Historic Widden Stud takes over Sun Stud’s Victorian operation

Antony Thompson says to survive in an increasingly global thoroughbred breeding industry, stud farms need to get bigger to compete, a realisation which led to his decision to take on a Victorian holding with his family’s famed Widden Stud, Australia’s oldest thoroughbred farm.

Widden principal Thompson yesterday confirmed the 154-year-old NSW stud, founded in 1867 and home to champion stallions throughout its long and rich history, will embark on a bold new challenge by taking over the Sun Stud operation, encompassing the eight-strong stallion roster at the Riddells Creek property.

As inspections get underway for the Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale, the announcement of Widden’s move comes at a time when the Victorian breeding industry undergoes a significant shake-up, with Sun Stud’s decision to shut up shop following that of Aquis Farm exiting the state, leaving Leneva Park to fill the void by taking over the Seymour-based stallion business.

“If you tread water eventually you will drown, so it is a bit about the horse business around the world, you get bigger or you will go backwards, so I think it is a really good fit and the things we do we can replicate in Victoria,” seventh generation Thompson told ANZ Bloodstock News late yesterday.

“It is something we have been looking at for a while and we had discussed expanding our brand and adding to our business. It is not something that has been opportunistic.

“When the opportunity presented with Aquis getting out of Victoria and Sun Stud and Woodside, to a degree, getting out of the stallion business, we thought if ever there was a chance to do it, there is no better time than now.”

In a move aimed at bolstering Widden’s presence in Victoria, its Group 1-producing sires Nicconi (Bianconi) and Star Witness (Starcraft) will relocate from NSW, joining Sun Stud’s existing roster of Magnus (Flying Spur), Fiorente (Monsun), Palentino (Teofilo), shuttler National Defense (Invincible Spirit), Ready For Victory (More Than Ready), Squamosa (Not A Single Doubt), Thronum (Snitzel) and veteran Bel Esprit (Royal Academy).

“We are going to look to add some nice young horses down there as well, but I think the marketplace, speaking to the breeders, is crying out for some good proven stallions and certainly Nicconi, Magnus and Star Witness are three top-notch proven sires in Victoria,” Thompson said.

Artorius joins Newgate's next generation

artoriusG1 Blue Diamond S. winner Artorius (Flying Artie) has become the latest 2-year-old colt to be snapped up as a stallion prospect by Newgate, which completes its set of sons of its first-season stallions, Flying Artie, Capitalist and Extreme Choice.

Newgate had already secured an interest in G1 Golden Slipper S. favourite and R. Listed Inglis Millennium winner Profiteer (Capitalist) in a deal with Roll The Dice Racing before purchasing into leading Slipper fancy and son of Extreme Choice, Stay Inside, earlier this week.

A deal brokered between Newgate Managing Director Henry Field and the current ownership of Artorius, represented by Julian Blaxland of Blue Sky Bloodstock, was signed on Friday, confirming Newgate's involvement in the Sam and Anthony Freedman-trained colt going forward into next month's G1 Golden Slipper S.

"I think this horse could be an absolute monster of racehorse. He's by the leading first-season sire in Australia by winners and he's got a huge pedigree, being out of a Redoute's Choice mare, from a strong family that Greg Perry imported into Australia. He's just a beautiful individual, so we feel very confident about him," Field told TDN AusNZ.

"He's won a Blue Diamond, which is one of the key stallion-making races, and he did it in a dominant fashion. We’ve bought a majority interest and will race the horse for the remainder of his career in conjunction with the current ownership group."

Field said it was Artorius' dominant victory in a Sandown maiden in January which put him on Newgate's radar as a possible acquisition target.

"When he annihilated a pretty good group of 2-year-olds by 4.5l to break his maiden, he looked a horse that was definitely well above average.

"Then in the Blue Diamond, I have a lot of time for the two Godolphin colts that he beat (Ingratiating and Anamoe). The explosive nature of his victory suggested he was a horse that was the real deal," he said.

"He's also a horse that every indicator should train on to be a really significant 3-year-old."

Dual success a decade in the making for Newgate

flyingartieAfter a day of success which has been a decade in the making, Newgate Farm is hoping the first Group 1 winners from the progeny of its young stallions Flying Artie and Deep Field can be the moment which can set it up for success for the next 20 years.

Henry Field had bold ambitions for Newgate when he set it up in 2010, and one of the milestone days he dreamed of was his young stallions producing the winners of Australia's elite races.

