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

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.

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.