Quantity versus Quality in TB Racing & Breeding?

Sydney hoops shine at season finale but quality needs to trump quantity


By Max Presnell

July 31, 2022 — 6.00pm

See: Sydney racing Max Presnell: Hugh Bowman, James McDonald, Kerrin McEvoy, Jason Collett, Jean Van Overmeire, Reece Jones shine as Racing NSW eye 12-race Saturdays (smh.com.au)

Featured Image: James McDonald acknowledge Getty

Author’s Prelude: I think Max has raised a very important issue here in both Thoroughbred Racing AND Breeding?

With Hugh Bowman a major player, jockeys more than horses stole the show on the season’s final Sydney Saturday, a day which could be in line for an extension.

It is being mentioned that 10 races on Saturday just isn’t enough, with 11 and possibly even 12 being introduced to appease the turnover gods. Apparently figures are not flash midweek, and more action on the biggest punting day of the week is expected to pick up the slack.

From a personal viewpoint seven events, the figure when I kicked off, was too few, eight perfect, nine the extreme and the current 10, introduced on carnival days but too lucrative to drop, too many.

Of course, Saturday form was superior, and how will more events affect quality and field sizes?

Having experienced 16 races on a program in Argentina a day at the races was a marathon rather than a pleasure.

Still, it can be argued racecourse patrons can tailor on-course experience by arriving late and leaving early, a cut back for the enthusiast, again given plenty of evidence at Rosehill on Saturday that the current jockey ranks, with Bowman firing, are very strong indeed.

“He gets the job done and has a will to win,” Bowman declared about Wicklow, one of his successful treble, after the Shelby Sixtysix Handicap.

It also applies to the jockey.

Every win has merit but a Bowman pearl is special, certainly the situation on Pizarro from a wide gate and delivering an elbow in the vicinity of James McDonald (Kalino) around the 700-metre mark in the Thank You Staff.

But the bunker, after studying every possible replay, found “the extended right arm” was not intentional

McDonald, notching his usual double, was very much in the firing line and received a buffeting on Enchanted Heart who should have won the Bill Picken OAM, the former Sydney Turf Club chairman who was approached across a crowded room by Princess Anne on his recent England visit due to an earlier association here.

Taking a split for a very skinny horse, Enchanted Heart ended up third with the stewards after McDonald, who went where wise navigators would fear to tread, lodged a protest. Stewards found that runner-up Siege (Rachel King) was the culprit, and thus the placings were reversed.

Cross Talk wins but Gold Trip back in the conversation

With Bowman and McDonald in the spotlight the depth of Sydney riding ranks was again emphasised due to the opposition on Saturday: proven topliners Kerrin McEvoy (Contributingfactor in the Midway) and Jason Collett (Easy Single in the Picken) scored while the judgment and power of Brenton Avdulla was vital on Elusive Jewel (Thank You Owners).

Jan Van Overmeire triumphed in the best race on the program with a slick exhibition on Winter Challenge frontrunner Cross Talk while leading Sydney apprentice Reese Jones ended a strong season on Troach (Precise Air) for Godolphin.

To boost the Sydney riding ranks further apprentice Dylan Gibbons, top of the NSW jockey’s premiership, has been absent from recently but will return next Saturday with the benefit of a 3kg claim in town.

Recent Racing Supremos by Max Presnell

V’landys is king but not without peer in racing royalty Down Under

By Max Presnell

July 29, 2022 — 6.00pm

See: V’landys is king but not without peer in racing royalty Down Under (smh.com.au)

Author’s Prelude (WPH)

I still buy the SMH to read Max Presnell’s erudite contributions based on rich historic experience. I used to do the same with ‘The Australian’ and Tony Arrold. I was intrigued by Max’s shortlist of six (6) of the most influential in recent racing history. Perhaps his ranking of Gai Waterhouse as higher than her illustrious father TJS will evoke most debate?


