The Australian Thoroughbred has a history that is inextricably linked to the history and development of the nation.
While the first ever breeders assocation was established in 1918, the roots of the Australian thoroughbred go back much further than that.
The Australian thoroughbred breeding industry, which is now one of the biggest and strongest of its kind in the world, started with a stallion, three mares and three yearlings which arrived with the first European settlers in 1788.
It has since grown to produce a thoroughbred horse population second only in size to that of the United States.
The first thoroughbred sire to be imported to Australia was Rockingham in 1799 and by 1880 a further 400 stallions had been shipped to the Australian colonies.
The Australian breeding industry is predominantly located across the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, the island of Tasmania and the southern regions of South and Western Australia.
As strong as the industry is nationally, it is the Hunter Valley farms that are at its centre.
The farms of the region produce almost half the thoroughbreds born in Australia each year and the Hunter is home to the world’s second largest of thoroughbred studs behind the US state of Kentucky.
Australia now has a mature, world-class breeding industry which exports horses to most racing nations in the world, particularly those in South-East Asia where about half the horses in training were bred ‘Down Under’.
For the first 150 years of European settlement, the Australian thoroughbred population was dominated by English bloodlines. Stallions such as Musket (the sire of the great Carbine), Lochiel, Valais and Delville Wood are prolific in the pedigrees of the first half of the 20th century.
But it was the Irish-bred Star Kingdom who arrived in 1951 who did more than any other horse to shape the local breed.
Star Kingdom, who raced as Star King in England, proved a perfect match for the local appetite for horses with speed ahead of stamina.
A winner of nine races during his career in the United Kingdom, Star Kingdom was purchased by the Australian breeders Alf Ellison, Reg Moses and Stanley Wootton for 4000 pounds.
Star Kingdom didn’t make an immediate impact as a stallion at Barramul Stud, but his influence proved to be pervasive.
He sired the first five winners of the Golden Slipper (Group 1, for two-year-old horses) – Todman, Skyline, Fine And Dandy, Sky High and Magic Night. They made him the most sought after stallion in the land.
He was eventually crowned Australia’s leading sire five times, from 1959-1962 and won the title for the last time in 1965. He died at Barramul at the age of 21 in 1967 after 16 straight years at stud.
But his influence in the pedigrees of Australian racehorses was cemented forever as his sons and grandsons carved out careers at stud.
Among his most successful sons was Biscay who in turn produced the outstanding sire Bletchingly who was bed by Stanley Wootton who been part of the syndicate that imported Star Kingdom.
Such influential stallions as Oncidium, Better Boy and Showdown feature in the pedigrees of the 1960s and ‘70s, as does Sir Tristram who stood in New Zealand.
But most of them were eclipsed by the arrival of a horse who is arguably one the greatest thoroughbred stallions the world has known.
Danehill was an American-bred son of Danzig who was raced in England by his breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah.
A Guineas aspirant as a three-year-old, Danehill earned his greatest racing credits as a sprinter, winning two feature stakes races in his nine-start career.
Danehill was sold to a partnership of Coolmore Stud in Ireland and Australian breeder John Messara from Arrowfield Stud, arriving in Australia in 1990.
From the time his first crop of foals hit the track, he was a raging success.
Danehill was the champion sire of Australia for nine of the eleven years between 1995-2005. He was also a three-time leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland and twice achieved the top honour in France.
Such was his popularity that he also served a season at stud in Japan in 1996.
Boasting a winners-to-runners ratio of almost 77 per cent, Danehill’s statistics at stud told the story: 89 group or grade one winners, 349 stakes winners in total, progeny with worldwide earnings of more than $375 million.
And he can lay credit to leaving more than 100 sons who have become successful stallions themselves: Fastnet Rock, Redoute’s Choice, Exceed And Excel and Flying Spur, all of them champion sires in their own right, are sons of Danehill.
Danehill died in a paddock accident at Coolmore Stud in Ireland at the age of 17 in May 2003.
History of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia
1918 – A group of NSW based breeders formed a registered body called “The Bloodhorse Breeders Association of NSW” to represent the interest of breeders.
1945 – Over a 27 year period, The Bloodhorse Breeders Association of NSW acquired a number of interstate members, which ultimately this lead to the establishment of a new federal body called “The Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association of Australia”.
1945 – The Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association of Australia was made up of state divisions, with representatives from each state making up the board. Mr Frank Thompson from Widden Stud was the first Federal President and remained in the Chair from 1945 to 1953.
1987 – As the state branches requested greater independence, The Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association of Australia wound up to make way for the newly established federal body called “Australian Bloodhorse Breeders Association Limited” (ABBA)
1987 – The state divisions were officially incorporated as self-governing bodies.
1994 – Australian Bloodhorse Breeders Association Limited (ABBA) officially changed its name to Thoroughbred Breeders Australia Ltd (TBA).
2007 – Aushorse Marketing is established by TBA to specialise in marketing and promoting the Australian Thoroughbred industry both domestically and overseas.