Big sale looms for low key Southlander

Art Major x Spanish Armada (Colt)

Art Major x Spanish Armada (Colt)

10 February 2020

by Brad Reid

Our compatriots from the deep south have a knack for being understated, unassuming and unobtrusive individuals.

Yet in the sport of harness racing and particularly the breeding caper, it’s not always easy to  go unnoticed.

So, in 2015 when the entity Taffy Ltd appeared with a Bettor’s Delight colt catalogued out of Beaudiene Bad Babe, eyebrows were raised and the industry was curious.

Group One winners Cheer The Lady and Gotta Go Harmony soon followed, and the elite band of mares grew steadily ever since.

If the saying ‘start as you mean to finish’ means anything to you, then Taffy wants to have quality horses.

However, as the breeding seasons have rolled on, two things have remained apparent.

Taffy Ltd is serious about its breeding business model, and Todd and Fleur Anderson don’t care much for fanfare.

New investment in our industry is welcomed and should be recognised. Recognized in the sense that breeding can be and is a viable business opportunity for new participants.

Unaware of the enormous media mogul that is Breeding Matters, Todd Anderson kindly agreed to speak to us about their investment in our industry, his professional background and upbringing, and their excitement at this year’s draft which shapes up to be their biggest and best yet.

Breeding Matters audience: meet Todd Anderson, also known as half of Taffy Limited.

Anderson is 46 years young and is a farmer from Winton. He is southern bred southern reared certified having grown up in Invercargill and attended James Hargest College.

From a young age, Anderson knew what he wanted to do.

“I always wanted to go farming. I’ve always had a passion for animals, genetics and pedigrees. I think it’s either in your blood or not to be fair, and for whatever reason that’s all I ever wanted to do,” said Anderson.

Having not grown up on a farm himself, he ventured north upon finishing high school with designs on turning his dream into a reality.

“I went to Lincoln University where I studied a Bachelor of Agricultural Commerce majoring in  Farm Management and Rural Valuation. When I graduated, I went into the rural finance sector and was involved for about 10 years with Bank of New Zealand in rural banking based in Invercargill,” he said.

The experience there laid a solid platform for Anderson and provided important insights.

“You learn a lot of valuable business acumen and meet a lot of very good people, and I was privileged to see how many of them run their own businesses which is valuable learning,” he said.

Anderson wasn’t at the bank long before he realised his childhood dream of owning a farm.

“I joined the bank in 1996 and in that time I started out rearing dairy heifers. From there a few years later myself and two others converted a farm to dairy while I was still working at the bank,” he said.

The conversion of the dairy farm was not the end to Anderson’s career in the corporate sector however.

“When I left the bank I joined Wrightson’s Real Estate and was selling rural property and farms which is something I still hold my ticket for and do to this day. Not as much as I used too, mind you,” he said.

As far as corporate jobs go, it would have been a match made in heaven. However the lure of the farming was soon to become a much more prominent part of Anderson’s life.

“Currently our own home operation encompasses sheep, cattle and deer and an interest in dairying.” he said.

There aren’t many kids who grow up in Southland that don’t make it to a harness racing track once in their childhood, and Anderson was no different.

“I grew up on summer holidays mucking around listening to my father and my late uncle Alister Hopkinson who worked for PGG. They would basically be listening to the races on the radio and talking about horses and I really enjoyed that.

“While I was at Lincoln University we started going to the New Zealand Trotting Cup which was about the same time Il Vicolo burst on the scene. It was a great time going to the Cup, you had typically just finished exams and were gearing up for a summer holiday of working on farms,” he said.

The passion for breeding and rearing livestock would eventually lead Anderson to diving headfirst into the standardbred sector, and perhaps sooner then he first thought.

“In our farming operation we have stud stock as well, and someone was talking to me about stud sheep and mentioned to me they had a couple of horses.

“I said to them if they ever hear of a good mare available that we might be interested.

“I always thought I might get involved when I was a bit older but you never know what might happen down the track. Within a short space of time he was ringing me telling me about this mare that was on the market which is how we got into our first broodmare,” he said.

Her name was Beaudiene Bad Babe. It is only fitting that the Anderson’s first mare would wind up being one of Southland’s great race mares of the last decade.

The former Four and Five Year Old Mare of the Year capped her career with a Group One win in the Four Year Old Diamond at Cambridge in 2010.

They acquired her in the autumn of 2014 with a Bettor’s Delight colt at foot which would become Taffy Limited’s first offering to the public at the Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch 2015.

The colt would go through the ring to the tune of $90,000.

Later in 2014 the Anderson’s expanded by acquiring New Zealand Oaks and Breeders Crown winner Cheer The Lady and Two-Year-Old Diamond winner Gotta Go Harmony.

Since then the Anderson’s have rolled the dice further, developing what is one of the finest broodmare bands in Australasia.

The Taffy business model is extremely clear, it is aimed at the upper end of the market, breeding commercial mares to commercial stallions and leaving no stone unturned along the way.

Without naming them all, the likes of multiple Group One winners De Lovely, Spanish Armada and Joanne’s Delight are mixed in with daughters of the best families’ in our studbook.

