Bletchingly

Bletchingly (1970) by Biscay ex Coogee by Relic (Am) by War Relic (Am).

Breeder: S T Wootton

Featured Image: ‘Bletchingly’ at Widden Stud in 1980 with Henry Plumptre

See also: Bletchingly – Wikipedia

Bletchingly has provided for both my retirement plan and superannuation. Perhaps I should explain?

I always admired Biscay and the profound percipience of Stanley Wootton. The success of his import Star Kingdom is legendary. I was actually party to at least two priceless pearls of wisdom from the master. I have in my possession a hand written letter from STW to my then employer Murray Bain dated 31/12/1972. It was written on flimsy notepaper from the Southern Cross Hotel (Intercontinental), 131 Exhibition Street, Melbourne 3000. I typed it out so I could absorb its magical messages. Later in 1974 I had occasion to write to Mr Wootton at Treadwell House, Epsom, England. This was about the time Murray Bain passed away. In his reply My Wootton thanked me for my letter and also my congratulations on ‘Bletchingly’s recent maiden win’. He stated in his reply: ‘This is a very nice horse and I believe will make a very good sire one day’. I’ve kept the letter and framed it.

Later Bletchingly won his fifth and final race start in the then Group II Galaxy Stakes at Randwick in 1975. It was his only ever start ‘the right hand way (NSW) of going’. That day in the birdcage enclosure Bletchingly had a discharging sinus from his left lower jaw. This was to crop up later after he went to stud at Widden. I had a good friend Archie Shepherd who was the dominant SP bookmaker in Scone. He and his ilk are exceptionally well informed! Archie said it was the best sprinting performance by an ‘immature and inexperienced’ racehorse in a very long time.

Armed with this ‘inside knowledge’ I went into action when STW announced Bletchingly would be retired to stand at Widden Stud which neighbours Baramul in the Widden Valley. I had just assumed special duties as the main veterinarian at Widden. Owner Bim Thompson had been groomsman at my wedding at ‘Tinagroo’ on Saturday 26th April 1975. The planets were aligned. There were a limited number of shares available in Bletchingly at $3000:00 per share. He would stand at a service fee of $1500:00. It looked simple. It wasn’t. I married on an overdraft and Sarah and I lived in rented premises at Tarangower near Scone. With my partners John Morgan and Nairn Fraser we had assumed control of the veterinary practice then known as Morgan Howey Fraser and Partners. Venture capital was at a premium. Malcolm Fraser had just hit us with his iniquitous and odious Provisional Tax. I still ‘wanted to be in’. I managed to persuade Sarah who had subtly put an embargo my punting. I would approach the manager of the Bank of New South Wales for a loan. I did.

My problems were not entirely resolved. The manager was a devout non-drinking, non-smoking, non-gambling Methodist Lay Preacher ‘with a name like a Trotter’ (John Kelso). I was asking for an unsecured loan to purchase a share in an unproved thoroughbred stallion. I must have sounded convincing because Mr Kingston Rayward approved my request. He became my confidante and friend. We didn’t meet socially or ecclesiastically however. ‘The rest’, as they say in the classics ‘is history’. Bletchingly was an instant success siring one of the greatest racehorses ever in Australia in ‘Kingston Town’ from his first crop. I actually bred his very first Stakes Winner in ‘Bakerman’ (ex. ‘Breadline’) which I sold as a weanling in Scone. Bakerman won 16 races in all including the King George IV Stakes (Group III) at Doomben.

Bletchingly duly retired to Widden but drama pursued him. He still had a discharging sinus from his left lower jaw (mandible). I made some enquiries. My very good friend and veterinarian in Victoria Greg Morrison gave me the accurate history in detail. Bletchingly was initially delayed in his debut racing career due to a ‘cracked sesamoid’. This might have been a ‘lucky break’; excuse the intended pun. He did not appear until a 3yo. Quite early on he developed the discharging sinus. Greg swabbed and trephined the wound administering the antibiotic of choice based on the results of the swab. This was ‘Cloxacillin’; a new generation Penicillin at the time. As sometimes happens the horse succumbed to severe per-acute antibiotic induced diarrhoea. It takes a while to recover. My tentative prognosis was to advise caution. I thought I could not improve on Greg’s carefully considered and expert surgical approach. We collectively decided (Bim Thompson and I) to extract the first season ‘just in case’. Arrangements were then made to send Bletchingly to Professor David Hutchins at Sydney University, Camden Veterinary Field Station for evaluation. Dave was another close friend in whom I invested great faith.

