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Things Sometimes Are What They Used To Be

Author: John Berry

07/12/2017
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There’s something magical about the great studs. It’s perfectly possible to love racing without loving its history and heritage; but if one does so, if one lives only in the present and the future without looking into the past, one is missing a trick. There’s so much to enjoy in appreciating the timelessness of the rolling of the years. There’s so much pleasure to be had savouring a year on year accumulation of achievement. Few aspects of the sport sum this up better than the decade after decade standards of excellence achieved by the great studs.

The past week has seen similar but very different chapters in the stories of two of the world’s great studs as eras end at both Ballymacoll Stud in Ireland and Cambridge Stud in New Zealand. Happily, the future for Cambridge Stud appears to be safe, but sadly things will be very different at Ballymacoll. Since the property was bought by Michael Sobell and Arnold Weinstock from the executors of the late Dorothy Paget in 1960, Ballymacoll Stud has been synonymous with the success achieved by horses bred there carrying their family’s pale blue and pale yellow silks.

The likes of Troy, North Light, Pilsudski, Conduit, Sun Princess, Islington, Reform, Golan, Spectrum, Sallust, Admetus and Prince Of Dance spring immediately to mind. Furthermore, in recent years its roll of honour has been further swelled by victories achieved by its proteges who have been sold to race for others, such as 2013 Melbourne Cup hero Fiorente. Ballymacoll Stud is so much a part of the furniture that we rather assumed it would last forever in its present form, that the famous silks would grace Classic fields indefinitely. However, the descendants of Sir Michael Sobell, his son-in-law Lord Weinstock and his grandson Simon Weinstock, appear not to share the same passion for the sport.

Hence the decision was taken last year to sell the stud, a decision which surprisingly did not prompt anyone to snap it up ‘lock, stock and barrel’ (to buy the land plus everything on it, including the horses). The land was sold at auction earlier this autumn (and, happily, it appears that it will still be used for rearing Thoroughbreds) and this week we are seeing the cream of the Ballymacoll herd going through the auction ring at Park Paddocks during Tattersalls’ December Sale. Islington (Lot 1826) and three of her daughters are set to come under the hammer this week, while her weanling daughter by Oasis Dream (Lot 1027) was sold last week, bought by Cheveley Park Stud for 275,000gns.

Her yearling filly by Sea The Stars went through Tattersalls’ October Yearling Sale earlier in the autumn, sold for 550,000gns to Rabbah Bloodstock (who could have secured a rare bargain). Happily, while it’s ‘all change’ at Ballymacoll, the future looks like being similar to the past at Cambridge Stud, the jewel in the crown of the Thoroughbred breeding scene in New Zealand. Cambridge Stud hasn’t actually been around forever (or not in its current form, anyway).

Patrick Hogan, a first generation Kiwi whose father had immigrated from Ireland to make his way in the new world as ‘farmer cum horseman’, scraped together all that he had and more to buy the property (which was then much smaller than it is now) in 1975 with his wife Justine. Life was tough for the Hogans as they tried to establish themselves in the local bloodstock world. We generally assume that the only way to end up with a small fortune in racing is to have started out with a big one. However, Patrick Hogan (now Sir Patrick Hogan KNZM CBE) is the exception who proves the rule.

Thanks to his own particular blend of astuteness and plain hard work, Hogan created an empire which is revered as an institution not merely in his homeland but throughout the racing world. Hogan’s breakthrough came when he imported Sir Tristram into New Zealand in 1976. Sir Tristram hadn’t been a great racehorse, but he descended from Hyperion’s dam Selene and came from the second crop of the champion Sir Ivor. Hogan reckoned that his pedigree made him a potentially smart stallion and persuaded some breeders to back his hunch. When the horse arrived at Cambridge Stud, the majority of the supposed investors took one look at him and backed out of the deal.

This could have left Hogan up the creek without a paddle, but in fact it meant that he had the last laugh all the way to the bank once Sir Tristram matured into the most successful stallion New Zealand had ever seen, setting a new world record by siring 45 Group One winners. Through the ‘80s, the stallion was dominant on both sides of the Tasman, topping Australia’s General Sires’ Table in six of the eight seasons between 1982 and ’90. The Sir Tristram era at Cambridge Stud slipped seamlessly into the Zabeel era. Zabeel joined his father on the Cambridge Stud roster in 1991.

