Andrew Williams

published: 01 Sep 2017 in Personality profiles

NEW Zealander Andrew Williams can’t remember a time when he wasn’t around thoroughbreds and he always knew his destiny would be tied to the racing and breeding industry. The Darley Flying Start graduate began his own bloodstock agency in March and made quite an impact at auctions sales in 2017

ANDREW Williams chose a perfect time to launch his bloodstock agency, with the announcement of the new business coming on March 15. It was less than three weeks before the opening of the 2017 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale but even he did not envisage the immediate impact the fledgling agency was going to have.
  By the time the final yearling had gone through the ring Andrew Williams Bloodstock had signed or co-signed for close to $4m of purchases. His buys included seven yearlings by Snitzel, who has further cemented Andrew’s standing in the thoroughbred community by surging to the top of the Australian Sires’ Premiership and becoming Champion Sire of 2016-17.
  A matter of weeks later AWB was a notable player at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Weanling, Broodmare and Mixed Sale paying a day one top price of $NZ175,000 for a “stunning colt” by Holy Roman Emperor (IRE). Andrew followed up by signing for more than 30 lots at the Magic Millions National Sale and more recently he has been active in Europe, buying mares at the Tattersalls July Sale.
  “It’s all been beyond my expectations,” Andrew said. “It’s been fantastic to have so much support and trust from the industry and I am very grateful for the opportunities people are giving me. I’m really pleased with all the horses purchased so far, especially the positive feedback from the now two year-olds we bought as yearlings. It’s very encouraging.
  “Also, we hope those youngsters bought as weanlings have a good spring, and develop into lovely yearlings for the 2018 sales. It’s great to be active in a healthy market and I am pleased to be progressing the business in a positive manner supported by successful people I like and trust.”
  Foremost amongst those to have provided that support are lifelong friends Paul and Lance O’Sullivan, from the Wexford Stables at Matamata, and the Hawkes family.
  “I will also be forever grateful to the private owners and breeders who have supported me thus far. I’ll keep my head down, nose clean and work as hard as I can for them and hopefully success will follow.”
   At 30 and with his business already doing well, Andrew is looking forward eagerly to the future. That includes the appearance of the brilliant Team Hawkes-trained Encosta de Lago sprinter Chautauqua’s assault on the $10m The Everest, the world’s richest turf race, at Randwick on October 14. In his role as bloodstock manager for Chautauqua’s senior part owner Greg Ingham, Andrew has had a “close association” with the gelding.
  “I also have a connection with the Throsby Racing and Breeding operation, who bred Chautauqua, so it’s all very exciting. I must say its great to be associated with a horse like Chautauqua, whose style of racing makes your heart pump to say the least. Touch wood everything goes according to plan leading up to The Everest.”
  This is a scenario dreams are made of for someone like Andrew, who was born and raised in the racing centre of Matamata on New Zealand’s north island. He is a godson of former champion jockey Lance O’Sullivan, who is now co-trainer with Andrew Scott at the Wexford stables at Matamata and remembers Lance was one of many industry figures, who “looked after him” as he was growing up.
  “There was an occasion when I was about four, when I was in the pool at the O’Sullivan’s house at Wexford Stables and was, unfortunately, confused with the light blue pool bottom. I kept swimming down rather than towards the surface. Lance, who had just come back from the races, jumped into the pool in his suit and dragged me out. He still gives me grief about that, especially if we are working at a sale and there are puddles around.”
  Reflecting on his early years, Andrew feels the “bug” for racing definitely came through mixing with family friends such as the O’Sullivan, Moroney and the Chittick families, added to the interest in racing shown by his own family. His grandfathers were both farmers, who dabbled in the industry as owner-breeders
  “It was something most New Zealand farmers typically did back in those days. Racehorses were always around and I grew up riding ponies, rounding up the cattle and that cliché sort of thing New Zealanders do. I always wanted to be around horses and after school, if I wasn’t at rugby or cricket training, I’d head straight to the racing stables to feed up and help out.
  “That happened right the way through from a young age and by the time I was in high school I was working in the stables of Alan Jones, whose daughter Clare is married to Michael Hawkes. I’d be in the stables in the mornings and sometimes James McDonald, who is a few years younger than I am, would be riding out with Jonesy.”
  While attending St Peter’s College in Cambridge Andrew secured an academic-rugby scholarship to St Paul’s College in Hamilton. “Like most New Zealanders I loved my rugby and those First XV days playing prop or blindside with my school mates are some of my most memorable times, especially as I was lucky enough to represent Waikato through the age group system.”
  During those years Andrew also acted as a bid-spotter at the New Zealand Bloodstock sales at Karaka. “The chief executive officer Andrew Seabrook was a St Peter’s boy and he found me a position when I was 15,” he said. “I was probably a bit too young for the job but it proved very beneficial to me because I was able to put the faces to the names of people like John Hawkes, Bart Cummings and Gai Waterhouse when they were bidding.”There was a memorable moment when a colt by Danehill (USA) was knocked down for $NZ1m. “I called the bid from David Ellis, who winked 
at me as he does to notify a bid. I took a few seconds to work out whether he was actually winking or not. Steve Davis, who was doing the auctioneering, saw my uncertainty and said ‘Andrew you’d better be right about the bid because otherwise you will be working here the rest of your life to pay it off’. Steve still jokes about it even now.”
  On leaving St. Paul’s Andrew enrolled in the commerce, accounting and marketing course at the University of Otago. “I always wanted to be involved in the thoroughbred industry and I knew getting a degree would only add a positive to my CV whatever direction I went in. The idea behind taking the course I did at university was because I wanted to be in the management and the financial side of the bloodstock industry.”