Featured Image: Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’landys in the royal procession at Ascot.CREDIT:GETTY

Riding shotgun in the royal procession at Ascot topped off a season when Peter V’landys confirmed that he is not only the most powerful administrator in Australian racing this century but any in my time going back to the 1950s.

Yes, even superior to the Australian Jockey Club committee who had the benefit of media moguls, knights of the realm, landed gentry and giants at law.

Kerry Packer also threw his considerable bulk as much around the corridors at the AJC Randwick office as the betting rings but without the traction of V’landys in the position of Racing NSW CEO.

The 2021-22 season ends with I Am Invincible (a possible catchcry applied to V’landys) as the leading sire and with four acceptors in one of the major events in Australia today, the Lightning Stakes at Morphettville.

During his reign he has been responsible for getting more money out of the state government for racing, which was regarded as impossible, as well as getting corporate bookmakers to give their fair whack back to the industry, plus putting The Everest on the world stage as a top race (popular opinion, if not my own).

Thus NSW racing has never boomed more affluent, triggering memories of those who have done so much for the industry since I arrived, although possibly more contributors than power players. The six highlighted are not in rating order but come to mind, as do dozens of others.


In 1996 Bob Charley, who was also a candidate being an AJC chairman, Racing NSW chairman, ARB chairman, punter, racecourse, trainer and publisher of two outstanding books on the turf, decreed: “Gai Waterhouse is the best thing to happen to racing since Phar Lap.”

Waterhouse even sparks interest abroad, as she did recently during her recent British sojourn.

“Gai Waterhouse will raise an army of eyebrows here [in England] with her assertion ‘the whole reason for racing is it’s a gambling industry and it really needs to be promoted that way’,” tweeted David Ashford to Winning Post.

GEORGE RYDER gets into the top six for coming up with the Golden Slipper for the Sydney Turf Club and being a forerunner for the owner syndication in which thousands are now involved. The Golden Slipper changed the face of Australian racing (although also not one of my favourites).

LLOYD WILLIAMS certainly wielded more weight in Victoria than elsewhere as a VRC committeeman but made a massive contribution to the Melbourne Cup and as the owner of countless horses.

PERCY SYKES, the super doc of racehorse veterinary skills, gets the nod by keeping more champions buoyant and hence maintaining racing as a feature for the masses.

Also getting a start is JACK INGHAM, an AJC committeeman, who with brother Bob founded the Woodlands Stud breeding empire and Crown Lodge stables. He was also a plunger, bigger than the normal high roller, in an era when they were thick in the betting ring.

And rounding out the top six is JOHN INGLIS, a gentleman and giant of the bloodstock industry who knocked down thousands of yearlings under his auctioneer’s hammer but kept countless battling trainers afloat. Bid now, pay much later.

However, his final bid was at Easter weekend, 2006. Confined to a mobile walker, he went to Randwick and got on a tote queue to plonk $100,000 on Racing To Win in the Doncaster and collected a cheque for $509,600.

A special mention, too, for colleague and mate John Holloway, an STC committeeman who dabbles in bloodstock promotion.

Holly was a prime mover in getting I Am Invincible to Scone when the stallion’s race record entitled him to a lesser venue. Holly hawked a service to the stallion for a negotiable $10,000 in his first season. This season I Am Invincible covered 193 mares at a fee of $247,500.

PS I enjoyed a beer with Arthur Mitchell at the Old Buffer’s Scone Rugby Match on Saturday (30/07/2022). He’d just arrived back from Europe; no doubt to enjoy the ‘Coronation’ of I Am Invincible as Champion Sire.

John Leard of ANI

John Leard of ANI

Featured Image: Page of the Canberra Times 13 February 1974

You can learn a lot in the front bar of the Belmore Hotel in Scone. At least that used to be the case. I really enjoyed my conversations with the late ‘rural polymath’ Geoff Palmer. Geoff had done most things in the bush as stockman, horse breaker, shearer, roustabout, thoroughbred trainer, cattle man, drover, shepherd, sale yards supervisor and everything and anything in between. One day the subject of early schooling cropped up. Raised at ‘The Cuan’, Owens Gap Geoff had attended the Bunnan Public School. He remarked that the smartest bloke in his class was John Leard, himself the son of a ‘Cuan’ sheep station hand. That awoke my immediate curiosity. Was it the same John Leard who became CEO of ANI? It was! I imagine the same meritocrat was the star alumnus of Bunnan Public School; but there may be others. Here is his story.

