WIDDEN STUD, aUSTRALIA
Attendees at our Winter Workshop this week, were enthralled by the lecture of Aushorse Chairman, Antony Thompson, surely one of the smartest studmen in the modern world, and a nicer "bloke" you couldn't wish to meet.
Against all odds and especially the enormous international investment which the Australian thoroughbred industry has attracted, Widden remains among the nation's front-runners, matching the likes of Darley and Coolmore punch-for-punch in the stallion prospects boxing ring.
A good deal of its more recent success in an unmatched history of seven generations in the horse breeding business, can be attributed to their policy of standing "speed" stallions, principally those associated with the winners of the world's most valuable two year old race, the Golden Slipper; Vain, Bletchingly and Marscay, all part of the legacy of Antony's father, Bim, who passed on when the current proprietor was only 8 years of age, were the foundations upon which the enduring excellence of Widden sustains itself to this day.
The arrival at Widden in the past few years of the "Slipper" heroes, Stratum and Sebring, marks an endorsement of this tradition, as does the excellent (but ill-fated) young sire Northern Meteor, all of whom are regular "top ten" contenders of the Sires Premiership lists. If ever you needed an illustration of Antony's enterprise in the face of the stiffest competition on the planet, it lies in his syndication of Sebring at $28 million (about R250 million) an outlay already vindicated in the battle for 2015's Horse Of The Year honours, where his sons Dissident and Criterion look the strongest contenders.
Widden Stud as it exists today is widely known as one of the most successful thoroughbred studs in Australia, but it is unique from all others in its history and unbroken chain of ownership by one family, the Thompson's.
The story of Widden begins with John Thompson, a forward thinking young man from a large English family that engaged in the manufacture of cloth, notably producing the very first cloth made in England from Australian wool.
His keen interest in Australia and vast knowledge of the wool trade led John to a momentous decision to emigrate to this country and on December 6th, 1832, he arrived at Port Jackson with his two sons and a niece, his wife Elizabeth having died during the arduous voyage.
John Thompson's bold gamble paid off, his expertise in sheep and wool leading to prosperity for the family and opportunities for his eldest son William Barber Thompson, who was charged with opening up new country for his patron Edward Cox.
Young William did this with great success, acquiring land for himself on Nullo Mountain along the way and finding time to raise 12 children with his wife Elizabeth.
In 1854, William Thompson and Thomas Harris sought an official survey of creek frontage land in the Widden Valley and the subsequent sale of that land was conducted in 1856, with Thompson and Harris the principal buyers.
William and his father John secured two blocks of land totalling 603 acres along the Widden Brook between the Blackwater and Emu Creek junctions and these are the first recorded purchases by the Thompson family in the Widden Valley.
The Thompson's continually added to their land holdings and in July of 1867 the brothers-in-law John Thompson (son of William) and John Thomas Frost were successful in purchasing significant parcels of land from the Tindale and Lee families forming the central part of Widden Stud as it is today.
It was during the 1870's that the family business moved away from sheep to concentrate on horses, firstly on draught and stock horses, then progressing to the finely modelled thoroughbreds that would bring lasting fame and fortune to Widden.
The entire Thompson family embraced thoroughbred breeding and the first six Volumes of the Australian Stud Book feature mare returns from the varied ownership of John Thompson, his brothers William, James and Joseph, plus their sons Albert, Alfred, Herbert and Cyril.
The strength of the early Thompson owned studs was evidenced by the 1917 Inglis Yearling Catalogue which featured 375 youngsters, 115 (31%) of them bred by members of the Thompson family.
They continued to dominate the thoroughbred breeding industry right through the 1930's with a powerful stallion line up that included horses such as Heroic, Ajax, Brueghel*, Backwood*, Veilmond, Marconigram* and Melbourne Cup winner Hall Mark.
In the 41 stud seasons between August 1st 1897 and July 31st 1939, stallions located at Thompson owned studs in the Widden and Bylong Valleys headed the Leading Sires' List no less than 29 times.
The art of breeding commercial thoroughbreds and champion racehorses has been passed seamlessly from father to son for some 140 years and Widden Stud is now progressing under the excellent stewardship of Antony Thompson, a seventh generation descendant of John Thompson.
- Golden Slipper Gr1 winning, Champion 2yo of Australasia
- The reigning Champion sire of individual 2yo Stakes winners & Champion active 3yo sire of Australia
- Second leading stallion on the Australian General Sires premiership - from just 3 crops racing
- Sire of the best two horses in Australia; mulitiple Group One winners Dissident & Criterion
Extract from Widden Stud
Widden Valley (p)