Mike Fleming

published: 05 May 2015 in Movers and Shakers

Having a good support network behind you is one of the secrets to success in any business. Owner/Manager of Hunter Valley’s Broadwater Thoroughbreds Mike Fleming, who has firmly established the farm as a quality vendor of top-end thoroughbreds in recent years, is grateful for the support that he has received over the years from those closest to him…

  “To have the support of my parents Bill and Barbara and Kate my wife, when I was seeking this kind of lifestyle in the horse industry, was definitely a key component to the success we have had. My father grew up on a farm and although when he left school he ventured out into a career in banking, he has kept the strong passion for horses that he had when he was young. To those outside the industry, this sort of job might seem a bit strange, but I have always had that encouragement from my family behind me.”
Mike, you grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand, how did you first get involved in the racing industry?
  “Yes, I was born and bred in Christchurch. I grew up right near Riccarton racecourse actually so I guess horses were probably always going to be a likely career path for me. I left school as soon as I turned 15, to become an apprentice jockey to Michael Pitman there at Riccarton. I rode over an 18 month period and in that time I managed to ride seven winners before weight unfortunately got the better of me.”
  “I wasn’t really keen on the stable life with its early morning starts, so I decided to instead branch out into working on studs. For a few years I worked on a couple of properties in Christchurch and Canterbury before I thought I would venture to the North Island where I worked for Norm Hawthorne at Paramount Lodge, Matamata, for five years. Norm really started me on the path of stud work and taught me a lot about managing and growing foals and also the management and improvement of pasture. About halfway through my time working there for Norm, 
I took 12 months off to go to Japan where I was  breaking-in and pre-training at a place near Fuchu, which is in southern Japan.”
I guess they would probably do some things a bit differently in Japan?
  “I’d say probably the main difference I noticed was how much more time they spent walking and riding the horses, it was a much longer process. When was at Paramount Lodge I would go to the track at Matamata in the morning and work half a dozen before I started work at the stud by 8am, but in Japan it would take you all day to work the same amount of horses. They were very much into walking and trotting the horses for long periods of time before they actually worked them. Then of course once they were worked, they would then spend a long time cooling them down. 
It was interesting to see a totally different way of conditioning racehorses, even though it naturally took a lot longer.”
Where did you go after your time at Paramount Lodge?
  “After Paramount Lodge I went to work for Brent Gillovic at Highview Stud, for about four years, and then to ‘fine tune’ and get more into the management side of things, I took up a position with Cambridge Stud and Sir Patrick Hogan. I was mainly employed in the running and management of the dry mares, but more importantly working with Sir Patrick I really got to see how he operated, how he marketed, and how he grew. I’d say he was definitely the key into fine tuning me into the ‘high end’ of the market and how it was actually run and operated. I learned not only more about the management of the dry mares, but also the management of mares and yearlings, the marketing and growing of yearlings and how to get them successfully through the sales etc. At the time I was there, it was when he first started venturing into the Australian market and selling horses at Magic Millions and Easter.”
And that was where you met your wife Kate?
  “Yes, Kate was working at Cambridge Stud also. She was actually born and bred in Bundaberg, Queensland and works here at Broadwater. We have three children together, Brendan who is 10, Rachael eight, and Jasmine the baby of the family, she’s just turned five.”
Are any of the children interested in horses?
  “They are all very much interested in the horses, the ponies and farm life. They really love and enjoy the rural lifestyle and I don’t know how they would cope if I got a ‘normal’ job and we shifted to town!”
Did you have a ‘favourite’ racehorse that you used to follow when you were a youngster yourself?
  “If you go back to the days before I started riding, there was a great handicap horse called Grey Way who used to race around Riccarton and the South Island at the time. He would be the main one, but really I just loved everything to do with racing. In fact I was quite often known to be at the stables or the races when I probably really should have been in school!”
When did you and Kate make the move to the Hunter Valley?
  “I moved to the Hunter in December, 2003 and Kate followed a month later. I spent eight years managing Brooklyn Lodge where I was fortunately able to build a great client base. After those eight years the opportunity came up to lease Broadwater Farm, and I just felt that the time was right with the good client base I had around me, to branch out and look at setting up our own business. We moved over to that property in 2011, and with the client support it gave us the opportunity to set up Broadwater Thoroughbreds.”
  “I think Kate and I should be very proud of what we have achieved at Broadwater in a very short space of time, with not only the great yearling sales results we have had, but also the results we have been able to see on the racetrack. I see this as proof that we did the right thing at the time with the support of those big clients, like Jonathan Munz from GSA Bloodstock. His bloodstock manager Dean Hawthorne is the son of Norm Hawthorne from Paramount Lodge and probably a good reason why GSA Bloodstock have come on board. I’ve known Dean for about 25 years and have always had a very good working relationship with him.” 
How many mares do you run at Broadwater?
  “Usually we run 80 mares here all year round. 
We probably double that during the breeding season and walk-out about 160 mares to all of the major farms in the Hunter. The biggest positive of Broadwater is probably its location in the Segenhoe Valley. We are nestled right in between Kia-Ora and Vinery on one side of us, Segenhoe on another and then Darley and Newgate across the river from us on the other side. We’re only 40 minutes from Coolmore and just down the road from Arrowfield.”
  “There’s a substantial number of mares who come over from New Zealand each year just for the breeding season, so we offer the complete package for mares right through from conception to gestatation, to foaling down and giving the clients a foal.”
  “We’ve had very good support here at Broadwater from a Hong Kong-based client in Gene Tsoi, and we have his great mare Elegant Fashion resident here on the farm. South Australian client Kerry O’Brien has his mare Augusta Proud here also. I think the clients enjoy the fact that they are not answerable to a third party; the person who is running and managing their stock owns the business that they are tied in with. 
It makes it very simple for us to supply them with what they want and make sure their horses are being looked after the very best way they can.”
What is the process for choosing stallions for those mares?
  “Some of the clients have input into the breeding plans and who the mares will be mated to, some choose to do that themselves. However it’s an ongoing process and we obviously work very closely with them to work out where the mares will be best suited as far as sales go and what fillies will be retained to race, if any.”
Do you have any advice for somebody who wants to get into the breeding industry and be successful at it?
  “Yes, I’d say nothing comes easy in life, it’s all down to dedication and hard work. Another thing I have really learned over the last four years of running my own business is that you are only as good as the people you employ. Everything can’t be achieved by yourself, and Broadwater has been very lucky to have the staff that we do. I think it’s key to surround yourself with the right people, the right client base, the right staff, and be prepared to put in the hard work and long hours. With that, I like to think that anything 
is achievable.” n