A Sidestep to success for Telemon's foundation stallion

7 min read
Established on a property with a rich Golden Slipper heritage, Telemon Thoroughbreds is set to reap the rewards for convincing Darley to shift Kiamichi's sire Sidestep to Queensland last season.

When demand for Darley stallion Sidestep dropped after the 2017 season, fledgling breeding outfit Telemon Thoroughbreds, looking for a foundation stallion for its Queensland stud, sensed an opportunity and formulated a business proposal.

Darley was willing to discuss with Telemon the prospect of leasing the son of Exceed and Excel.

Less than 12 months later, that discussion, led by Telemon's owner Dan Fletcher and supported by incoming general manager Joe Heather, could catapult Telemon into the big league after Sidestep's first-season filly Kiamichi sprung a surprise to win Saturday's G1 Golden Slipper S.


"When we were setting up, the first thing you want is a stallion to stand up here," Heather told TDN AusNZ.

"The stallion market is so incredibly competitive to buy a stallion prospect. We approached Godolphin with the idea that he was probably under-appreciated on their stallion roster. It was a hard job for him, when you've got the sire in Exceed And Excel and a couple of sons of Exceed And Excel standing there, there are only so many you can support yourself. And there are only so many ways you can push clients' mares."

"We approached Godolphin with the idea that he was probably under-appreciated on their stallion roster." - Telemon Thoroughbreds' Joe Heather

"We thought that he was a horse that was probably under-appreciated in the Hunter Valley. We thought he'd suit the Queensland market and was attainable for us. We approached them, to see if they would do a deal and they were happy to lease him to us."

There was an element of trust from Darley which was required to get the deal done. Managing Director Vin Cox had seen close up the quality of the property during his time working for Magic Millions.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity for all breeders in Queensland. I know the quality of the farm where he’ll be standing from my time in Queensland so that was a huge attraction," Cox said at the time.

Joe Heather with Sidestep

The Fletchers had acquired the 240-acre property in 2016, but only assumed control when Sun Stud's lease expired in May last year.

While Darley had plenty of faith in its young stallion, who had shuttled to Haras du Logis in France his first three seasons, it was apparent having served 36 mares in his third season in Australia, that a change was needed to kick Sidestep's breeding career along.

"It was a lot of trust from them." - Joe Heather

"It was a lot of trust from them. He came back from France, left quarantine, spent a night with them and headed straight to us. They were happy to hand the reins over and trust that we’d do a good job," Heather said.

"We were both quite happy with how he sat after the 2018 season, covering 57, it was an improvement in numbers on the previous year. The fourth season is often your stickiest season, in terms of getting numbers."

Another Slipper from the Golden Mile

Kiamichi becomes the latest of a list of Golden Slipper winners to have an association with the Innisplain property. The sires of 2003 winner Polar Success (Success Express) and 2014 winner Mossfun (Mossman) stood there under previous ownership, as did Written Tycoon, who conceived the 2015 winner Capitalist while standing at what was then Eliza Park.

Kiamichi returning to scale after winning the G1 Golden Slipper

Star stallion Zoustar was also born and raised on the Queensland property as well as six-time Group 1 winning sprinter Buffering (Mossman).

The Fletchers themselves have continued their association with Zoustar through their involvement with his star filly Sunlight, who collected her third Group 1 success in Friday night's William Reid S. at Moonee Valley.

And now foundation sire Sidestep, placed in a Golden Slipper himself, suddenly finds himself very much in demand after the performance of his marquee first-season product Kiamichi.

Tough and fast win a marketer's dream

The win itself was what marketing dreams are made of for an emerging operator like Telemon, with Kiamichi showing the two characteristics that are most valued in the Australian market at the moment: speed and toughness, with her all-the-way success.

"To do it seven days' apart in a race like that shows what an incredible constitution she has," Heather said. "It’s a credit to the Godolphin team for the training effort to have these horses rock-hard fit and maintain that form for so long as they have with their runners."

"To do it seven days' apart in a race like that shows what an incredible constitution she has." - Joe Heather

"Before he had runners, we believed that he was that real tough commodity with 2-year old speed that the market in Queensland was desperate for and the Australian market is so responsive to those traits. To have that proved in his first year of having runners is fantastic."

Kiamichi's success means Sidestep becomes the first stallion since Stratum in 2009 to win a Golden Slipper with one of his first crop. It’s an illustrious list, featuring the likes of Danehill (USA), Marauding (NZ) and Todman.

"When you start looking at those statistics, he stacks up pretty well," Heather said.

"Even things like being the first colt home in the Slipper, he's in good company with the likes of Hinchinbrook and Charge Forward and these types of stallions. They have gone on to have great stud careers. To be the first colt home in the Slipper got him here in the first place and now to sire a Slipper in his first year, you can't ask for more than that."

A great horse to work with

Soon after Kiamichi's win, Heather appeared on social media with a picture of he and Sidestep celebrating the win, having watched the race on his phone while feeding horses out in the paddocks.

The bond between the farm manager and the stallion is already strong and Heather is hoping Saturday's events can give him the opportunities he richly deserves in the breeding barn.

"I was having dinner with some people at the recent QTIS Sale and I said to them, 'I really hope the horse makes it, he is such a great horse to work with'. He is a really intelligent horse. He's settled into life so well here," he said.

"Our stallion yard and set-up are quite similar to the old Woodlands yard used to be. The stallions have a lot of time outside and that seems to have helped him relax more than he has done previously as well."

"To be staring down the barrel of a big numbers season with a fertile horse is just about the dream situation." - Joe Heather

"He's got a fantastic libido. It's become a bit of a joke among some of the walk-on clients about just how fertile he was and there were a lot of mares that were going to other stallions and missing, switched to him late in the season because of his fertility. He got most of them in foal."

"To be staring down the barrel of a big numbers season with a fertile horse is just about the dream situation."

Sharing the success

Even more satisfying for Heather and Fletcher, is the opportunities which will now present themselves for so many of their clients, who backed Telemon when it was established, and supported its foundation stallion.

"We started the stud business in a difficult market, against some very big, well-funded competitors and we had unbelievable support. We filled up our paddocks in eight weeks with agistment mares. The majority of the mares supported our stallion and that was a bunch of people really giving us a chance," Heather said.

"As a result of that, we’ve now got mares in foal to what could be the next big up and coming horse. To be able to share that success with the guys that helped us set-up is the most rewarding part of it."

Telemon Stud