Devcich relishing his Cambridge Stud role

By Dennis Ryan

8 Dec 2021

Devcich relishing his Cambridge Stud roleCambridge Stud General Manager Marc Devcich with high-profile shuttle stallion Almanzor

“It was the best opportunity I could imagine; there was a lot happening at Cambridge Stud.”
Nearing the end of his second breeding season in charge of the on-the-ground team at Cambridge Stud, respected horseman Marc Devcich is relishing one of the prime roles in the New Zealand thoroughbred breeding industry.
Devcich joined Cambridge Stud as General Manager in mid-2020 after being shoulder tapped by Chief Executive Henry Plumptre. He didn’t take long to accept the challenge to be part of the new era for the iconic nursery under the ownership of Brendan and Jo Lindsay.
“I was in Melbourne looking at yearlings when I got a call from Henry,” says Devcich, who at the time was sharing duties with his wife Sarah at their Henley Park agistment operation. “Henry said he’d like to catch up with me when I got back home, and even though I wasn’t sure what it was about, fair to say I was keen to find out.
“After a long chat with Henry I was 90 per cent. It was the best opportunity I could imagine; there was a lot happening at Cambridge Stud. Apart from meeting Brendan briefly some time beforehand I didn’t really know him and Jo, but what sold me once I sat down with them was their values and what they were setting out to achieve.”
Devcich’s appointment was announced in early June, allowing him only a matter of weeks to come to grips with the role before the start of the 2020 breeding season. However a CV that included experience in the Hunter Valley and Kentucky as well as being a key team member at Windsor Park Stud provided a solid platform.
Leaving daily management of Henley Park in the more than capable hands of his wife, Devcich quickly melded with the Cambridge Stud team. A major ally was Bevan “Swampy” McCallum, a 25-year employee of Cambridge Stud founders Sir Patrick and Justine Lady Hogan, who along with other senior employees made for an easy entry.
“With the focus on Henley I had been out of that busy stud routine for a while, so it was a matter of getting back in the groove,” says Devcich. “From the very start Swampy was a great backstop with his practical approach as well as his intricate knowledge of the farm.
“Everyone’s got different systems and after a bit of discussion we changed a couple of things, but as always it was about working together and getting the best result.”
That first breeding season at Cambridge Stud centred on mares visiting third-year shuttle Almanzor and second-year resident Embellish, followed by yearling preparations headed by the first crop of Almanzor youngsters.
“Obviously with a horse of Almanzor’s standing we were looking forward to his first yearlings going through the sales, but it would be fair to say no-one was expecting quite what happened. He had incredible results across the board – Gold Coast, Karaka, Sydney Classic and Melbourne – it was just phenomenal.”
That flowed through to the 2021 breeding season, with a flood of bookings for Almanzor as well as the newcomer, fellow Haras d’Etreham shuttle and star European sprinter Hello Youmzain. The full book sign went up on both in April, while Savabeel’s Group One-winning son Embellish – standing at just $4,000 – bucked the third-year trend with his biggest ever book.
“The talk on his foals was out there, he was affordable and he was by New Zealand’s most pre-potent stallion,” says Devcich. “Stallions standing at his level don’t generally have the vibe on them, but he certainly has.
“We’ve done our last foalings and we will have covered something like 450 mares all up, so that’s a busy season and a good one with plenty to focus on.”
Day-to-day challenges will always exist for anyone working with livestock, but the past two years have also been complicated by the Covid landscape.
“One of the great things about the New Zealand breeding industry is that core of people, so strong, everyone with the same integrity and focus. There’s a lot of unity working towards similar goals.
“Covid has meant a whole new set of protocols, but the way we know and understand each other across all the studs and farms, with our vets and everyone else involved, it’s all worked as well as it could.”
Reflecting on his specific role and the overall Cambridge Stud operation, Devcich unsurprisingly takes a glass three-quarter-full approach.
“Brendan and Jo invested in history when they bought the stud. Brendan’s detail for marketing is a natural instinct; good ideas come quickly to him and the development of the farm, the structure and the detail to such a high standard, that’s Brendan and Jo putting their stamp on it.
“For me, for what I want to achieve in the industry, it’s just great to be part of it.”