Sam Pritchard-Gordon has a resume many in the racing industry would only dream of. The son of a well-known British bloodstock agent, Pritchard-Gordon made the life changing move to Australia in 2003 and worked alongside a host of the industry’s biggest names before making the Barossa Valley home in 2018.
How did moving to Australia come about?
My Dad actually sold Danehill to John Messara many years ago. John came to Newmarket one year and told me I should come to Australia, it was the place to be, so I came out and did a year at Arrowfield Stud.
And what prompted you move from the Hunter Valley to Sydney?
My wife got a job with Star Thoroughbreds in Sydney and then John gave me a job in the Arrowfield office. It was an eye opener watching him negotiating stud deals.
How did the shift to the training side of things develop?
From working with John, I then went to work for Gai Waterhouse, at the time I got a lot more enjoyment out of the racing side of things, so I went to Gai’s as a foot solider. James Harron was there at the time, Henry Field as well, there were some good people around.
And it wasn’t long before you found yourself joining the Freedman stable?
We were alongside the Freedman stable at Gai’s. At the time Michael Freedman had the idea of starting to train in his own right and he needed someone to fill his role within Freedman Brothers Racing, they needed someone to do the client liaison role. I moved to Markdel at the end of Makybe Diva’s reign and was there for the best part of five years as an assistant trainer working alongside Lee which was an amazing time. He was heavily involved with Darley at the time, and we had a lot of $1m yearlings coming through the stable.
You then made the decision to go out on your own, how did that eventuate?
In 2011 Lee’s operation was winding up and I found myself in a position to be able to buy some stables at Mornington Racecourse where I kicked off my training career.
You trained for six years, what was the catalyst for moving away from the training ranks?
There were a number of things. I started training because it was the obvious chain of events having spent so long as an assistant trainer. I was also acutely aware you kind of have an Olympic window of four years to train a Group 1 winner which I didn’t do, and I felt my window of opportunity was closing. I didn’t want to be a small trainer and not being able to buy the horses I liked, so I decided it was right time to walk away. I didn’t enjoy not being at the top of the game.
And how did the opportunity come about coming to Cornerstone Stud and making the move to South Australia?
It was the end of 2018. I had known Sam (Hayes) a while and he was looking for a bloodstock manager. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. For the family, my three girls, we are loving life in the Barossa. The farm is challenging, enjoyable, picture perfect and everything I need. I didn’t really know a lot about the Barossa or the Hayes legacy at the time having been always aligned with the Freedman’s. When Sam brought Kate and I over, you cannot help fall in love with the Barossa, it’s horse heaven. And it’s a family run business. You are working hard together towards a common goal. You’re not managing a racing billionaire’s racing stock, you’re working hard to breed good horses.
What has given you the most satisfaction since coming to SA?
What I’ve really enjoyed with Sam is working to develop our relationship with trainers. Not only has South Australia natured trainers to worldwide success over the years, but there is now a young group coming through who are really dynamic and it’s very exciting.
Cornerstone’s Sir Prancealot Series appears to be gaining momentum each year?
The race series is an organic thing that has helped us create a link between the breeding industry and the trainers. It’s also helping make a stronger industry within South Australia with is great.
And you would have seen firsthand the impact of the revamped Racing Rewards SA program?
Racing Rewards, the double-ups they had in February last year, has kick-started the industry and given it life. Without that injection we would be in a very different place to where we are now. We’re really excited about the future and breeding horses in a state where we well and truly punch above our weight, and I think you’ll see a resurgence in the breeding industry here in SA on the back of the Racing Rewards SA program.