Mathew Sandblom

published: 01 Aug 2016 in Personality profiles

IT’S a long way from selling racing papers outside Harold Park to becoming a significant shareholder in a leading Hunter Valley Stud and a major investor in bloodstock. But that has been the trajectory of Matthew Sandblom, who is reinvesting some of the money he made in business to further his love of thoroughbreds through his Horse Ventures operation, Newgate Farm and his new Kingstar Stud at Denman. 

UNTIL just a few years ago Matthew Sandblom was only dabbling in the thoroughbred industry. Then a successful launch of one of his companies, 3P Learning, on to the Australian Stock Exchange in July 2014 opened the way for Matthew to launch himself into the major league.

  In the following 12 months he bought a 25% interest in Newgate, and shares in Horse of the Year Dissident and VRC Australian Guineas-Gr.1 winner Wandjina, who ran the quinella in the ATC All Aged Stakes-Gr.1 in April last year. Matthew then made several strategic puchases at the Teeley Asset dispersal on the Gold Coast two months later. 

  Last year his Horse Ventures operation teamed with Henry Field, James Harron, Gavin Murphy and others to purchase 35 yearlings for around $11m. Included in that group, at a cost of $165,000, was this year’s Gold Coast TC Magic Millions 2YO Classic-RL and STC Golden Slipper Stakes-Gr.1 winner Capitalist.

  “We had tried for Pierro and Vancouver but each time we were outbid by Coolmore, so we decided to buy a yearling for Newgate who could be a Golden Slipper winner,” Matthew said. “The plan was to buy the best types we could and yearlings who were likely to be early-comers.

  “There was discussion going into the sale about whether Written Tycoon was likely to become a sire of sires but we had faith in him. We finalized our budget for his colt from Kitalpha at $150,000 but fortunately we put in two more bids because he is such a lovely horse. Obviously buying Capitalist has certainly made our gamble profitable and now Newgate has its own Golden Slipper winner to stand next year.”

  This year, besides seeing Capitalist soar to the heights, Matthew has established Kingstar Stud near Denman where Bull Point will be the foundation stallion with Salade and Monaco Consul (NZ) standing alongside him. He also joined with the China Horse Club, Winstar USA, SF Bloodstock and Aquis in a syndicate Henry Field formed. In an attempt to buy another Capitalist they purchased 30 yearlings at the Magic Millions Gold Coast and Inglis Australian Easter sales for some $10m.

  As Matthew says it was the initial public offering of 3P Learning shares that provided him with the ammunition to “play at a higher level in the horse game”. The float of near to 80% of the company, which is an educational software provider, made 3P Learning the second-largest technology company to list on the Australian share market and left Matthew with resources to deploy in a new venture. He says a valuable lesson he has learned along the way has been standing him in good stead.

  “A point I learned after a while is that there are genuine experts who know what they are doing,” he said. “Half the trick is finding a person, who has your best interests at heart, to work with. Once you have put those two factors together you follow the advice you are given and that will put you on the right track. I think I have done that.”

  This view was reinforced at this year’s Magic Millions Gold Coast yearling sale following Matthew’s sale of a filly by Fastnet Rock from Ten Carat Rock for $1m. Ten Carat Rock, who is a Rock of Gibraltar half-sister to champion racehorse and sire Redoute’s Choice, was bought for $750,000 at the Teeley Assets dispersal. His other purchases were the Encosta de Lago mares Precious Lorraine and Quench The Thirst for $1.5m each, Your Life Style, by Hussonet (USA), for $1.2m, the More Than Ready (USA) mare Café Scientific for $650,000 and Princess Narine, a Red Ransom (USA) daughter, for $600,000.

  “There was competition from the United States and United Kingdom at the dispersal but we were able to buy a big chunk of the family. The aim is to further develop the family over the next 10 years or so. The mares produce good types and by putting them to the right sires their progeny should bring high prices at the sales, as the good result with the Ten Carat Rock filly shows.”

