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Needs Further highlights Tassie revival

7 min read
Mystic Journey's win at Caulfield on Saturday was not just a milestone for her sire Needs Further, but a spark for the entire Tasmanian breeding industry.

When Needs Further (Encosta De Lago) arrived at Armidale Stud in 2013, the Tasmanian breeding industry was at a lower point than David Whishaw could ever remember.

The Whishaw family has run Armidale, located at Carrick, 20kms out of Launceston, for over 50 years covering three generations, but as foal numbers dwindled across Tasmania, the future wasn't looking bright.

"The industry was at an all-time low. The mare numbers had shrunk from 1000 to 500, there was only 240 foals being bred, down from 500 six or seven years earlier," Whishaw told TDN AusNZ.

"So the foal crop had halved, the mare crop had halved and we were finding it extremely difficult to be competitive in the stallion market.

"The breeding game is a tough game and there are very few people who do it on a commercial basis down here. We are one of two larger studs, there are a couple of small commercial operations and the rest are mainly hobby breeders," he said.

But Needs Further's arrival heralded a revival for Armidale that has been mirrored by an upswing in the broader Tasmanian breeding industry, according to Whishaw.

Needs Further

"The foal crop had halved, the mare crop had halved and we were finding it extremely difficult to be competitive in the stallion market," Armidale's David Whishaw.

Shortly after Armidale acquired Needs Further, his half-brother Hallowed Crown (Street Sense ({USA}) burst onto the track with four successive wins to start his career, culminating in the G1 Golden Rose S.

That helped grow interest in Needs Further, the Gooree-bred stallion who won three of his five starts, including a Group 3 success, before his career was curtailed by injury.

"Needs Further has been a bit of a turning point for us. We were lucky to have had Brett Howard from Randwick Bloodstock put him in our care and finance us into him," Whishaw said. "He was good enough to attract mares from the mainland."

Half- brother to Needs Further, Hallowed Crown, winning the G1 Golden Rose

Journey reaches new heights

Mystic Journey's win in the Listed Jim Moloney Plate at Caulfield on Saturday was a new high point. The filly is one of two stakeswinners for Needs Further, but the first on the mainland.

That is little surprise to those who have witnessed the impact that Needs Further's progeny have made in Tasmania since they first hit the track two years ago.

"His progeny have hit the ground running very strongly in Tasmania. Pateena Arena in his first crop won two black-type races down here and then Mystic Journey won the Listed Elwick S.," Whishaw said.

"I think he's pretty typical of Encosta (De Lago). He's quite a long-barrelled horse who stands over a bit of ground and he is pretty leggy."

"As far as the stock he's produced, it has depended a lot on the mare. He got quite a lot of shorter coupled 2-year-old type stock which I guess is coming from his dam's (Crowned Glory) side."

"She was good enough to run second in the Golden Slipper and I guess that's where the early speed has come from."

"Especially his fillies have showed plenty of maturity early and last year he sired the winner of every feature two-year-old race in Tassie, which is no mean feat."

Gallery: talented fillies by Needs Further

Bringing the brand to the mainland

The success so far in Tasmania is a huge positive for Needs Further and Armidale, but Mystic Journey's win on Saturday gives the stallion and the stud national exposure.

"Unfortunately our black type isn’t as well regarded as it is at Flemington and Caulfield and probably rightly so," Whishaw said.

"There's nothing better. It's free advertising and it’s the best advertising you can get." - Whishaw

"I guess it (Mystic Journey's win) franks the form that last year's 2-year-olds are very strong."

"He's only had two crops of racing age. He had 40-odd live foals in his first year and 50-odd live foals in his second year. He's hardly had a runner on the mainland, let alone a group runner."

"There's nothing better. It's free advertising and it’s the best advertising you can get. There's no doubt about that."

Alpine Eagle flying high

The interest Needs Further created allowed Armidale to have the confidence to go and secure Alpine Eagle, who in his two seasons at stud, is already rewriting the record books.

Alpine Eagle

"We've seen the best support for him than any stallion we’ve had for the last decade. We were pleased that Wolf Blass gave us the opportunity to buy the horse off him and stand him," Whishaw said.

Alpine Eagle covered 106 mares in his first season, 36 more than Needs Further did at the same stage of his career, including 25 from outside of Tasmania. The support remains strong the second time around.

"He's got 15 mares from Victoria and New South Wales this year and definitely some better quality mares. He's going to cover the best numbers and the best quality that any Tasmanian stallion has covered for a long time," he said.

"He's got quite leggy, scopey foals that we’ve been pleased with their intelligence," Whishaw on Alpine Eagle.

WATCH: Alpine Eagle at Armidale Stud

And Whishaw is impressed with what he has seen of Alpine Eagle's first crop of foals.

"We've got more of them than anyone. We've got a dozen on the farm now. We've been very pleased. He's got quite leggy scopey foals and we’ve been pleased with their intelligence," he said.

"We've been impressed by how quickly they are getting up and drinking and running around the paddock, which I always think is a great sign of their intelligence."

Armidale's third stallion, Tough Speed (USA), their 'bread and butter' for over a decade, also enjoyed a successful weekend with winners at Hobart and at Coleraine on Sunday.

"The horse has never covered any decent book of mares, but his winners to runners always sits between 68 and 70 per cent," he said.

Lifting the bar across the industry

Having added a much-needed spark to the Tasmanian breeding industry, Whishaw is hopeful that both Needs Further and Alpine Eagle can also spearhead a revival in the racing ranks.

"Hopefully with the success of our stallions, it will encourage a few more people to breed down here and we can see the industry start to increase in numbers again," he said.

WATCH: Four generations of Whishaws have run Armidale Stud in Tasmania

"At the moment, it’s a very worrying sign because there are not enough horses being bred here to fill the race fields. The last few weeks we've seen the majority of the starters being tried horses from the mainland and that's a really worrying sign for our racing."

But Whishaw maintains his faith in the top-end quality of Tasmanian horses, with Mystic Journey likely headed to the G1 Thousand Guineas at her next start.

"The good horses down here hold their own that's for sure," he said. "Our horses who are leaving Tassie to run, like Mystic Journey, Hellova Street, Lady Pluck, Life on the Wire, they keep on winning."

Gallery: the good types on the ground by Needs Further and Alpine Eagle