Steve says the next 12 months may well be a watershed time for Victoria’s Swettenham Stud
Understandably, given his English heritage, Adam Sangster describes Swettenham Stud as having ‘three miles’ (4.8 kilometres) of Goulburn river frontage. That and the property’s award-winning gardens provide a tranquil setting for horse and human.
The homestead is, well, a touch dated... and pink and I’m sure I’m not the only who’s made the faux pas as to when the top coat of paint will be applied. It does, however, have a liberal coat of quaint; it’s inviting rather than elaborate and speaks of a 50 plus year old history of the Sangster family’s association with Australian racing which began with Adam’s father Robert connecting with trainer Colin Hayes in the 1970s.
There’s memorabilia aplenty from framed photographs to - my favourite - ashtrays depicting Sangster raced Derby winners in England, Ireland and France. Sangster senior did win eight of them with seven individual horses.
However, history and tranquillity don’t pay the bills and Swettenham - like every stallion farm - needs a ‘big’ horse. The next 12 months just might be critical in determining its immediate future.
Toronado, fittingly a son of High Chaparral who was by Robert Sangster’s all-conquering Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer), might be such a horse and his first yearlings go to the sales next year - as do those of barn companion Puissance De Lune (Shamardal). And, by that time, Americain’s (Dynaformer) first crop will be autumn three-year-old’s and, at least as Swettenham hopes, coming into their own. Toronado doesn’t require much, if any, spin. By any reckoning, he was a very good racehorse; unbeaten at two and a dual Group One winner at three with those victories including the Sussex Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) over the previous season’s unbeaten champion two-year-old Dawn Approach (New Approach). “Next year will be important for us,” concedes Brian Gorman, Swettenham’s general manager, “we’ll have the sale of the first Southern Hemisphere yearlings by Toronado and he’s the real deal. He served 174 mares in his first season here and he’ll have significant numbers at the sales including around 15 yearlings from the farm. “Plus, we will see a growing number of Americain three-year-old’s hitting the track. His female line is allowing a level of precocity to come through and we believe they’ll shine at three and four. It won’t be a case of having to wait until they are five or six.”
While Toronado may have something of ‘poster boy’ status with a possible propensity to produce classy sprinter-milers like himself; the likes of Americain and Puissance De Lune are strongly linked to the Swettenham brand and many of those standing similarly credentialed horses, especially in Victoria, will be hoping Swettenham can make them work.
Americain was a two-year-old winner at 1400 metres and Puissance De Lune was a weight-for-age winner at that distance, but the perception is that horses of their ilk might revitalise our breeding of middle distance and staying horses. Americain is being well represented in America after standing two seasons at Calumet Farm and will have runners in Britain after one year at the National Stud. “He had two winners in the USA over the weekend and he’s doing well there given he didn’t serve huge books of mares. And he had three winners here (Australia) in August so they’re starting to get rolling,” he said.
Toronado’s weanlings have sold for up to $140,000 here and to 190,000 guineas in the UK. Gorman describes him as the ‘perfect’ shuttle stallion as he has ‘no issues’. “We understand the Queen has sent two or three mares to him,” adds Adam Sangster, hoping for a little more history in the making.
Puissance De Lune’s own bid for a place in history was thwarted when a tendon injury ruled him out of the 2013 Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) and a Group One win eluded him but he placed five times at the top level. “He prances around and thinks he’s a pretty cool dude,” Gorman says of the onetime Cup favourite. “He’s a great type.” “He’s been given his chance with very good books of mares each year so far. He’s been well supported by owner Gerry Ryan and others and he’ll make an impact at the sales next year. His yearlings have length and good bone and they’re correct. At his fee (an advertised $8,800) he represents great value,” Gorman said.
Gorman seems to have a degree of affection for each of the stallions in his care but it’s a fair bet to say his favourite is Mshawish (Medaglia d’Oro). “He’s just all power and the more people see him, the more bookings we get. Some shuttlers get off the truck and you wonder if they’ve sent the right horse or they got the measuring stick wrong but not with this horse,” he said. The history continues with Mshawish as he’s a grandson of El Prado, the Robert Sangster-owned National Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) winning two-year-old, and by the Sangster bred Sadler’s Wells.
Swettenham also stands the homebred Trust In A Gust (Keep The Faith) who completes the family ties as he carries the Hayes brand linked to Collingrove Stud which was fundamentally the predecessor to Swettenham Stud. The brand was a joint venture between the Hayes and Sangster families following the purchase of Collingrove (New South Wales) in 1988.
The multiple Group One-winning sprinter Rebel Dane (California Dane), who represents the pure speed element, completes the 2017 roster. His best win was arguably in the 2016 Manikato Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) - a race in which he had been beaten an average of just over one length in the three previous years.