Bob InghamBob Ingham (Woodlands Stud)In what is believed to be the largest deal of its kind, and one that could bring about the biggest change to the landscape of Australian bloodstock since the advent of the shuttle stallion, Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Australia have bought out the entire Ingham family’s Woodlands Stud operation for a figure rumoured to be in the vicinity of A$450 million.

The Woodlands empire, second only to the Maktoums themselves in world terms, is by far the largest racing and breeding company in Australia, with the deal to encompass around 1000 racing and breeding stock. The closest comparison would be if someone were to buy out the European arm of Juddmonte Farms in one fell swoop. The deal will have to be ratified by the Australian government’s Foreign Investment Review Board with a decision expected within a month.

In what has been described as a “walk in - walk out” scenario, Darley have for their money bought the flagship Woodlands Stud at Denman in the Hunter Valley, and the sister stud at Cootamundra in south west New South Wales. They will acquire at least 10 of the 11 stallions who stand at both studs, headed by the father and son combination of Octagonal and Lonhro, and including Canny Lad, Commands and Quest For Fame. No details have been made available regarding Ad Valorem, who was owned in conjunction with Coolmore. The two properties have generally housed no fewer than 300 broodmares at any one time, producing upwards of 200 homebred foals each season.

From a racing perspective, the deal includes the Woodlands stables in Sydney and Melbourne, all the stock therein, and a state of the art pre-training facility outside Sydney. The palatial Crown Lodge Stables at Warwick Farm and those at Flemington are run by Peter Snowden, who only four months ago took over from Champion Trainer John Hawkes. Snowden, his team and those based at the two studs will all retain their positions within the Darley organisation. Currently the Darley horses are trained by Guy Walter and Gai Waterhouse in Sydney, and David Hayes and Lee Freedman in Melbourne.

In recent years Woodlands have rejoined the list of buyers at the top end of the yearling market, so Darley will get purchases such as Musket, the A$2.5 million three-parts brother to Makybe Diva, who continued his march through the grades with an excellent win on Saturday, and Golden Slipper winner Forensics, who also took the million dollar Gr.2 Golden Rose ten days ago. One they will get back is the Gr.1 AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes winner Camarilla, whom Darley bred and Woodlands bought at auction.

The news was broken as a brief press release by both parties. In it Bob Ingham explained “The sale of the bloodstock business was not something I was contemplating. Once approached by Darley, I decided it was an opportunity that I should accept. The sale is on a ‘walk-in, walk-out’ basis. I will however be keeping our racing colours and will continue to race horses. Not only is it in the long-term interest of the company, it also secures the continuation of the bloodstock business and the employment of the team. Further, it takes the business under Darley, a global breeding and racing operation, into a new and exciting phase. It’s a win-win for all parties.”

Speaking for the Darley camp Sheikh Mohammed said: “I have long admired the love Australians have for the horse and for racing. The Ingham family have made a significant contribution to Australian racing and to the thoroughbred and I am looking forward to building on their success. I am delighted to be making this commitment.”

The Ingham brothers Jack and Bob made their fortune from a chicken farming business which they astutely positioned to take advantage of the fast food boom in the 1970’s. They had their first Golden Slipper winner in 1967 with the Ted Stanton-trained Sweet Embrace, and since then their colours have been carried to victory in almost every major race in Australia, including a W S Cox Plate with Octagonal, AJC Australian and Victoria Derbies, a handful of Guineas and seven more Golden Slippers, where they either owned or part owned the winner. Probably the only two races to escape their grasp have been the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups. Jack Ingham, perceived as the driving force of the family’s bloodstock arm, passed away in 2003, but since then Bob and the other family members have reinvigorated the stables and breeding stock with the high profile purchases mentioned above.

How Darley buying a chunk of bloodstock of this magnitude will affect the market is difficult to assess. The progeny of the broodmare band have of course previously raced under the Woodlands Stud banner, so should Darley choose to make a fair percentage of these youngsters available via the auction ring, buyers would have access to some excellent lines previously the sole domain of the Inghams.

Extract from European Bloodstock News