The visit to Camden was both enlightening and entertaining. Bletchingly was sent down by escorted horse float while grazier David Macintyre flew Bim and I down in his small private aeroplane. Dave ordered a full series of complete spectrum X-rays of the lower left mandible. Voila! He discovered a longitudinal fracture of the second left lower premolar. Myriad surgical clean ups provided temporary respite but food eventually forced itself down again through the ‘invisible’ fracture line. Sinus discharge inevitably recurred. The solution was extraction of the fractured tooth. It’s not so easy with a fully mature thoroughbred stallion. It requires surgical anaesthesia and expulsion (‘chiselling out’) the offending tooth. The procedure went smoothly without any real problems. As Dave very bluntly pointed out there can be many. His retort about Quarter Horses being very prone to pressure myositis (muscle damage) on the surgical table caused Bim to splutter into his soothing Scotch! Actually Professor Dave was right. Bletchingly was much more like a standard Quarter Horse than a thoroughbred. He had inherited his sire’s musculature but had a short bullocky neck, low wither and ‘flat quarters’. Bletchingly recovered uneventfully and went safely back to Widden to resume his stud career. It was a great relief all round. I think the Insurance Company were as satisfied as I was relieved. Interestingly the missing tooth never troubled Bletchingly again. He lived to be 23. The lower arcade of pre-molars and molars actually moved (‘closed’) to cover the deficit. There were no other signs.

I’m indebted to a new found online friend Paul Balchin who supervised Bletchingly’s care when at Angus Armanasco’s stables in Melbourne. It is a first hand account and I believe adds considerable cachet and credibility to the story. Thank you Paul!

—–Original Message—–
From: Paul Balchin
Sent: Saturday, 9 April 2022 9:50 PM
To: howeywp@westnet.com.au
Subject: Bletchingly Article

