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Two-fold stakes success for breeders Chris and Jane Barham

10 min read
Toowoomba breeders Chris and Jane Barham had the weekend of their lives last Saturday, breeding two stakes winners from two different families, an impressive effort for a couple with only four broodmares.

Cover image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

Last Saturday at Eagle Farm, on either side of the G1 Queensland Oaks, two of the day’s Listed races were won by 4-year-old mare Charleise (Foxwedge) and 3-year-old colt Setanta (Fastnet Rock). At first glance, the pair are unconnected, but closer inspection shows that both were bred, and are part-owned still, by Toowoomba breeders Chris and Jane Barham.

For a couple that has only four broodmares, all of whom live at Segenhoe Stud, it was an extraordinary effort.

Charleise, in the Barhams’ colours, won the Listed Spear Chief H. over 1500 metres, downing race favourite Groundswell (Fastnet Rock) in the Pinecliff Racing stripes.

Setanta, meanwhile, sunk a good field in the Listed Queensland Day S. over 1200 metres, one that included Inglis Sprint winner Rocketing By (So You Think {NZ}) and consistent local winner Georgie’s Pride (Better Than Ready).

"I got about three hours sleep that night and then I couldn’t sleep anymore, I was just so excited." - Jane Barham

“I got about three hours sleep that night and then I couldn’t sleep anymore, I was just so excited,” Jane said. “Your brain goes into overdrive and you think about all the things that happened. When Setanta won, my knees were wobbling going down the stairs at Eagle Farm. It was such a close finish, and he could so easily have come sixth.”

A half-length separated the first five horses in Setanta’s race and the colt, campaigned in the Aquis colours by trainer Tony Gollan, got his first black-type success.

But that’s only half the story, because Setanta was the final foal from the Barhams’ grand foundation mare Legally Bay (Snippets), and the couple sold the colt at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale in 2019 for $2.3 million.

Watch: Setanta sell as a yearling

Legally brilliant

The Barhams speak about Legally Bay like she was family.

“That’s what she was,” said Chris. “She changed our lives. She introduced us to a world that I never knew even existed, and because of her we met people like Peter O’Brien and John Hawkes.”

Rewinding 20 years, the Barhams found Legally Bay on Ron Gilbert’s Highgrove Stud in the Darling Downs, and they put up $220,000 to buy her at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale in 2002. She was from the Last Tycoon mare Decidity, who would produce three stakes winners, including the neat, four-time Group-winning filly Bonaria (Redoute’s Choice).

Legally Bay was trained by John Hawkes through 21 starts, winning three and placing in seven. She won the G3 Sweet Embrace S. in 2003, along with the Listed Brian Crowley S. the same year.

It was the ultimate entrance into racing for the Barhams and, when Legally Bay retired, she went first to Redoute’s Choice, then Encosta De Lago and Lonhro. The yearlings fetched $520,000, $245,000 and $110,000 respectively, but none of these stallions suited her as much as Fastnet Rock.

In total, Legally Bay visited the Coolmore sire five years in succession, and seven times in total for live foals.

Among the progeny were fillies Jolie Bay and Zara Bay, whom the Barhams retained, and full brothers Merchant Navy and Setanta.

“It’s a pretty good family to own,” Chris said. “There are people constantly trying to buy one of these mares or fillies from us, and it’s not just Legally Bay now. It’s Bonaria and Bay Rock in New Zealand. This is one of those families that you want to be buying into, and there’s not many of those around these days.”

Chris took the recent Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale as an example, citing the extraordinary figures paid for some of the best mares going around.

“People are paying millions of dollars for those mares now, just to get into families,” he said. “Realistically, ours cost us the service fee. We just have to be patient.”

Saucey horsies

The Barhams learned about patience very early, largely thanks to John Hawkes.

“John said to us that most people want to win a race with a 2-year-old or 3-year-old, but if you have the patience with a mare, a lot of the time they won’t hit their straps until they’re four or five,” Chris said. “John told us one of our great virtues was that we seek out good advice and have the patience to follow it through.”

Charleise was a good example of this, winning her Listed event last weekend as a 4-year-old.

Chris added that retaining fillies in the Legally Bay family was another example. The Barhams kept two of the mare’s daughters and the first, Jolie Bay, won the G2 Roman Consul S. before a stud career that has so far got God Of Thunder (More Than Ready {USA}), who was second in the G2 Caulfield Sprint.

At Segenhoe, Jolie Bay has a Zoustar filly on the ground that Peter O’Brien, General Manager at Segenhoe, rates as one of the best he has ever seen.

“Peter said if he was a horse, he’d marry this Zoustar filly,” Jane said, “and Chris believes she’s the best we’ve ever bred.”

“Peter (O'Brien) said if he was a horse, he’d marry this Zoustar filly, and Chris believes she’s the best we’ve ever bred.” - Jane Barham

Jolie Bay had a yearling colt by I Am Invincible sell at the Inglis Easter Sale this year for $460,000, and she’s in foal to Zoustar.

