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LES YOUNG Raced outside his pedigree

Blueboods Article MOVER & SHAKER | by Brian Russell 

LES YOUNG raced outside his pedigree Brian Russell reviews the half-century contribution made to breeding and racing by Les Young following his retirement at the end of 2017 as executive officer of Thoroughbred Breeders NSW.

ONE of the furthest things from his mind when Sydney-born Les Young visited the NSW Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association office in the 1960s seeking advice was that half a century later he would be the one dispensing it. Les was there that day to get some words of wisdom from the then secretary, the iconic Alan Dexter, on a future in breeding and racing.

It showed the tremendous respect the now 74 year old Les Young has engendered in a lifetime of devotion to the thoroughbred, which saw him involved in the whole spectrum of the industry, that he was appointed in 2010 to the position of executive officer of the same organisation, now known as Thoroughbred Breeders NSW Ltd. It was to be in a temporary capacity due to the sudden resignation of the previous executive officer, but became a seven-year stint, which galloped past the winning post at the end of December following the closure of the William Inglis Newmarket sales complex at Randwick, home of the TBNSW office for the past 20 years.

After more than a century of occupation at Randwick, Inglis has transferred operations to the Riverside Stables at Warwick Farm racecourse with TBNSW relocating its office to the Equine Research Centre at Scone, the capital of the NSW thoroughbred breeding industry. Les Young stepped down as executive officer and Julianne Christopher has been appointed as his successor. Prior to taking up this role, Les had been on the association’s board since 2006 and a member since the early 1960s, a period when he became an active breeder, acquiring two mares in 1966.

Since then Les has raced away from his pedigree, as there was no family background in either breeding or racing, to become an industry leader in more ways than one. He became indoctrinated into the world of the thoroughbred when as a schoolboy he was incapacitated by severe asthma, an illness that fortunately left him when he was 16. To while away the time while he was ill he listened to the race callers and journalists on the radio stations. This led to his lifelong passion for breeding thoroughbreds and trying to solve the eternal puzzle of why one horse can run faster than others.

Besides becoming a breeder, his early involvement in the industry was as a freelance contributor on breeding to several publications. In 1971 he took over from yours truly the production of the thoroughbred section of the Country Life newspaper, a now defunct weekly stock journal published in Sydney. In the early 1970s he established a bloodstock agency and in association with Peter Nicole, a luminary in breeding knowledge, since deceased, and Winchcombe Carson, a Sydney based major wool broking and stock and station business, launched into the public horse selling business, concentrating on private sales, syndication of stallions and public sales of quarter horses before moving on to thoroughbreds.

John Inglis, the then boss of the renowned bloodstock sales company William Inglis, may have had a few qualms when the Winchcombe Carson management challenged the firm’s NSW monopoly by holding under Les Young’s management small thoroughbred sales at the Sydney Showgrounds at Moore Park. However, these auctions lacked breeder support and Winchcombe Carson was not prepared to invest enough to convince breeders otherwise.

Launched bloodstock agency

LES Young’s biggest step forward in the industry was the formation in 1979, in partnership with fast food king Bob Lapointe, of the Doncaster Bloodstock Services, an organization that continues to serve nearly 40 years later. A Canadian, Bob Lapointe established Kentucky Fried Chicken in Australia in 1968 and later the Pizza Hut chain and in the early 1990s the franchised Lone Star Steakhouses. Australian business owners who had much to cackle about following the arrival of Kentucky Fried Chicken were the chicken kings Jack (deceased) and Bob Ingham and insurance broker Bob Logan (also departed). The Inghams, famed also for their Woodlands Stud, supplied the chickens and Logan the insurance.

Lapointe was also a horse lover and established a quarter horse stud and training complex, Muskoka Farms, at Gunderman in the Hawkesbury river valley heartland. At the instigation of Les Young he switched to thoroughbreds and for a quarter of a century Lapointe and his associates, including world leader Robert Sangster, were major players in the industry under the banner of Nebo Lodge Stables at Rosehill.

The complex had been acquired after Young’s negotiation, from Millie Fox, widow of Stan Fox, a leviathan owner, and with Young at the helm as manager, Brian Mayfield-Smith as the trainer and Jim Cassidy the stable jockey, Nebo Lodge became so successful that Mayfield-Smith led the Sydney trainer’s premiership for three successive years, 1986, 1987 and 1988. Prior to that the legendary trainer T.J. Smith had ruled for 33 years. They also expanded to Melbourne, in a partnership of Lapointe, Sangster, the Inghams and Victorian leader Norman Carlyon, establishing the Carbine Lodge stables at Flemington. An up and coming trainer from Adelaide, former jockey John Hawkes, was put in charge.

