“The first step was to acquire the best property he could. The soils, the topography and the size had to be just right. He found what he was looking for in Keysbrook, an hour south of Perth, and set about developing Heytesbury Stud into one of Australia’s most successful stud farms.
With the land in his ownership, and a world-standard development underway, the next step was to acquire the stock, starting with a stallion. Being a logical man, he decided there’d be no more suitable a horse than Silver Knight, a New Zealand stallion who had just won the 1971 Melbourne Cup.
Heytesbury Stud was now ready for some mares.
As part of the search, he flew my Grandmother to South Australia to buy a mare capable of producing a two miler. She was so eager to select the best that she returned with five! One of these was Brenta. Brenta wasn’t the best bred or the best performed mare we ever owned, but she came from a stout family and was, to my Grandmother’s expert eye, a suitable type.
“Forty years ago, my father decided he wanted to win the Melbourne Cup. Being courageous, as well as ambitious, he wouldn’t just buy a horse to achieve this aim, he would breed it.”
Eight years passed since the establishment of Heytesbury Stud, and in 1979 Brenta produced her third foal by Silver Knight, a special brown colt who would be named Black Knight.
For this special colt, it was crucial to select the right trainer. This was perhaps the easiest step of all, with the canny George Hanlon and his famous Epsom stables being the natural choice.
Finally, on the first Tuesday of November in 1984, my father’s dream was realised. He had acquired a property, a stallion and a band of broodmares with the express purpose of breeding and racing a Melbourne Cup winner, and it worked. He had achieved something that was then extraordinary, and would be almost unimaginable now. And how did he celebrate? Well, he didn’t because he was in London at the time and was asleep at the time of the race!
Will Heytesbury Stud breed another Melbourne Cup winner? Why not? And if we do, will I sleep through it? I don’t think so!”
Paul Holmes a Court