See: 13 Feb 1974 – Profie: John Leard of ANI – Trove (nla.gov.au)

Geoff developed a lifelong habit of exploring the various vintages of Toohey’s Black. This could only be achieved from the bottom of a schooner glass. John Leard stuck to an abstemious temperance program. I gravitated to the former ostensibly to further my education.

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Vale John Armstrong

Vale John Armstrong

See: Vale John Armstrong – Beef Central

See also: Pioneering northern cattle veterinarian John Armstrong passes away | Queensland Country Life | QLD

Featured Image: Acknowledge Queensland Country Life Bing News

Another ‘favourite’ professional colleague has passed on to greater pastures. I have made a persistently good habit of recording for posterity. I did not know John very well but retain the fondest memories from frequent interphase at AVA Annual Veterinary Conferences in the late 1960s through to the 1980s. He never changed and stories of his exploits continued to thrill, entertain, inspire and delight. As a newly inducted ‘£10 POM’ I was fascinated by the dialogue. I recall John telling me and fellow greenhorn Richard Greenwood that he had difficulty in attending a ‘conference in the South’ because of “24 inches of rain in 24 hours”. He was from FNQ after all! The career of John Armstrong was high on my ‘I wish list’ category. Jon Condon has admirably captured his calling.

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The Trammels of Quotidian Life

The Trammels of Quotidian Life

Featured Image: J R G Morgan & W P Howey contemplate ‘The Trammels of Quotidian Life’ in the coffee cafe annex to the Royal Hotel in Scone circa 2016

Of course I’ve borrowed the title line. Write what you read? I subscribe to that. I apply the four P’s to my writing; plunder, plagiarize and purloin where possible. I’d never have thought of the heading myself. If I had I’d have been Aldous Huxley in his brave new world. How prescient was he? He only had the timelines wrong. It’s here already. Following a frantic early pace ABC Radio 702 hosts Adam Spencer and Richard Glover’s dry July has settled into a more familiar staid rhythm and steady routine. They also promote a segment called self-improvement Wednesday. Could that be the nub of an idea? There are however some piquant interludes during a quiet time.

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Caroline Jones Murrurundi’s Multi-Media Maestro Pioneer from Mayne Street

Caroline Jones

Murrurundi’s Multi-Media Maestro Pioneer from Mayne Street

See: Caroline Jones, beyond the news, photos | Newcastle Herald | Newcastle, NSW

See also: Caroline Jones: A girl from the bush who became a trail blazer – ABC News

See also: Caroline Jones Death, Outstanding Journalist Caroline Jones Has Died – Death-Obituary.com

Caroline Jones

Outstanding journalist, Caroline Jones has passed away at the age of 84. Jones was born and raised as an only child in the small country town of Murrurundi in the Upper Hunter region of NSW. Caroline was the first female reporter at This Day Tonight.

She quickly forged a reputation as a fierce, credible, and hard-hitting reporter. Joining the ABC in 1963, Jones worked on the This Day Tonight program, after which she became the presenter of Four Corners, with a weekly audience of 2 million viewers.

Her legacy will lie in the pages of newspapers, podcasts, television news reports, radio broadcasts, and online. Her colleagues remember her as a dignified, respected, and much-loved journalist who never shied away from exposing wrongdoings in her reporting.

Jones is remembered as a warm and kind person with a wicked sense of humour, but perhaps her biggest legacy is the strides she made for women in media and television.

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Biscay’s Minders

Biscay’s Minder

Featured Image: ‘Biscay’ at age 16 (1981) in his paddock at Bhima Stud. Stud Groom Eric Coombes is ‘showing him off’. “Long gone but not forgotten”.

