Situated in Matamata, Waikato – the heartland of New Zealand’s thoroughbred breeding industry – Valachi Downs’ boutique thoroughbred stud has flourished from its modest beginnings. Since being purchased in 2005 as a 50-acre dairy farm, the highly passionate duo of Kevin and Jo Hickman have been at the helm developing their vision into over 600 acres of prime horse breeding land.


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Kevin and his wife Joanna are well accustomed to the elements that create a champion, having both been heavily involved in the sporting world themselves.

Kevin was a keen athlete before he turned his hand to coaching, nurturing athletes and taking some through to compete at the highest level, while Joanna was a successful athlete and former Athletics New Zealand Chairperson.

It seems only natural that they would transfer some of this experience to the world of thoroughbred racing, and as their part-time success in the breeding barn and racetrack grew, so too did Kevin Hickman’s vision to create his own stud.

That burning passion came to fruition in 2005 after spending considerable time searching the Waikato for the perfect environment to raise young thoroughbreds. It was a 50-acre block of land near Matamata, and the adjacent property, that would become the foundation of Valachi Downs and set out its future for success.

The original properties were set up for cattle and milking, so the few sheds and stock fencing were completely transformed to meet the needs of a growing thoroughbred stud. The paddocks and landscape were renovated into post and railing fences, laneways of trees and red robin hedging, and quality stabling.

A new property adjacent to the original farm was acquired in 2018, with the development of a new office and broodmare facilities. A modern stallion barn is now home to Champion sprinter and shuttle sire U S Navy Flag, proven sire Zacinto and triple Group 1 performer Savile Row.

Kevin and Joanna both possess a wealth of business experience and drive to accomplish greatness, thus providing an inspirational base for the success of Valachi Downs.

WATCH: Take a flyover tour of Valachi Downs


The stud has been purpose built from the ground up and reflects the many terrains of the region. Hill country, rolling pastures and lush flat lands make up the landscape of the farm, along with first class stabling facilities and kilometres of post and rail fencing. The stud reflects the focus on quality and attention to detail that is synonymous with the co-founder of Ryman Healthcare and stud owner Kevin Hickman.

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