Bryan Carlson

published: 10 Sep 2013 in Personality profiles

It was always a pretty safe bet that Bryan Carlson’s working life would involve horses, given his parents were both involved in equine pursuits, and that’s the way things have panned out. Bryan, who was riding from a young age, is now nominations manager at Emirates Park in NSW at a time when the Nasser Lootah-owned stud is undergoing a renaissance with some high profile new stallions and a $4m foray into the Easter yearling market.

IN 1988 His Excellency Nasser Abdulla Hussain Lootah decided to establish a breeding ground in Australia. The thoroughbred enthusiast, who is one of Dubai’s most successful businessmen, purchased 370ha of what had previously been Blandford Park on the New England Highway at Murrurundi in the Upper Hunter Valley.

Two years later Nasser Lootah bought a further 1215ha of what had also been Blandford Park land on the opposite side of the highway and renamed the property Emirates Park. He set about renovating his new holding with stallion facilities, breeding barn, yearling preparation area, stabling and fencing all being upgraded.

Over the years since Nasser Lootah, who added the legendary Stockwell Stud at Diggers Rest in Victoria to his holdings in 1996, has made quite an impression on the nation’s thoroughbred industry. The Australian Champion Sire of 2007-08 and 2008-09 Encosta de Lago, as well as the likes of the prematurely deceased sire success Brave Warrior and Gr.1-winningl racehorse and sire Dash For Cash, were bred under the Emirates Park banner. In fact, Nasser Lootah’s red, royal blue sleeves, white cap and the green, white sash and cap of his son Hussain, have been carried by numerous Gr.1-winning home breds.

Yet when Thoroughbred Breeders Australia chairman Trevor Lobb was attracted to Emirates Park from Darley Australia two years ago it signalled a new era in the stud’s history was about to begin. This has been exemplified in recent times by the purchase of a $4m Fastnet Rock colt at this year’s Inglis Australia Easter Yearling Sale and the agreement to stand Timeform Champion Two Year-Old of 2011, Harbour Watch (IRE). Significantly, both these moves have been done in partnership with major players from the Middle East, leading international owner Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa al Maktoum and Qatar Bloodstock, which is an emerging force in the thoroughbred world.

As Trevor Lobb, in his role as chief executive officer, uses his drive, energy and vision to shape the future of Emirates Park one of his prized lieutenants is the stud’s nominations manager Bryan Carlson. “It is certainly an exciting time to be involved with Emirates Park,” says Bryan. “Everyone realises it is very competitive at the top end of the market because you are going up against studs like Arrowfield, Coolmore, Darley, Vinery, Widden and so on.

“His Excellency didn’t want to be left behind and that resulted in him creating a position for Trevor, who was pivotal in the establishment of Woodlands Stud and has an exceptional record of achievement in the industry. Since Trevor’s appointment we have been stepping up a gear and the partnerships with Sheikh Khalifa and Qatar Bloodstock certainly add another dimension to the stud, so it is all very positive.”

It is also meant that Bryan is kept particularly busy dealing with his duties as nominations manager as well as assisting in the selection of bloodstock and helping with marketing and client relations. However, it is a role he seemed destined to fulfil, for as Bryan says, it was almost inevitable he would follow such a pathway, or something similar, after being born into a family with a love of horses.

His father Robert was a trainer who in Bryan’s younger days had stables in the strong racing centre of Bendigo, 150km north west of Melbourne, while his mother Patricia was a talented equestrian rider. “Mum rode at all the shows, she rode at the Melbourne Royal, Sydney at Easter, and quite a few other places.”

With such a background Bryan was soon immersed in developing his own equestrian skills at pony club in Bendigo. He also helped “in and around” his father’s stables and would go to the track in the mornings and to the races with him. After a move to Wagga Bryan became a member of the pony club at Tarcutta, which in days gone by was renowned as a stopping place for racehorses being floated between Sydney and Melbourne.

