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Welcome to Plaintree Farms.

In 2004, we selected Conatus, an Australian son of Danehill to stand at stud. His credentials were immaculate: not only was he the colonial bred son of a champion sire, he was also the Australian flagbearer for the fabulous Denise’s Joy family – the greatest producer of Group one winners in Australia.

The family – which arrived here with Holiday Scene in 1972 – has carved its mark on Australian racing unlike any other family. To date the family has produced 21 Group 1 winners and a staggering 86 stakeswinners.

Conatus was bred by Gerry Harvey, one of Australia’s most insightful and leading breeders. Gerry probably owns more members of the Denise’s Joy family than any other Australian breeder, and, so great is his respect for this family, he has remained the majority owner of Conatus throughout his entire career. And while the success of the Australian bred sire is finally being applauded throughout the industry, it is important to remember that Conatus carries the female X factor of Australia’s greatest family, a fact that puts him in a class of his own.

While racing, Conatus showed brilliant speed, the single most important characteristic that any Danehill son needs to succeed in at stud in Australia. In a career that was severely compromised by a physical injury that remained undetected throughout his career, Conatus still managed to set two blistering class records. In fact, trainer John Hawkes not only regarded Conatus as a potential Group 1 horse, but also described him as one of Danehill’s fastest sons.

When Conatus was retired to stud, he arrived at Plaintree and we soon realised he was extremely sore across his entire body. We consulted Dr Glen Laws, track specialist and equine manipulator from Oakey Veterinary Hospital, and Dr Laws found he was severely out through three vertebra, his right shoulder, wither and sacrum. We later learned this was the result of a collision with a fence during a storm while he was spelling as a 2YO. Once he was worked on and his injuries were released, Conatus became a very different horse, both physically and mentally. Today he still carries a large scar across his right shoulder from the accident.

There is, of course, one lingering question: How fast would Conatus have been if he had been able to race fully sound?

Five years later, we are beginning to hear the answer. Conatus has provided a recent surge of winners as both 2YO’s and 3YO’s. His winners include the fillies Gag Order, Miss Campbell, Princess Conny, Mirandize, Al Marteena, Demetria and Pocket Battleship. His colts include Tuscon Rain, Lenny’s Lot, Jeffery Joe, Punjab, Report for Duty and Wild and Free.

However, it is his second crop of 2YO’s that has brought a new wave of excitement with them, including the explosive colt Military Secret and the impressive fillies Verballed and Olive Oyl. After trialling impressively, both Verballed and Olive Oyl ran close seconds at their first starts while Military Secret placed third at Randwick on a heavy track and came home like a really good horse.

The word from trainers has been consistently strong, with good wraps on a number of 2YO’s still yet to make their debut. It comes as no surprise, since the opinion on the Conatus progeny has been positive since the first day they were handled: they are strong, athletic horses with great character and intelligence. They are particularly sound, very trainable, big eaters – and they love going to work.

We enjoy the hands-on approach we have with our horses here at Plaintree. We are a family farm and, like our entire team, we like to work with passion, commitment and an eye for excellence. The truth, of course, is that we have to: we cannot possibly hope to compete with the vast international breeding cartels who dominate the Australian thoroughbred industry any other way. It is no different to the American (and Australian) small town experience of what happens to the family business when Walmart moves to town. The big cartels know they can always afford to buy their clients: the small family farms know they still have to earn them. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

It is inspiring to see that, in the racing season of 2008/2009 just ended, the biggest producer of individual Group 1 winners in Australasia was another hands-on family farm in New Zealand. Like they say, size doesn’t really matter if you don’t know how to use it.

We believe that the modern emphasis on the sale ring and the plump and polished yearling has come at the detriment of racetrack performance and the need to produce the kind of sound, durable athletes that Australian racing has built its reputation on.

It might seem a bit old fashioned, we know, but we continue to share the belief ‘if you build it they will come.’

Each day we simply remain focused on producing racehorses, the kind of tough and talented Australian athletes that the world wants to own. And we have faith that our compass is true.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our clients and friends a wonderful breeding and racing season ahead.

The greatest horsemen are the ones with the biggest hearts.

—Ty Murray