From training in Darwin as a teenager, trading bloodstock to Asia to get established and setting up a premiership-winning stable to confirm his expertise, Michael Hickmott has an all-encompassing view of thoroughbred racing.

Michael Hickmott
Michael Hickmott is taking in-form Fancify to Ipswich. (Photo: Pat Scala/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Nevertheless, it will be a circle of close contacts who Hickmott will credit most if he can turn a winter carnival cameo into a significant result in the Eye Liner Stakes at Ipswich.

Hickmott, who has earned widespread respect for his forays into Victorian racing from a Murray Bridge training property in recent seasons, will have his first Brisbane metropolitan starter in the Listed sprint which is a traditional support race on Ipswich Cup day.

And it’s doubtful if there will be a more appropriate horse running throughout Australia on Saturday than Hickmott’s in-form mare Fancify.

Sold by her New Zealand owners in between back-to-back Melbourne wins, Fancify will contest the Eye Liner in the silks of new connections Imperial Racing.

Imperial Racing will sponsor the Eye Liner, completing a set of circumstances that are as coincidental as they are calculated.

“It was intentional that I'd planned to go to the race, and then the (previous) owners said they were going to sell her,” Hickmott told The Straight.

“Through a friend of a client they said Fancify might suit (the new owners).

“And they said, ‘oh, you haven't got one that would suit the Eye Liner’? And I said,’ well, funny you say that’.

“So it's just such a small world how that all came about.”

An Adelaide premiership winner in 2020/21, Hickmott is a young trainer on the move at a national level since the best horses in his stable are staying under lock and key.

In a tweak to a system that bankrolled the purchase of the 800-acre Lakeside Stud that serves as his primary stable base, these days Hickmott is more focused on training winners than selling them.

Michael Hickmott
Morning trackwork with Michael Hickmott (Photo: Facebook - Michael Hickmott Bloodstockwar)

It’s a validation of the horsemanship that came to prominence as an 18-year-old in his first year operating a stable when he trained General Market to win the 2007 Darwin Cup.

Juggling a job in real estate, Hickmott won the Darwin Cup again two years later before relocating to South Australia where the family name is synonymous with racing, through his father John.

Yet instead of trying to barge into the upper echelon of Adelaide’s training ranks, Hickmott used the selling prowess he learned from the real estate business to wheel and deal his way into building a profitable bloodstock agency that targeted the overseas market.

“I needed to get a financial base behind me, so I invested heavily into trading horses to Asia,” he said.

From starting out selling horses to Malaysia, Hickmott formed “a great relationship” with ex-pat trainer Shane Baertschiger in Singapore until moving on to the Hong Kong scene

It came at a cost to his training business.

“I probably sacrificed for six or seven years every good horse that I had because it was sold to Hong Kong and/or Singapore,” Hickmott said.

“Basically, the moment one showed ability - and I could get some money for it - I'd sell it.”

Hickmott says trading out of horses to Asia has become more difficult, exacerbated as Singapore’s days as a racing destination draws to a close.

“I probably sacrificed for six or seven years every good horse that I had because it was sold to Hong Kong and/or Singapore." - Michael Hickmott

And despite its status as a financial hub, Hong Kong isn’t immune to the economic pressures experienced in most other parts of the globe.

“It's tightened up a lot, so there's no ifs, buts or maybes about that. It's certainly become a harder market, that's for sure,” he said.

“The criteria (for selling horses) has softened up but I think the world economy is just tighter.”

Not that Hickmott is surrendering all thought of giving the bloodstock game away as he tries to cap his numbers at 40 with the horses he wants to have in training.

Cutting a deal is in his DNA.

“Everything is risk versus reward, and if we get offered good money for the right horse, they'll always be for sale. So that will always be open,” he said.

One untapped talent that won’t leave Hickmott’s side is a Snitzel colt who cost $1.1 million as a yearling at last year’s Magic Millions sale.

Cash, the Snitzel colt which cost $1.1 million (Photo: Magic Millions)

Named Cash, the two-year-old is showing Hickmott all the right signs to make an impact in the new season.

The colt’s ownership group includes some of Australian racing’s heavy-hitters, including John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud, Seymour Bloodstock and John O’Neill.

“He’s had a couple of soft trials and is showing really, really good ability and he’s going to make a lovely spring three-year-old,” Hickmott said.

But first, there is the matter of an Eye Liner Stakes to win and if Fancify can enhance her South Australian and Victorian record at her sternest so far, thanking the race sponsors will have added meaning for Hickmott.