“When we were living in Wagga I went to boarding school in Leeton but I kept doing eventing and competing. I went the whole way through the equestrian system.”

On securing his Higher School Certificate Bryan completed two years of an agricultural science course at Charles Sturt University at Wagga, and In the early part of 2004 he transferred to the renowned Marcus Oldham College near Geelong, the gateway to Victoria’s southwest, where he undertook the horse business management course. He was only in the early stages of his tuition when he was on hand to watch Lonhro’s heart-stopping victory over Delzao in the VRC Australian Cup-Gr.1 (2000m) at Flemington.

“I think it was the most thrilling finish I’ve ever seen. With about 300m to go Darren Beadman was in all sorts of trouble trying to get into the open on Lonhro. By the time he was clear Delzao had broken away with what seemed like a winning lead, but Lonhro flew home. I was in the grandstand, right on the winning post and it was amazing to see Lonhro get up to win by a head. It’s a race I will never forget.”

While at Marcus Oldham his studies included “all facets of the industry from the business and management side to horse handling and to veterinary practices”. The course also included being billeted out for work experience at Racing South Australia and Coolmore Stud, at Jerrys Plains.

“I was in the offices at Morphettville, when I did work experience with Racing South Australia,” he said. “It provided a valuable insight into how everything happens in the administration of the industry.” It was pretty much at the end of the course in December 2004 that he went to work at Coolmore. “I did yearling preparation and worked with the broodmares while I was there,” he said.

Bryan impressed Michael Kirwan and others, which led to him being employed by Coolmore on a permanent basis in the early part of 2005. Fitting in neatly to the operation, he was handling the stud’s stallions, featuring Encosta de Lago, Fastnet Rock, Giant’s Causeway (USA) and Rock of Gibraltar (IRE), by the time the breeding season came around. That resulted in him being given the opportunity to broaden his experience at Coolmore’s Ashford Farm at Versailles in Kentucky.

At that stage the stallion roster at the US stud, under the general management of Dermot Ryan, included Fusaichi Pegasus (USA), Grand Slam, Hennessy (USA), Thunder Gulch (USA), Giant’s Causeway (USA), Johannesburg (USA) and Woodman (USA).

“I am really grateful I had the chance to work at a place like Ashford Stud. I went over at the same time as James Dawson who is now a bloodstock consultant and an auctioneer with the Magic Millions. It was a real eye-opener, and I learned a lot while I was there.”

The stay at Ashford also provided him with the opportunity to travel to Australia with the Storm Cat horse Hold That Tiger (USA), another Ashford stallion, for the 2006 southern hemisphere breeding season. He travelled with and was responsible for Hold That Tiger, a winner of the Grand Criterium-Gr.1 (1400m) at Longchamp, and the Champion Two Year-Old Colt in Europe in 2002, while the horse was at Adam Sangster’s Collingrove Stud at Nagambie in Victoria.

“Hold That Tiger had previously stood at Collingrove in 2004 and 2005,” Bryan said. “When the 2006 season was over I went back to Ashford with him and did another season there.”

Once the northern hemisphere breeding season was over Bryan returned Down Under to a position at Darley Victoria. As a result of the outbreak of equine influenza, the stakeswinning Danehill (USA) horse Gonski was the only stallion to stand at the stud that season before being joined by Any Given Saturday (USA), Consolidator (USA), Dubai Destination (USA), Hard Spun (USA) and Reset 12 months later.

“I was doing the stallions there as well as the yearlings and the sales. At the time Darley Victoria was more of a boutique type of situation established on a very historic property. It began to develop and grow once Darley took over Woodlands from the Inghams and now has become a very important part in the scheme of things. Looking back I had a really enjoyable couple of years there. Victoria is a great state to work in and everyone gets along down there.” 

Bryan first became involved in selling nominations while he was at Darley Victoria and his stay there l asted through until September 2009, when a chance meeting with His Excellency led to an approach from Emirates Park.

