the Auckland region of the north island. “The thoroughbred business was pretty well tied up so I was mainly doing show jumpers and hacks. It went all right but I also decided to have a go at pinhooking foals to yearlings, but being after the global financial crises that was really difficult.” Tim kept at shoeing and pinhooking until 2011 when an opening came for him to become manager at Royston Stud, which had been established by the late Greg Kelly towards the end of the 1980s. Located in the centre of Queensland’s most developed thoroughbred breeding area, Royston covers around 250ha of prime agricultural land.

“We have all the facilities you could want, we provide agistment for a number of leading trainers, we have our own broodmares and we look after a lot of mares for Glenlogan Stud and Eliza Park during the season.

We walk them in to stallions at other studs and that all works pretty well.” Royston is also standing the Gr.1-placed and stakeswinning Zabeel horse Cheval de Troy (NZ) for Anton Koolman and Ray Dart’s Longhorn, who being by Danehill (USA) from the Marscay mare Fitting is a brother to Golden Slipper winner and successful sire Catbird. Both have had restricted opportunities so far in their stud careers and consequently have had only a limited number of runners. Tim is particularly enthusiastic about the prospects for Longhorn, whose first 15 runners have yielded 11 winners. Foremost among them is Black Magic, a daughter of the St Jude mare Heavenly Belle, a winner of the BRC Juanmo Stakes-LR (1200m).

“We only began standing him at Royston last year but his strike rate is enormous,” Tim said of Longhorn. “He received just 19 mares in his first season with us and he got 17 of them in foal. Now we are trying to encourage owners and trainers to send mares by parading him at race meetings around the district so everyone can see what a lovely horse he is. If we can attract more mares to him this year and in future seasons, I think he could establish himself as quite a good sire.”