“Hi Mr. Howey. Searching on line as we all do from time to time, I came across your article on Bletchingly from 2018. He also holds a special place in my heart as I was his strapper for his whole racing life. He was such an amazing racehorse, I feel a movie could be made about him. You obviously had a fair bit of knowledge about him & I think I could add a lot more that you may or may not know of. When he first came to us , Angus Armanasco’s stable, he had a beautiful temperament, much the same as his half brother Seaman, who was by Todman, that would make him a three quarter brother I think. Seaman was the first horse that I looked after when joining Angus, so I sort of had first claim on Bletchingly. When it was discovered he had cracked his sesamoid bones, I always believed it to be in both legs, I was devastated but kept a close eye on his return. When he did finally come back into work, I just remember how broad he was across the hind quarters, he could hardly fit through the stable door. But he just seemed to have setback after setback, continuously shin sore, probably due to his confirmation, massive chest & hind quarters on billiard table legs, as an old Caulfield trainer use to describe him. When he finally made it to the races, we heard the story of how a small time country trainer had a decent horse that they had earmarked for a Bendigo maiden. Unfortunately for them, they ran into a truly great sprinter. After that win, Angus decided to turn him out again due to his shin soreness. Not for long this time. His next start as we know was his only defeat, but what a run on a heavy track where they ran 1m16s for the 1200m. I sat in the stand above the birdcage, which is half a furlong or so before the winning post. He was well in front but hanging badly. The horse that nailed him in the shadows of the post Citadel went on to win the Epsom at his next start at 100/1 & I had nothing on him. It was only the track & greenness that stopped him from being unbeaten. After his next win at the Valley, he bled, I think from memory in trackwork. Breakfast with the Stars was in its infancy, I carried a blood red towel that day as we suspected it would happen. When I was hosing him down after his gallop, a float driver from Garrett & Griffiths asked to dry his hands on my towel, which I knew was covered in Bletchingly’s blood. I managed to give him the dry end & the secret was kept. That was the reason he never raced again until the next year. Angus knew he had a champion , we just had to get him right & he could win anything. He used to give Forina, who won the Blue Diamond & probably the best filly in the country, 4 lengths start into the straight in trackwork & breeze past her like she was kids pony.  When he returned for his next crack at the big time, you can understand our frustration when he had the jaw infection. We just couldn’t believe it. How could one horse have so much go wrong. Campbell Baker, who worked for Morrison at that time, was amazing, he came at all hours to treat Bletchingly, from memory I think he came around the clock just to give him antibiotics. We all tried so hard to get him right. I was not surprised when Cambell took up the offer to work for Lyndsey Park, he was truly dedicated & I developed quite a friendship with him. I’ve never seen him since but I believe he is still there. Bletchingly was on route to Brisbane for the winter carnival & to win the Galaxy that day was indeed something special. He did in fact bleed again, I wouldn’t have thought during the race but probably just after.  I also was offered a chance to buy a share in him but unlike yourself, couldn’t bring myself to take the risk. I too would have had to borrow the money. Please don’t tell me how much you made from him, it would only make matters worse. My wife & I often say, if only we had taken the risk. A few weeks before I read your article, I was doing some maths in my head, trying to work out how much the 3000 would have made me by now.  I have some nice photos & still have a scrapbook of all his races. Even though financially I made very little, my memories are priceless. None of us will ever know how good he could have been but in a way, that’s the beauty of it, as I said at the start, it would make a great movie. My wife & I visited him at Widden stud & he still remembered me, I cherish that memory of him jogging along the fence line following me down the drive. I’m glad I found your article, it has brought back lots of memories. Great times they were, it’s a wonderful life working in the racing industry, I had 5yrs as one of Angus’s foreman, boy we worked long hours but they were some of the happiest days of my life.

Kind regards

Paul Balchin”

On 18 Apr 2022, at 9:39 am, howeywp@westnet.com.au wrote:

Hi Paul

Would it be OK if I add an ‘edited’ version of your recollections to the Bletchingly Blog? It would add considerable credibility and cachet to the story. We would leave out any references to ‘bleeding’ as I think he was never officially reported as a ‘Bleeder’? How do you feel?

Kind regards

Bill

Re: Request RE: Bletchingly Article  Mon 18/04/2022 10:20 AM

Yes that’s correct Bill, my understanding was it was never recorded. I mentioned it to you as I didn’t know how much knowledge there was out there of what a fantastic horse he was. To suffer with the issues that he had & yet to be almost unbeaten & he raced against the best sprinters around, was a testament to his ability. I’d be only to happy for you to use the information anyway you would like. Regards Paul

Sent from my iPad

Hi Paul Tue 26/04/2022 10:43 AM

Do you recall a young ‘strapper’ Alison WARE who used to work for AA? She says she used to swim ‘Bletchingly’ when he was shin sore? Alison went O/S and then came to Scone (‘Sledmere’) with Miss Anne Raymond (ex-St Albans, Geelong) in c. late 1970s? She is now Alison HODGES of ‘Riversdale Farm’ now run by son Nick.

See: Riversdale Farm – Riversdale Farm has been a family owned and operated thoroughbred stud for over 35 years. Established by Peter and Alison Hodges and since December 2016 owned by their son Nick and his wife Jasmine, Riversdale Farm has an excellent reputation in the thoroughbred industry, servicing local, interstate and international clients.

Alison recalls ‘Paul’ at AA’s but did not know your surname!

Go kindly and stay safe!

