Harvey/Singleton & Derby King Ranch Dispersal 1985

Harvey/Singleton & Derby King Ranch Dispersal 1985

Featured Image: Front Cover of catalogue for the Complete Dispersal Sale of the G Harvey & J Singleton Partnership and Woodlands Stud Farm Derby-King Ranch Partnership on Sunday 14th April 1985 (Broodmares, Weanlings, Yearlings (GH/JS), Racehorses and Shares conducted by William Inglis & Son Pty Ltd

There is little doubt that the thoroughbred breeding industry can throw together the strangest of bedfellows. Gerry Harvey, John Singleton, Lord Derby, Bob Kleberg, Helen Alexander, Sir Rupert Clarke and Peter Morris were a very diverse mix! The union of King Ranch, Texas/Kentucky and the Earl of Derby was largely unexpected in the first place; the John Singleton/Gerry Harvey alliance perhaps less so?

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Morvada Stud Dispersal Sale 1982

Morvada Stud Dispersal Sale 1982

This sale marked the passing of one era and the emergence of another. For much of the 20th century the volume of thoroughbred breeders were the genuine farmers for whom it was a passionate interest, a hobby or another commercial ‘string to the pastoral bow’. Many succeeded. Max Woods of ‘Morvada’ was one of these we now refer to as the ‘old breed’.

Max was most astute. His selection and acquisition of the untried imported ‘Palestine’ stallion ‘Epistle’ for £4500:00 from the Kia Ora dispersal (1961) must rank as one of the great coups in thoroughbred breeding history in NSW. It was a bold bid. ‘Epistle’ went on to become the leading sire of individual winners in Australia 1974 – 1975 with total winnings of $1.1 million. This was truly sterling stuff. Among Epistle’s tsunami of winners were History, Red Clinker, Red Rider, Who’s Who, Chandos, Income Tax (twice winner of Scone Cup) and Docket. In the 1980 – 1981 season ‘Epistle’ was the leading sire of dams of winners on a winner per runner ratio with 116 runners, 61 winners and $219,812 in prizemoney.

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Gainsborough Lodge Dispersal Sale 1977

Gainsborough Lodge Dispersal Sale 1977

Just as the Kia Ora Stud Dispersal Sale had in NSW in 1961 so must the Gainsborough Lodge Dispersal Sale in 1977 have ‘sent shivers through the thoroughbred breeding industry’; in the latter case essentially in Queensland. The sale featured 273 thoroughbreds including 161 mares, 3 yearlings, 106 weanlings and three stallions: Beau Brummel (USA), Charlton and Rock Roi.

Local, State, National and even International ‘bull market’ economic conditions spawn new breeds of entrepreneurs in any age. They are sorely needed. Alfred Grant was such a person and elected to invest some of his development and real estate fortune in his dream: a ‘state-of-the-art’ thoroughbred breeding enterprise on the Darling Downs. He called it Gainsborough Lodge. It was definitely cutting edge and top flight for the era; or whatever corny cliché you care to choose. Nonetheless the prevailing economy turned ‘vicious’ and an inevitable liquidation sale ensued.

I attended the sale; with thousands of others! I had delusions of grandeur myself. Recently married I/we owned a couple of broodmares, a small farm and a share in the recently retired stallion “Bletchingly’. There was actually a lot of confidence in the industry at the time despite the forced sale. Spouse Sarah, a much better judge than me, had picked out two lots which we thought would be the foundation of a brilliant new thoroughbred breeding venture. They were NZ bred mares ‘Agronomist’ (Lot 158) and ‘Setaria’ (Lot 86). Full sisters by Agricola ex Marib (by Sabaean) both were in foal to early services by Beau Brummel. All fired up we couldn’t fail. We did. We didn’t even raise a bid; ‘Setaria’ was knocked down to Colin McAlpine of ‘Eureka Stud’ for $21,000:00 and ‘Agronimist’ to local breeder Gordon MacNicol for $26,000:00. The opening bid in each case was too hot for us in a very hot market indeed. This is often the case with ‘real’ dispersals and was the story of the two days of fierce competition.

Years later we were able to purchase another full sister ‘Turua’ in foal for the more modest sum of $3000:00. That’s more like it! Turua was the dam of Biscay filly ‘Aquilina’ who won two races for us.

The British East India Company in Early Australia


‘The British East India Company in Early Australia’ by Keith Binney

See: http://www.tbheritage.com/Breeders/AUS/AusHistBinney.html

Caution: Be careful if clicking on the link (visit) to ‘Horsemen of the First Frontier’. It takes you to a very different site!

Featured Image: Sir Francis Baring, National Portrait Gallery, London taken from Keith Binney’s book Horsemen of the First Frontier (1788-1900) and The Serpents Legacy

It was Sir Francis who said of John Macarthur: “…the serpent we are nurturing at Botany Bay”

“When one produces a broad historical work like “Horsemen of the First Frontier (1788-1900) & The Serpents Legacy”, perhaps the writer should not be surprised at any comments received. However, the number of Australian readers who have recently said things like “I didn’t know the British East India Company had anything to do with Australia” indicates a generally widespread gap in our historical knowledge of the early colonial period. This is especially so when the same people had learnt at school about the British East India Company’s major role on the Indian sub-continent, in the Opium Wars with China and with the “Boston Tea Party” of 1773, which was a precursor to the American War of Independence.

