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The Laurel Oak Story by Garry Robinson

‘Ancient Song’ beats ‘Into The Night’ in the Group 1. Salinger Stakes at Flemington. Both horses were purchased on the recommendation of Laurel Oak. ‘Ancient Song’ also has a Lonhro filly at foot who will be a valuable yearling for the future. Photo By: Martin King Sportpix

For the majority of Australians, a punting career commenced as a teenager would end in disaster, and a lifetime of perpetual losses but for Louis Mihalyka, it has led to a lifetime of enjoyable involvement in the Horse Racing Industry. It is not everybody who can say that their hobby is their job but in this case, it is true. Every spare moment was spent delving into the history of Horse Racing, not only here but overseas as well. To this day two of Louis’s favourite horses are ‘Gunsyd’ and ‘Tails’ and who could forget them and their exploits around forty years ago. Is it any wonder that Louis Mihalyka looked to the day when he could get involved in owning and racing his own horses?

Of course, owning a racehorse was never cheap, even less so in the 60’s and 70’s. To encourage horse ownership, the racing authorities encouraged racehorse syndication which enabled the average punter to get involved, and although those early days saw an influx of entrepreneurs with no idea about how to go about it but every idea about how to make money for themselves, those early experiences helped formulate what is now a fully regulated industry.

Louis Mihalyka and wife Jill set out twenty years ago with the idea that they could not only participate in horse ownership but also make the industry their business and so Laurel Oak Syndications was born. They had no idea at the time just how widespread their involvement and how successful their dream business would become.

Today, Laurel Oak is in involved in Breeding, Syndication, Leasing and all aspects of the Bloodstock industry. Pedigree analysis using the Brain methodology for the past ten years or so has meant that Laurel Oak horses these days have gone from success to success and now many of the syndications are the result of Laurel Oak matings.

There are Laurel Oak horses racing in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and even, just over a year ago, in Tasmania when Pattie Royale contested the Launceston Cup after a successful Metropolitan campaign in Victoria. In that race, she was hindered by a riderless horse which probably cost her at least a placing and possibly the race. Pattie Royale has now been mated to successful sire More Than Ready and there is no doubt that her owners have been delighted with the results of firstly her Racing career where she was successful with a winning Metropolitan campaign and now starting a successful career as a broodmare.

In NSW Laurel Oak have stuck to Garry Portelli and Keith Dryden as their trainers and their confidence has been repaid several fold. In Victoria, Laurel Oak was first involved with Tony Noonan when he was an up and coming trainer and now of course, he is ranked with the very best. In recent years Peter Moody has become involved and that is a partnership which has lived up to it’s early promise.

In November 2003 two of Laurel Oaks’ horses Ancient Song, trained by Peter Moody, and Into The Night, trained by Keith Dryden, contested the Group One Salinger stakes at Flemington on Derby Day. The result was a Laurel Oak quinella with Ancient Song prevailing over Into The Night in what was a mini State Of Origin for the two groups of owners. Although Into The Night missed out on this occasion, Into The Night had already earned its syndicate owners over half a million dollars in prize money with Metropolitan wins in all three Eastern States. Ancient Song took her earning to over half a million with this win and she is now in foal to General Nediym. You can imagine how much that foal will bring if sold later this year.

In all over twenty Laurel Oak broodmares are in foal. At time of writing in mid January, there were over thirty Laurel Oak syndicates and so there is always some action taking place with several runners each week. Laurel Oak Members receive regular Newsletters and they have an active website with access to photos and updated information.

I have been involved in many syndicates over the years and I have found that Laurel Oak with Louis and Jill at the helm have provided the best experiences. As difficult as it is, Louis maintains personal contact with syndicate Members and the team goes out of their way to make Racehorse ownership a social opportunity as well as a potentially winning one. In past years it has been my pleasure to attend the Cox Plate and the Flemington Spring races as part of a Laurel Oak group booking which means that you are able to spend your Raceday in the comfort of booked seats in the stand, oblivious of the crowd but with full views of the Racing action.

Every Spring, Louis and his team arrange both stud and stable visits as well as visits to some of the country Cup meetings in Victoria. There are also, for those who wish, the Laurel Oak Golf days and for those who aren’t so keen on this sport, cruises on Sydney Harbour to coincide with major racedays at places like Royal Randwick or Rosehill Gardens.

You know, these days, more than ever, Racing can be a serious investment opportunity, especially if you get involved in breeding. One of the services now provided by Laurel Oak is management of these racing investments, which ensures that where tax savings are involved, your records are meticulously kept for future scrutiny.

I recall a day at Gosford NSW where my good friend Charlie Philcox, who has been involved in Laurel Oak breeding and Racing syndicates for some years now, watched a horse we were involved in attempt his maiden win at his third start. Coming to the turn we could see that our horse had a chance of running a place. At the 200 metres we were sure of at least a third placing and at the 100 we could even run second. On the post we were on a winner and even though we barely owned a hoof at that stage, to us it was like winning a Melbourne Cup. It is a thrill like no other and one that is all the better for being shared. Laurel Oak provides ordinary people with the chance of participating with as little as 1/40th of a share and I know I can recommend it.


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