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South African Talent Enjoys Rewarding Role at Karaka Stud Farm

9 July

As Head of Operations at Westbury Stud’s Karaka farm, Annet Becker has a demanding but hugely satisfying role meeting the daily challenge of managing the 212-acre property, balancing the responsibility of both the staff and equine residents at the picturesque stud.

Becker joined Westbury with impeccable qualifications after many years of overseas experience that included successful stints at two of the thoroughbred world’s most prestigious and successful nurseries.

“I started at Karaka as an Assistant Manager and then worked at the Matamata farm for five months, before being offered a leadership role here at Karaka,” she said.

“It’s challenging and very rewarding at the same time, and it is very exciting to be involved in the new approach the business is taking towards staffing the operation, providing the training for new entrants and developing career paths for a new generation of our workforce.”

Annet oversees a staff which numbers 20 to 25 and increases slightly more in the breeding season as the workload peaks.

“We have six stallions based at Karaka, and last year we had over 700 services with them and usually have the majority of the dry mares come through here, last year it was about 150 dry mares that came through the property.

“We also do the bulk of the yearling sale preparation for Magic Millions and Karaka, that’s usually around 65 or so and has seen the likes of Miami Bound, Inferno, Ranting, Mascarpone, De La Terre emerge from yearling drafts during my time at Westbury.”

Becker isn’t from a racing family, but was bitten by the bug early on and has successfully pursued her passion.

“I was always one of those kids that loved riding horses and I started when I was four and my dream was to go and work on a stud farm in Kentucky,” she said.

“That was the plan and my Dad said to me, please study something first to fall back on in case the horse thing doesn’t work out. I looked at what I would be most useful and that would take the least amount of time and qualified as a veterinary nurse in South Africa.”

Her studies complete, Becker then headed overseas and straight to Kentucky.

“As soon as I finished my studies, I secured a job at Juddmonte Farm in America and worked there for three and a half years as a stud groom and also the assistant veterinary technician on the farm,” she said.

“That was an incredible experience and the quality of bloodstock we worked with across both properties was amazing.  I had the privilege of working with mares such as Toussaud, Razyana and Hasili, to name a few. Juddmonte prefer to retain their yearlings and they were broken in before being exported to Europe to start their racing careers. During my time on the yearling team, I broke in and rode a half-brother to Danehill.”

“When I finished in the USA, I was offered the job as Broodmare and Foal Care Manager back home at Summerhill Stud in South Africa. I worked for Mick Goss (at Summerhill) for nine years and we always had around 380 mares, so it was a big operation.

“I had some fantastic opportunities there and went to Australia twice a year to pinhook yearlings and weanlings to take back to South Africa and re-sell.

“We were lucky enough to buy Igugu, a Galileo filly we pinhooked as a yearling and sold her at the Ready to Run Sale, before she went on to win the Triple Tiara, Durban July and J&B Met and several other top races.”

Following a hiatus, Becker and husband Greg looked further afield to continue their journey.

“I took a break from horses for three years and started two small business.  My husband Greg is a pilot and we wanted to live and work overseas and looked at several different options,” she said.

“A friend of mine was working at Westbury at the time and said why not look at New Zealand, Westbury were advertising, so I applied for the job and got it.  We absolutely love our dogs, and with only ten days quarantine it was a no brainer to bring them along.  We’ve always been attracted to the idea of living in New Zealand.”

Annet brings a wealth of experience with her from her time overseas and plays an integral role in not only managing the day-to-day running of the Karaka property but shares an excellent rapport with her staff and the team across both farms.