  Although Matthew’s impact on the thoroughbred scene has only been felt in recent times he can speak from experience because his grounding began more than 40 years ago in the less-moneyed but tougher schools of greyhound and harness racing. Matthew began developing his involvement in the world of racing when barely in his teens.

  “I was about 11 when I started selling the newspapers, the Trotguide and the Greyhound Recorder outside Harold Park raceway,” he said. “We didn’t have any family interest but my brothers Rick and David also worked at the track, so I think that’s how it came about.”  It was in the days when the crowds were still packing into the meetings and Matthew quickly became immersed in the trots and the greyhounds as a punter. Soaking up the atmosphere, he bought his first greyhound at 14 and was only a year older when he secured a training licence.

  “We were living in Glebe, which wasn’t the ideal place to train a greyhound. One day the dog was hit by a car, and suffered broken legs.

  “I managed to save the dog and get him to the races, but he didn’t win a race. I had a number of greyhounds after that and won a few races, but nothing special.”  With his punting experiences it was a logical step for Matthew to operate as a bookie, particularly on the Melbourne Cup, while completing his secondary education at the prestigious Fort Street High School. He remembers one year he took more than 1000 bets, including those from “quite a few teachers”.

  On leaving Fort Street, which has a very long list of distinguished alumni, he went on to the University of Sydney where he did economics and law. Once he had completed his university degrees Matthew joined McGraw-Hill, which is one of the biggest educational publishers in the world with more than 6000 employees and operations in 44 countries.

  “That’s where I gained my apprenticeship in educational publishing and once I got the hang of it I decided I wanted to be my own boss. I raised some money through my family and had a go.”

  With that he established Pascal Press, which is based in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt and has since become Australia’s leading independent education publishing company. It now also encompasses Pascal Press Online with its website offering top-quality Excel books and Textbooks that are used by students throughout the nation and around the world. In 2005 Matthew became co-creator and chairman of Mathletics, which quickly became a very popular maths website used by more than 3000 schools worldwide.

  “There are more than four million kids around the world using the site through a paid subscription service so it has been a real hit,” he said. Mathletics along with Reading Eggs, which is also subscription based, comes under the ownership of producer 3P Learning.

  Despite the demands of his expanding business activities Matthew found time in his early thirties to move into harness racing with immediate success. “The first trotter I had was named Lord of the Mist and he won about 20 races, most of them at Harold Park. About the time I started racing Lord of the Mist my wife Wendy and I were married. Lord of the Mist paid for the honeymoon among other things, so I have a very soft spot for him.”

  A gifted writer and director Wendy (Beckett) has written around 30 theatre plays and has directed more than 40 in Australia and internationally. In tribute to her talent the Australian National Library in Canberra has also collected Wendy’s books and plays. She and Matthew have a daughter, Connie, who is in high school. 

  “The theatre is Wendy’s passion and the horses are mine,” Matthew said. “The good thing I’ve found early on about trotters is that they race quite a bit more than thoroughbreds, who can need to have a spell after having two or three races. Also the trotters don’t cost as much to train and they often end up winning a lot more races over their career than a racehorse.”

  With Lord of the Mist, and others, winning races Matthew decided to buy a property named Hollymount at Kiama, a south coast seaside resort about an hour-and-a-half drive from Sydney. “It was a bit of dairy country, which I’ve turned into a horse farm and where I breed some trotters. I probably breed about seven or eight foals a year and among them have been For A Reason, who won three Derbys and more than $1m. We sold him as a yearling, like the others we breed, through Australian Pacing Gold Sale and we are probably one of the leading vendors in the terms of the price we average.”

  It was as Matthew was entering his late thirties his interests segued into racehorses for the first time. “I turned up at the Inglis sales and bought horses who had already raced, out of the ring. They were no good, unfortunately.

