Stud News

Williamson’s Playing God prophecy

Star Western Australian stallion delivers on Perth racing’s biggest day

When Gray Williamson handed over the stud duties of Playing God (Blackfriars) to fellow Western Australian farm Darling View Thoroughbreds, he told Brent Atwell that the horse would set him up.

In the almost four years since that conversation in the winter of 2020, Playing God has delivered again and again for Atwell and his father Clive, siring 13 individual stakes winners to take his tally to 16.

On Saturday, Playing God sired Railway Stakes (Gr 1, 1800m) winner Bustler and WA Guineas (Gr 2, 1600m) scorer Zipaway, both trained by Neville Parnham, the man who also oversaw the racing career of Western Australia’s leading sire.

Parnham prepared a winning treble at Ascot on Saturday arguably Perth’s most prestigious race day taking out the Gai Waterhouse Crystal Slipper Stakes (1100m) with two-year-old Onemoretwomany (Tassort), who made it two wins from as many starts; before the trainer completed the race-to-race feature double later on the card.

Williamson was the one to take a punt on Western Australia’s premier stallion Playing God to stand at his now dispersed Mungrup Stud in 2014.

“He was a topline racehorse, Playing God. He’d gone east and had one unfortunate ride, otherwise he probably just about wins the Australian Cup over there,” Williamson recalled yesterday. 

“I had a phase there with quite a few sprinting type mares as well by Oratorio and I thought he’d be a really good foil for those mares, which has proven to be correct actually.

“He also had a lot more speed than his sire Blackfriars. He was effective at shorter journeys. He won a Guineas and a Northerly Stakes [over 1400 metres].

“It was enough to close my mind that he’d be worth having a go with and he was good looking as well, but mostly I thought he’d be a good foil for the mares we had over in the state.”

Trained by Parnham, Playing God won eight races and almost $1.7 million in prize-money in 42 starts: he won the 2010 WA Guineas and two starts later landed the Kingston Town Classic (Gr 1, 1800m) (now renamed as the Northerly Stakes).

During Melbourne campaigns, Playing God ran third in an Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) and filled the same placing in the 2011 Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m), which was won by Shocking (Street Cry).

He would also finish third in a Turnbull Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) later that year, prior to returning to Perth to make it back-to-back Kingston Towns.

Family circumstances led to Williamson dispersing Mungrup Stud during the pandemic, which meant Playing God had to find a new home and a number of mares and weanlings were sold, including a thenweanling who would become Bustler.

Williamson said: “Playing God’s been doing a really, really good job and I said to Brent when we sold him, ‘this horse will set you up now for a long, long period of time’.”

In the four seasons at Darling View, Playing God’s service fee has progressively increased, from $13,200 (inc GST) to $33,000 (inc GST) in 2023, and his book of mares has also been steadily rising, from a then career-high of 96 in 2020 to 132 last year. He is due to serve between 140 and 150 mares by the end of the current breeding season.

While gaining some satisfaction from watching the Parnham homebred three-year-old Zipaway, the Guineas was a bittersweet result for Williamson, having bred and still retaining a share in the Trevor Andrews-trained runner-up A Lot Of Good Men (A Lot), the younger half-brother to Bustler who would, a little over half an hour later, hand Parnham and his jockey son Steven the elusive Railway Stakes win they’d craved for decades.

Some comfort, though, was Bustler’s Group 1 win and the fact that Williamson retained their dam, Cosmah Domination (Oratorio), who has a sister to Bustler heading to the 2024 Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale and is back in foal to Playing God this year after missing in 2022.

“She wasn’t a topline race mare herself, but she was just a beautiful animal who has thrown really good sorts. There was a certain depth in the female line,” Williamson said.

“Breeding’s not a quick game, that’s for sure, it takes a long time to build up an idea and be proven one way or the other.”

Meanwhile, it wasn’t just the Parnhams Western Australian racing royalty and Playing God who enjoyed a stellar weekend as rising Geraldton-based operation Ruby Racing and Breeding also enjoyed an Ascot treble of its own.

Run by siblings Jaime and Daniel O’Bree, Ruby Racing and Breeding pinhooked Bustler for $130,000 and Onemoretwomany for $70,000, as well as selling Starry Heights (Star Turn) for $35,000. 

Four-year-old Starry Heights made it five wins in succession and six wins from ten starts when first-up in an undercard race for trainers Grant and Alana Williams, a victory that suggested he could progress to stakes level before the summer carnival is out.

Jaime O’Bree described the weekend’s results for her family run farm as “surreal”.

“Bustler’s a personal pinhook for Ruby Racing, and Onemoretwomany was a client’s pinhook who went through our draft and Starry Heights was a homebred of Ellie Giles’ and Premium Bloodstock,” O’Bree told ANZ Bloodstock News. 

“Our clients are pumping out the winners as well as us, so it was a crazy day. We are very lucky, the clients we have are genuine sellers, so it’s been fantastic to work with them. 

“The prices of the horses who won are all in different price ranges, so it proves that you can have a good winner from a $35,000 one or a $130,000 horse. It’s been a great ride.”

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