Shuttlers make a world of difference

An insight into the influence of shuttle stallions on the Australian breeding and racing industry

The Australasian breeding industry owes a huge debt to the pioneers of the shuttle sire concept and our sires’ tables today would look very different without the input of these dual hemisphere travellers. Just imagine a world without Danehill or his sire sons Exceed And Excel (pictured), Redoute’s Choice and Fastnet Rock. Consider how different our racetracks would be without the likes of Street Cry’s daughter Winx, Black Caviar through Royal Academy, Sunline through Desert Sun and Astern and Vancouver through Medaglia d’Oro.

Billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt began the experiment when he shipped Pretendre to New Zealand in 1970, while Colin Hayes and Robert Sangster were pioneers in Australia with the likes of Godswalk in the early 1980s. The concept of shuttling stallions from the northern hemisphere to Australia really took off after two stallions, the Irish-bred, French-trained, Last Tycoon and the American-bred, Irish-trained, Bluebird were made available to Australian breeders in 1989.

Last Tycoon stood at Segenhoe Stud in New South Wales and Bluebird took up residence at Lindsay Park Stud in South Australia. This experiment by Robert Sangster and Coolmore Stud’s John Magnier, proved successful as Last Tycoon was crowned Champion Sire in 1993-94 and Bluebird sired nine G1 winners in Australia. Last Tycoon is the grandsire of current Victorian Champion Sire Written Tycoon, while Bluebird is the sire of the second dam of Darley’s first-season sire and G1 winner Holler, himself a grandson of Danehill.

In 1990 these pioneers of the shuttle stallion revolution, Robert Sangster and John Magnier, teamed up with John Messara of Arrowfield Stud to purchase Juddmonte’s American-bred, British-raced G1 winner Danehill. This move changed the Australian breeding and racing landscape forever, and the concept of the ‘shuttle stallion’ was born.

Many racing and breeding-greats of the past 25 years owe their existence to the shuttle stallion revolution, within either one or two generations of their pedigree. Outside of Sir Tristram’s legacy of Zabeel, through to Lonhro (Octagonal), the list of industry stars of the past two decades would be limited.

Today, the influence of shuttle stallions on the Australian breeding and racing industry is more prevalent than ever. Alastair Pulford, Head of Sales for Darley stallions in Australia said, “Of the top 30 stallions on the General Sires’ list in Australia last season, only three can claim an Australasian colonial heritage beyond just two generations; 27 of the top 30, via their direct male line, are shuttle stallions or the products of shuttle stallions. They owe their existence, and therefore most of us owe our wellbeing, to the shuttle concept. Two equine generations, that is all it has taken to truly internationalise our sport. Snitzel, I Am Invincible, Sebring to name a few, are either by shuttle stallions or by sons of shuttle stallions.”

The 2017 Darley roster features a diverse range of stallions with shuttle influence. “The success of Danehill-line speed stallions here in Australia has been phenomenal and we are delighted to have two more young stallions who fit that criteria join our roster this season with The Last Lion at Kelvinside and Holler at Northwood Park,” Pulford said.

Three-time G1 winner in America Frosted, the highest-rated son of Champion American stallion Tapit, and G1 Prix Jean Prat winner Territories, who hails from the family of Champion stallion Street Cry, have shuttled to Australia this season.

“Frosted is the best son of a Champion sire and from a top female line while Territories is by the sire of I Am Invincible and from the same female family as Darley’s amazing servants Street Cry and Shamardal and both are very popular with Australian breeders,” Pulford said.

Now importantly, many of the Australian bred sons and grandsons of these shuttle sires are reversing the trend and travelling north in our off season. Horses such as Exceed And Excel, and Helmet, have sired winners at G1 level in Europe with Outstrip and dual G1 winner Thunder Snow, doing much to promote our industry and international demand for our bloodstock.

In New Zealand, Gingernuts’ G1 Windsor Park Plate victory on September 23 confirmed shuttle stallion Iffraaj’s customary position among New Zealand’s most prominent stallions. In Australia, there is no doubting the popularity of Teofilo as his leading son Humidor took out the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes on September 16, the second consecutive winner by Teofilo in the race after Palentino’s win in 2016.

The absence of Street Cry and Royal Academy would have resulted in Australia, and the world, missing out on two turfstars in Winx, the highest-rated turf horse in the world at present; and Black Caviar, who retired to stud unbeaten in 25 starts, with an astounding 14 of her victories coming at G1 level. Likewise, without Teofilo and Medaglia d’Oro, Godolphin’s second-season sire Kermadec, and first-season sire Astern would be absent from its 2017 stallion roster.

“Darley is committed to shuttling the best stallions to and from the southern hemisphere. 15 of the 24 Darley stallions standing at Northwood Park in Victoria and Kelvinside in New South Wales have shuttled from the northern hemisphere to Australia this season. The industry in Australia owes much to the shuttle stallion concept,” Pulford said.