Little Avondale proprietor Sam Williams has come a long way since he helped out at the Te Parae stables for just $5 a day pocket money.
Today, Sam and his wife Catriona oversee a major breeding operation with Little Avondale's own band to look after, as well as the visiting mares who come to experience the top class facilities and attention.
"I was always at the stable," says the third generation Williams with a smile. "I guess I was cheap labour but I loved it, even as a kid."
Sam attended his first sales as a 10 year old in 1980 and led his first yearling, through the ring, by Noble Bijou from Corsage, five years later.
Buzz and Tom Williams hoped that horse might fetch $40,000. Instead, bidding went on until the hammer finally fell at $175,000. Sam Williams had found his vocation and was hooked.
After leaving school, he went on to spend three summers at Sir Patrick Hogan's famed Cambridge Stud, initially preparing yearlings for the Gold Coast sales before being promoted to take charge of the Karaka colts and then 21 yearlings at a new Hogan property.
At the same time, Sam was completing a Diploma in Farm Management from Lincoln and using every opportunity to soak up knowledge from other leading stud masters. He particularly values the time spent with Gary Mudgeway at David Benjamin's Fayette Park - until the day the stallion Omnicorp savaged his arm, necessitating 10 screws.
During an enforced break to recover from the injury, Sam took time to visit England on OE and although not working directly with horses, he was able to visit and spend time at the National Studs of England and Ireland.
Sam returned to New Zealand and Little Avondale in the summer of 1993 and as they say the rest is history.
"We've added speed to the established bloodlines, we're now looking at those mile - 2000 metre horses. We recognise the general flow of the market and we want to always be in the top bracket."
Asked to rate some highlihts, Sam says
- The sale of Philosophe for $475,000 at Karaka is hard to top, particularly since the Zabeel gelding went on to win the G2 Chairmans Handicap in Sydney.
- Another would definitly be producing the Redoutes Choice filly from the Rorys Jester mare, Foxtrot which we sold for $700,000 to Johnathan Munz and Glenlogan Farm. She was the top filly of the sale.
"We're very careful with the mating of our own mares - we send two or three to Australia each year and also to the established New Zealand sires. I think the most exciting time for both Catriona and I is during the foaling season. We pride ourselves on producing correct, well conformed individuals - we're both very strict on the attention to detail. We are looking out for each and every horse right from their first minute with us."
"Towkay has done a great job for us and he's still producing the winners on the track. Per Incanto is our pride and joy and Nadeem is regularly pulling in the big wins all around the world. After all it's the results on the track that count for everything!"