by By Kelsey Riley

John Muir was bitten by the racing bug at a young age.

Harbouring aspirations to be a jockey, he headed off to work for trainer Maurice McCarten at the age of 16, but those dreams were quickly dashed.

“I went to work for an old wonderful trainer called Maurice McCarten, I was only about 16 at the time but he said to me, ‘you’re going to be too big’,”so I gave it away,” Muir said.

Instead, Muir satisfied his need for speed by taking over his family’s General Motors Holden dealership, Muirs Holden, in Sydney. He also soon began to buy broodmares, and that eventually led to the establishment of Milburn Creek, which offers 11 yearlings on the Gold Coast this week.

“We have what we like to call a boutique stud in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales,” Muir said. “It’s very much like England or Ireland; beautiful pastures with undulations. Horses do exceptionally well down there. We’re blessed to have Scott Holcombe as the manager. He’s the most dedicated horseperson I’ve ever been involved with. I’m the owner but the way these horses are, their presentation, is to his absolute credit,and the staff.”

Muir and his wife Trish began dabbling in bloodstock in 1973, and in 1986 they purchased Nepean Stud Farm on the Hawkesbury River in Grose Vale. The Muirs transferred their operation to the Southern Highlands in 2011, and Milburn Creek Farm is now home to about 25 broodmares which, Muir noted,are “ruthlessly culled” as part of his business plan. “We’ve made a few mistakes but we try to have what people want, out of pedigrees that appeal to people in Australia and internationally,” he explained. “We buy [mares] here and overseas, in the U.S. and Europe. Good deep pedigrees that people appreciate.”

Those international mares have included Canadian stakes winner Roses ‘N’ Wine (Broken Vow), who produced for Muir Hampton Court (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}), winner of the G1 Spring Champion S. and now a dual hemisphere sire for Spendthrift. Muir has also bred Sizzling (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}), the G1 TJ Smith S. winner who has his first yearlings selling this week; G1 AJC Oaks winner Once Were Wild (Aus) (Johannesburg); and G1 New Zealand Derby winner Redoute’s Dancer (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}).

Milburn Creek operates on a purely commercial level, Muir explained, selling everything it breeds with few exceptions.

“Unless there is a mare that’s had all colts and we’d like to keep a filly, we sell everything,” he said. “We like to say we’re a good seller: we bring them here to sell. We’ve got realistic expectations.”

He added, “My background is the motor car business. I’m a General Motors dealer, a Holden dealer–I may be the biggest Holden dealer in Sydney–so I have a selling and presenting background. I like to do everything 100%. We run a tight, clean ship. The property is beautifully maintained by Scott, and he’s got a lovely staff around him.”

Despite his role as a seller Muir has enjoyed success in racing as an owner. He bought as a weanling the filly Secret Admirer (Aus) (Dubawi {Ire}), who went on to win the G1 Epsom H. and G1 Flight S. and is now part of the broodmare band at Milburn Creek.

Milburn Creek’s Magic Millions draft is highlighted by lot 607, an I Am Invincible (Aus) half-brother to Sizzling, who was sold at this sale for A$260,000 in 2011. It also includes lot 365, a Not A Single Doubt (Aus) colt out of a half-sister to Group 2 winner Sovereign Nation (Aus) (Encosta de Lago {Aus}); and, during the final evening of Book 1, lot 745, a Zoustar (Aus) half-brother to Debonairly (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}), who was named a ‘TDN Rising Star’ after a 4 1/2-length debut win at Warwick Farm in December. Muir said he has been pleased with the action at his barn thus far this week.

“We’re very happy. They’ve been very well inspected, but you have to have the horses they want to see,” he noted.

Muir was also complimentary of the work put in by his fellow breeders, and Magic Millions, where he said he has been selling horses since the sales began.

“I think it’s a credit to the breeders that have gathered here,” he said. “In my opinion the Magic Millions catalogue gets better and better every year, and I congratulate all the breeders for the way they’ve presented their horses.”

“To [Magic Millions Managing Director] Vin Cox’s great credit, he’s really given this place an injection,” Muir added. “Magic Millions is a great company to deal with; it’s a credit to Vin and his staff.”

Muir served on the board of NSW Thoroughbred Breeders for 13 years, serving as president in his final year, and is also on the committee of Racing NSW Animal Care and Ethics and the Jockeys Benefit Scheme Trust. He therefore has plenty of perspectives to draw upon when he says racing in Australia hasa bright future. He paid credit to John Messara, who recently retired as chairman of Racing NSW.

“There are always challenges, but prize money has increased dramatically, especially in the country areas. He brought The Championships in, which has had remarkable success and will get better. We also have the BOBS system [Breeders and Owners Bonus Scheme], which works marvelously well. I think the industry’s got a very bright future and I think it’s in good hands.”

It appears Milburn Creek is also in good hands, and could enjoy some more memorable moments on the Gold Coast in the coming days.