Bill

Yes Bill, I do remember her. We did swim Bletchingly, they had facilities on the racecourse. She probably would have taken him over, he was so docile, I remember Angus used to let a young girl ride him back from the track to his box, which did surprise me as Angus was so particular & very unlikely to risk any of his horses. He was a wonderful trainer, I recall a time when Bart was flying winning everything. Angus mentioned at feed time that he probably had a fast carrot. We had a young very talented Sovereign Edition 2yo called Canadiana, she won a 2yo race at Caulfield by 10lengths with Harry White on board. Angus was magical the way he trained her. She was quirky, wouldn’t go on the track some mornings, I used to have to chase her along the track with a long lead to get her to do her work, then pick her up & lead her back as she could rear & refuse to move. I loved her & she would do anything for me, pity I was too heavy to ride trackwork. She raced best fresh, Angus had her in work for 3 weeks only before that win. He said it was no problem, she didn’t put on weight, & was very athletic. She developed some filling in one of her front joints, Angus came & had a look, turned to me & said “horses should never race as 2yo’s, they are not developed enough.” How’s that coming from Australia’s premier 2yo trainer. Going back to Bletchingly, you’ve reminded me of his swimming. He only went a few times. I took him over the last time, I’m not sure if you know how they are swam. We had a lead on the bridle & a long pole with a clip on the end to keep their head above water. Well Bletchingly started to roll to the side, luckily the pool wasn’t very wide & he couldn’t go right over but it was a scary moment. Angus decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Never a dull moment with that horse. I have so many great memories of that period in my life. If your interested in some insight into Angus, I’m sure I can think of something. Say hello to Alison. Regards Paul

On Tue, 26 Apr 2022 at 9:46 am, <howeywp@westnet.com.au> wrote:

Bletchingly became champion sire for three consecutive years with his first three crops of foals racing. He did not become champion sire again despite bloodstock ‘experts’ confidently predicting ‘better offspring with better mares’. It didn’t happen; it rarely does. I do recall Bim showing me three foals in his first crop and volunteering the opinion they were ‘alright’. They were. There was the brown colt with Ada Hunter (‘Kingston Town’); the chestnut colt on Angelic (‘Pilgrims Way’) and my own chestnut colt with silver mane and tail on Breadline (‘Bakerman’). David Hains bred the first and Tiggy Moses the Angelic colt. I later bought shares in the latter as a sire. I was cashed up by then with my sale of a Bletchingly/Beyond All colt for $105,000:00 to T J Smith and also my eventual sale of the Bletchingly share. Acutely aware that all horses have a residual value of nil or less I/we converted this to real estate in Sydney and also the share market. Fortuitously my spouse Sarah is fiscally adroit. She even managed to stop my punting! Like I said my comfort in retirement is nearly all due to Bletchingly. Yes; I owe him a lot! On the other hand is an unsecured investment in a share in an unproved thoroughbred stallion a ‘punt’? I’m just musing.

John Inglis was my salvation!

In the encomium reproduced below there is reference to ‘hoaxers’. I was once the unwitting victim of a serious hoax. John was my salvation. I had just sold a yearling by ‘Bletchingly’ for the then enormous sum of $105,000:00 in about 1980 knocked down to champion trainer T J Smith. My brown colt out of ‘Beyond All’ was lot number 13 in the Easter Catalogue. ‘Beyond All’ was a sister-in-blood to champion mare ‘Lowland’. ‘Kingston Town’ was at his peak and ‘Bletchingly’ was champion sire. Angus Armanasco had inspected him and declared “he was the most like ‘Bletchingly’ he had seen”. The planets were aligned. I was floating on air as I descended from the vendor’s box.  I almost knocked over cold, grey-eyed George Freeman who had the next lot in the ring. From there things started to go awry. The supposed purchaser, a Mr. Prosser, came back to the stables with us and discussed possible names. The same buyer also bought a Biscay colt from Sir Tristan Antico’s ‘Baramul Stud’ for $80,000:00. I conducted an interview with a commercial TV station. The portents were excellent; until Mr. Prosser turned out to be a complete fraud! John Inglis tried to chase him down including through a local Synagogue but the man was a charlatan without any money, capacity or intent to pay! John came to see me. He looked me in the eye and said: ‘Don’t worry Bill; Tommy (T J Smith) and I have been doing business for 50 years. You’ll get your money’. He was as good as his word. My colt raced as ‘Norseman’ and won a midweek race at Rosehill for c-owner Mrs. Darby Munro. Sir Tristan’s Biscay colt was more successful racing as ‘The Challenge’.