  “I had them trained by Gwenda Markwell but it took a while to find anything half-decent. The first city class horse we had was Rednrich, by Secret Savings, who won eight races and was a winner in Sydney.

  “I also did some syndication around Kiama with the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker, who would take 10% in horses. I bought some mares in foal and bred a couple without really knowing what I was doing but I was having fun doing it.”

  His participation levels began to escalate “about 12 or 13 years ago” after he bumped into the late J.B. Cummings while on holiday on the luxurious Lizard Island in the Coral Sea. “Actually Wendy met Bart’s wife Valmae first,” he said. “Not being into racing Wendy wasn’t quite sure who Valmae’s husband was but knew that he was a horse trainer.

  “We hit it off and, like most trainers, Bart had a few shares in horses and I took a piece of Ravisseur, who was by Red Ransom from the Danehill mare Dawn Grace. Ravisseur showed early promise but after running in a Blue Diamond Prelude at Caulfield he did a tendon.

  “He came back but after that he wasn’t the same and I think he only won a provincial race or two. I began being in a few more horses with Bart and it was great fun going to the sales and to the carnivals with him. I was hanging out with him when Viewed won the Melbourne Cup in 2008, which was great to see close up. I was with him quite often and was able to see what was happening from the inside when So You Think was proving himself a champion, but I didn’t ever have a really good horse with Bart.”

  The best of them was the colt by Snitzel from the Beautiful Crown (USA) mare Just as Beautiful, who Matthew secured for $65,000 at the 2010 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.Racing as Salade he won the ATC Pago Pago Stakes-Gr.2 (1200m) at Rosehill at his debut on his way to contesting the following week’s Golden Slipper Stakes-Gr.1. Unfortunately Bart elected to use blinkers on Salade in the Golden Slipper. The colt resented the “shades” and he raced erratically, which led to him featuring on three occasions in the stewards’ report, after winding up eighth behind Sepoy.

  “He then suffered a tendon injury in the lead up to the Champagne Stakes,” Matthew said. “Gwenda Markwell managed to rehabilitate him and he ran a couple of nice races before fracturing a sesamoid. He was saved and now has seven screws in the damaged sesamoid.”

  After beginning his stud career at Carrington Park, in the NSW southern highlands, in 2012 Salade has been added to the roster at Kingstar Farm. Matthew brought the 100ha property, which was known as Redman Park, in January this year with the thought of giving horses like Bull Point, Salade and Monaco Consul a chance to prove themselves.

  “I like being involved in Newgate and seeing how everything is done at a higher level, but I also like the idea of giving horses who are not considered ready made stallion prospects by the big studs a go. Yarraman Park has shown with I Am Invincible and Hinchinbrook that you don’t have to buy the most expensive colts off the track to have the most successful stallions.”

  Monaco Consul did distinguish himself by winning the VRC Victoria Derby-Gr.1 and AJC Spring Champion Stakes-Gr.1 while the recently retired Bull Point’s victories featured the MRC Manfred Stakes-Gr.2 while he also had five Group placings.

  “I think Bull Point is really worth a chance as he ran some fantastic races, he is well bred and he is a good looking type, so he has quite a bit going for him. That’s made me really determined to make Bull Point a success at stud and I will be supporting him with a good number of stakes performed mares from my extensive portfolio.

  “I also want to give breeders who support him some of the upside if he succeeds and we have put incentives in place. Among them is that the first 50 breeders to send two mares to Bull Point in his first season will receive a lifetime breeding right to the horse.”

  Kingstar, which is situated opposite Amarina Farm, is being managed by Adam Cooke, who has extensive experience working on and managing studs. And, as Matthew says, he knows everyone in the industry, which is a valuable asset as Kingstar moves into gear.

  With the property being used previously as a boutique broodmare farm extensive work has been required to provide the additional facilities needed on the farm. As a result Adam is now overseeing the upgrading of all elements of the farm, including a new stallion barn and serving shed, which will all be in place before the breeding season opens. n

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