Younger sister Zara Bay, while not as effective on the track as Jolie Bay, was a metropolitan winner and Listed placed. Her first foal, a filly by So You Think (NZ), was named Saucey Horsey, which is a first-class ticket to cult status.

“David Eustace just hates the name,” Jane said, emphasising the word ‘hate’ on the part of the filly’s co-trainer. “It was a name that our daughter wanted, and it makes me laugh every time. Women at the racecourses are going to bet on this horse like nothing else. The bookies are going to love it.”

Zara Bay’s second foal was a colt by I Am Invincible, which sold at Inglis Easter to the Hawkes team for $500,000. She has a Shalaa (Ire) filly on the ground, and is in foal to Dundeel (NZ).

Season plans

Sisters Jolie Bay and Zara Bay are two of the four mares currently breeding for the Barhams. The others are Elusive Wonder (Elusive Quality {USA}), the dam of sensational filly Away Game (Snitzel) and her full sister and Listed winner Modern Wonder (Snitzel), and Crimson Dawn (GB) (Fasliyev {USA}).

Elusive Wonder was bought by O’Brien and the Barhams to complement emerging stallion Merchant Navy, whom she has twice visited, and one of those foals, a filly, was sold at the Inglis Easter Sale to Mark Pilkington for $280,000.

Likewise, Crimson Dawn (GB) (Fasliyev {USA}) was purchased to support Merchant Navy, and she is the dam of five-time stakes winner Miss Rose De Lago (Encosta De Lago). She has a colt on the ground by Trapeze Artist.

For the upcoming season, the Barhams haven’t got concrete plans.

Jane said it’s likely that Jolie Bay will return to Widden Stud’s Zoustar, because the match has been so perfect on type. Zara Bay may head to Capitalist at Newgate Farm, while Elusive Wonder and Crimson Dawn, who are getting along in years, may go to Zoustar and Merchant Navy respectively.

Zoustar x Jolie Bay (filly) | Image courtesy of Segenhoe

Love, not war

All up, it’s a small collection of mares, which makes the Barhams’ story so extraordinary. However, the couple also has five fillies in work, along with shares in racehorses Grandslam (Myboycharlie {Ire}), Zeitakuna (Xtravagant {NZ}) and Edison (Fastnet Rock).

They try as much as possible to operate as commercial breeders, keeping the best fillies and selling the colts, and not getting too attached. But the Barhams are warm-hearted people, and they love their animals.

They can hardly speak about the day Legally Bay died in 2019, while O’Brien said it was the worst phone call he has ever made. The couple happily admits, too, that money is a factor in this expensive game.

“We aren’t billionaires. It has to be a business... Horses are big expenses, so you’ve got to make good decisions so that you’re not in a hard place in the future.” - Jane Barham

“We aren’t billionaires,” Jane said. “It has to be a business. Chris is a chiropractor, and we earn our money in $70 lots. Horses are big expenses, so you’ve got to make good decisions so that you’re not in a hard place in the future.”

It’s obvious that the couple works seamlessly together, and one is rarely mentioned without the other.

“We debate, but we don’t fight,” Jane said. “And Chris is pretty logical.”

“What that means,” Chris added, “is that I back down and she wins.”

But Jane argues that. She would have kept the latest filly by Merchant Navy from Elusive Wonder, which sold at Easter for $280,000.

“If I’d had my way, we would have kept her,” she said. “But Peter and Chris wanted to sell her, so we have discussions and debates, and we all agree to move forward. We don’t look back.”

Chris and Jane Barham and Peter O'Brien | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

The Barhams work very closely with O’Brien, whom they followed from Coolmore in 2014, but the three are friends first, then bloodstock partners. They confer daily, and their praise of each other is reciprocal. They are close.

“Peter is one of our important mentors,” said Chris. “Last Saturday was as big a day for him as the rest of us. He’s family, and everyone in the industry knows that about us.”

Insuring the family jewels

For the Barhams, the ideal number of mares is anything between four and six. They’ve kept the band in check so that they can continue to afford the best stallions each season.

Currently they have four mares, but it’s possible that Charleise will join the fold when her racing days are over. She was a homebred from the mare Adio (Lonhro), whom the Barhams sold in 2017 for just $36,000. Jane said O’Brien is still looking for her to buy back.

“When we started off, we really wanted to have only three very good mares,” Chris said. “You want three really good ones, and you play with the others until you create another really good one. And it’s insurance. For Legally Bay, the insurance was Jolie Bay, but then we kept Zara Bay as well. In hindsight, we should have kept all of them.”

Jane said you can’t keep them all, and Chris agreed, and nor have they needed to. Last weekend they had two stakes winners from two different families, and one a $2.3 million yearling from their first-ever purchase.

“Our horse business does very well,” Chris said. “But it’s years of involvement. To breed a horse, to retain some ownership, and to see it win like those two last weekend, it’s like the journey being complete in a way, even though it’s always ongoing.”

Chris and Jane Barham
Peter O'Brien
Segenhoe Stud
Legally Bay