Hogan had gone through the ‘80s saying that he would only recruit a son of Sir Tristram when he had found the right one. He eventually nominated Zabeel as the chosen one. Again Hogan’s judgement proved to have been spot-on. Zabeel did not merely match his father’s achievements but, astonishingly, he exceeded them, ending up with 46 individual Group One winners to his name. He also broke his father’s Dewar Trophy record: Sir Tristram had won the Dewar Trophy (awarded to the leading NZ-based sire on total Australasian earnings) a record nine times, but Zabeel put that into the shade by taking the prize in 14 seasons.

Hogan has also had a magic touch with broodmares. He and Lady Justine have been voted New Zealand’s Breeder of the Year five times, twice courtesy of the progeny of Taiano and thrice thanks to Eight Carat. The former bred the full-brothers Sovereign Red (winner of the VRC Derby in 1980) and Gurner’s Lane, who took the Melbourne Cup two years later. Eight Carat is widely regarded as the best broodmare ever to have lived in New Zealand and bred a total of five individual Group One winners, of whom one (Kaapstad) was by Sir Tristram and two (Octagonal and Mouawad) were by Octagonal.

(Another Cambridge Stud stallion, the former Ian Balding-trained Gold And Ivory, was sire of another of her top liners, Marquise). Sir Tristram died in 1997 and Zabeel in 2015. Currently the star of the roster at Cambridge Stud is Tavistock, one of the most progressive young stallions in the world. His first two crops between them have yielded five horses whom one could regard as Classic winners. His whose profile will rise further if his HK Derby winning son Werther can win the HK Cup at the forthcoming Hong Kong International Meeting. The success which the Hogans have achieved at Cambridge Stud has made both the property and its proprietors New Zealand icons. Hogan was knighted in 2000 for services to Thoroughbred breeding.

In 2005 he was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. In 2006 he became one of the inaugural intake into the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame. That same year he reached another milestone when Cambridge Stud became leading vendor at New Zealand’s National Yearling Sale for an unprecedented 25th consecutive time (en route to an eventual total of 31 times). The stud had already sold more sales topping yearlings than any other vendor in New Zealand history. The Hogans have created a masterpiece. Humans are mortal, but Cambridge Stud should live forever. Time waits for no man, and it has gone without saying that the property would eventually need new custodians.

As far back as 2006, Sir Patrick went on record ruminating: “I’d like to think nothing changes while I’m healthy enough to handle it, but I’m concerned for the future and what’s going to happen because Cambridge Stud is looking like being a ‘one generation set-up’, established and built by Patrick and Justine Hogan. “Our two daughters don’t have an interest in taking up the property, and it won’t be the grandchildren … What will happen next? I’m not certain. It could continue under someone else but, as far as I see it, it won’t be under the name of Hogan.” Just as Sir Patrick Hogan spent the 1980s searching for the right horse to take on the mantle of Sir Tristram, so he has spent the last 11 years waiting for stewards suitable to safeguard the future of Cambridge Stud to present themselves.

Now he has found them, as he announced last week: “It is no secret that there has been huge international interest in Cambridge Stud for some time now. Many different parties have made approaches to us. However, Justine and I were determined to wait for both the right time and the right people, that was ‘non negotiable’ for us. That right time has now come and the right people have now arrived. A new chapter begins for Cambridge Stud and is one that we firmly believe was worth waiting for. “Cambridge Stud has been our lives for over four decades. We have nurtured it, been its guardians and have proudly seen it evolve into the globally respected operation it is today. As we pass the ownership baton on, we know that Cambridge Stud could not be in better hands.

“Everyone knows that Brendan and Jo Lindsay are deeply passionate about both our industry and our country, and Cambridge Stud certainly holds a unique place in both. “For Justine and I, this is a dream come true: we can look ahead with great confidence to the future that Cambridge Stud is assured through its new ownership.” That Sir Patrick and Lady Justine Hogan have chosen to sell Cambridge Stud to Mr and Mrs Lindsay is both a great honour and a great responsibility for the Auckland-based couple. They now become custodians of one of the brightest jewels in the bloodstock crown, both within New Zealand and internationally.

It is, though, a racing certainty that they will be up to the responsibility. We know that they will be because Sir Patrick Hogan believes that they will be; and, as results have shown us time and again over the past five decades, he very rarely gets things wrong.

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