US Visitors Enjoy Karaka
Media Release - Tuesday January 28

Amongst the multitude of international visitors to Karaka over the first few days of the National Yearling sale have been Kentucky residents, business associates and good mates Mike McMahon and Jamie Hill.

McMahon and Hill are on their second trip to New Zealand after taking in the 2019 edition of the sale on the recommendation of fellow Americans Ken Smole and his wife Jane, who are regular visitors to Karaka.

The Smoles and New Zealand Bloodstock’s North American representative, Joe Miller, in conjunction with Bloodstock Sales Manager Danny Rolston, convinced McMahon and Hill they needed to get to New Zealand to experience the sale and dip their toes in the local bloodstock market.

“Ken and Jane are partners of ours up in the States and have been coming here for many years,” McMahon said.

“They have recently started pin-hooking with Joe Miller and his office is just five hundred yards down the road from ours.

“They have both been telling us we had to come down here as it was beautiful and so forth. We had been doing some horses in South Africa but the business and racing climate there was a bit dodgy so we hooked up with Danny Rolston from New Zealand Bloodstock.

“We met with Danny and that went great so Ken had us call Wentwood Grange as he knows them and they gave us three trainers names.

“One of those was Stephen Marsh. Another one of our partners had his daughter meet Stephen and she told us that we would love him as he was our kind of trainer.

“So, we came down to the sale last year, met Marsh, had a great time and ended up buying four horses.”

Purchased alongside Marsh and under the pair’s Bourbon Lane banner, they outlaid $375,000 for four colts that now all incorporate the word Bourbon in their names to reflect their business interests.

The pair are partners in the whiskey business in Kentucky and as they have indulged their passion for thoroughbreds, they have been quick to ensure it is reflected in the product they are producing for the liquor industry.

“We’re partners in a Bourbon company called Pinhook which is named after one of our racehorses,” Hill said.

“We started it with four friends. Just messing around and it has grown to where we are in 26 states across the US as well as Asia and Europe.

“Unlike many of the big companies, we’re unique in that every one of our releases is as unique as our horses.

“We do five releases a year and each one carries one of our horse’s names.”

Just as they have enjoyed success with their business interests the group have also had some fruitful returns from the track with the aptly named Bourbon Courage being a flag bearer.

The Lion Heart entire won four races in a 25-start career and over US$1million before being retired to stud.

“Bourbon Courage, by Lion Heart, was well named as we all get courage when we drink bourbon,” McMahon said.

“He was a million dollar earner that we paid $15,000 for him and he was owned by fifteen people that were in with small shares each and that really kicked the partnership off.

“Now we’re buying six to eight horses a year for the partnership, doing some joint ventures and doing what we’re doing in New Zealand.

“We’ve really grown the racing brand of our business and last year we had a horse run in the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness and just missed out on a start in the Kentucky Derby.

“We trade and we do pinhooks and have sold four different pinhooks for more than US$1million each over the years.

“Now that our racing is going so well, we’ve started Bourbon Lane, pumping that up and coming down here to buy nice, safe horses that are just a little bit off the radar for what the Australians will pay good money for.

“We try to buy stayers or a little bit more of a contrarian investment as we don’t buy the speed horses that retire at two, rather we’d like to win a classic race.”

American buyers Jamie Hill (left) and Mike McMahon. Photo: Darryl ShererMcMahon and Hill will take the opportunity to visit Stephen Marsh’s stable after concluding their business at this year’s Karaka sale to take a look at last year’s purchases including the aptly named All Black Bourbon.

“One of the four has trialled but we’re not rushing them as we’re happy to wait for them,” McMahon said.

Although they have yet to experience all of what New Zealand has to offer, the pair are unanimous in their verdict about the country and the people they have met during their time here.

“It’s great here and we love it as it’s the kind of place you’d want to live,” they said.

“If we could get more of our partners down here our investment would probably increase just because it is so unique.

“You come to Kentucky and we have great horses but we don’t have great sales like this.

“The people aren’t as friendly as here and the horsemen and women aren’t as good as they are here. We like the way these consignors put in the extra effort the way they do here.

“These major farms invest in the sale here and we love that.”

McMahon and Hill were active late on Day One of the sale where they bought Lot 217, the Savabeel colt from the Trelawney Stud draft for $150,000. From the Redoute’s Choice mare Raziyya Of Sydney, the colt is a half-brother to promising three-year-old Holy Mongolemperor.

The pair also secured a second yearling on Day Three when they purchased Lot 649, the Iffraaj colt from the Wentwood Grange draft who hails from the family of one of New Zealand’s most iconic gallopers in Bonecrusher. – NZ Racing Desk