Former NRL player turned businessman Brian Siemsen has built a growing bloodstock empire which could net its biggest payday at the Magic Millions.
Brian Siemsen readily admits he had a “lucky” start to his dabbling in horse ownership, but it was some frank advice from his close mate Tony Gollan that sowed the seeds for what has become the emerging juggernaut of Black Soil Bloodstock.
Isotope is out to give the now-prominent black and white Black Soil colours their biggest success when she runs in Saturday’s $2 million Magic Millions Guineas.
Stakes winning mare Niedorp also runs for the team in the $1 million Fillies & Mares race.
Siemsen is a successful businessmen, having founded the company Claim Central Consolidated at the same time he was trying to carve out a career in the NRL with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“One of the coaches in my last contract, I explained I had this business that was going well, there’s a two-year (NRL) contract, what should I do?” he said.
“He sort of indicated to me that maybe business is your go. You’re not that good at footy! But he gave me great advice and I finished rugby league in 2007.”
In 2012, Siemsen was selected as Ernst & Young’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year and he has overseen the global expansion of Claim Central into the US, South Africa, Italy and New Zealand.
“That’s still the main business, this (Black Soil Bloodstock) is a labour of love,” he said.
“You spend 18 hours a day for 20 years toiling and grinding in your core business and you need an outlet like this.”
Two of the first four horses Siemsen owned were Temple Of Boom and Spirit Of Boom – both Group 1 winners – but if he thought he had the Midas touch, his old footy buddy soon set him straight.
“Tony told me I’d had some luck, but that’s all it was,” Siemsen said.
“He said if I was going to do this commercially, I had a lot to learn. He said following him around for a week once a year wasn’t going to help me.
“That’s when he pushed me in the direction of Harry (McAlpine) and John (Foote).
“So I got together with H (McAlpine), I had a concept, he had a better concept.
“We want to change the narrative in the market that suggests racing is really expensive, you never win, all that sort of stuff.
“Having the right team that can mitigate all of those factors – (rather than) ‘let’s guess, not worry about X-rays’ and all the other stuff – has been a huge journey for me, because I was on that other side. Until you work with guys like Harry and John, you don’t realise how much there is to it.”
McAlpine is from the famous Darling Downs family that has for decades produced top-class horses from its Eureka Stud.
He had been with Inglis as an auctioneer and bloodstock consultant for five years before deciding to return home when Spirit Of Boom emerged as a stallion of national significance for Eureka.
“We boosted (Spirit Of Boom’s) fee from $10,000 to $50,000, the demand was so strong for him on what he’d done, so I came home and managed that and the exciting part is we got to pick the mares that would suit him best and this (year’s yearlings) is the result,” McAlpine said.
“Hopefully with the calibre of horse he has now – and they will race at the end of the year – we can take him to another level.”
Simultaneously, McAlpine helped mould Siemsen’s ambitious plans into a successful racing enterprise.
“The future view for us is to keep the focus on buying these elite fillies that can race at stakes level,” McAlpine said.
“We want to buy nice fillies with nice pages that if something goes wrong we can put them back through the ring (with residual value).
“We want to prove we can make a return on the strategy we are using.”
While Siemsen has been growing his bloodstock portfolio the past few years, it wasn’t until April 4 last year (the day Gollan’s father Darryl passed away) that the Black Soil colours were launched.
Since then, Black Soil horses have had 51 starts for 21 wins, headed by the black-type winners Isotope, Niedorp and The Actuary.
Siemsen also has several breeding mares he shares in, one of which, Mexican Rose, has an American Pharoah colt due to be sold by Eureka on Thursday.
Black Soil has gradually grown to incorporate investors who want to race horses, but in a way that minimises the risk. The number topped 20 last year, with a minimum $25,000 buy in, but Siemsen and McAlpine want to grow it further. “If we had anywhere between 75-100 folks on a rotation, we would come to sales every year looking for those six or seven horses and an opportunity to compete in the bigger races,” Siemsen said.
Siemsen and McAlpine have known Gollan long before he became the state’s top trainer, through Eureka Stud and Siemsen living with the Gollan family for a time.
“I watched that kid from the time he couldn’t afford to get two horses to raising money, building relationships, training them, winning, going back and raising money, coming to the sales … I have watched that journey,” Siemsen said.
“Whatever you think you see now, he’s been in the trenches and he’s grinded it out.
“I’m super proud of him. I think he has done an exceptional job and he’s still that loveable rogue.”
So what would it mean to win a Magic Millions on Saturday with Gollan, McAlpine and the Black Soil family?
“One of the biggest criticisms Tony had of me when the Booms were racing is that I didn’t appreciate how hard it was to win a good race,” Siemsen admits.
“We were just spoilt. Now I understand. The adrenaline is unbelievable. There’s nothing like it.
“I set a plan three years ago and I said I want to be represented on Magic Millions day in three years.
“So through the good buying, the hard work and Tony doing his job, he’s put us there with two live chances.”
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