Blue Diamond S. Day in 2021 was no doubt one of those milestone days, as Artorius delivered a Group 1 result for first-season stallion Flying Artie in the feature race, the G1 Blue Diamond S., and then Portland Sky secured a breakthrough top level success for Deep Field when he dead-heated for first in the G1 Oakleigh Plate, one of Australia's most revered sprint races.

"It was a defining day for Newgate, to have two young stallions that we put our neck on the line to buy, believe in and support. We developed them and to turn that hard work into results on the racetrack is what you want to do," Field said.

Flying Artie's achievement to produce a winner of Victoria's richest and most prestigious 2-year-old race is something quite rare. Starcraft (NZ) was the last stallion to have done that, when his first-season crop Star Witness won the Blue Diamond S., in 2010. Prior to that, it happened in 2003, when Kusi won for his sire Desert Prince (Ire), albeit after a positive swab saw him elevated to the winning position after raceday.

"It doesn't happen very often that a stallion produces a Blue Diamond winner in their first crop. He's had five winners already and now he's had a horse there yesterday win a Blue Diamond, it’s such a massive milestone for any stallion, let alone one that has just had his 20th runner," Field said.

Artorius goes one better than his sire with Blue Diamond success

artoriusSon of Flying Artie provides Anthony and Sam Freedman with their first Group 1 win as a partnership

Artorius was able to do what his sire Flying Artie (Artie Schiller) was unlucky not to have done in 2016 and win yesterday’s Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) at Caulfield, providing father-and-son training team Anthony and Sam Freedman with their first Group 1 success together as a partnership.

After missing the start it appeared Artorius (2 c ex Gracie’s Lass by Redoute’s Choice), who was wearing blinkers for the first time, might have had his work cut out, but he defied the slow get away and flew home to produce one of the most impressive wins in the history of Victoria’s premier two-year-old race, crossing the line three-quarters of a length in front of Ingratiating (Frosted), having come from deep in the ruck under Luke Currie.

“It’s a big thrill,” said Sam Freedman. “There’s a big team behind this horse and to have the family colours on today is a nice touch.”

Bred by Greg Perry, Artorius was bought for $120,000 out of the Vinery Stud draft at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale and Freedman admitted that he wasn’t a huge fan of the horse at that particular stage of his life.

“He was very immature and looked six months off being a developed yearling,” he said.

“To be honest, I didn’t love him. Dad did and he’s a very good judge of a yearling. We thought he was very immature and so we gave him time over the last six months and now he’s turned into a beast.

“1200 metres is probably short of his best distance. We’ll probably be targeting a Guineas in the spring.”

Currie, who was forced to miss the ride on runner-up Hanseatic (Street Boss) in last year’s Blue Diamond after suffering serious injuries in a fall at Moonee Valley the previous night, admitted that he had found himself further back than ideal.

Like father, like son for sprint star and sire

jgsetjx3x-nicconi-1Nature Strip's brilliant victory in Saturday's G1 Black Caviar Lightning S. a race Nicconi won 11 years ago, served as a reminder of the best virtues of both horses as the reigning Australian Racehorse of the Year continues to enhance the reputation of both himself and his sire.

It had been 17 years since a Lightning S. winner has been sired by another horse that has won the race - in that case Regimental Gal, whose sire was the 1998 winner General Nediym.

The sense of connection between Nicconi and Nature Strip is only strengthened by the fact that among his five top-flight victories, the Chris Waller-trained 6-year-old has now won the same two Group 1 races Nicconi won in his own comparatively short career, the Lightning and The Galaxy.

While the circumstances of their respective Lightning S. victories were quite different, with Nicconi charging down the outside to nab Wanted late in 2010, while Nature Strip held off a late challenge from stablemate September Run (Exceed And Excel) on Saturday, the end result was quite similar, with the former running 57.12s for the 1000 metres and Nature Strip 56.91s.

Widden Stud, which secured Nicconi after his Lightning S. win, has kept a very close eye on Nature Strip as he has evolved into a flagbearer for his stallion and principal Antony Thompson sees the parallels in both racing careers.

"Nature Strip, being a gelding, has raced on, but there are plenty of similarities in the race record. Both horses were able to not only win the Lightning, but also The Galaxy as well. He was a high-class sprinter Nicconi, and a very good-looking horse. I guess, Nature Strip ticks those boxes as well. The difference was that Nicconi was off to stud at the end of his 4-year-old season, unlike Nature Strip who has continued to race on," he told TDN AusNZ.

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