Pinhook Bloodstock (FBAA) agent Dave Mee developed a sharp eye for a horse as a boy growing up in the South Island of New Zealand.
Mee tapped that vision to establish Pinhook Bloodstock in 2005 and the business has since snowballed into a successful network covering Australia, NZ and Asia.
“Both my Father and my Grandfather loved racehorses, my Grandfather more so with the pedigrees and Dad was an excellent hands-on horseman,” Mee said recalling his days on the family farm near Ranfurly. “Dad always had a few in work and we operated a small stud for a time standing Skyhawk II who sired Caufield Cup winner Hayaii.
“Back then, the vet only came out every couple of weeks so it was hands-on in every sense.
“I went to boarding school but horses had already piqued my interest and I guess there was no turning back after working for trainers around Wingatui during the holidays.
“I started out with Cambridge Stud,” Mee recalled. “Sir Tristram was at the pinnacle and Zabeel was the new stallion on the scene. I also helped prep Octagonal for the yearling sales at Karaka.
“It introduced me to the commercial world of thoroughbreds as an 18-year-old. It was an education and a solid foundation to learn the ropes watching Patrick Hogan.”
Eventually transferring to Australia, he worked at Widden Stud and also for John Ivill who was a breaker for Lee Freedman when FBI was top of the tree. “I was also doing a commerce and marketing degree at university but soon realised I wasn’t cut out for an office job.”
The travel-bug bit and Mee moved to Kentucky. “Wasn’t that an eye-opener! I got a start with Taylor Made Agency and that involved taking 300 horses to both the Keeneland September yearling sale and the November breeding stock sale.”
The sale volume was enormous and, as if that workload wasn’t enough, Mee would annoy famed bloodstock agents like Richard Galpin and Ken McLean on his days off to learn more about the art of buying and selling.
A stint with leading Florida pin-hooker Eddie Woods followed and that was also a steep learning curve. “Eddie would have 100+ yearlings broken in and educated for 2YO Breeze Up Sales travelling to Ocala, Keeneland, Baltimore and California.”
England was calling and, in particular Clive Brittain, who guided champion filly Pebbles, and trainer John Berry who was also a one-time Lord Mayor of Newmarket.
“It was an incredible experience working horses on the Newmarket Heath and, after coming back home, I returned to the USA as I always wanted to work for one of their larger stables.”
Landing in LA, Mee found his way to Darrell Vienna’s barn at Santa Anita but that job was cut short in September 2001. “You could cross the border to Mexico to renew your work permit but after 9/11 they changed the rules and I had to return to NZ.”
Champion South African trainer David Payne was setting up in Australia and Mee became his right-hand man. “David’s record speaks for itself. At that point, he’d trained nearly 100 Group 1 winners in South Africa and it felt right with him. I was six years at Randwick with David as well as stints riding trackwork for Les Bridge and Bob Pearse but I knew I always wanted to be a bloodstock agent.
“I was incredibly lucky, not everyone has the chance to work with key figures from every major thoroughbred producing country in the world – let alone from every discipline — breeding, pinhooking, breeze -ups, breaking and training!
“In the earlier days, I was selling around 100 horses a year.
“But in time the focus and business has changed to primarily International sales to Asia and developing the auction representation and management side of the business.
“I was fortunate to have John White helping me build the Hong Kong trade and Gordon Benson has been a marvellous contact for Singapore and Macau.”
Notable horses sourced include stakes winners in Hong Kong (Go Baby Go, Express Win), Macau (Elderly Paradise, Master Of Puppets) and Singapore (Mystic Power).
Mee and his French-born partner Anne-Laure (pictured) live on the NSW Central Coast at Avoca Beach with their children Francesca and Lucas. It’s close to the Hunter Valley and 90 minutes down the Pacific Motorway to Randwick.
“I love horses and I love the range of interesting people in the game. All the hard graft is beginning to pay off and we have some exciting projects in the pipeline especially concerning Asia and overseas clients investing in the industry here.”
Federation of Bloodstock Agents Australia (FBAA) was formed in 1988 to maintain, improve and develop the standards, status and services of bloodstock agents throughout Australia. Its members operate with the utmost integrity and professionalism and are bound by the strict Industry Code of Conduct.