Eric Coombes looked after Biscay in his first stud season at ‘Baramul’ in 1969. Next year Biscay was relocated to Segenhoe Stud for the 1970 season before his final placement at Bhima where he met up with Eric Coombes again in 1971.

In a letter dated the 15th June 1971 Stanley Wootton wrote to Mr Vivian Bath, Bhima, Scone:

“I am also very glad to learn that you have Eric Coombes with you as one of your top stud grooms. I always thought he was an excellent man, competent and interested in what he was doing”.

Rare praise indeed!

Eric was one of those quiet achievers without any pretence or affectation. He simply went about his job in his own way and in his own time. You could be sure of one thing. The job would be thoroughly well done and carried out to perfection or as near as possible. Several of his brothers also served the industry in their own inimical style. Dave drove for Livestock Transport in Brisbane after a session at Woodlands. Jack worked at Belltrees until retirement. Eric and Iris reared a large family. Eldest daughter Cathy was one of our early ‘babysitters’. Vince (Butcher) and Terry (Shire Council) both lived locally. Vince was a doughty player for the Scone Thoroughbreds RLFC winning several Group 21 Premierships. Biscay will be remembered and revered for several generations. Maybe his ‘minders’ like Eric Coombes and Peter Gleeson will fade quietly into the sunset?

Biscay’s Staggering Early Breeding Statistics

Biscay’s Staggering Early Breeding Statistics

Featured Image: Backstage of Racing by Bert Lillye featuring comments ‘from the horse’s mouth’ on Biscay

The headline in the Spring Edition 1979 of now defunct ‘The Racehorse Owner’ read: “Will Biscay be the one to wear his Sire’s mantle?”.

It was a propitious, percipient, and prescient prediction. The unequivocal answer is indubitably yes. Biscay did not make waves in the industry in his first year of Stud Work. He covered 19 mares at ‘Baramul’ in season 1969. Six (6) of these were exported to the USA in 1970. I accompanied them on their trans-pacific sea journey on the MV ‘Parrakoola’ in July of that year. Zephyr Bay, Bletchingly, Scarlet Kingdom and Tangent were among the products of this first crop. The emphasis was very much on QUALITY, not QUANTITY. Mr S T Wootton was very firm indeed on this premise.

Biscay stood the 1970 season at Segenhoe Stud where he covered 29 mares. Suggest (11 races won including a track record) & Brazen Bay were the two best performing sons of this ‘get’. Biscay was relocated to Bhima Stud in 1971 where he stayed for the remainder of his stud career. In 1971 he covered 34 mares and only 18 in 1972. Blue and Gold (AJC Breeders Plate), Man of Rank (13 wins), Night Charmer (Queensland Guineas), Otehi Bay, Royal Biscay, Gay Biscay and Woodken represented him from the 1971/1972 crops. By this time Biscay had become leading 1st season Sire (1973) and attracted much keen interest although this was still the era when ‘Imp.’ rather than ‘Aus.’ was preferred in any stallion pedigree.

From 1974 Biscay covered full books of mares producing Money Talks, Deep Reflection, Arochan, Naisko and Biscapol. Both Bletchingly and Zephyr Bay had by this time established their credentials with outstanding racetrack performances. The former was later to emerge as champion sire for three consecutive seasons when based at Widden Stud producing Kingston Town, Pilgrims Way, Bakerman, Super Spree, Bet Your Booties and Canny Lad (Golden Slipper). Canny Lad has further franked the Biscay legacy as the sire of the dams of both Redoute’s Choice (Shantha’s Choice) and I Am Invincible (Cannarelle). Biscay’s other outstanding sire son success was dual champion sire and Golden Slipper winner ‘Marscay’ who stood at Widden and was bred by Woodlands.


Several of Biscay’s Sire Sons suffered infertility problems; some infertile.

