Olly Tait is chief operating officer of Darley, the global Thoroughbred operation owned by Sheikh Mohammed. After working for Sheikh Mohammed at his farms in England and Australia, Tait came to the United States Darley operation near Lexington a little more than a year ago.
Darley’s North American concern is vast, with five farms in the Central Kentucky area containing some 6,200 acres. They have 15 stallions at the breeding facility based at the former Jonabell Farm on Bowman Mill Road, including Street Cry, Quiet American, Elusive Quality, leading second-crop sire Medaglia d’Oro, and Offlee Wild, a top first-crop sire.
The personable 30-something Australian native lives on the farm with his wife, Amber, and 18-month-old son, Rupert. We caught up with him prior to a flight home to Australia for the holidays and asked him five questions:
What is the stallion business climate like and will Darley have to get creative to fill the books for 2010?
“These are challenging times in the industry but the November sales gave people some cause for optimism. It was stronger than expected. The demand for our stallions is good, but people are cautious. Overall, though, people are booking mares and they are investing in the industry and will continue to invest.
The way we sell our seasons is no different this year than it has been in previous years. We have a good relationship with a large number of people and we’ve got a lot repeat business and new customers coming in. In the way that we do it, it’s the same as in previous years.
We reduced the fees on the majority of our stallions and that has been well received. What plays with the demand is that we have some stallions that are more popular than others, which is an obvious thing to say, but we’re pleased with where that is at.”
“We’re always on the lookout for stallion prospects and when the next ‘Street Sense’ comes along, we hope we can get them to come to the Jonabell Farm. It’s just didn’t happen this year. There were no horses this year that we tried to put in the barn, but we’re always on the lookout.”
You have hottest sire on the continent here in Medaglia d'Oro that you acquired in June. What will his book look like in 2010?
“He’ll cover a phenomenal book of mares next year. His performance with his first two crops has been terrific and he’s getting a large number of high-quality mares and will be supported by Sheikh Mohammed with some of his very best mares. Having made that investment in the middle of the year, the performance of horses has repaid our faith in him. Rachel Alexandra kept winning, and Gabby’s Golden Gal and Passion for Gold won grade I races. He’s has a host of other stakes winners, so it’s gone very well. We are fortunate to have gotten him.
He’ll cover around 40 of Sheikh Mohammed’s mares in 2010.”
You have been COO here now for a year. How is living in Lexington and in Central Kentucky compared to England and Australia?
“This is an industry town and we lived in Scone, which is in the Hunter Valley (Australia), which is an industry town as well and there are a lot of similarities, but it’s on a grander scale in Lexington. The breadth and depth of the industry is greater here.
I work for what can be called a global Thoroughbred operation, so that has made the move very easy. Internally I knew the people I’d be working with before I got here and I’d met a lot of the people in Kentucky already, so I was familiar with Kentucky, which made life easier. It’s a great place to live and I love it.”
What’s on your Christmas list?
“Lots of winner for Sheikh Mohammed in 2010 and for him to continue the great run he had in America in 2009…and for the Kentucky winter not to be as cold as it was last year.”