Nolen back from the brink
The mild–mannered and softly spoken Tal Nolen, the veteran horseman who commands respect from buyers and his peers alike, was last year going to give away educating and consigning breeze-up horses.
Fed up with Victoria’s lockdowns due to the pandemic and grieving the loss of his wife Margaret, horses were the furthest thing from his mind.
But Nolen, the father of top jockey Luke and fellow accomplished horseman Shaun, regrouped ahead of 2022’s yearling sales and decided to go around again, selling two-year-olds at the sales as he had done for almost 20 years.
“That’s right and I ended up buying 19 horses,” Nolen says of his short-lived retirement plans.
“It was just because of Covid, you couldn’t go anywhere and I got sick of it and my wife died and things like that, so I was a bit down, but I am back into it now.”
And Tal, under his Nolen Racing banner, was back at it in a big way at the Inglis Ready2Race Sale on Tuesday, selling seven colts for a combined $1.46 million, a $550,000 son of Deep Field, the second highest-priced lot of the auction, among them.
That record – which has Singapore stakes winners Top Knight (Zoustar) and Celavi (Fighting Sun) and a host of winners in Hong Kong on the Nolen Racing honour board – is clearly at the forefront of buyers’ minds come the two-year-old sales.
“Tal’s traditionally looked to promote himself on the strength of the horses that he’s sold,” Inglis’ Sebastian Hutch says.
“The relationships and confidence people have in him and the horses he presents are a hugely important feature of why he’s been successful and I think that’s a significant lesson to other consignors who are looking to develop a foothold in this part of the market.
“If you work hard at it and you continue to put your good horses in (the sale) and look to produce good horses year after year, ultimately you can develop a form of following and support that people like Tal Nolen have and that makes it a very lucrative exercise indeed.
“Tal was talking about not having drafts in 2022 and now look where he is, he had an extraordinary day.”
Nolen has 11 horses to be offered at the Magic Millions 2YOs In Training Sale on the Gold Coast on October 25 and he will maintain the practice of arriving on sale day, with John Jeffs again holding court on his behalf during inspections in the lead-up to the sale.
He said: “JJ, he organises the team and you don’t interfere with professionals.”
Another secret to Nolen’s success could also be this: “We try and sell because I have got no ambition to be a racehorse trainer.”
The late Alan Cardy’s showpiece equine and cattle property Lynton, near Goulburn in NSW, was officially listed for sale this week, proceedings which will bring to an end the long-time owner’s nearly four-decade devotion to the pristine farm.
Former Wallaby rugby union player Cardy purchased Lynton in 1986 and set about developing it into an elite racehorse training centre, modelling it on the Lindsay Park blueprint established by the late Colin Hayes, after visiting the famous Barossa Valley facility in South Australia with his close friend, the late cricketer and commentator Richie Benaud.
“Richie Benaud was good mates with Alan and he was the one who took him down to meet Colin Hayes to have a look at how he trained horses and how he set up his training establishment,” long-time friend Michael Wiener said.
“Alan loved racing, he liked a punt, he was a good punter, but he basically only punted on his own horses… and we had a lot of success.”
During the almost four decades of involvement with his private facility, a 210-hectare (520 acre) farm with a 1900-metre irrigated grass track, a 1500-metre sand track, an equine swimming dam and 26 boxes, Cardy had just three trainers working for him: Lisa Smith, Danny Williams and Kurt Goldman.
“We trained a lot of winners from the days when we had a little trainer called Lisa Smith, they were the early horses, and Alan used to help her train them,” Wiener recalled.
“He’d go down every weekend and work with her in training her horses. Alan was originally a physical education teacher. He was a great sportsman, so he knew how to get fit and he understood physiology on the basis of getting them fit. He worked his horses pretty hard and had a fair bit of success.”
Goldman has been preparing the horses for the past decade and stayed on to ensure the farm remained operational since the owner’s sudden death last December, aged 76.
The affable trainer says Hellbent’s (I Am Invincible) William Reid Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) win at Moonee Valley in 2018 was Cardy’s crowning moment.
“I am not saying that he lost interest, because we had Eckstein straight after that who was running in good races and she was placed in Group 1s, but you could sense that he’d achieved as much as you can do in the thoroughbred world by winning a Group 1 with a stallion and I think for him that gave him that satisfaction,” said Goldman, who handled Hellbent’s race career before he was sold to a syndicate headed by Yarraman Park Stud and was transferred to Darren Weir in Victoria.
“He bought the horse himself, he employed me as his private trainer, he trusted me to do a job, even though I was told to geld the horse, and I really do believe that it was a big sense of achievement for himself because he’d created this dynasty at Lynton.”
