The following story by Tony Arrold was published in The Australian on 20 August and gives some insight into the decision by Benalla’s Riverbank Farm to stand the unraced Boulder City, a sibling of the wonder mare Winx.
And at the Riverbank Farm near Benalla, in the north-eastern region of Victoria, Russell and Caroline Osborne threw their hands in the air, rejoicing at the image on a TV screen displaying the world’s best racehorse doing her winning thing.
Winx, who was foaled by her mother Vegas Showgirl seven years ago come September 14, means quite a lot to the Osbornes — maybe more than anyone else outside the tight circle of those directly involved with the daughter of Street Cry.
Riverbank Farm is the home of Boulder City, a young thoroughbred stallion so named with a Las Vegas theme as it is a city within Clark County — and, coincidentally, 26 miles (42km) from the world’s gambling capital — in the US state of Nevada.
Boulder City is a rarity among all active thoroughbred stallions in Australia because he has no proof of racing ability but will trade on a stud career with a pedigree that gives him bragging rights as Winx’s kid brother, having record-breaker Snitzel as his sire.
Vegas Showgirl has produced seven foals to date — four fillies and three colts — and is currently in Japan awaiting a covering next month to premier stallion Deep Impact.
Vegas Showgirl’s first born colt by Fastnet Rock, the now six-year-old Win Win Leader, was sent to Hong Kong where he was gelded and is yet to race, while stakeswinning El Divino, by Medaglia d’Oro, was put down after a serious injury in training nine months ago.
Boulder City, Vegas Showgirl’s foal of 2014, topped the 2016 Inglis Easter yearling sale at $2.3 million for a partnership headed by Emirates Park Stud.
But he had ongoing issues in training that brought about a decision to retire him, with Riverbank Farm taking in the now four-year-old two months ago. Riverbank Farm has a stallion roster of six and Boulder City, the youngest of the group, will command the highest service fee — $5500.
And there is an added incentive built in to fees of all six Riverbank stallions (conditions apply) with veterinary fees associated with the breeding cover included — that’s because Caroline Osborne is the resident vet.
The most notable unraced stallions to scale the heights at stud include Balloch, Mellay and Noble Bijou, a trio who stood in New Zealand, and Alibhai in the US.
Balloch, by the Tracery horse Obliterate, was born in England in 1939, the last foal of the 1920 1000 Guineas winner Cinna. Balloch held strong interest for New Zealand as Cinna’s 1927 foal Beau Pere was twice champion sire there, as well as taking three sires’ titles in Australia before being exported to the US.
Celebrated as the sire of 1952 Melbourne Cup winner Dalray, Balloch excelled as a broodmare sire, leading that category in New Zealand five times and also in Australian for 1966-67 when represented by Caulfield-Melbourne-Sydney Cups winner Galilee.
Mellay and Noble Bijou became breeding icons for New Zealand’s south island, with the unraced duo standing at the White Robe Lodge.
Indeed, in the year Mellay died — prematurely at 13 years old in 1974 — Noble Bijou, born 10 years after Mellay, arrived at the stud.
The Anderton family that ran White Robe Lodge looked beyond Mellay’s unraced record to gamble on a pedigree of high appeal — he was by Nearco’s 1954 English Derby winner Never Say Die from the outstanding Alycidon filly Meld who took British racing by storm in 1955 winning the 1000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes and the Oaks and then beat the boys in the English St Leger.
Mellay claimed the NZ sires’ crown twice, with his premier runners including Princess Mellay (NZ Oaks, NZ Cup — twice), Swell Time (NZ Great Northern Oaks, Caulfield Cup), Rose Mellay (Auckland Cup) and Brown Satin (NZ Oaks). But Mellay was even more valuable as a broodmare sire, leading the NZ broodmare sires’ list five times.
Mellay was a hard act to follow for Noble Bijou but this son of par excellence stamina source Vaguely Noble (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, etc.) managed to do so, heading the NZ sires’ list four times and also topping the broodmare sires’ premiership five times.
When Noble Bijou won the sires’ title for the final time, in 1992-93, he achieved his first broodmare sires’ title in the same season — a virtually unheard of double feat in thoroughbred breeding history.
Found to be frightfully unsound when placed in training, Noble Bijou was marketed for stallion potential — and snapped up by White Robe Lodge — on the reputation of his year-younger half-sister Allez France, the winner of eight Group Is including the 1973 French 1000 Guineas-Oaks double and emulating her sire, Sea Bird, in the 1974 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Noble Bijou’s stock generally stood up to racing as, like Mellay, his sons and daughters were not possessed of early speed but were genuine runners over ground when given the time they needed to mature.
The brother act of The Phantom and The Phantom Chance did so much for Noble Bijou’s stud profile with seven Group I wins between them, along with Group I winners Lomondy and Lady Liberty.
But the defining feature of Noble Bijou’s stud career was his success with mares by the fellow unraced Mellay, a source to which White Robe Lodge had in abundance.
Noble Bijou had no fewer than six individual Group I winners that were products of Mellay mares – Alibhai (the NZ version which won four Group Is), Prince Majestic, Powley, Our Sophia and with Be Noble striking Group I success in South Africa.
Additionally, brothers The Phantom and The Phantom Chance were foaled by grand-daughters of Mellay.
The US version of Alibhai was a chestnut horse born in England in 1938, by Derby winner and six times British sires’ champion Hyperion from the stout racemare Teresina, a daughter of Tracery, grandsire of the afore-mentioned Balloch.
Alibhai was bought as a yearling and exported to the US but suffered tendon injuries to both forelegs and was retired unraced.
Leading sire in the US in three years, Alibhai’s principal runner was Determine who won the 1954 Kentucky Derby and 17 other races.
Determine, in turn, sired 1962 Kentucky Derby winner Decidedly and Santa Anita Derby winner Your Host who would subsequently sire the indefatigable Kelso, five times US Horse of the Year and remarkable winner of 39 races.