Peters Empire profits from NZ input

By Dennis Ryan

24 Nov 2021

Peters Empire profits from NZ inputHighly successful owner-breeder Bob Peters

“Where ever they might be, all our foals return as weanlings to grow and develop on the farm.”
Much more than just an ocean separates New Zealand from Australia’s furthest reaches, but that has in no way hindered the ties between this country’s breeding industry and Western Australians Bob and Sandra Peters.
Last Saturday at Perth’s Ascot racecourse the Peters’ famous cerise and white colours were carried to victory in the Gr. 1 Railway Stakes by Iffraaj gelding Western Empire. For the owner-trainer-jockey combination completed by Grant and Alana Williams and William Pike, it was a fourth consecutive victory in Perth’s marquee race and a total of six for the couple regarded the most successful owner-breeders at least in recent Western Australian history.
The Railway Stakes heads a list of success for the Peters taking in every major race in their home state as well as numerous others elsewhere in Australia. Their first win in the 1600m feature came in 2001 with Old Comrade, who early the following year set out on what was to become a familiar path east for Peters-owned horses to beat fellow Perth star Northerly in the Gr. 1 Australian Cup at Flemington.
They had to wait 13 years for their next Railway win with Elite Belle, then another four when 2018 winner Galaxy Star began a sequence that continued unbroken last weekend. Up to Valley Of Carome’s 1985 win, just six New Zealand-bred horses had been successful in a race that was first run in 1887, and it was another 35 years before the next, Inspirational Girl, last year.
There should perhaps be another Kiwi-bred on the Railway Stakes honour roll, the Roger James-trained entire He’s Remarkable. In what has been variously described as one of Australian racing’s greatest injustices, He’s Remarkable was relegated behind local star Luckygray for alleged interference before the home turn in the 2011 edition.
Whatever lingering aspersions might still exist around that decision, Bob and Sandra Peters have only positive thoughts about the wider racing and breeding world, of which New Zealand is an important part for them. RaceForm caught up with Bob Peters earlier this week to gain an insight to someone who grew up amongst horses, made his mark in the motor trade industry and has pursued his great passion with astounding results.
“They had me on a horse’s back when I was two years old so I’m told, then later on I was master of the West Australian Hunt Club,” Peters recalled in his low-key manner. “Mind you, I gave that up a few years ago – it was all about self-preservation and that hard ground!”
Peters became heavily involved in state racing administration while still in his twenties, which combined with his business activities and the beginnings of his racing and breeding interests, made for a busy life. Horse numbers grew to such an extent that some 26 years ago he and his wife purchased 650 acres of the best available land on the fringe of the region outside Perth known as the Darling Scarp.
“We still live in Perth but for around 10 days a month we’ll head out to the farm and spend time amongst the horses, catching up on their progress, seeing how they’re developing and making plans,” he continued.
The extensive broodmare band is spread wide – through the eastern states and as far afield as New Zealand – while the racing string is centred on the Grant and Alana Williams stable. However, when it comes to trying to pinpoint actual numbers, Peters is vague, whether deliberately or not is unclear.
“I couldn’t tell you,” is his almost jocular reply. “That’s not something I really want to know.”
To the suggestion that he might be hiding certain details from his life partner, he has an easy response. “Sandra? No she’s the worst when it comes to collecting horses. When I suggest we might sell something she doesn’t want to know.”
It was a difficult decision for both to let go of one of their very best, the high class racemare Arcadia Queen whose wins included the Gr. 1 Kingston Town Classic at home and the Gr. 1 Caulfield Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes in Melbourne. Earlier this year the daughter of Pierro was sold to Arrowfield Stud for A$3.2 million.
“We’ve got four or five half-sisters, so in the end it was a decision that made sense. She’s gone to a new home where she’ll get every chance to add to the family, and besides, that’s a lot of money.”
While the Peters mares alternate between various regions, some five or six can be found in New Zealand at any one time, across the likes of Haunui Farm, Waikato Stud and Little Avondale. Western Empire’s dam, the Jeune mare Western Jewel, spent several years at Haunui during the reign of former shuttler Iffraaj and her now four-year-old son became Iffraaj’s 11th Group One winner with his weekend victory.
“I enjoy everything that goes into our breeding plans. We don’t breed that many sprinters but obviously you’ve got some good stallions – locals and shuttling stallions – that suit us. We like to see a stallion prove itself before we use it.”
Apart from Iffraaj, others include Reliable Man, Savabeel and Per Incanto, while Peters has also invested through the New Zealand auction ring. The Jamieson Park-bred Inspirational Girl is one such example, Peters having outlaid $190,000 for the daughter of Reliable Man at Karaka in 2017.
“Just about everything we breed, we race, but occasionally we will sell, such as the Justify colt going through the Sydney Easter Sale. We like to buy too, and a filly like Inspirational Girl was out of a Zabeel mare closely related to another Zabeel who has been a good producer for us.
“Where ever they might be, all our foals return as weanlings to grow and develop on the farm. That’s fairly straightforward as the charter flights heading from New Zealand and Australia up to Malaysia come through Perth.”
As for the immediate and longer term future, Bob and Sandra Peters have plenty to look forward to. Their five-race winner Graceful Girl lines up in the Gr. 1 Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot on Saturday, while they will have a triple hand in the following week’s Gr. 1 Kingston Classic. Western Empire will come up against his fellow Railway-winning stablemate Regal Power and Treasured Star, winner last Saturday of the Gr. 2 West Australian Guineas.
Beyond that, the Peters are hoping to have broken off their Covid shackles in time to attend the 2022 National Yearling Sale, which has been deferred to early March. “We’ve got our tickets and hotel booked for March, so we hope to be over again; we really enjoy it catching up with everyone over there.”