  By the time he graduated from the University of Otago with his bachelor’s degree Andrew had built-up numerous friendships with other graduates, who now are on the way to becoming influential players in the industry. Among them were Bruce Slade, who is general manager at Newgate, Vicky Leonard, who is marketing manager at Arrowfield and Mike Rennie, who is a successful bloodstock agent in New Zealand.
  “Everyone sort of knew each other at university and we became really close pals because we were the only ones in the Captain Cook TAB of a Saturday morning doing the form for the New Zealand and Australian races,” he said. “It was quite entertaining for us back in those days and it’s great to have those three close friends now working together in the same industry. I do a lot of business with Bruce Slade and Mike Rennie and I worked with Vicky at Arrowfield for a number of years and she is a great pal.”
  While Andrew was undertaking the last years of his course he also worked in sales and promotions for the Lion Nathan Brewery’s Otago plant. “That meant I was doing a 30-hour week with Lion Nathan at the same time as I was finishing off university,” he said. “Working with Lion Nathan was obviously beneficial to me financially and the sales experience was unreal. It was a real boys club that forced you out of your shell and hardened you up.”
  During his break from his studies in the summer of 2006 Andrew had worked on yearling preparation for Darley at Kelvinside.While he was there Olly Tait, who was Darley’s Australian supremo in those days, suggested that he consider applying for the Darley Flying Start program. He applied, was selected and began the course in 2007.
  “It took me to the other side of the world where I was able to learn about the different racing jurisdictions in Europe and America. I was able to learn about the racing from the inside out, whether it be England, Ireland, France, or the east coast or west coast of America. It is a 24-seven course and I came to learn more about the breeding and pedigrees and the key players. It was absolutely awesome and I am so grateful to Darley for the opportunity given to me.”
  In his two years of the Darley Flying Start program Andrew did work placement with the highly regarded classic winning trainer Michael Jarvis, who was to die in September of 2011 of prostate cancer. Michael’s then assistant was Roger Varian, now a classic winning trainer in his own right who is based at the historic Carlburg Stables at Newmarket. His six months in Kentucky included periods with Darley’s Jonabell Farm and Keeneland Sales.
  “I got to see a lot of Kentucky and the east coast of America with Keeneland, inspecting thousands of yearlings nominated for the famous Keeneland Sales with veterinarians and judges,” he said, noting the course also took in periods at the International Stables in Dubai, as well as a stint with David Hayes at Flemington.
  “David had such a great set-up with Jenny McAlpine and Mark Pilkington in the office. I would do track work in the morning and then work in the office of an afternoon. Once I’d finished the course I knew what I wanted to do next,” he said. “That was to get back to America as soon as possible.”
  As a result of the Darley Flying Start course he was able to return to Jonabell, which spreads over acres and acres of rich pasture. Originally established in 1946 by John and Jessica Bell, the farm was moved to its present site in Lexington in 1954 and in 2001 was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
  “I was able to get back to Kentucky in a sales role and it was an unbelievable experience,” Andrew said. “Kentucky is my favourite place in the thoroughbred industry. When I arrived at Jonabell Darley had just spent something like $US200m to purchase Street Sense, Hard Spun and Any Given Saturday and had Street Cry and Bernadini on the roster.
  “You were just surrounded by outstanding horses and horse flesh. Seeing the likes Zenyatta, Uncle Mo, Goldikova, Sea The Stars and Frankel whilst in the northern hemisphere was unforgettable. In the four years I was at Jonabell I was able to develop my contact base and through that a client base.”
  Following his stay at Jonabell Andrew “did a sales season in Europe and the United States” with Richard Brown and Tom Goff at Blandford Bloodstock, which has its base at Newmarket. “I will always be appreciative of Brownie and Goffy for them teaching me the ropes in the weanling and yearling markets. I thrived on their teachings and that was the main catalyst for me wanting to start up my own agency.”
  However, he was always planning to return to Australasia. “Although I am a New Zealander, Sydney is not a bad back drop,” he said. After his time with Blandford Bloodstock he made his way “down under” to take up a position in the Sydney office of John Messara’s Arrowfield Group in January 2013. “Working with John was great because there is such a wealth of knowledge in that office and it was a massive learning curve for me, which I loved. I was involved in every level of the business.
  “John is very good like that because he lets you listen and when asked have an input into what is going on. To be able to be associated with a stallion roster that included Redoute’s Choice, Snitzel and Not a Single Doubt was an honour, because you were dealing with the type of bloodstock you want to be around.
  “I got to Scone about once a fortnight to look at stock, to meet with clients looking at stallions or inspecting mares on other farms. Sub-consciously what’s happening as you roll through the motions is you become close to people and that in turn evolves into friendship. I’d had a 10-year plan to start up my own agency and it was a matter of being on a learning curve, making contacts right from the time I did the Darley Flying Start course.”
  By the middle of March this year Andrew felt he was ready to launch his own bloodstock agency. “I believe I have the appropriate mix of experience, knowledge and energetic youth to launch my own business,” he said at the time. “I am looking forward to providing clients with a full-support service so they can enjoy their racing and breeding interests with confidence. With that in mind I could not be more excited about the years to come.”
  And, within a matter of just a few months, Andrew has been able to prove that he and his agency are definitely moving in the right direction. n