The Smiths Of Shard Farm

The Smiths Of Shard Farm

Bruce Stewart

Debbie and Mark Smith have been preparing yearlings for the National Sales on and off since 2000.

Smiling Shard beating another SBSR millionaire Highview Tommy in the 2010 Kaikoura Cup

They calculate they’ve had 59 yearlings through the ring so far, and next month they’ll be presenting ten – their biggest draft to date.  A far cry from twenty years ago when their first yearling was presented by then first season sire Live Or Die. He was small and nuggety and sold for $10,000.

“The first to have a look at him was Mark Purdon. Mark said at the time “He certainly hasn’t missed a feed,” said Debbie.

The proceeds of that first sale were used to buy Soky’s Atom mare Sly Soky and with her their breeding dynasty began.

“The mare came south in foal to Panaroma. That foal was Sly Shard which won four races when trained by Doug McLachlan. She eventually broke down with an eight centimetre tear in her tendon,” said Debbie.

From the foals of Sly Shard and her daughters the Smiths have had a tremendous run of success starting with multiple Group winner Smiling Shard.

“When Smiling Shard was a yearling I got a call from Wai Eyre Farm saying that the mare (Sly Shard) was starting to bust her ligaments around her stomach. The stud asked if I wanted to save the mare or the foal. I told them the mare. The foal (by Christian Cullen) had to be put down. They did an autopsy on him and he had a growth on his bladder,” Debbie said.

But luckily for the Smiths the Standardbred Industry allowed AI and ET, and all of Sly Shards foals are produced that way.

“They flush an embryo out of her every year and most years she gives us one egg. This year she got in foal in October to Bettor’s Delight so she’s going to give us our earliest foal next season.”

Debbie and Mark have been in Southland for over twenty years on a small holding at Myross Road just out of Invercargill.

“When we came to Southland twenty two years ago Debbie said we should buy a house with some land. We started off with ten acres and Debbie’s riding horse. I used to muck out every day with beautiful piles of dung,” said Mark when talking about his introduction to the horse world.

The Shard name comes from wine but for commercial reasons it’s spelt differently.

“I liked wine at the time. It was as simple as changing the Chard to a Shard,” Debbie said.

Mark and Debbie are proud of their success. From small drafts they’ve done well, particularly in the last few years.

Mach Shard has been their sale topper at $200,000 followed by $170,000 for The Shard last year. Other big sales include Mr Presley for $105,000, Mighty Shard for $100,000 and Romeo Shard $100,000.

“The Shard has been renamed Vanquish Stride. Ray Green really likes him,” said Mark.

But it’s the $200,000 sale of Mach Shard that remains vivid in Mark’s memory.

“He had a $45,000 reserve. We didn’t really know what he would sell for and we had a lot of people look at him. I was standing there with Ben Calder. The sound system in those days wasn’t very good so I asked Ben to confirm that the price was at $120,000. It kept going up and I saw Ray Green give the five signal which made it $195,000. Then from the other side of the arena Barry Purdon took it to $200,000. You just floated out of the arena. It’s an amazing feeling.”

That sale helped pay for a family holiday to Europe following their daughter Georgia who was part of the New Zealand Under 19 Women’s Rowing Team which was racing in Rotterdam.

“It was great. We were able to follow her because of Mach Shard,” Debbie said.

Mach Shard as he presented as a yearling

Mach Shard has won eight races, his latest being the $50,000 Group Two Allied Express Casey Classic over 2240 metres at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday 25th January. His winning time was 2-36.8 a mile rate of 1-52.7. This brings his stakes total to $321,413.

The sale of the first foal out of Pemberton Shard was also a thrill.

“When he came back from Macca Lodge he was a long leggy colt but we insured him for $50,000 straight away. We normally wait two or three months before insuring them just to see what they look like,” said Mark. “Even before that Brent McIntyre (Macca Lodge) said he wanted him off the property because he was too valuable.”

Among the highs, naturally there have been some lows.

“We bought back Dawn Maree Shard (Christian Cullen – She’s Mighty) at $85,000. We syndicated her and gave her to Dean Taylor to break in, but we got a phone call one day to say she was rolling round in the paddock with a twisted bowel. We had to put her down,” said Mark.

Debbie says not only is Southland a great place to rear horses, it also has strong community support.

“Southland has a sense of community that you don’t get in the big cities. Southern Harness has done a great job. They’ve done a lot of what HRNZ couldn’t do. They’ve got people that think strategically. The opportunities for average horses are quite good in Southland.”

Outside their passion for horses, Mark and Debbie both have jobs. Debbie is a Senior Technical Manager at Silver Ferns Deer Plant just down the road starting at 5:30am and finishing at 3pm.