It’s clear that while the Anderson’s are passionate about the industry, this isn’t simply a leisure pursuit.

“As much as it is a passion of ours, you could not call what we are doing a hobby.

“At the end of the day the numbers have to stack up for a business to be viable and that is the approach we are taking. We have purchased horses and bred them to stallions that hopefully allow us to achieve that,” he said.

“I love genetics and as a farmer you like to try and have nice stock regardless of breed.

“It doesn’t matter what type of stud you go into, whether it’s sheep or cattle or horses, there is a strong correlation between good strong maternal families and the genetics of their progeny.

You can sense the passion in Anderson’s voice when he talks about their band of mares. While it’s a business, you can tell he thoroughly enjoys watching the progression of the young horses they sell at auction.

“We get a huge buzz out of following the progeny of our mares and get very excited watching them race” he said.

“I wouldn’t say I have any favourites, but Beaudiene Bad Babe had a real bad start to being a  broodmare with misfortune and progeny having to be put down,” he said.

“I suppose in a way you could say I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for her being our first mare and I’ve really enjoyed seeing Bad To The Bone do well for the mare, Barry Purdon and the people who supported us in terms of buying him. He is the first opportunity she has had in terms of a live foal” said Anderson.

Bad To The Bone was a $125,000 Yearling Sales purchase and looks set to easily recoup that purchase price having won his first two starts at two.

Since then he has produced some solid runs in major three-year-old company running fourth and second respectively to One Change in the Sires Stakes and Yearling Sales finals last year.

While it would be nice to be winning these races as a breeder, there can only be one and in age group racing, it can easily be dominated by a horse like One Change. However, it must be rewarding to see progeny of your mare’s  performing at the highest levels of our sport.

Until recently the lure of racing our own progeny hadn’t been on the radar.

“We set ourselves up to be yearling sellers, and genuine yearling sellers. We made a conscious decision that that’s what we were going to do so purchasers knew that what we bred was for sale.

“However we’ve got a share in a couple now which are in work. Tony Herlihy bought an Art Major filly out of De Lovely (Platinum) last year at the Auckland Sale which we ended up retaining a share in”.

“She qualified recently at Cambridge and wants to be a racehorse which is great when you have a Bettor’s Delight out of De Lovely in the sale this year. There was also an Art Major filly out of Te Amo Bromac (Race name: Mia Ragazza) with Tony as well which we kept a share in,” he said.

Could turn out to be a prudent move, I wish I kept a share in the horse Tony Herlihy bought off me!

Looking forward to this year’s sale, the Anderson’s are excited about their biggest draft yet. And how could you not be with the quality of stock and some of the progeny doing so well on the track.

“I suppose you are always looking at the progeny of your broodmares and keeping an eye on how they are performing and helping the catalogue. We’ve got a Bettor’s Delight filly out of Safedra who is a full sister to Buzinga and Dr Susan. Dr Susan ran third in the fillies Sires Stakes Final on New Year’s Eve and has since gone to Australia and won the Raith Memorial (G2) in a 1.52 MR and ran second in her Victoria Oaks heat” he said.

The Auckland draft is represented by three Art Major colts out of three Group One winners in Joanne’s Delight, Cheer The Lady and the first foal from the champion Spanish Armada!

The colts are being prepared by Logan Hollis and Shane Roberston.

At Christchurch our draft is prepared predominantly by Broadfield Lodge, with one being prepared by Graeme and Ann Mee.  There are four Bettor’s Delight fillies (De Lovely, Bad Babe, Tandias Bromac & Safedra) and a colt out of Gotta Go Harmony.

They also have fillies by Art Major out of a Bettor’s Delight daughter of Hot Shoe Shuffle (Shimmy Shoes) and a Captaintreacherous filly out of the bonny mare, The Fascinator.

Having experienced first-hand the highs and lows, the Anderson’s are realistic about their prospects but also confident in the yearlings, their preparation and ultimately their pedigrees come sales day.

“From a business point of view, if you put a dollar value against what you are doing, the cost of producing a yearling is a lot more than people may think. As long as they are producing the right product and meeting the market, it’s important for breeders to be rewarded for what they turn up and sell if they are to prosper and continue breeding,” he said.

While there is currently nothing catalogued, the Anderson’s have recently dipped their toes in the breeding of square gaiters having four trotting mares on the books and like their pacing mares, are well bred.

Recent additions include two daughters of Angus Hall, Group One winner Missandei and the blue-blooded Petite One.

Looking further afield, Anderson is keen to see the use of science play its part in pushing the standardbred industry forward.

“I think science is a great thing and we can’t close our mind to it,” he said.

“I just believe when any industry is facing challenges, you have to be open at looking things that are different to what is currently being done. Veterinary science is definitely one of those.

“If you look at the number of mares that get served to the number of mares that get a 42 day positive, even if we could change that in foal percentage slightly through different breeding technologies to assist the process, it would result in more foals being born.

“The people breeding have already made the decision to be involved in the industry, so to find ways to help them have a bit more success may be easier than trying to bring new people in” he said.

Certainly easier than trying to find a few more like Todd Anderson anyway.