History of the Australian Stud Book: Part II
By Michael Ford, Keeper of the Australian Stud Book
©Australian Stud Book, 2006. This information remains the property of the Joint Proprietors of the Australian Stud Book, being the Australian Jockey Club and the Victoria Racing Club. It must not be used for any purpose without their written permission.
The joint proprietors: the AJC and the VRC
The Australian Jockey Club and the Victoria Racing Club had unofficially subsidised the Stud Book from 1885 but it was not until 1904 that their work received recognition from the other Principal Racing Clubs in Australia. In 1910 the AJC and the VRC purchased the copyright of the Australian Stud Book from WC Yuille & Company "for the express purpose of preserving an official record of the breeding industry in Australia and of assisting to improve the standard of the blood horse in the country." The Australian Stud Book was located at 6 Bligh Street, Sydney from 1910 with the AJC, until it moved to Randwick Racecourse around 1961.
Once an organised central body overseeing breeding records had been established, many horses of doubtful origin were excluded. This was aggravated by the fact that many breeders did not bother to keep breeding records nor submit regular Stud Book returns. The first Keeper appointed by the AJC and VRC, AP Wilson, stated in Volume 10 that many of the yearlings sold at annual sales under the title of thoroughbred did not come within that designation by any stretch of the imagination.
In 1912, the Stud Book Committee, comprising the AJC and the VRC, decided it would accept for inclusion only those new broodmares whose pedigrees could be traced to an accepted taproot and whose sire's pedigree the Committee approved. Because breeders were taking advantage of lenient conditions, the Committee introduced a time limit in which to return broodmares. In due course, various measures were introduced including foaling slips, service certificates and identification of horses at public sales. These measures proved to be of immense value, bringing to light many cases of mistaken identity.
The most notable was the mix-up of the foals of Golestan Nymph and Phoenix Girl which had its origins in Western Australia where the mares were mistakenly identified before travelling to New South Wales. One of the foals, Reisling, won the 1965 Golden Slipper so the ramifications would have been disastrous had it not been resolved. The line might have bred on until today without anyone knowing it was wrong.
In 1921 the Blood Horse Breeders Association of Australia requested that the principal auction houses restrict their catalogues only to Stud Book stock. The growing importance of the Australian Stud Book was emphasised in 1932, when the New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland Principal Clubs agreed to restrict their classic races to horses that were entered, or eligible for inclusion in the Australian Stud Book. The South Australian Jockey Club in 1941 and the Western Australian Turf Club in 1942 also adopted this course of action. The ban was not lifted until 1996 when bloodtyping was able to resolve any identification queries, thereby enabling Non Stud Book horses to compete in the classics as long as their parentage had been successfully established.
The proprietors of the Australian Stud Book have achieved their original aims and the Stud Book now plays a vital role in the breeding and racing industry. While breeders can select matings on the bases of confirmation and performance, only the stud books can provide assurance that the breeding of the horse is beyond question. Prior to bloodtyping and DNA typing, the regulations which had to be followed exactly were:
- A mare or stallion cannot be considered for inclusion in the Australian Stud Book unless its name has been officially registered for it
- A foal cannot be accepted for inclusion unless:
- the owner submits acceptable returns and identifies the foal by the prescribed dates
- the stallion owner has satisfactorily established the identity of the covered mare
- A mare or stallion cannot be considered for inclusion unless it has been entered in the ASB or an approved foreign stud book as a foal
- Returns for a mare must commence for the year in which she was served for the first time and from thereon annually.
The measures also enabled the Australian Stud Book to collect accurate fertility figures of stallions and to publish the full breeding records of mares.
Non stud book horses
Always during the compilation of 'pure bred' animals, those that do not meet the standard will be flushed out. In the case of racehorses, it is those which were not returned to the Stud Book or had one parent not returned to the Stud Book. Prior to 1980, horses could be registered for racing without pedigree, and it was not uncommon to see a horse listed as "by a station sire out of an unregistered mare." In 1980 a rule was implemented to prevent horses without registered parents from being officially named. This was to close the records on horses of doubtful origin as the public's expectation of correct identity increased.
There were also many foals by thoroughbreds which were not recorded with the Stud Book and produced generations of horses in the Non Stud Book Register. If the family produced black type performance, and the pedigree could be traced back eight generations, horses could be promoted to stud book status. A notable case was Redelva 1983, whose 17 stakes wins indicated he must have been a thoroughbred. A pedigree check shows that his great-grand-dam Damelsa was not foal recorded but succeeding generations were mated to stud book sires which enabled Redelva's dam, Delvena to be promoted to stud book status.
