JOE’S PADDOCK BECAME THE NURSERY OF AUSTRALIA’S MOST BRILLIANT HORSES
A choice portion of country stretching back from the mineral rich Widden Brook, a tributary of the Goulburn River, to the limestone cliffs of the girding mountain on the western fringe of the Hunter Valley, referred to around the 1870s as ‘Joe’s Paddock’, produced the first great thoroughbred to emerge from the famous Widden Valley, the 1887 Caulfield Cup winner Oakleigh.
He was bred by Joseph Thompson (Widden Stud), one of the six sons of William Barber Thompson, an Englishman who with his brother James and their father John, settled in the lower half of the Widden Valley in the 1840s.
Widden is an Aboriginal name interpreted as ‘go no further, stay here’. The Thompsons have lived up to this creed to the extent that the section known as the Widden Stud is still in their ownership seven generations on, and is one of the world’s foremost thoroughbred nurseries.
At one time, members of the Thompson (Widden Stud) family owned all of the Widden Valley this side of what was settled by the Harris family, a property named Holbrook. Out of the Thompson holdings grew three very successful adjoining thoroughbred studs, Widden, Baramul and Oakleigh.
Baramul, developed on ‘Joe’s Paddock’, produced some of the early good horses bred by the Thompsons, but its greatest era followed its acquisition in the 1940s by Sydney solicitor Alfred Ellison, a breeder who earlier had his mares at the Widden Stud. A.O., as he was respectfully called by just about all, had a deep love of the horticulture, as well as racing and breeding, and in his spare time, he grew prize camellias.
On his visits to the Widden Valley, he had discovered that not only was this the prettiest country he had ever seen, but it was also perfect for the growing of pastures. In acquiring Baramul, a name which initially was spelt with two Rs, he had samples of the soil analysed by the Department of Agriculture and they showed that just the right amounts of calcium and phosphorous for growing horses, and cattle, existed.
One of the first horses that A.O. bred was Alister, winner of the AJC and VRC Derbys and the Cox Plate. The golden era of Baramul, however, followed the arrival at the stud in 1951 of the good English two-year-old Star Kingdom, a sire owned by a partnership of Ellison, Stanley Wootton and Reg Moses.
Five times champion Australian sire, seven times leading juvenile winner-producer and three times at the head of the broodmare list, Star Kingdom became the most dominant influence in the history of Australian breeding, particularly through offspring reared on the hills and dales of Baramul.
They included such icons as Todman (STC Golden Slipper, Canterbury Guineas, AJC Champagne Stakes, VATC Futurity Stakes), Noholme (AJC Champagne Stakes, Epsom Hcp, MVRC W.S. Cox Plate) and Biscay (VRC Maribyrnong Plate, VRC Merson Cooper Stakes, Debutant Stakes – new Australian record time for 800m).
This trio, outstanding sires in their own right, were all bred at Baramul for Stanley Wootton. It was success on Baramul that continued for him for nearly half a century and included some of the most awesomely fast horses ever bred. In addition to Todman and Biscay, they have included Bletchingly (won four of five starts including the AJC Galaxy and VRC Moomba Plate – course record time), Star of Heaven (VRC Craven ‘A’ Stakes, Linlithgow Stakes, third in Golden Slipper), Forina (VATC Blue Diamond Stakes) and more recently Schillachi (eight Group 1 wins, champion Australian sprinter, two course records).
Ellison also raised a long list of good horses at Baramul out of his own mares including Citius (VRC Lightning Stakes, VATC Oakleigh Plate, AJC Doncaster Hcp), Aura (AJC June Stakes), My Kingdom (AJC Challenge Stakes), Concert Star (AJC Grimcrack Stakes, VRC Marybynong Plate), Mighty Kingdom (AJC Breeders Plate), Ritmar (VRC Lightning Stakes), Ulola (AJC June Stakes – twice) and Noble Star (AJC June Stakes).
Celebrating more than 150 years since the first horses galloped out of its paddocks, Baramul Stud has entered the new century with the potential for a new golden era of breeding. Now owned by Gerry Harvey, the founder of retail store giant Harvey Norman and one of the trio of owners of the Magic Millions bloodstock sales organization, the stud has more than 200 broodmares and besides standing sires, is patronizing the leading sires of Australia and New Zealand.
Already new generations of good horses are growing up on ‘Joe’s Paddock’ including 2003 stars Arlington Road (AJC All Aged Stakes), Polar Success (STC Golden Slipper), World Peace (Group 3 MRC Blue Diamond Preview for fillies), Best French (Listed Gold Coast Turf Club Silk Stocking), Lotteria (NJC Spring Stakes, Group 3, AJC Flight Stakes, Gr 1), Savabeel (AJC Spring Champion Stakes, Gr 1, W.S. Cox Plate, Gr 1).