ARABS Cup Meeting


The Featured image shows the presentation of the ARABS Improvers Cup held at Scone Race Club’s White Park Racetrack in April 1980. L to R: Bill Howey (Scone Race Club President), Mr George Ryder (Chairman of the Sydney Turf Club), Mrs Jan Higson (NOT Gibson; George Ryders’ daughter and ARABS ‘secretary’), Kelly Almond (part-owner and trainer of Hunter’s Royal, who won the Improvers Cup), Mr Norman Lane (Chairman of the ARABS Committee), Mr Neville Cox (part-owner of Hunter’s Royal) and Mr David Almond (part-owner of Hunter’s Royal).

This might not be what you expect? It used to be the ‘biggest thing’ at Scone Race Club after the May Cup meeting. The latter was always the biggest single sporting event in the valley.

Super sleuth George Ryder conjured up yet another brilliant idea from a very fertile and inventive brain. He’s just introduced syndication of stallions to Australia enabling greater consumer participation and ostensibly also ‘affordability’ of superior bloodstock from both local and overseas supply markets. The USA had already forged the way in this as in many other entrepreneurial and commercial endeavours throughout the 20th century. Australia was playing ‘catch up’ with G E Ryder at the helm; a common theme in racing and breeding.

In 1971 George and his partners had sold Woodlands to an interesting International partnership between Lord Derby (UK) and Bob Kleberg of King Ranch, Texas (USA). The great days of domination of Sydney racing by the flagship D Chrsytal Snr, D Chrystal Jnr, Dr T Street and G E Ryder owners, trained by T J Smith at Randwick, ridden by G Moore ended forever.  Woodlands became Derby-King Ranch for the time being. Perhaps the money tree had shed all its leaves? However the sale enabled George and a few remaining cohort to acquire the famous but jaded Kia Ora Stud in the Segenhoe Valley near both Scone and Aberdeen. Instantly George sprang into action with the syndication of both Gynsynd and Baguette for Kia Ora. The immediate and prescient future was assured.

George then excelled with his Australian Racing and Breeding Syndicate (ARABS). For only $500:00 per share anyone could buy into the portfolio. It allowed thousands of small players with limited means to both participate in and enjoy the exquisite thrill of thoroughbred ownership. At least that was the theory. Even I was sucked in. GER could be VERY persuasive! It actually worked; with some corollary benefits for the Ryder family. There usually were. Armed with some more ‘new money’ (other people’s) George acquired an impressive and select band of broodmares. He was good at this. He brought some of them with him from Woodlands. In racing and breeding George knew the score. His network and knowledge were unmatched. The ultimate ‘hussler’ Bobby Riggs would have been no match for G E Ryder on the tennis court, the golf course or the racetrack.

The ARABS syndicate was instantly successful. The distinctive colours of yellow-and-black diamonds showed up front and central in many races throughput NSW and even further afield. Pat Farrell from Muswellbrook was one of the principal trainers for the syndicate. George picked his team well. Star apprentice Wayne Harris’ name was on everyone’s lips. Winners began to flow regularly. Hungry appetites and slaked thirsts for new age success were assuaged; at least for the time being.

The major showcase for the syndicate became the Open Day at Kia Ora Stud allied with the Scone Race Club’s ARABS Cup Meeting at White Park Race Track in Scone. I can honestly claim title to the latter concept. At least 1000 ARABS patrons crowded into the Upper Hunter for the ‘big weekend’. By 1980 George had on-sold Kia Ora Stud to John Clift from ‘The Dip’ Stud at Breeza on the black soil plains between Quirindi and Gunnedah. ‘Gunsynd’ had made both names famous throughout the country. The ARABS secretariat office at Double Bay staffed by Ryder family members was also expensive to maintain.  Cash flow was imperative. Some lifestyles are fiscally consumptive.

I have just rediscovered the ‘Galloping Around’ report in the Scone Advocate by Brian Russell of the ARABS Cup meeting April 1980. Brian’s ecstatic report featured the headline ‘Robert Thompson King of the ARABS’. Should that have been Sheikh? Robert certainly had a great day riding half the program with three winners in the six race card. The main race was the $2500:00 Mary Tange 2yo Sires Produce Stakes won by ‘Miss Bayreme’. Mrs Ron Tange always attended the races dressed immaculately featuring exotic Ascot-style hats. She and husband Ron were great supporters; and sponsors. The latter matter was not lost on G E Ryder!

Years later John Messara sniffed out an opportunity. He launched a successful takeover bid for all the ARABS bloodstock by the simple expedient of acquiring a majority shareholding. George Ryder did not see him coming. It was a sad day for him and his ‘family of ARABS’. The distinctive colours also went with the deal. They have been sported by some of Australia’s greatest racehorses in recent times.  Miss Finland is a prime example. These are raced under the banner of John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud; now perhaps the most successful exponent in the nation? Many would argue convincingly that John is the present day ‘Sheikh of Racing’?