Q&A with Michael Wallace

Media Release - Sunday September 26

NZ Racing Desk speak with Lexington-based Kiwi Michael Wallace who is the Chief Operating Officer of China Horse Club. The respected bloodstock advisor celebrated from afar as valuable Snitzel colts Wild Ruler (Gr.1 Moir Stakes, 1000m) and In The Congo (Gr.1 Golden Rose, 1400m) landed elite-level victories on Friday night and Saturday respectively. The future stallion prospects are raced by a syndicate headed by Newgate Bloodstock and China Horse Club, with Masterton-native Wallace sharing in the ownership of In The Congo, while his brother David has shares in both.

Michael Wallace - image Trish Dunell.

Michael, what a 24-hours with both Wild Ruler and In The Congo saluting at Group One level for both the China Horse Club and also you and your brother David. How do you sum it up?

It is one of those weekends where everything that you have been trying to do comes together at one time.

Trying to win one Group One with these colts is hard enough, let-alone a back-to-back result within 24 hours. There are a lot of people involved from a lot of our partners and it is a big team effort just to get to this stage. It is nice to be able to get the results.

What’s it like watching from the other side of the world?

When Wild Ruler won it was 6am, so that was a reasonable hour to watch it and a good start to the day. In The Congo was about 2am, so there wasn’t much sleep had for the rest of the night. It is different watching from afar but at the moment it is the world we live in a little bit.

China Horse Club and Newgate buy a number of yearling colts each year to try and make future stallions. Do you put a number on the volume of colts you need to buy or do you just work to an overall budget?

It’s a combination. We start with a budget but we have a program that we have stuck to for the last five years or so now and we feel that we need somewhere between a minimum of 15 and up to 18 or 20 if we can. There is obviously some attrition involved and it is a formula that works for us rather than buying the obvious so to speak. We try to spread our risk around quite a bit and shop at some sort of level of value rather than putting our eggs in one basket with million-dollar plus yearlings.

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Take us inside the buying process, because there are obviously a few parties involved.

Things have been slightly different through COVID, but fundamentally since we started it has been Henry Field and I, and various people from our teams looking at and assessing the horses. There are a lot of smart people involved in our partnerships to lean on and get ideas from. It is a strong team effort from everybody. It is just a process we try to work through and think about it pretty sensibly and not get too wrapped up in what other people are doing. We stick to what we want to do, and see if we can pull it off.

We saw your name in the ownership of In The Congo, what was it about him that made you want to take a share?

I put my brother David into a couple of Snitzel colts previously and he had been in Russian Revolution and Wild Ruler. Obviously, we are looking to just buy one colt a year. He was by Snitzel and he looked the part and was at a price point that suited my budget. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to buy into the horse and it is a different experience being directly involved in the ownership as opposed to being responsible for buying them for other people.

Is David buying extra special Christmas presents this year?

For people that know my brother, if I get any Christmas gift at all, it would be a miracle in itself. It makes for good fun and we get on the phone and talk about it every day. It is great. People are passionate about it. It’s their fun and it brings a lot of enjoyment. It is nice to be able to do it with your family.

The Wallace family has enjoyed a fruitful couple of weeks too, having prepared Sierra Sue for sale and owning the dam Centree, do you guys pinch yourself at the success you’ve had as a family?

My sister Rachel has the mare now along with her husband Gordon. Talking to her the other day they have a filly on the ground. The mare was bred back to Darci Brahma I understand, which is exciting for them. It was great to see her win. Chatting to Sam Williams (of Little Avondale Stud) last night, another Masterton boy, he was commenting what a roll it has been for that corner of the Wairarapa.

Was there something in the Wairarapa water?

I think it comes back to learning off some pretty smart people. Sam Williams and I have both been lucky enough to be involved in family operations and we have seen all parts of it. We have bred horses, we have stood stallions, sold them at the sales, done the two-year-old sales, Dad has been a trainer, plus he ran Magic Millions for a while. When we were young we were offered an opportunity to see all facets of it really, which has proved pretty beneficial looking back on it now.

The past 18 months has been quite a challenge for everyone care of the global pandemic. What’s the attitude to COVID-19 in the US compared to New Zealand?

The distinct attitude difference is that in the US they are resigned to the fact it is here and you just have to get on with life. Shutting people’s businesses down and livelihoods has almost as much detrimental effect from a financial point and from a mental health point of view for a lot of people, as it does from a general health point of view. It is obviously a much larger population and harder to govern but it is open here. I have just come from the Keeneland Sales, which was a bumper sale, and people are just getting on with life.

Are we likely to see you back in this part of the world in the coming months?  

I was one of the unfortunate majority to miss out on the lottery spot for MIQ the other day. It is a stressful process at the moment trying to get back. I can see both sides of it, but from my own personal point of view it is far from ideal. We will be in the next lottery trying to get back to New Zealand. In the interim, I have my flights and visa booked to get back to Magic Millions at least come January. Who knows, that is a few months away yet and hopefully things are open between New Zealand and Australia by then and we can duck across to New Zealand to see the family and for the Karaka Sales at the same time.

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