Gai Waterhouse visits the team at Merricks Station
Ben & Lizzie Cooper’s Merricks Station has certainly been getting some important visitors at their immaculately appointed property of late and while it may not have been Harry and Meagan, they did recently host the First lady of Racing, Gai Waterhouse for a royal tour of their Mornington Peninsular acreage.
Additionally, the first lady of Moonee Valley, is also in residence, with the recent Group 1 Moir victor, Lloyd Kennewell’s Viddora happily enjoying a well-earned spell on the lush spring pastures.
Manager of Merricks Station, Dearne Gess-Jones who has been involved with the farm since its inception, was excited to show off the operation that she is thrilled to be a part of.
Gess-Jones had previously managed Musk Creek Farm, and after starting a young family of her own, she remained involved in the industry before coming on board at Merrick’s Station full time.
Merrick’s Station was born when two former cattle properties of 50 acres were purchased and merged by Ben Cooper, allowing this purpose-built equine property to be built from scratch. It has been well planned out and developed by Ben with an amazing eye for detail. With fully renovated pastures, stable complex and clever paddock layout, the design ensured that the farm flowed from a horse point of view. We developed laneway’s and yards, that allow us to run the farm efficiently and safely.
“I have to give full credit to Ben, as he listened to my suggestions, and together we made adjustments, and he was very respectful and receptive of my horse and property knowledge to give the farm great functionality.” Gess-Jones said.
Although busy as Managing Director of Cameron, his family owned and operated commercial and industrial real estate business, Ben Cooper still enjoys the picturesque property as much as possible.
“Ben loves getting out on the farm and amongst the horses as much as he can. He doesn’t mind getting dirty and wants to be involved in the day to day running. It’s great as Ben is happy to help with a feed run or foaling and I often ask him to lead a mare or grab a foal.” Gess-Jones said.
The property is currently home to Cooper’s dozen or so broodmares, many that he raced successfully himself, as well as the young horses, yearlings, foals and a number of spelling racehorses.
Merricks Station boasts state of the art infrastructure that includes a 10-horse walker with a centre round yard, foaling paddock under lights and 24/7 cameras, walk in / walk out boxes, and stable complex for yearling preparation. Coupled with improved lush pastures, gentle, undulating paddocks for development and growth of yearlings and excellent rainfall all year round, it is an idyllic setting catering for horses throughout all stages of their lifespan.
Cooper first became involved with racehorses when as an owner in a Matthew Ellerton & Simon Zahra trained galloper, which was the start of a long association with the EZ team. Now EZ Racing train all of Cooper’s horses, and between preparations, his racehorses can enjoy coming up to Merricks Station to spell.
Additionally, the operation provides thoroughbred agistment and spelling for other leading trainers, including Lloyd Kennewell’s and his Group 1 sprinter Viddora, who is loving life on the Peninsular.
Focusing on the Melbourne market, Cooper will be taking a high-quality draft of seven yearlings to Melbourne Premier next year under the Merricks Station banner, all expertly prepped on farm, which includes yearlings by Written Tycoon and Zoustar.
While loyal to the Victorian breeding industry, Cooper welcomed two Written Tycoon foals this season and is looking forward to greeting the first foals from Darley’s Impending next season, a stallion he has bought lifetime breeding rights in.
Excited now to watch the Merrick’s Station brand grow and flourish, Ben Cooper is quick to give credit when credit is due.
“At the start-up, it’s so important to get a good team around you, like-minded people that share your passion. They are able to give you the right advice and along with Simon & Matt from EZ racing, I have to thank Mat Becker for all his knowledge on selecting the right black type families and brilliant mating plans and Dearne, who has been instrumental for all her advice and hard work to make the farm so functional.” Ben Cooper said.
A product of Merricks Station is, Whistle Baby, a filly we bought from the Premier yearling sales, raced her and now she is our star broodmare. She represents what we are looking to achieve. To buy high-end quality fillies, race them in the Merricks Station silks and then bring them into our growing and improving broodmare band. We have a lot to look forward to over the coming years.