“There’s only 55 people working there and it’s a family atmosphere which I enjoy. It fits in with what I’m doing here.”

Mark is also up early, he has a bread run, requiring him to be up at 2.00am and is normally home between 8.00 and 9.00am.

“I read the paper, have a cup of tea then I get onto the list of jobs Debbie has left me. I cross them off from the top but there’s another five added to the bottom.”

Over the years the Smith have not only prepped their own yearlings, they’ve also taken in outside horses.

Long-time Southland breeder Russell Morton has provided them with colts most of the past fifteen years, whilst Michael Turner, Aveross and Jaccka horses have also featured on their books.

“Michael just sends his horses down here after weaning. He bred Eloquent Mach which won $150,000 in Australia and is away to America.”

This year of the ten yearlings being offered at the Sale, seven are from their own mares and the other three are from well-known Southland Breeder Vin Devery.

The Smiths are especially excited by one of the Devery horses – an Art Major colt out Christian Dreamer named Dream Breaker. He’s a half-brother to big winners Chase The Dream and classy three year old filly Amazing Dream.

“He’s quite fine boned compared to other Art Majors. He’s got good conformation and it looks as though he’ll run as a young horse. He’s a pleasure to have round the stable and is easy to handle. He’s actually ready to go to the Sales right now,” said Mark.

Dream Breaker (lot 356) Photo supplied

Perhaps the pick of their own horses is Bettor’s Delight filly Moet Shard. She’s the second foal out of Pemberton Shard.

“She’s a big strong filly. As a young horse she was headstrong which is not a bad thing for mares. She’s beautifully put together,” said Mark.

Moet Shard (Lot 243) Photo supplied.

Another one being offered by Vin and Daphne Devery and the Estate of Alan Blackler and Phillipa is an Art Major filly out of seven win Badland’s Hanover mare Natal Franco.

“She’s a fine looking animal with presence.”

Mark is also excited about a Bettor’s Delight filly out of Western Ideal mare Priscilla Shard. Priscilla Shard is a daughter of their other foundation mare She’s Mighty.

“We expect her to grow a bit in the next month. Brent Mangos has broken in the full-brother, given him a couple of preps and loves him to bits. We hope to see him as a two year old at Easter.”

In the sales business it’s all about timing and Christian Cullen mare Lady Gaga’s two year old filly Shard’s In Manhattan recently qualified for Canterbury trainers Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon.

The Smiths have a Bettor’s Delight half-brother to her ready to sell.

“He’s magnificent and a very compact colt.”

Lochart Shard (Bettor’s Delight – Lady Gaga colt) Lot 187 – Photo supplied

Mark also expects there to be strong interest in their Art Major colt out of Shards Echo (Changeover – Sly Shard). They own Shard’s Echo with Invercargill Real Estate agent Neil Van Schaik. Her first foal, also by Art Major, Soho Whisper, has won three races in Western Australia.

“He’s (Van Shard) a big boy with perfect conformation. It’s hard to say but he may not run early as he’s a big boned horse.”

Van Shard (lot 271) Photo supplied.

Up and coming sire He’s Watching has a Shards Of Myross filly as part of the Smith draft.

“She’s a cool wee filly. Bob Butt bought her half-brother by Sportswriter. He loves him and he’ll probably be running round as a two year old.”

Prominent Australia buyer Jean Feiss visited Shard Farm recently and Mark said she took a liking to the Bettor’s Delight- Sly Shard filly (Lexie Shard).

“Jean said ‘you’ve got a nice filly there.”

Mach Shard’s win in Australia will certainly help sell this filly.

Lexie Shard (Lot 303) – Photo supplied

Others in the draft include a Sweet Lou colt out of All Time Glory and a Bettor’s Delight colt out of Follow The Dream.

“He looks like he’ll run at two like the rest of the family does.”

Long term, Debbie has expressed an interest in preparing yearlings full time. That would mean extending the stable, re-fencing, or perhaps finding a new property.

She says a number of Southern Breeders have expressed an interested in sending their yearlings to her to prepare, and she says she’d like to handle up to twelve quality yearlings.

Mark is confident his wife will do a great job. He says she’s renowned for feeding both the mothers and the foals well.

“When there’s more grass around we just button back on the hard feed,” said Debbie.

“By three grains of barley,” added Mark with laughter.

The Smiths are currently breeding from eleven mares and they have thirty horses on their books between Macca Lodge and Shard Farm.

No doubt once the Sales are completed there’ll be fewer horses for a time, until spring when the foals replenish the stock, and another chapter of Shard Farm unfolds.

Debbie and Mark Smith with the trophies after Sly Shard was added the Southland  Elite Mare Honours Board at the 2017 Southland Harness Awards