This month Business Minds talks to Cody Morgan of Tamworth-based Cody Morgan Racing, one of the largest horse training set-ups in country NSW. A former jockey, Cody gained his training licence in 2008 and has trained over 70 winners at an impressive average of 22% career runners to winners.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born on Melbourne Cup day, which turned out to be somewhat prophetic. I grew up and went to school in Quirindi. Mum and Dad grew up on the land. Dad is a 20-time Australian champion rodeo rider. Both my mum and brother were also champions, but I wasn’t that great at it.
How did you end up a jockey?
A family friend, Max Rose, had racehorses. When I was 13, he told me I would make a good jockey, that I could leave school and make lots of money. What more could I possibly want? My principal made it very clear it would be a mistake to leave in Year 9, but eighteen months later, I became a professional jockey. Ironically, I saw him at all the meets, and he was a great supporter.
How did you do?
I was no superstar, but it was a great industry, and it set me up to this day. Before I had a car licence, I had bought my second house. For that aspect, I am forever grateful.
Racing is such a dangerous sport. I always say to my apprentices, go and buy real estate, buy a house; you can’t do this forever. I’ve seen many do the lot. I was lucky my parents managed my money for me.
My younger brother was better than me. I rode 150 winners and my brother 200.
What led you to start Cody Morgan Racing?
I always planned to transition to training. Many jockeys cross over out of necessity; however, I always knew I wanted to be a trainer and used my career as a jockey to set up my training property.
I didn’t own my own business initially. I started with a couple of my own horses and six belonging to others. Now I have around 25 horses, including my own. I race two or three with my family.
In the last two seasons, I’ve earned $1.6 million in winnings for the owners. I get paid on my performance, and I love it. Training is my life, not a job and something I want to be doing when I am 60.
What is your biggest asset?
Give me a horse for five minutes, and I’m able to assess its potential. My biggest asset now is that I can still do my own trackwork. My brother does a lot of the breaking in and assists with track work.
How has racing changed?
Ten years ago, you had your country owners. It was unheard of to have a city owner. Now, because of social media and the internet in general, 95% of owners are from Australia’s capital cities.
Competition from Sydney trainers is very strong, making it harder for a hobby trainer. Horses I was buying for owners five years ago for $10,000, I am now buying for over $70,000.
Syndication has changed everything. You can have just as much fun racing horses in syndication – most members only have 5% in two or three horses, but their costs aren’t huge. A minimum of twenty owners in a horse and the bill may only be $50 a week.
The syndicates are the biggest highlight for me. In a syndicate of 20 people, if the horse turns out to be super-duper, then fantastic. If not, they haven’t done all their money on one horse. That has changed racing.
Why have you stayed in Tamworth?
You no longer have to aspire to Sydney to make a living. The prize money in country NSW is incredible, and it’s attracting city owners. In my case, the owner of Black Caviar makes up half my stable. The Everest is the richest race in Australia, and horses have to be trained in the country to be eligible for that.
What was your biggest challenge?
To be honest, cash flow is the biggest challenge. You see a lot of money, but there are a lot of outgoings. I see a financial advisor and accountant every second week. And then, learning the ropes with communication. I found that 30% of my job is training and 70% communication. Owners like to be informed all the time, see what the stables look like, know the person. I like to feel I’ve made that a priority.
Any advice for a business just starting out?
Before you start, do your research, work underneath someone you look up to, even if it’s only for six weeks or three months. Learn as much as you can.
What inspires you?
To do the very best job for the owners who have faith in me. You are not going to win every race, but if I run into that owner in six – 12 months’ time and they are really happy with the job I did, that is all I can ask for.
Thank you, Cody.
Photo courtesy of Bradleyphotos.com.au