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RAS of NSW Royal Easter Show Veterinary Panel (2)

RAS of NSW Royal Easter Show Veterinary Panel (2)

Featured Image: RAS of NSW Veterinary Panel RES 2018: “Doing the Rounds”

“All Work and No Play”

I wrote in my immediately preceding blog about the RAS of NSW Royal Easter Show Veterinary Panel (1). There is a less serious side; see featured image. The blissfully recumbent splendidly sartorial pyjama-clad male member with cap at a characteristically rakish angle is a long-term veterinary panellist; and even longer term scion family associate of the RAS of NSW.

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RAS of NSW Royal Easter Show Veterinary Panel (1)

RAS of NSW Royal Easter Show Veterinary Panel (1)

Featured Image: RAS of NSW Veterinary Panel RES 2017. Their first names are clockwise from back left: Chuck, Anne, Kym, Edwina (‘Eddie’), Emily, Danae (RAS Staff), Mark, Al and David.

I mentioned in my tribute to Dr Anne Fawcett on this site the egress of RAS of NSW Veterinary Panel since the first Sydney Royal Easter Show (SRES) at Homebush in 1998. I made my debut as RAS Councillor at the final SRES at Moore Park in 1997. Not surprisingly many changes have taken place as inevitable components of natural ageing and gradual attrition. The Senior Veterinary Councillors in 1997 were Honorary Councillors Roy Watts, Len Pockley and Andrew Gibson plus Councillor Frank Hooke as Chairman of the VCM.

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Dr Anne Fawcett

Dr Anne Fawcett BA (Hons) BScVet (Hons) BVSc (Hons) MVetStud GradCertEduStud (HigherEd) MANZCVS (Animal Welfare) DipECAWBM (AWSEL)

Featured Image: Dr Anne Fawcett at a graduation ceremony

See also: https://sydney.edu.au/science/people/anne.fawcett.php

See also: https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2017/10/04/on-my-mind-dr-anne-fawcett.html

I’m cheating again! I’m claiming Dr Anne Fawcett as one of my protégés! It’s almost true; albeit the roles could conceivably be reversed? At least she’s been to Scone! I first met Anne Quain as one of a remarkable cadre of students studying veterinary science at Sydney University in the late 1990s. Anne was already a graduate; in Philosophy. Many others were ‘post grads’. Anne was also a writer and very kindly agreed to be tutor and ‘editor’ of my introductory seminal tome ‘The Infinitive History of Veterinary Practice in Scone’. I doubt without Anne’s professionalism, patience and perseverance I would ever have crossed the finishing line?

The group of students I met then are now all mature professionals. There were those possessing ferocious intellect and most with invariably fearsome intelligence. Not surprisingly many have excelled. I introduced them to the veterinary panel of the RAS of NSW Royal Easter Show. They now dominate in all positions. Dr Mark Schembri and Sam Walker are both Councillors of the RAS of NSW. Each has served as Chairman of the Veterinary Committees, Sam as Chairman of Domestic Animals and Mark the Disciplinary Committee. NSW Monash Scholarship winner Mark has since pursued a career in medicine and Sam in International Banking. Others of the RAS of NSW veterinary panel from the era include Professor Joe Suttie (Medicine), TV Star Chris Brown, Chris Tan, Kym Hagon, Dave Woodward, Chuck Carter, Hadley Wilsallen, Edwina Wilkes and others I may have overlooked? It’s an eclectic selection; and I’m very proud!

Anne Fawcett

Anne Fawcett is a lecturer in veterinary science as well as a companion animal practitioner in Sydney’s Inner West.

After completing a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in philosophy with honours, she completed a Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Bachelor of Science (Veterinary) at the University of Sydney. She completed a Masters in veterinary studies (small animal medicine and surgery) through Murdoch University. She is a member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists.in Animal Welfare, and a Diplomate of the European College of Animal Welfare and Behaviour Medicine in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law.

Together with Dr Siobhan Mullan, she co-authored Veterinary Ethics: Navigating Tough Cases (published by 5M). She is a co-editor of the Vet Cookbook (published by the Centre for Veterinary Education).

Research and teaching interests include the interaction of humans and animals in a veterinary clinical context, clinical veterinary practice and veterinary ethics. Anne is the author of numerous academic publications including peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She is a founding member of the Human Animal Research Network at Sydney University.

She is currently undertaking a PhD in veterinary ethics under the supervision of Professor Paul McGreevy and Dr Siobhan Mullan (Bristol University).

“Unless there is compelling evidence for the absence of consciousness, we need to assume that animals are thinking, feeling, to some extent self-aware, beings with emotions and interests”.