Cardy, Wiener and businessman Phil Green also financed accountant-turned-Group 1-winning New Zealand trainer Tony Pike’s start to stable life by building a complex adjacent to the Cambridge racecourse in New Zealand.
“We bought 30 acres on the track at Cambridge and built a house, stables, yards, walkers, swimming pool and all that to set Tony Pike up and that’s how he got started and he’s become a pretty successful New Zealand trainer and his job was to source horses for us,” Wiener said.
“He was buying a dozen, to 18 horses a year, for us and pre-training them over there and we were deciding what to do with the horses, whether they were to be sold, sacked or come over here and we had a lot of success with that system.
“We had horses like Wasted Emotions, Cape Breton, Crosswise, How Much My Love, all horses who won good races.
“Alan and I had been together for 45-and-a-half years. Even before Cardy and Company started, we were together. We met in 1976 and I’ve been in on all the horses with him, everything.”
Meares & Associates in conjunction with Magic Millions and Donovan + Co are selling Lynton on behalf of Cardy’s estate, with an online auction to be held on November 30.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has been a “closed shop” to outside owners, but not anymore with the organisation allowing Yuesheng Zhang, the man behind the all-encompassing Yulong breeding and racing empire in Australia, to race horses at Sha Tin and Happy Valley all year round.
Zhang has imported Group 2-winning private purchase Show Respect (Showcasing), who is to be trained by Douglas Whyte, while prominent South African owner Mary Slack, who has also been granted a Jockey Club owners’ permit, will have Wings Of War (Dark Angel) trained by expatriate South African Tony Millard.
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the club’s long-serving chief executive, has also approached successful Australian and New Zealand owner-breeders about racing horses in Hong Kong.
Which Australians would be interested in racing horses in Hong Kong? Would Vinery Stud shareholder Neil Werrett, who of course raced Black Caviar, be receptive to approaches from the Jockey Club?
Werrett races and breeds a significant number of horses and with easy access to Vinery Stud stallions All Too Hard and Star Turn – both of whom are enjoying success in Asia – the permit could prove an attractive proposition.
Engelbrecht-Bresges suggested the Club was targeting individual owner-breeders and not syndicates or partnerships to boost Hong Kong’s horse population, particularly for its signature races.
There was plenty of talk on the Inglis sales grounds during the week that last Saturday’s Randwick meeting should have started earlier and that the non-feature races, particularly the Highway (1800m) and Midway (1800m), should have been ditched or ran as races nine and ten so the main events – such as the Silver Eagle (1400m) and the Gloaming Stakes (Gr 3, 1800m) – were able to be run before the Big Wet finally claimed the meeting.
The biased track served up was able to hold six races – the last before a halt was called, the jockeys extraordinarily agreed to stay off the dynamite inside section before the home turn – prior to the pin being pulled.
For a reshape of the card, which had been finalised on the preceding Wednesday, a decision would need to have been made on the Thursday to ensure media, including the form guides such as the papers, could be updated to let their readers know and the corporate bookmakers could inform their clients, collectively in the millions.
Having the conviction to change the programme would have risked ridicule had the weather forecast – less reliable than a set of race tips – not come to fruition.
It was great to see so many familiar faces from Hong Kong and Singapore in particular in attendance for the Ready2Race Sale earlier this week after a long absence.
The majority of those agents and trainers have been forced to conduct their due diligence from afar for much of the past three years, so the reliance of parade videos of the horses, be they weanlings, yearlings, broodmares or two-year-olds, became increasingly important in their decision-making process.
Which led to a gentle reminder to vendors this week from some of those buyers: don’t forget the purpose of those videos.
The background music can become mind-numbing when you’re watching parade after parade or breeze-up after breeze-up and that they want to be able to assess the merits of a horse through extended vision of a horse walking or galloping. The fancy slow-mos and close-ups may help a syndicator on-sell the horse, but it doesn’t help those putting up their hand after many hours of virtual inspections.
There’s not much Mick Price can’t do, particularly at the moment. Mick and his lovely partner Shona kindly allowed me to share a ride to the airport after the Ready2Race Sale on Wednesday morning.
It should have been a giveaway when they were returning to Melbourne for the Thousand Guineas meeting later that day, rather than remaining in Sydney to oversee the final pieces of Jacquinot’s Everest campaign, that a good day was in store.
Price and co-trainer Michael Kent Jnr went on to win the Coongy Cup with exciting stayer Gunstock and the Blue Sapphire Stakes with unbeaten colt Grand Impact at Caulfield and 24 hours later a stud deal with Widden was also confirmed for Jacquinot.