“I met His Excellency in Melbourne and was offered the position doing the nominations at the stud at Murrurundi,” Bryan said. “He and Hussain love Australia and they generally spend a month or two here each year. That gave me the chance to meet His Excellency through a mutual friend and I am always going to be grateful for the opportunity he has given me.

“When I joined up Mutawaajid hadn’t long been retired, and Eavesdropper (USA) had come out from America. Besides them we had Al Maher, Danewin and Wily Trader at Murrurundi with Al Samer and Old Deuteronomy (USA) standing at Emirates Park in Victoria.” Then last year the roster at Murrurundi went up a notch when the distinguished performer Dream Ahead (USA) joined Al Maher, Eavesdropper and Mutawaajid.

By Diktat from the highly performed Cadeaux Genereux mare Land of Dreams, Dream Ahead won the Middle Park Stakes and July Cup at Newmarket, the Prix Morny at Deauville and the Sprint Cup at Haydock Park at the elite level. His efforts had earned him the ranking, with Frankel, as the Co-Champion Two Year-Old in Europe in 2010 and the Champion Cartier Sprinter of 2011.

Added to that Artie Schiller (USA) (by El Prado), a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile-Gr.1 and best known in this part of the world as sire of Rosehill Guineas-Gr.1 winner Laser Hawk, went on to the roster at Diggers Rest.

Now the racing side, managed by Tanya Rouse, is set to be further boosted in the 2013-14 season by the presence of the $4m colt, who will be trained by John Hawkes and sons Michael and Wayne. The bay, now named Emaratee, is from the MRC Oakleigh Plate-Gr.1-winning Hurricane Sky mare River Dove. It is hoped he will show sufficient ability on the racetrack to earn a place on the Emirates Park stallion roster. A sign of the strategy evolving under Trevor Lobb’s guidance is that the youngster was bought in partnership Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa al Maktoum.

The bold initiatives being developed at Emirates have since been further illustrated by the alliance formed with Qatar Bloodstock to stand Harbour Watch (IRE) who is by leading UK sire Acclamation from Gorband (Woodman), a grandaughter of remarkable broodmare Fall Aspen. Although Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, the driving force behind Qatar Bloodstock, races the 2011 Melbourne Cup and 2012 Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden, Emirates Park is the first Australian stud to join forces with his company.

“It has been a very exciting time for everyone at Emirates Park with Sheikh Khalifa and Qatar Bloodstock coming on board,” Bryan said. “Obviously we have high expectations for the Fastnet Rock colt, but of course we will just have to wait and see what happens with him and we are all very confident about the future of Harbour Watch.

“Acclamation’s son Dark Angel was runner-up to Dutch Art, the leading First Season Sire in Great Britain and Ireland in 2011, and was the Leading Second Season Sire in Great Britain and Ireland in 2012 with 40 winners, with Dutch Art runner-up, so that says a lot about the potential of Acclamation’s sire sons. Added to that, Harbour Watch’s female side is particularly impressive. He is a half-brother to Europa Point, who is a dual Gr.1 winner in South Africa and his family is littered with successful stallions including Dubai Millennium.”

Unfortunately, an accident brought a sudden end to his racing career after being unbeaten in three outings, culminating in a comprehensive victory in the prestigious Richmond Stakes-Gr.2 (6f) at Goodwood. With such an imposing background Harbour Watch was quickly in demand in his first season at Tweenhills Stud in Gloucestershire.

The same has applied in Australia since the announcement that he would be standing at Emirates Park, which has proved timely for Bryan who married stud veterinarian Maria Diaz Manzanares in the history-steeped town of Guadalajara, 60km north of Madrid, on June 28. The pair met soon after Bryan’s arrival at Emirates Park and a romance flourished.

“Maria is from Spain and we decided to hold the wedding ceremony in Guadalajara so she could be married among her family and friends,” he said. After the wedding and a honeymoon in the Maldives the Carlsons arrived back at Emirates Park in time for the foaling and breeding season.