The ‘arthritis’ referred to in Bert Lillye’s article was severe navicular disease. Bletchingly also suffered from this infliction and probably Star Kingdom as well? I have in my possession Biscay’s navicular and pedal bones from both his forefeet.

ROSS WILLIAMSON: 1939 – 2022

ROSS WILLIAMSON: 1939 – 2022

Vet Surgeon to the Saudi Royal Family’s racehorses

By Robyn Williamson

May 9, 2022 — 3.50pm

Acknowledge: Obituary: Ross Williamson, veterinary surgeon to Saudi prince’s thoroughbreds (smh.com.au)

Featured Image: Ross Williamson in Mudgee 2021

Having only just farewelled one equine veterinary legend (Dr Patricia Ellis) yet another followed very rapidly. This is a tribute to my late colleague Ross Williamson who similarly pursued a very peripatetic and fascinating professional lifestyle! I duly acknowledge faithful spouse Robyn who I met at Randwick Races all those years ago when both Ross & Robyn were on ‘furlough’ from the Middle East.

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Dr Patricia Ellis AM

Featured Image: Dr Patricia Ellis AM

Occasionally in life one is privileged to meet with contemporary fellow professionals of outstanding merit. Dr Patricia “Trish” Ellis was such a person.

Citation: Patricia Ellis AM University of Melbourne


Dr Brian H. Anderson BVSc, MVSc, MS, MACVSc, Diplomate ACVS Registered Specialist in Equine Surgery

Patricia Ellis graduated with First Class Honours in Veterinary Science from the University of Melbourne in 1968 with the Australian Veterinary Association – Victorian Division Prize for best aggregate score in all years of the course and since then has been a trail blazer in the profession and an inspiration to many of her colleagues.

Since graduation, Patricia’s career has been a fine blend of academic achievement, successful private practice in Australia, Ireland and the Middle East, and a long influential stint of public practice. Patricia graduated at a time when women were a small minority of the veterinary profession, however, she was soon recognised more for her intellectual rigour and comprehensive understanding of veterinary science than for her gender.

Time spent in practice in Ireland and in the United Arab Emirates gave Trish an understanding of the political machinations behind international movement of animals and her keen interest in equine medicine soon saw her applying her skills and scientific knowledge in the area of international movement of horses to ensure that while the horses could move, their diseases did not. Patricia has been heavily involved in the horse industry both as a participant and as an equine veterinarian for many years and has been recognised for her service with numerous awards.

She was recognised by the Wakeful Club in 2004 when she received the Jo Miller Award for outstanding contribution to the equine industry and by Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria as the recipient of their Industry Contribution Award in the 2005/6 season.

Patricia has been a leader in the veterinary profession and a cherished mentor for many veterinarians over the course of her career. Patricia was the first woman president of the Australian Equine Veterinary Association in 1992 and her pioneering work as a woman in a male dominated part of the profession was recognised in 2006 with the award of a Belle Bruce Reid Medal for Outstanding Women Veterinary Science Graduates.

The veterinary profession has recognised her achievements by awarding her an AVA Meritorious Service Award, the AEVA Award for Veterinary Excellence, the Equine Veterinarians Australia Award for Services to the Horse Industry. In 2009 Patricia delivered the Pascoe Oration to the annual Equine Veterinary Conference to a standing ovation.

Patricia’s contribution to the Australian horse industry and the Australian veterinary profession were rewarded in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours with the award of the Order of Australia for significant service to veterinary science, particularly through the development of quarantine and biosecurity protocols in the equine industry.

Dr Ellis has always made herself available to give back to the University, the institution which set her on her professional path. Patricia has served on many working parties, advisory committees and she taught undergraduate veterinarians about the horse industry for many years. In addition, Patricia has served her graduating year well as the long-serving liaison with the faculty, organising reunions and keeping our alumni informed about developments at the University and the faculty.

In summary: a veterinarian of the highest professional integrity, who has used her veterinary training to benefit the wider community as well as the profession, Dr Patricia Ellis is a true role model for all veterinarians and is a worthy recipient of the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Science honoris causa.

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