Self-made property millionaire, Michael Drapac may be more well-known for his cycling pursuits, being the owner of the elite professional Tour de France team, Cannondale Drapac; however his other passion, his horses, are now back in his life, front and centre.
Having recently purchased a large property in the Macedon Ranges, neighbouring Michael Flannery’s Springmount in Romsey, Drapac is looking forward to spending some time and a serious amount of capital into developing what he calls a “centre for equine excellence.”
Having started riding at an early age on relatives’ farms, his love grew through his first horse, an old racehorse called Royal Affair, affectionally known as Red.
“I have spent thousands of hours in the saddle, and I’ve ridden hundreds of different horses. My first horse, Red was an extraordinary off the track thoroughbred that you could do anything with. So versatile, the complete athlete. I still keep a photo of him next to my bed,” Drapac said.
Following his passion, he began working at the Flemington race track at age 17 strapping, before he started working for bookmakers on course for nearly 20 years.
“I was always quick with numbers, so when I was 18, I started pencilling on the rails. You keep track of all the bets and a running tally of the risks. Anyone who has been involved in racing realises a lot of miracles happen on the track, and it taught me how to be street smart.”
Having invested tens of millions into the sport of cycling, Drapac became increasingly passionate about the holistic development and care of athletes.
“Having sat on many sporting and professional boards and committees, I was really concerned about what happens to athletes once their professional career came to an end and I wanted to find ways to help athletes transition into a productive and purposeful life.” This theory of holistic development in cycling is one that Drapac believes can be directly compared to his equine athletes when they conclude their racing career on the track.
“This is a philosophy I share with both my two-legged cyclists and my four-legged racehorses. The key point is that we have an obligation to athletes, human and equine, to provide a wellbeing program to help them become purposeful in their next career stage.”
“I was pushing over 20 years ago for horses to be cared for on retirement, and for a levy to be compulsory for owners, but I couldn’t get a single person to listen to me, but now they have realised that the culture must change,” Drapac said.
“My fundamental principle is that as an owner you have a responsibility for the horse when they finish racing, and that you must make a serious attempt to provide for its re-purposing. The industry needs to be sustainable and accountable, and we need to address these issues for us all to continue to thrive.”
“It’s all about public perception and actually showing that we are making that change in attitude. To show that we are looking after our horses that we have owned for personal gain. They can earn a lot of money, so the last thing owners can do, is to look after them.”
Drapac’s property will be purpose built so that thoroughbred horses, under the brand Full Circle Thoroughbreds, can be educated, trained, re-educated and responsibly re-homed.
With a state of the art indoor being built, along with a cross-country course, the finest fencing, undulating paddocks and stables available, thoroughbreds will be given the opportunity to flourish in the best facilities money can buy.
“I will be spending about $25 million on the complex for rehabilitation and re-education of racehorses, and we will be looking at new and innovative ways to breed, raise, race and re-purposing athletes to enable sustainability post their elite sporting career,” Drapac said.
Under the banner Full Circle Thoroughbreds, Drapac has a small broodmare band numbering seven that reside at Flannery’s Springmount and he has supported the local stallion farms including Sun Stud’s Fiorente.
“I have a commitment to the horse, and must take responsibility for what I breed, and the way I care for it means I am considering how will it transition when it retires. I am considering the well-being of this horse throughout its career, and I may train and educate the horse differently due to this way of thinking.”
Additionally, Drapac also has a passion for the Australian Stock Saddle and his collection now numbers 200 individual hand-crafted pieces which he is looking forward to sharing with others.
“The complex will contain a home for my rare saddle collection in an Australian Stock Saddle museum that will showcase the unique beauty of this time-honoured Australian craftsmanship, of which R.M. Williams correctly dubbed them “the armchair of the bush”.”