There were several cases of well-performed racehorses which could not be accepted into the Australian Stud Book because their parents had not been previously recorded. One, Rivette 1933, won the Caulfield‚Melbourne Cup double. Another, Aquanita 1956, won 17 stakes races including a Cox Plate, Mackinnon Stakes, Orr Stakes and two Underwood Stakes and stood as a stallion, but none of his progeny could be accepted because his great-granddam, Brilliant Queen, had not been returned to the Australian Stud Book as a foal. In both cases, an accepted method of promotion did not exist at the time.
Achievements of the Keepers
Archie Yuille, compiler, 1878 to 1909
- Produced nine volumes of the Stud Book in a time when communication was basic
Leslie G Rouse, Keeper, 1914 to 1927
- Include new mares traced to their taproot or approved colonial mare
- Introduced time limits for the return of mares
Loddon Yuille, Keeper 1927 to 1949
- Vision of an international racing and breeding community
Walter "Jim' McFadden, Keeper 1949 to 1985
A Sydney University veterinary degree graduate in 1947.
- Cross referencing matings with studs and breeders by foaling slips 1953, service certificates, 1969
- Encouragement of branding before weaning, 1967
- Published 'Sires of Australia and New Zealand', 1961
- Published 'Thoroughbred Families of Australia and New Zealand', 1969
- Joined the initial International Stud Book Committee, 1976
- Computerised records, 1977
- Bloodtyping of stallions 1978 and mares, 1981
- Compiling the Register of Non-Stud Book Mares, 1980
Roderick Page, Keeper 1985 to 1988
A third-year law student.
- Bloodtyping all foals, 1986
- Revised documentation system, 1986 ‚ First Service Date Declaration
- Compulsory freeze branding, 1986
John Digby, Keeper 1988 to 2004
A Sydney University veterinary degree graduate in 1954, gained a Masters of Business Administration from University of NSW in 1973. Born in Ashburton, the South Island of New Zealand.
- Modernised management systems, 1990
- Established stud book records on a website, 1997, the first stud book authority to do so
- Produced a CDROM version of McFadden's "Thoroughbred Families' and 'Sires' of Australia and New Zealand"" 2001
- Regulated the date of coverings to determine the age of a foal, 2001
- Converted bloodtyping to DNA typing, 2003
- Introduced online mare returns, 2003
- Implemented microchipping, 2003
- Established a National Brands Register, 2003
An example of John Digby's ability to think laterally is the rule to determine the age of a foal. The issue arose with statistics showing an extraordinary number of foals born on 1 August, the horse's official birthday. Rather than bring in onerous regulations to police this or send race officials to visit studs during the last week of July, Digby looked at the problem from the other side, realising that you cannot control the date of foaling but you can control the date of covering. From this an official starting date for the covering season as 1 September was implemented and any mare which was first covered from that date would have her foal accepted with the current foal crop even if it was born in July. Racing and breeding officials agreed this was a pragmatic solution to an age-old problem and although the outcome was initially criticised by northern hemisphere stud book authorities, the rule was quickly established in New Zealand and South Africa.
Michael Ford, Keeper 2004 to date
A Bachelor of Arts (Communication) from University of Technology Sydney (1977) and a Masters of Business Administration from Southern Cross University (1999). Born in Randwick close to the racecourse, he cites horse trainer Albert McKenna as one of his big influences in gaining a love of the racehorse.
- Modernised the website, 2004
- Introduced Foal Identification Card, 2004 and Brand Index Card, 2006
- Implemented online stallion returns and services, 2005
- Rebranded image with new logo and trademark, 2005
- Established an Electronic newsletter, 2005
- Introduced a personal telephone service for breeders without internet access, 2006
Breeders did not pay stud book fees up to 1949, and the AJC and VRC had provided the equivalent of $1.5 million each towards running the Stud Book assisted by annual contributions from the Principal Racing Clubs. Fees for returning broodmares and registering breeders were introduced in 1950 when the cost of running the Stud Book became too difficult for the Principal Clubs to bear and their contributions ceased. At that time, it cost £1.00 to return a mare ($2.00) or 16% of the basic weekly wage of £6.20. In 2006 mare return fees, at $40, were only 6% of the average wage of $700, whereas the average wage had increased 56 fold and return fees had only increased 20 fold.
