KEN AUSTIN - THE BEGINNING
An historic stud with an exciting new future
Inglewood Stud is the oldest thoroughbred stud still standing a stallion in New Zealand.
Still operating from its original Ohoka property, Inglewood Stud was founded in 1938 by breeder, auctioneer and administrator Ken Austin. Austin’s great-grandson Gus Wigley is the current manager of the stud, taking over the running of the farm from his father Nick in 2012, some 75 years after Austin first set foot on Inglewood Stud.
Ken Austin was one of the key figures in the history of New Zealand thoroughbred breeding. His achievements in the industry include co-founding the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, breeding and racing numerous Group One winners, and standing the successful sires Sun King, Battle Song, Lucky Bag and the first really successful colonial bred stallion, Defaulter.
Austin immigrated to New Zealand from Australia in 1932 after travelling annually to New Zealand for the previous six years to conduct the Trentham Yearling Sales as auctioneer. He played a key role in setting up the first New Zealand national yearling sales and was involved in both the recommending and selling of the two great horses of the time, Gloaming and Phar Lap. The Wigley family still holds Austin’s original Trentham Yearlings Sales catalogue containing the pedigree page of Phar Lap, with Austin’s handwritten notes a prominent feature.
Austin moved to New Zealand in 1932 to manage the Elderslie Stud at Oamaru for the Reid family, who stood Phar Lap’s sire Night Raid.
It was six years later that Austin leased the Inglewood Stud property in North Canterbury, the farm’s historic homestead built in 1864.
From the stud Austin established himself as one of the country’s most successful breeders, leading the breeders’ list in the1949/50 season with 18 individual winners and again in 1950/51 with 17 individual winners. In 1954/55 Inglewood Stud was the leading prize money earner with 14 winners of 38 races earning 42,000 pounds.
Austin’s breeding feats were matched by his ownership achievements, usually with unwanted stock unsold at the yearling sales. His most famous racehorse was Monte Carlo, a gelding he bred from a daughter of Raphis, an unraced sister to Phar Lap.
Monte Carlo was offered at the 1955 yearling sales where he failed to reach his reserve of 2000gns. Following a failed private sale as a yearling, Monte Carlo was broken in by Austin before being sent to Sydney trainer Frank Dalton, an old associate of Austin’s from his Australian days.
After a nine length win at his fourth juvenile start at Rosehill, Monte Carlo was set for the AJC Derby. Two weeks prior to the Derby, Austin accepted an offer of 6000gns from the USA but the sale fell through because of custom difficulties. The colt went on to win the AJC Derby, VRC Derby and the AJC St Leger before a further US sale fell through due to problems with air transport. Monte Carlo went on to win two City Tatts Gold Cups, the VRC Queens Plate and the STC Cup as a four-year-old before winning the Metropolitan and the Mackinnon Stakes prior to his second in the Melbourne Cup as a five-year-old. Austin finally got his sale in 1957, Monte Carlo sold to the USA for 30,000gns where he broke the track record when winning the Sussex Turf Cup at Delaware Park.
While Monte Carlo was Austin’s greatest claim to fame as an owner, his Group One winners certainly didn’t end there. With Frank Dalton as his conditioner, Austin raced Slogan to two Doncaster Handicap wins and Count Cyrano to a win in the Metropolitan Hcp. In 1956 Slogan won the Doncaster Handicap on the same day that Monte Carlo won his AJC St Leger.
Austin was also instrumental in forming the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, being the first President from 1946 to 1951, Vice President in 1951 and life member until his death in 1959. He was a leading contributor and writer for the NZTBA’s annual publication, The NZ Thoroughbred, and a writer for many thoroughbred publications throughout the world.
The family connection continues
Ken Austin’s early death in the late 1950s saw the stud and its bloodstock sold outside of the family with Austin’s entire bloodstock portfolio sold on the Inglewood Stud front lawn in a final dispersal sale.
