Standing a champion sire is like winning Lotto but studmasters all agree they’re worth a lot more than money in the bank.
Widden Stud’s Antony Thompson said as much when Northern Meteor died a day before being crowned Australia’s first-season champion in July 2013. “We’re shattered,” Thompson lamented. “Northern Meteor was a noble horse and made a lasting impression on all who knew him.
“Instead of celebrating, we are mourning his death and wondering what might have been.”
Northern Meteor will live on at Widden Stud through his champion colt Zoustar. He won the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington last season and has joins its roster this year.
Eliza Park International has also tapped into the sireline with Fighting Sun. He was rated ahead of Zoustar as a two year-old after winning the LR Canonbury Stakes at Rosehill by three lengths.
“This is a serious horse,” trainer Gai Waterhouse said following the victory over Darley’s Group 2 winner Ghibellines. “His acceleration is electrifying!”
Fighting Sun suffered a suspensory ligament injury after the Canonbury Stakes which denied him a start in the G1 Golden Slipper Stakes. He will stand for an introductory fee of $13,750 (inc gst).
Widden lost another champion stallion prematurely in 2009 when General Nediym succumbed to colic. He had won the Magic Millions 2YO Classic and trained on for Group 1 triumphs in the Newmarket Hcp and Lightning Stakes at Flemington.
General Nediym transferred to the historic Hunter Valley nursery after earlier stints in Queensland and Victoria. “He was a ‘life changing’ horse for all those who came in contact with him,” Thompson recalled. “His oldest Widden bred progeny were three year-olds and we were confident they would take him to another level.”
They did that and more with another 30 stakes winners going all the way to Group 1 level courtesy of Mrs Onassis (Oakleigh Plate) and Warhorse (NZ Diamond Stakes).
Golden Slipper winners have an unrivalled record at stud and the 1980s were no different with Marscay, Rory’s Jester and Marauding all having extended careers in the breeding barn.
Star Watch (Bletchingly) won the 1988 Golden Slipper and would have been just a successful as that trio except for earning an “ill-fated” tag after just two years at Woodlands Stud. Those two books generated the winners of an incredible 28 stakes races.
Topping that list was Hurricane Sky who was a Group 1 winner of the 1994 Blue Diamond Stakes and 1995 All-Aged Stakes.
He retired to Arrowfield Stud and sired numerous stakes winners with outstanding mare Divine Madonna grabbing Group 1 gongs in Melbourne (Emirates Stakes, Toorak Hcp & Myer Classic) and Sydney (Queen of the Turf Stakes).
Unlike his own sire, Hurricane Sky is 23 and in retirement after transferring to Scenic Lodge in Western Australia. He stood there for six years before low fertility saw him revert to the stud’s teaser!
Adraan (Zeddaan) will go down in history as our greatest one-hit wonder. He retired to Narrung Stud in South Australia but died before finishing his first book in 1982.
There were only 22 starters from that sole crop and 20 won races. Remarkably, 9 of those winners earned black-type with the best of them being Magic Flute. She was raced by Mike Willesee and won the AJC Doncaster Hcp as a three year-old filly.
On the international stage, there have been two famous cases of champions serving just one book at stud – Shergar and Dubai Millennium.
Shergar (Great Nephew) was retired to Ballymany Stud in County Kildare after a record-breaking 10 length victory in the 1981 English Derby. He served 35 mares first-up and was within a week of beginning his second book when he was kidnapped and held for ransom.
The theft was the inspiration for several books, documentaries and a film but his fate has never been conclusively established.
Among the 35 foals from his single season was Authaal who won the G1 Irish St Leger prior to arriving here to win G1 AJC Queen Elizabeth Stakes and VATC Underwood Stakes.
Authaal was Sheikh Mohammed’s first starter in the Melbourne Cup but he finished down the track behind Empire Rose in 1987.
Dubai Millennium remains Sheikh Mohammed’s all-time favourite among the thousands of horses he has bred and raced over the last 30 years. Initially registered as Yaazer, he was renamed before winning on debut at Yarmouth in October 1998.
He trained on to win the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois and G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at three and followed up in the G1 Dubai World Cup and G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes as a four year-old before retiring to Dalham Hall Stud at Newmarket.
Dubai Millennium (Seeking The Gold) covered 82 blueblood mares in his first book and among them was the dam of Dubawi. He developed into a Group 1 winner of the Irish National Stakes, Irish 2000 Guineas and Prix Jacques Le Marois and is now rated the leading commercial sire in Europe.
Sheikh Mohammed flew in to England from the Gulf when Dubai Millennium came down with grass sickness in April 2001. The Dubai ruler was reported to be devastated when his favourite was put down on humane grounds after three operations.
Another case of a horse being worth more than money – even for a man with assets of $18 billion.
– Karl Patterson