“Scone really was a truly remarkable intellectual hothouse…some amazing concepts, techniques and personalities emerged…and so many great stories”!

Dr Anne Fawcett BA BVSC MVS GradCertES MANZCVS DipECAW & BM University of Sydney, University of Queensland

HVBHBA First Annual Scone Sale 1979

HVBHBA First Annual Scone Sale 1979

Featured Image: Front Cover First Annual Scone Sale 1979

In the late 1970s a series of well-attended and enthusiastic meetings of thoroughbred breeders were convened in Scone. In mid-1978 the Rules of The Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association of Australia, New South Wales Division, Hunter Valley Branch were formally adopted.

See also:



Rule 3 states:

The objects (sic) for which the Branch is formed are:

(a).       To promote and advance the interest of the Breeders of the Bloodhorse in the Hunter Valley district.

(b).       To regulate or assist in regulating the days of sale, order of sale and procedure in connection with the Hunter Valley Branch Yearling Sale or Hunter Valley Branch Sales.

(c).       To co-operate with and assist all other divisions and Branches of the Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association of Australia.

The inaugural committee elected in Scone to implement these objectives included the following:  Peter Hodgson (Chamorel Park), Jack Sheppard (Gyarran), John Harris (Holbrook), ‘Bim’ Thompson (Widden), John Kelso (Timor Creek), James Mitchell (Yarraman Park), David Bath (Bhima), David Casben (Yarramalong), Peter Morris (Woodlands D-KR), Hilton Cope (Kelvinside), Betty Shepherd (Trevors), John Clift (Kia Ora), Ray Gooley and Bill Howey (Veterinarians).  Their success or failure may be judged against today’s values.

Among many of the early deliberations were the promotion of racing at Muswellbrook, sales at Scone, co-operative buying groups for goods and services and a ‘black list’ of bad debtors! The legal profession under current legislation might have discovered fertile territory had some of these come to fruition?

Perhaps the major early significant achievement was the promotion of the First Annual Yearling Sale, White Park Racecourse, on Sunday 4th March 1979 at which 204 lots were catalogued.  There was a BBQ and parade of yearlings at 6.30 p.m. on Saturday 3rd March 1979.  This followed the Denman Race Club Meeting at Skellatar Park, which was sponsored by the HVBHBA with the Upper Hunter Breeders Improvers Handicap (fillies and Mares), 1200m., $1000 prize money with a Winners Trophy of $200 and Breeders Trophy of $100.  The programme featured six races with total prize money of $6400:00 and trophies $700:00. Woodlands Stud (1200 M Juvenile Handicap $2000:00 plus $200:00 trophy), Balfour Stud (Handicap 1400 M $1000:00 plus trophy $100:00) and Yarraman Park Stud (Improvers Handicap 1400 M $800:00) were also major sponsors on the day. First race was a Maiden Handicap of 1000 M for $800:00.

The sale was officially opened by media personality Mike Willesee who purchased his first yearling, Lot 115, the Chestnut Colt by Coolness ex. Liquid Fire consigned by the Holbrook Partnership, Widden Valley.  The liquor licensing laws of the period demanded that on Sunday, alcoholic beverages and refreshment could only be provided by ‘committee’ from the minute bar at the Scone Race Club.  There were some very interesting accounts and ‘shouts’ from that arrangement which the combined tyrannies of time and distance fortuitously prevent accurate recall and/or redress!?! It was measure of the calibre of the man that ‘Bim’ Thompson voluntarily elected to vacate some of his ‘choice’ boxes on course to accommodate well-presented yearlings consigned by Sledmere Stud who had been allocated the less favourable tie-up stalls. Would this be likely to happen today?

Kia-Ora Stud Dispersal 1961

Kia-Ora Stud Dispersal 1961

Featured Image: Front Cover Dispersal Sale Catalogue of Kia-Ora Stud, Scone 1961

This sale must have sent shudders throughout the thoroughbred breeding community in not only the Hunter Valley but also NSW and Australia.

For most of the 20th century Kia Ora had been among the big league of major studs throughout the nation and even beyond. Under the expert tutelage and exquisite stewardship of Percy Miller and Bert Riddle the stud farm had scaled the heights. I have written about this elsewhere. I have included this virtual ‘hagiography’ below.

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Stanley Wootton Letters

I have in my possession two letters written by the late Stanley Wootton in his nether years. The first is a carefully worded hand-written long letter to Murray Bain dated 31st December 1972. It is on quite flimsy ‘branded’ writing paper from the Hotel Southern Cross in Melbourne. Mr Wootton outlines his thinly disguised ‘dismay’ at the state of play at Baramul Stud since the total dispersal of bloodstock in 1969/1970. Enough said!

Featured Image: Letter from Mr Wootton to me in October 1974

This was pivotal in my decision to invest in a share in ‘Bletchingly’ following his retirement from racing to stand at Widden Stud in 1975. It was the ‘big lottery win’ of my life!

I think both letters considered together paint a vivid word picture of the iconic thoroughbred breeder Stanley Wootton?

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