Barry Bowditch

published: 12 Jan 2015 in Personality profiles

Barry Bowditch felt the lure of the thoroughbred world from an early age with parents who were both involved in the industry and horses “around every corner”. When increasing height and weight ruled out a career as a jockey, Barry turned to the bloodstock side of the business and has never looked back, starting at Inglis and now enjoying a senior role at Magic Millions.

THE thoroughbred industry was an irresistible magnet for Barry Bowditch as he was growing up and this is easily understandable given his family dynamics. During a period of more than 40 years his father, Barry senior, fluctuated between being a jockey and trainer, while his mother Helen held a training licence and until recently had stables adjacent to the Gold Coast racecourse. With his growth quickly eliminating childhood dreams of becoming a jockey, employment in the bloodstock business always beckoned. After Barry completed his secondary education, the former Australian Jockey Club chairman Ron Finemore, a “very close” family friend, provided the catalyst for the direction his life has taken. Ron advised Inglis director Jonathan D’Arcy that an enthusiastic and energetic youngster was seeking employment in the business.

With the support of then Inglis managing director Reg Inglis and Jonathan a career commenced in the sales company’s Newmarket offices. In the 14 years since, Barry has become one of the new generation of high level performers currently making their presence felt on the nation’s racing and breeding scene. This talent led, in 2011, to him being appointed to his current position of Bloodstock and Sales Selection Manager for the Magic Millions. Barry had the good fortune to be taking the role as the market was steadily recovering from the global financial crisis. This has seen the Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale climbing from an aggregate of $62.8m and an average of $127,602 in 2012 to January 2014’s figures of $75,882,000 and $141,836.

“The past couple of years have gone really well for the company,” Barry said. “As well as returning impressive figures we have been earning a lot of respect by selling horses who are performing as amazing athletes, like Atlantic Jewel, Pierro, Zoustar and others of a similar high calibre. It is very satisfying when you are getting those sorts of horses, who go on to become stars, into our sale. It instils faith into what you are doing.”

Faith is an ingredient Barry knows all about because, as he says, his chance in the industry may not have come about without Reg Inglis and Jonathan D’Arcy showing faith in him as the 21st century opened. At the same time, however, he did possess the type of practical background that appeals to auction houses.

Barry was born into a farming and racing family in Wagga Wagga, the largest inland city in New South Wales situated some 450km south-west of Sydney. The Bowditch family had a property which was almost completely surrounded by the waters of the Murrumbidgee River.

“It was nearly an island with the river going almost right around. It would flood in the winter, but we had good times in summer swimming on a beach that we had.”

During his early years the career of his father Barry senior went from being a jockey to training, to being a jockey and back to training again. Among the horses he prepared was Woodie Ever, who was by Emerilio (FR) from the Newtown Wonder (GB) mare Woodie Wonder, making him a half-brother to champion Gunsynd. On his retirement from racing with 10 wins, including three victories in Sydney, from 19 starts, Barry senior stood him for a while on the property.

“Woodie Ever was a good horse, but he was unsound,” Barry said. “When he finished racing Dad decided to send a few mares of his own and others belonging to clients to the horse. It was more a hobby than anything else.”

Another notable in the Bowditch stables was Grey Condor, by Greenwood (FR) from the Bluescope (USA) mare Blue Bao. She won 17 races, highlighted by her success in the VRC Carnival Handicap-LR (1000m) during the 1985 Melbourne Cup week at Flemington.

It was in this environment that Barry gained his initial experience among thoroughbreds, helping around the stables and going to the races with his parents. Then in 1992 when he was 10, the family decided on a move to the Gold Coast.

“Dad had gone up there the winter before with a couple of horses. He didn’t have much luck but he enjoyed the lifestyle. It was the time when the Wagga racecourse was being closed down for 18 months so the track could be rebuilt, and Dad felt it just wouldn’t be viable to stay there. He was able to secure a house with a stable block at Bundall so that was pretty good. It meant I was always around the horses and when I’d come home from school I’d take one out and give it a pick.” With racehorses in very much his blood Barry had dreams of being a jockey as a youngster, however by the time he finished his formal education in 1999 he had grown well beyond that stage. For a while he would assist his father in the mornings before helping Bryan Guy, who had been attracted to the Gold Coast from Rosehill in 2000. He had taken over from his father Ray who had trained horses such as Sovereign Slipper, but after eight years Bryan decided to move north away from the redevelopment and ever-increasing traffic around the Rosehill racecourse precinct.

It was during this period that Ron Finemore, a man he still speaks to regularly, played a guiding role in Barry’s future. A trucking magnate with a base in Wagga, Ron began developing a long-lasting friendship with the Bowditch family in the days when Barry senior trained horses for him in the Riverina. Knowing of young Barry’s desire to work in the thoroughbred industry, Ron organised an interview with Jonathan D’Arcy.

“I was still only 17 but Reg Inglis and Jonathan had the faith to give me a go,” Barry said. “It was quite a wrench leaving home at such a young age to live in Sydney where I didn’t really know anyone, but luckily enough I was able to live with my sister Natasha. I really appreciated the opportunity to work with a company such as Inglis, which is an institution in the industry and I learned a lot while I was there.

At first I did the pedigrees, which was a great grounding for someone from the racing side of things.” It was doubly beneficial because Barry learned to put the pedigrees together by hand and on a computer. “I had to compile the pedigrees by hand, but when they were being done for the catalogues it was on the computer. I was taught the right way of doing them by Jonathan and Wayne Massingham, and as we were doing around 120 a day, I soon came to learn about pedigrees.”