The Australian Stud Book fees are still the lowest of all major stud book authorities for the cost of officially identifying a foal. This identification is a virtual guarantee of the pedigree of each horse and means a breeder can sell with assurance while an owner can buy with confidence whether spending one million or one thousand dollars.
||Type of Work|
||manual receiving, collating, checking, publishing
||computerising the records
||benefits of computerised recording
||benefits of improved systems and management
||benefits of online systems
Looking back one hundred years, or even fifty years, one wonders how the Keepers and staff managed to compile and publish the enormous amount of information received in hard copy. Service information would have to be filed alphabetically by stallion name and the results manually written on a broodmare card, also filed alphabetically. Later, foaling slips had to be checked and filed under the dam for each season. Then the information passed to the printing company which would have had to composite the type for each piece of information culminating in stud books of up to 1,700 pages.
Today we have the benefit of modern technology which enables a stud book to be produced virtually by the press of a button. A file is electronically sent to the printing company which turns it into a book. Of course there is more to it with data checking between the two processes but basically it is very simple especially compared to twenty years ago. Nowadays, there are no filing cabinets in the Stud Book's office at the AJC's Randwick Racecourse, whereas in 1985 there was a room especially set aside for rows of filing cabinets, with one person dedicated to retrieving and filing records. Foaling slips were kept in shoeboxes, one of which staff have saved from 1962 and which contains, amongst others, the foaling slip for champion mare Citius under her dam Rich And Rare.
The most important relationship the Australian Stud Book has forged since 1980 is with the University of Queensland, which provided a parentage testing service through bloodtyping until 2002. Since then, the University of Queensland's Australian Equine Genetics Research Centre, a world leader in its field, has supplied a DNA typing service for the joint proprietors of the Stud Book. The independence of this parentage testing service and its quality control protocols ensures breed integrity at the highest level, in which Australian breeders can have complete confidence.
Most people access the Stud Book's records through its website at studbook.org.au. However, many breeders and collectors own bound sets of stud books, ranging from 1878 to 2005, which they cherish and which form a handsome background to their libraries. Volume 41, published in 2005, contains many new features including a list of every winner of Australia's major races, plus photographs of the last five years' winners of these races.
An institution which has survived for over 127 years can only do so if it is strong, adaptable, has independent integrity and the confidence of the people it is serving. From its early days, the Australian Stud Book has matured from a bureaucratic regulatory organisation, which was necessary for much of the first eighty years, to an organic body capable of adopting and adapting new technology for the ultimate benefit of breeders. This change only eventuated with the advent of technology in the 1980s with bloodtyping and DNA typing, computers, microchips and the internet.
Until this technology was available, Keepers had no other recourse than the strict regime of paperwork and deadlines in order to verify the breeding details of racehorses. Modern technology enables the Stud Book to streamline the receipt of information by being able to verify it scientifically and produce an easy method of identifying a racehorse. This adoption of technology paradoxically means the Stud Book itself can take on a role of a coach to encourage and urge breeders to lodge the breeding details themselves online rather than as a hectoring bureaucrat. This is reflected in the positive attitude of its staff in their dealings with breeders.
Credit must also be given to the owners of the Stud Book known as the Joint Proprietors, the Australian Jockey Club and the Victoria Racing Club for their vision and support. They maintained the fledgling Australian Stud Book in its early days when owned elsewhere, nurtured it for decades after they bought the publishing rights, and today provide guidance that brings industry confidence to what the Stud Book is doing for breeders by guaranteeing the identity of their foals. Or, as its mission states: ensuring the integrity of thoroughbred breeding in Australia.
- Arrold, Tony: The Australian newspaper, Dec 1985
- Australian Racing Board website
- Cavalcade of Ballaarat, Nathan F. Spielvogel webpage
- First Families 2001 website
- Freedman, H & Lemon, A: History of Austarlian Thoroughbred, 1990
- Gordon, W.F. 2005: Australian Stud Book prefaces, 1878-2000
- Jenkins, Arthur: History of Sebastopol, Sebastopol Secondary College webpage
- Maguire, Brian: Bicentennial Australian Stud Book foreward, 1988
- Melton, History & Heritage, 2005, Melton Shire Council webpage
- Osborne, Brian G. (Tasmanian Racing Club): Bloodstock Breeders Review, 1951
- Sydney Morning Herald/Travel, 17 Feb 2005
- Wells, Jeff: National Times, Jan. 1986
- Wicks, Bert: Racehorse Syndicator, 1984
- W.J. McFadden's speeches, 1970-1980
Thanks to Bill Gordon for editing and Graham Caves for historical material.