Vin Cox Joins Yulong Investments

Vin Cox and Yuesheng Zhang  | TTR AusNZ

by Jess Owers/TTR AusNZ

Vin Cox will depart Godolphin Australia on Dec. 1 in one of the most significant senior shuffles in Australian bloodstock. He will relocate to Yulong Investments in Victoria in a new role as general manager.

After five and some years as managing director of Godolphin Australia, Vin Cox will step away from the role on December 1 to join Yulong Investments as general manager. It's big news in bloodstock, Cox helming Godolphin's Australian outlet since January 2018.

He will migrate to Yulong with a wealth of experience behind him, having overseen one of the largest breeding and racing operations in this part of the world. The move will suit him as Yulong, the Victorian-based business of Mr. Yuesheng Zhang, emerges as a bloodstock super-power in Australia.

Speaking to The Thoroughbred Report, Cox said his tenure at Godolphin was a privileged one, and he was quick to deflect to the 300-odd staff that he had the great pleasure to work with the last five years.

“I'm very proud of what the team has achieved at Godolphin,” he said. “And it's a big team. I was just one part of it the last few years, but my time in the role is full of very lovely memories, both on and off the racetrack, and I will greatly miss so many parts of my everyday working life.”

The Godolphin team is extensive, dotted around farms and racing yards in two states. Cox is a genuine person and he will genuinely miss many of the relationships he's built at the operation, from the people he managed directly to the “unsung heroes in the background who I formed a really good relationship with, and whom I enjoyed working with immensely”.

“They are truly wonderful people in that organisation,” he said. “The staff is just short of 300 people and every one of them wears a blue shirt proudly. I'm going to miss them and miss representing them.”


High Achiever

Cox was announced as the managing director of Godolphin in October 2017. At that time, he held the same position at Magic Millions and had been in that company since 2011. As such, he's been a high achiever with some of the elite brands in Australian bloodstock.

During his years at Magic Millions, he oversaw the emergence of the A$10-million January raceday, and he negotiated the valuable grant from the Queensland government that backed horseracing tourism in the state. Long after his departure, he enjoyed continued affection for Magic Millions and he lives on the Gold Coast to this day.

Cox's tenure at Godolphin also coincided with some of the company's best years, and they've been interesting years. He has travelled widely, gone to the Dubai World Cup on numerous occasions, and he's met interesting people in far-flung locations. The operation has 700 horses across three training locations and three stud farms, and, for anyone else, it might have been a mind-bending scale in which to work.

But it never intimidated Cox who seemed to relish in the vastness of his role, and he's quite particular about what has given him the most satisfaction these last five years.

“The thing I got a real kick out of was enjoying looking at staff celebrate and revel in success we've had along the way,” he said. “For different reasons, different people got a real kick out of what we were achieving on the racetrack, in the breeding barns or in the foaling paddocks.

“There were so many parts to it all. I really enjoyed seeing people satisfied with how they were fulfilling their roles, in whatever that role looked like.”

It was a prolonged and consistent head-hunting approach over many months required by Yuesheng Zhang to encourage Cox to move and he will head to his new role at Yulong in early December after finishing up at Godolphin at the same time. He's looking forward to it, and he isn't intimidated by the vastness of the Yulong operation either, which has quickly climbed the rigging to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, bloodstock operations in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cox will remain living on the Gold Coast, but will travel extensively up and down to Victoria, and to anywhere else that is required as Yulong's general manager.

“I won't be permanently relocating to Victoria, but I'll certainly be spending a lot of time there,” he said. “I'll be moving about in a similar fashion as I have done with Godolphin between the Gold Coast and the farm in Victoria.”

Cox said his family is very supportive of his new direction. Wife Nicole is used to an upwardly mobile husband and their three sons, Harry, Charlie and Will, all of whom have been involved with horses, are grown up and on their own paths.

“The family is excited for me,” Cox said. “They are thrilled that it's a great opportunity and they're looking forward to that side of it. They too have enjoyed the ride at Godolphin and what the Godolphin association brings, and they also recognise the challenges that lie ahead.”


The Passion Is Very Apparent

Cox's appointment to Yulong is a huge announcement in Australian bloodstock circles, but it mirrors where the company is at right now.

Yuesheng Zhang is a Chinese billionaire that has made the paddocks of Yulong his second home, and the bloodstock he has purchased is now an eye-watering collection. Across the whole of the operation, there are around 700 mares in Australia and a further 100, give or take, in Ireland. He also has a number in Japan.

Zhang is clearly excited about the appointment, saying, “Vin's impeccable track record and vast experience in bloodstock make him an invaluable addition to lead Yulong. We are excited about the new chapter this heralds for our operations. Together, we aim to solidify our position as a leading player in the global industry.”

This year alone, Yulong made the single-deepest splash of any previous vendor at the Magic Millions National Sale when it threw A$33.5 million at 60 broodmares across three days. The effort made the pages of the Australian Financial Review.

Outside the perimeters of physical sales, Yulong has marched through almost every digital catalogue, plucking out the best broodmares to visit the likes of Written Tycoon (Aus), Tagaloa (Aus), Grunt (NZ), Alabama Express (Aus) and Lucky Vega (Ire). For this breeding season, the farm added Pierata (Aus), cherry-picked from Aquis, and Japanese import Diatonic (Jpn).

Into this fold Cox will head in early December and, while Yulong is similar to Godolphin in measure of scale, it's a very different everyday operation.

“What Yulong has done in a short space of time is extraordinary,” Cox said. “Mr. Zhang is a very prominent investor in the industry now, and that's happened very quickly at a very significant level. I'm excited to be getting in on that journey because he's making a long-term presence in Australia.

“He's very passionate and his two daughters are very passionate, and he's got great support around him. That passion he has is very apparent when you talk to him.”

Mr. Zhang's interest in Australian racing emerged in 2013 when he watched Fiorente (Ire) win the Melbourne Cup. Of all modern Cups to watch, that was the one because it was a Gai Waterhouse fairytale, and, locally, sentiment was strong.

Since then, Zhang's Yulong operation has become the biggest breeding outfit in Victoria, in a triangle of the biggest farms that includes Widden Victoria and Godolphin's Northwood Park. In fact, Northwood Park and Yulong's farm in Mangalore are next-door neighbours.

“You've only got to watch what Yulong has been doing at the elite sales, not to mention online as well,” Cox said. “Some of the best mares that have come on the market, they have been roundly secured by Yulong, and they're some of the best mares and best yearlings. This is an enviable portfolio of bloodstock, no doubt about it.”

To this day, Cox is missed at Magic Millions and he'll be missed at Godolphin Australia too. It's a testament to the gentleman he is, that he has moved from these positions of prominence so seamlessly.

At Yulong, the extensive and equally well-credentialled team can look forward to Cox's steady hand on the wheel, and it will be a good fit for him.

“I think it will be a good fit,” he said. “I wouldn't have taken the position if I didn't think it would be. I really am excited about the challenge of the role and what lies ahead, and it's something I'm really excited about.

“Mr. Zhang has got big ambitions and the international part of the role was a big enticement as well. It's been an honour and a privilege to be selected, as it's been an honour and a privilege at Godolphin these last five years.”

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