(Photo : Racing Victoria)
“The trick was to get the progeny
into the hands of the best men…”
Summerhill CEOSelf-belief is a critical ingredient in the horse business. Kipling taught us to trust ourselves “when all about us” were in doubt, and I have to say, it was comforting to have my brother Pat, share my faith in Northern Guest in our naïve days in the game. Our Kiwi pal, Patrick Hogan, was tested by similar doubts on the arrival of Sir Tristram at the Auckland docks.
Hogan believed in this horse when hardly anyone else did. When it comes to selecting stallions, there are three main criteria; blood, race form and conformation. And maybe two lesser ones: temperament, and whether the horse looks properly “masculine”.
Sir Tristram appeared to fail on just about everything except blood. But Hogan had always believed that it was blood that truly mattered: you could compromise on looks and racing ability, but blood - that was everything. If there was “mongrel” in the pedigree, it would come out. Hogan’s “specifications” said his choice of stallion couldn’t have any second-rate sire in the first five generations. Nor could there be any mares who failed to produce worthwhile foals. Sir Tristram’s pedigree bristled with stallions and crack mares. Judged by his criteria, it was a dammed-near faultless piece of paper - yet, for all that, it wasn’t really fashionable, as the $160,000 price tag suggested. Hogan had seen something no-one else had. He’d hit on just about the perfect genetic formula for Australia.
But he didn’t know this in 1977. While others mocked his horse, Hogan moved onto the next stage of his plan. He’d give Sir Tristram all his best mares for three years, and when the yearlings were ready to leave, he’d make sure they went to the right places. As he’d told me before, “the trick was to get the progeny into the hands of the best men, the Murphys, the Tommy Smiths and the Bart Cummings, even if we didn’t get any money for them”. Somehow or another, all of Sovereign Red, Gurner’s Lane and Grosvenor ended up with Geoff Murphy at Caulfield, Melbourne. From then on, Sir Tristram sold himself. He became the modern equivalent of an ATM. His stud fee soared from NZ$1250 upwards to $100,000, and then into the stratosphere.
By Easter 1987, a nomination made $205,000 at auction in Sydney. Here was proof that nothing makes money like a “hot” stallion; he proceeded to generate millions upon millions in stud fees. His sons at stud long ago passed the 100 Group One winners measure, and he’s since become the doyen among broodmare sires Down Under. Tally it up, and you’re looking at hundreds of millions, if not a billion, by now.