It was not until 1971 that the stud fell back into family hands, Austin’s grandson Nick Wigley – son of Austin’s daughter Barbara (Bing) – returning from his OE in England to purchase the stud with his wife Carol. Much of the stud’s bloodstock, including its stallion Tiber, were included in the sale, but it was not until the Wigleys imported the Nashua stallion Beaufort Sea in 1974 that things clicked up a notch for Inglewood Stud.
Beaufort Sea’s very first runner claimed the first two-year-old race of the season, and the stallion never looked back. In a stud career spanning 20 years, Beaufort Sea left over 300 winners whose earnings exceeded NZ$6,429,746. He finished third on both the 1981/82 and 1984/85 New Zealand general sires’ premiership with over 17 stakes winners to his name throughout his career
One of the greats of South Island racing
While Nick’s parents, Sandy and Bing, raced the grand Beaufort Sea mare Seamist to 10 stakes wins, including the Gr. 1 ARC New Zealand Stakes, Beaufort Sea reserved his best for the couple that put the feed in his bin, siring for Nick and Carol the glamour filly of the 1984/85 season, Canterbury Belle.
Canterbury Belle was born and raced in an era when the ‘one-eyed Cantabrian’ was at his most parochial, and with the filly’s appropriate name, black and red silks, and undeniable ability, she captured the hearts of Canterbury’s staunch racing public.
An imposing chestnut with the size and strength of a colt, Canterbury Belle won her first three starts in the South Island as a three-year-old by a combined 12 lengths. She started favourite in the NZ 1000 Guineas with the weight of the Canterbury public behind her, the filly’s victory in the Classic as emphatic as her previous three starts.
Unbeaten, she tripped north to the Bayer Classic only for a starting gate injury to dismiss any chance of a fifth straight win. The injury took the filly off the scene for four months, but she was soon back showing her dominant power, winning her first two starts back to take her record to six wins from seven starts. Trainer Dave Kerr had the Queensland Oaks in his sights for the filly, but none guessed at the heights the filly would reach at that 1985 Queensland Winter Carnival.
Her first two starts in Brisbane in the Queensland Guineas and Doomben Roses both resulted in second placings, and while the filly looked a certain chance over the mile and a half of the Queensland Oaks, critics raised their eyebrows at Kerr’s seemingly bizarre decision to instead take on Australia’s best sprinters in Queensland’s marquee sprint, the Gr. 1 Stradbroke Handicap. Just one three-year-old filly had won the race in the 82 year history of the event and most thought the Kiwis had bitten off more than they could chew with their star filly.
But it was the Wigleys and Kerr that knew the filly best and it was to be the daring Cantabrians that had the last laugh, Canterbury Belle exhibiting her rare ability with her trademark powerful finish to re-write the history books and claim the Stradbroke Handicap with a dominant display.
Canterbury Belle’s 10 wins in 21 career starts will forever have her cemented as one of Canterbury’s great racehorses, but it will be the way the province rallied behind the mare that will be the defining memory of her outstanding career.
THE NEW INGLEWOOD STUD
Gus and Bianca take over the helm
The new millennium saw Inglewood Stud consolidate, the Wigleys moving away from stallions to concentrate on their select broodmare band – many descending from both Seamist and Canterbury Belle – with Nick turning his hand to training with a small team of homebreds in work.
A 13 acre block of the stud including the Inglewood homestead and stables was sold off in 2002, with a new house and stable complex built at the back of the farm. From the stud’s broodmare band the Wigley’s continued to sell yearlings at the Karaka Sales, while Nick’s patient and dedicated English style of training came into play.
In 2012, Nick and Carol's son Gus, and his wife Bianca, shifted down to the stud from Auckland with the intention of ramping the stud back up to its stallion standing days. That they have done on the back of their sensational young stallion Zacinto, with new comer War Decree now added to the stallion ranks.
In the short time they have been running the stud, Gus and Bianca have produced the stakes winners Ugo Foscolo, Fifty Fifty, Secret Allure, Replique and Zigwig, from just 40 odds runners.
The training arm of Inglewood Stud offers another dimension to the opportunity afforded to Zacinto and War Decree. The future of Inglewood Stud looks bright under the next generation of this historic New Zealand racing family.