Scone’s superstar stallion
Scone is home to the most expensive horse in Australia. Meet ‘I am Invincible’
and the people who made him a superstar.
Living in his private paddock, with an undercover training area custom-built for him, and a whole team making sure that he never wants for anything, prized stallion, ‘I am Invincible’, is big and beautiful – even to the most untrained equine eye.
‘Vinnie’, as he is fondly known to the Mitchell family and their team at Yarraman Park stud in the Upper Hunter, has changed the fortunes not just of Yarraman Park but of a group of smaller breeders who bought into the horse when his previous owner was struggling to find a buyer.
“Ray Gall and his family were trying to sell him, but no one was interested,” says Harry Mitchell who jointly owns Yarraman Park with his brother Arthur. “We decided to go down to Victoria and have a look and as soon as he came out of his box, we fell in love. He was just the most beautiful animal we had ever seen.
“It was Arthur’s idea to buy half the horse and not syndicate him. It was probably the cleverest thing we ever did. We sold 13 breeding rights which entitle the breeders to one service every year. The price of these rights went up by a factor of 20 and that really changed the lives of those smaller breeders who bought them. “Everyone wants to find an ‘I am Invincible’, but we’re the lucky ones who actually have.”
A new challenge
The Mitchell family’s story at Yarraman goes back to 1968 when Major James Mitchell, father to Arthur and Harry, came to Australia and visited various farms and studs with his friend George Blackwell, a highly successful bloodstock agent. One of Australia’s most successful jockeys, George Moore, owned Yarraman Park at the time and James Mitchell was so impressed with what he saw, he made Moore promise to give him first right of refusal if he ever wanted to sell.
It wasn’t long after that they struck a deal, and James returned home to England to tell his wife and three sons that he had bought a stud farm in the Upper Hunter.
“It was a very big deal back in those days to just pull up stumps from a reasonably successful mixed farm in England with a dairy and piggery and various crops and move to Australia,” says Harry.
“Dad always liked horses and he had friends in the horse racing industry; he’d had shares in a couple of cheap jumping horses, but he wasn’t an expert.
“We never quite knew why he made that sudden decision. He was innovative and adventurous, and England was struggling a bit at the time. Maybe he simply fell in love and wanted a new challenge.”
For a long time, Yarraman proved to be more of a challenge than James Mitchell bargained for. With his three boys, Arthur, 12, Bill, 11, and Harry, 8, still very young, it fell to James to make a success of his new acquisition. But he struggled and couldn’t secure enough clients to turn a profit. As was common practice in those days, he bought stallions and mares from England, but success eluded him.
In one of several lucky twists and turns, all three brothers fell in love with horses and learned the trade from the bottom up. They travelled the globe, worked in Ireland, England, South Africa and America and made connections that would prove invaluable to Yarraman for decades to come. Bill had always wanted to train horses and became a very successful trainer before working as a bloodstock agent and racing manger. Harry and Arthur took on Yarraman.
“It was quite run down by the time we took over,” recalls Harry. “We slowly changed from imported to Australian stallions because they are better suited to the conditions here.
Read more in the Spring issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.
Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Georgina Lomax