Olly Tait

published: 01 Sep 2017 in Movers and Shakers

OLLY Tait has long been a name to be reckoned with in the Australian and the global racing industry. After 15 years with Darley, Olly Tait, along with his wife Amber, have purchased a 1012ha property at Cootamundra from Darley and reverted the famous farm’s name back to its original name, Twin Hills.
  Tait is the fourth generation of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame-inducted Tait family to be involved in racing. His grandparents Griff and Daisy Tait, owned the outstanding Star Kingdom broodmare Dark Jewel who produced five stakes winners, including Baguette; while Olly Tait’s parents, Sandy and Katherine, along with Sandy’s sister Jill Nivison, bred and raced Whisked, a Gr.1 winner who in turn became the dam of champion Tie the Knot. These achievements only touch the family fortunes in racing. 

Q: Can you tell us a little about your childhood? 
A: “I grew up on a sheep and cattle property between Tumut and Yass. I had two older brothers, Wills and James, and we enjoyed a lovely childhood on the farm, working with the stock and riding horses. Horseracing was always part of our lives and there was never a meal where racing wasn’t discussed. This passion for racing came from my father, who is a great lover of racing and has been very successful. James is a race caller now and also manages the family farm. We are all enthusiastic about racing but for my family it has always been a hobby, with their business focus being farming.” 

Q: Your family has a long history in the racing industry. How has this influenced you? 
A: “I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing if my family weren’t so passionate about racing. I’ve gone in a different direction, as my family are hobby breeders and owners, while I have taken this as a career. I started out as an accountant for KPMG and later, when travelling in England, I wrote to a number of leading racing people, including Sheikh Mohammed’s representative, and ended up with a job. I was in the right place at the right time for the opportunity at Darley. Life does this; you take a fork in a road, and end up somewhere you couldn’t possibly dream. It was a time of great expansion with Darley and very exciting to be part of Sheikh Mohammed’s ambition. I didn’t set out for racing to be a career, but I feel fortunate that things have conspired this way.” 

Q: What is it about the racing industry that you enjoy the most? 
A: “The people, and winning. Winning, on the racetrack, the sale ring, when a horse that you are connected with achieves something. There is a cliché that people from all walks of life are on a racetrack and it’s true. I have met many extraordinary people during my career and I look forward to meeting many more.” 

Q: You had many years working for the Darley empire. What were the highlights? 
A: “Being part of the expansion in Australia, taking it from its beginning to the substantial and successful enterprise that it became. And on a personal level, getting the opportunity to live and work in the US and England. These years were hugely stimulating and enjoyable. I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity. This time also gave our children an international experience, which is to be treasured. 

Q: How would you best describe yourself? 
A: “Enthusiastic, confident and considered, I’m not prone to knee jerk reactions. In any business, to be successful, you must aim to know when to react fast, and when to wait to see the different dynamics play out. Just as any other business, decisions are a combination of people, finance and the product (horses). I think that this approach has served me well.” 

Q: Now you have your own farm, Twin Hills, what are the plans for the property?
A: “It’s a farm which has been developed over time by giants of this industry, starting with Mike Willesee, then the Ingham family through their Woodlands operation and most recently Darley. We want to build a successful thoroughbred business of scale, and we aim to be a world-class operation. The farm and facilities compare favourably with anything else in Australia. 
  “I firmly believe racing is a people business and clients need to feel they are looked after in a personal way, but their business objectives need to be met. As to our direction, Twin Hills Farm will stand stallions and own our own broodmares, breeding commercially. We have an agistment business, where we work with our clients to fulfil their needs in racing, be that breeding to sell or race, as well as spelling horses in training.” 

Q: You are launching two new stallions in 2017. What is it about each that appeals to you, and how do they fit to this market?
A: “We selected them because they fit particular attributes we look for. We want stallions who are talented racehorses, excellent two year-olds, sound and tough, and by outstanding sires. When you inspect both Bobby’s Kitten and Odyssey Moon, you will see that they are powerful, athletic types, whose physique and race record go hand in hand. You can see why they were fast and tough when you look at them. 
  “Bobby’s Kitten (USA) (Kitten’s Joy-Celestial Woods by Forestry) is a Gr.1-winning son of the best turf sire in the US. A Group winner at two, Bobby’s Kitten raced for four seasons, winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint-Gr.1 as a three year-old, and backing up to run fourth in the same race the following season. As a five year-old, Bobby’s Kitten won a stakes race in Ireland by eight lengths, proving his soundness, sensible nature, and ability to perform in different conditions. His sire, Kitten’s Joy, has left 78 stakes winners and has a reputation for leaving top quality turf horses. Bobby’s Kitten has two stakes winning siblings and comes from the family of Champion Turf Colt Paradise Creek and significant sire Theatrical. 
  “Odyssey Moon (Snitzel-Run to the Moon (USA) by Arch) competed in Group class for three seasons, winning a top sales race as a two year-old and finishing second to Pride of Dubai in the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes-Gr.1. At four, Odyssey Moon won the Standish Handicap-Gr.3. A son of Australia’s hottest sire Snitzel, Odyssey Moon is out of a half-sister to dual Gr.1 winner Jostle. This is an excellent American family and we all know how well those families blend with Australian sire lines.” 

Q: Do you have a particular breeding theory you prefer?
A: “In my experience, the most successful breeders have a deep understanding of their mares, and of the qualities of stallions. I wouldn’t necessarily say that choosing one criteria works, purely pedigree or purely physical, you need to balance it all out.    “There are so many elements that go into a decision and you shouldn’t be bound by any of them. Further to that, the type of horse you are trying to breed needs to be clear in your mind. It helps to have a clear objective.” 

Q: How do you select which mares you want to buy for this new farm?
A: “We consider and understand the commercial market. On a deeper level, pedigree, race performance, and physical attributes are all part of the mix when trying to determine if a mare has the potential to produce an elite athlete. I believe the sire of a broodmare is equally as important as her female family, as her sire and her family have equal influence.”

Q: What advice would you give a young person wanting to work or invest in racing?
A: “Live, eat, and breathe it and spend as much time around people who you admire in the industry. At the same time, always be yourself.” n