His fellow workers in those days included such respected identities as Dean Harvey, Rick Connolly, Richard Haynes and Vin Cox, who acted as a mentor as well as becoming a good friend. He also regarded Reg Inglis as a fantastic boss. “Reg was unbelievable,” Barry said. “He taught me so much about the industry and the way you should treat people with respect. I have a lot to thank him for.”

All the while Barry was going racing, and once he had completed his “apprenticeship” in the pedigree department, he graduated to working in the field. “It was a fantastic time for a young bloke in Sydney because we would be going to the races every Saturday at Randwick, Rosehill or wherever, and during the week we’d be out inspecting yearlings and meeting the clientele.

“Being at Inglis meant that I was exposed to a lot of people in a short space of time, which was amazing for the kid I still was. It was the era when the Sunday Silences were being sold at Easter and they were making massive money. Also Danehill was at the height of his stud career so they were always guaranteed to make plenty of money, and besides that we had the major dispersals of Vinery and Newhaven Park.”

During the sales Barry gained further experience acting as a bid-spotter beginning in a tunnel and graduating to a place under the Moreton Bay, which was regarded as an honour and a privilege. After beginning with Inglis in May 2000 Barry continued working with the auction house for five years “almost to the day.”

His decision to return to the Gold Coast was prompted by a flourishing romance with Bryan and Kerry Guy’s daughter Katie. The pair had met on the social scene during the times when Barry had returned to the family home for Christmas or while there on holidays.

“I was grateful to everyone at Inglis, especially Reg who was still at the helm when I resigned, but at that stage there was an opportunity at the Magic Millions which I thought would enable me to progress a bit quicker than I was. When David Chester and Paul Knight said there was an opening at the Magic Millions, having Katie on the Gold Coast made the decision pretty easy.” Appointed as bloodstock consultant, Barry’s duties initially revolved primarily around inspecting yearlings and meeting clients. “It was basically what I was doing at Inglis, but at a higher level. At Inglis there were always people around to protect me, but once I joined the Magic Millions I began doing a lot of work on my own. While I travelled all over the place, I took a special interest in Queensland clients such as Basil Nolan, Steve Morley, Scott McAlpine, Ron Gilbert, Jeff Kruger and Murray Murdoch, to name a few.”

Along the way Barry also began to share ownership of horses in Bryan’s stable in partnership with his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law Daniel, and Katie. The best of these to date are Pentacity (NZ) and Casholet. A daughter of Pentire (GB), Pentacity won the GCTC Bracelet-LR (1800m) while her placings featured a second in the in the BTC Doomben Roses-Gr.3. Turangga Stud’s Stuart Ramsey purchased Pentacity on her retirement and he sold her High Chaparral (IRE) colt (now named Abide) to Bester and De Burgh Equine for $410,000 at the 2013 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale. A winner of seven races and twice Listed placed, Casholet (by Hussonet (USA) sadly died after leaving just one foal, a colt by Jet Spur.

By the time Barry and Katie were married in November 2008 his duties had begun to include organising the stabling at all the major sales held at the Gold Coast complex. “It’s a thankless task but someone has to do it and, to be honest, I enjoy the giant jigsaw puzzle that it is,” he said. “Everyone wants to have their yearlings in a prime piece of real estate on the site and we do the best we can to please all the vendors, but it’s not easy.”

Then it was around the date of the birth of Barry and Katie’s daughter Bella, in July 2011, that his work place arrangements underwent a further significant change. A few months earlier Vin Cox, who had spent 14 years at William Inglis & Son and nine years in charge of his own company, had been appointed managing director of Magic Millions.

“After Vin had started as managing director, a two-tiered system was introduced in to the bloodstock part of the business,” he said. “Paul Knight became bloodstock operations manager and I was appointed as bloodstock sales and selection manager.

“Paul’s part looks after the cataloguing and organising everything on that side of things, which he does very well. I took over the other side, which is to manage our field staff as well as being vitally involved in the selection of horses in the catalogues. My role includes looking at the yearlings, advising clients where they could put their horses to the best advantage, trying to find a few more buyers and identifying where we could make improvements. “It’s a very important job now with the sales series being so competitive, because you have to pick the right horses for the various sales.

“You also have to advise clients which is the right sale for their horses. That applies not only in Queensland but to Magic Millions sales all over Australia because, after all, we are a service industry and looking after clients has never been more important. We are fortunate to have a high class team with Paul Knight and James Dawson in head office, Tim Brown in Victoria, Adrian Hancock in South Australia, David Houston in Western Australia and Paul Beamish in New South Wales.

Our team was further strengthened a few months ago when Clint Donovan joined us as a bloodstock consultant and auctioneer.” During his time with Magic Millions Barry has been fortunate to receive a “show of faith” from the operation’s principal Gerry Harvey. “I’ve always got on quite well with Gerry and he has been a great influence on my career since I’ve been with the company,” Barry said. “I also regard myself as being very lucky to be working with Vin again and it’s a great position for me to have.

“Everyone’s work has been rewarded over the past couple of years with the Gold Coast Magic Millions yearling sale having a clearance rate of 88%, almost 90%. It shows that the horses we are selecting, as a team, are the type of horses people want to buy. The average is going up each year and interest in the sale is continually building. “The National Weanling and Broodmare sale in the middle of the year is also growing all the time.

It reached another high point in 2014 with $96m worth of horses being sold, which was an amazing result for the company and myself. The dispersal of almost 100 lots of the Teeley Assets Syndicate made up $27m of that, with 10 Teeley-owned mares making $1m or more with a top price of $2.3m. It was a phenomenal coup for the Magic Millions to secure those horses to sell, and it is a further testimony to the esteem in which the company is now held. On the back of that we are now really looking forward to the 2015 Gold Coast yearling sales, because we feel that catalogue is as good as we’ve had in a long, long time.”