Ben Gunn has indeed been living up to his namesake this season, with excellent results and feedback on the young Stallion Manager throughout the industry.
With this being his first season at Woodside Park Stud managing the covering barn, Gunn has arrived with a wealth of horse experience behind him, having been born and bred into the industry in Newmarket in the UK.
His father was a jockey and his mother was involved in thoroughbreds her whole life, but after working in racing for a few years, Gunn always knew what area of the horse industry would become his focus.
“Dad always hoped I’d be a jockey, but I was probably too heavy by the time I was eight! It was stallions for me from day one. That was my future, and short of riding, it’s the most exciting thing you can do with horses on the ground.”
Gunn has gained valuable experience working in the barn at Darley in the UK, before spending two breeding seasons at Darley Victoria.
Gunn hit the ground running at Woodside arriving in early June, having returned from a busy breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere.
“It was essential that I arrived before the season started, so I could familiarise myself with each stallion, learning about their personalities and their individual routines before I began covering with them,” Gunn said.
“It is exciting to be part of Woodside Park Stud’s overall vision of where they want to go. They want to be an internationally recognised company, and to slowly increase the number of the stallions they stand.”
As Stallion Manager, Gunn prioritises the individual needs of the stallions. “I believe that combined with the right nutrition, exercise and our experienced handlers, by keeping them fresh, they will cover better throughout the whole season.”
“It is imperative that we let them “be a horse”, and give them adequate downtime. They are turned out every day, no matter the weather, to stretch their legs and get their head down.”
While the horse is king, other priorities that Gunn must take into account as Stallion Manager include keeping a neat, clean ship, efficient cost management and streamlining the covering barn, so the process runs safely and smoothly.
“How the mares are managed, is a big factor in achieving high fertility rates. If a stallion is better with three covers a day, you don’t do a fourth, and we are fortunate our clients understand that. It is important that I can preempt a stallion before he becomes fatigued, so they are as healthy and fertile at the end of the season as they are in the beginning.”
And based on the feedback from their clients, they are thrilled with the service Woodside Park Stud is providing to them and their mares.
“Of the Victorian stud farms their stallion management is superior, demonstrated by excellent fertility from all the stallions. Based on the significant number of mares we have sent, not one has missed getting in foal. The team at Woodside has been easy to deal with and very professional. That is vital for us being a busy broodmare farm, as they help us achieve early foals for our clients, and from a time management point of view, so far no return covers.” – Damian Gleeson, Phoenix Broodmare Farm
“We have had multiple walk-ins to each of the four Woodside Stallions this year, and touch wood, the twelve mares have all conceived on one cover. Critical to this success is the professionalism of the stallion team at Woodside headed by Ben Gunn. Ben is quietly but firmly in control of all aspects of the process. He pays considerable attention to detail, and his handling of the horses, staff and clients is impeccable. We have walked mares onto seven Victorian studs this season, every one of them being masterful stallion crews, but Ben and the team at Woodside are second to none.” –Gary O’Meara, Miranda Park
“Whenever we have brought a mare for a cover, there has never been an issue; everything is nice and quiet. Ben seems like a gentle soul in the breeding barn, very professional and he takes a lot of pride in his job. Recently we took one of our mares who was in full work, to be covered by Written Tycoon. She was being a typical race mare in the barn, and although it was late, they were very patient with her. I rang Matt Tillett after that cover, to let him know that the boys in the barn had been terrific. Sometimes you only hear the bad, so it’s good to pass on some positive feedback. Ben has been great with our mares, and I’m sure, he has been great with everyone else’s too.” – Brett Casey, Dorrington Park
“Ultimately happy stallions mean happy clients, and if the horse is happy they look well, they cover well and their fertility is good,” Gunn said.
And the four stallions must certainly be very happy, all boasting outstanding fertility.
“Written Tycoon is probably the most fertile stallion I have ever worked with. His book has only been limited to look after him as a horse now he is 15, and to ensure that he is covering for a good number of years more. As a stallion, you would love them to all be like Written, he is one in a million to handle, and just a pleasure to be around.”
“Cable Bay is a true professional, and what I would call a “proper” stallion. He is very good at his work and considering this is his first season in the Southern Hemisphere, after covering big books in the UK, he has handled his matings extremely well.”
“Rich Enuff is a enthusiastic young stallion, with fertility almost as good as his old man. He is a lovely big impressive type, and he has covered some standout mares, so I have high hopes for him in the future.”
“If you asked me to draw a stallion, it would be Zoustar. He is an amazing horse to look at. He takes everything in his stride, very laid back, very easy going. He has a huge book this year, and he is handling it like a pro. Anyone you speak to will confirm that he looks even better now than he did at the start of the season.”
But Gunn is aware that he could not have achieved the superb success rate without the support from the team around him, being the first to give them all a big pat on the back.
“I am very lucky with the people I have around me. Murray Tillet, Sam Fairgray and Matt Tillet have been a great support, Emily, our stud secretary, has handled the books brilliantly, and my team of experienced and skilled stallion lads have been a wonderful help.”
“There have been a lot of late night covers, and intense work, but everyone has got stuck in and got it done. There will certainly be a well-deserved knock off drink at the end of the season.”