A long list of good horses secured by Young for Lapointe and associates included Emancipation (Neville Begg trained Australian Horse of the Year, 19 wins, six Gr.1), Magic Flute (eight wins included the AJC Doncaster, VATC 1000 Guineas), Handy Proverb (cost $7000, nine wins, Victoria Derby, Queensland Derby, Grand Prix Stakes), Colour Page ($4,500, nine wins, VATC Sandown Cup, VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes, STC Rosehill Cup, runner-up AJC Doncaster, to Magic Flute, Epsom, VRC L.K.S. Mackinnon), Diamond Shower (seven wins, VRC Oaks, Wakeful Stakes, AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes) and Imperial Baron (in Sydney won the Premiere Stakes, Pago Stakes and Royal Sovereign Stakes and finished a close third in the Golden Slipper and Sires’ Produce Stakes).

Leased from her breeder, Mark Hough of Narromine, following inspection by Young, Emancipation was raced by Muskoka Farms Partnership (Bob Lapointe, Geoff Wild, John Ledgerwood, Tom Van Brugge) and Imperial Baron ran for Opmac Doncaster Syndicate (Mgrs R.M. Lapointe, L.J.C. Young, G. Fahy and W.D. Marks) and a group of about 20 McDonalds franchisees, including Frank Tagg and former Rugby League great Ron Coote.

The Lapointe-Young association impact initially emerged when they went shopping with a modest budget at the 1979 Adelaide yearling sale. Investing $41,000, they purchased five yearlings and had the satisfaction of all of them winning, four in the city. Two were November Rain ($12,000, won VRC Oaks, AJC Oaks, QTC Queensland Oaks, AJC St Leger, VRC Wakeful Stakes) and Port Carling ($12,500, seven Sydney wins, AJC Summer Cup, Cabochon Handicap, 2nd Newcastle Cup, VRC Dalgety, 3rd Perth Cup, 6th Melbourne Cup).

Another, Easy Date, a $4500 Grand Chaudiere (CAN) filly, ran only three times, but showed ability with a provincial win at two. She was mated to Lunchtime for Bob Lapointe and Bob Logan, but much to their later regret was sold in foal at Scone for $5000. The foal became Snippets, a graduate from the first Magic Millions yearling sale. He won the initial MM 2YO Classic and was anointed Co-Champion Australasian 2YO and Champion Australasian 3YO Sprinter. A multiple Gr.1 winner, he went to be one of the most brilliant influential sires, briefly with media personality’s Michael Willesee’s short lived Transmedia Park Stud, now Twin Hills, at Cootamundra NSW, and then for the balance of his life at John Messara-headed Arrowfield Stud, Hunter Valley.

Willesee’s adventure as a stud owner was another that came under the Les Young umbrella and included acquiring for him the standing rights for Snippets and also another leading racehorse and sire in Rubiton and buying mares for his broodmare band. One of these, the tough NZ stayer Spyglass, produced from a mating recommended by Young a colt foal by Zephyr Zip, a sire he bought for Sydney businessman Cliff Vincent when he had the Charleston Stud near Braidwood NSW.

Young bought the Zephyr Zip foal as a weanling for Lapointe for $20,000 at a Transmedia Park dispersal. Named Iron Horse, he won 11 races, including the AJC Epsom, Canberra Cup, Gosford Gold Cup, VATC Autumn Classic, and placed in 13 others, including the Caulfield Cup, AJC Doncaster, WATC Fruit ‘n’ Veg, Singapore Plate and another renewal of the Epsom. Others who used the Young expertise included Souran Vanian, a European businessman who founded the Manado Stud at Sandy Hollow in the Hunter Valley and gave Slipper winner Rory’s Jester his start as a sire.

Handled Marscay syndication

LES handled the syndication of Golden Slipper winner Marscay for sire duties at the Widden Stud for the colt’s owners Geoff and Beryl White and purchased Marscay’s Widden-bred AJC Australian Oaks winner and distinguished producer Circles of Gold privately for $50,000 for Frank Tagg and partners after she was passed in at the 1993 Sydney Easter yearling sale. At a Sydney Summer Yearling Sale he spent $12,000 to buy the late Ross Cribb a Blazing Saddles filly who, under the name of Heat of the Moment, claimed the title of Champion Australasian 3YO Filly for 1985-86. Les has also been a long time advisor to Grahame Mapp, owner of the historic Hobartville Stakes at Richmond NSW, purchasing for him a number of stakes winning fillies as yearlings for modest sums and advising on matings.

He also helped another Sydney businessman, Peter Bennett, establish a stud on MIddlebrook Valley Lodge at Scone with the Les Young bred STC Premiere Stakes winner and Caulfield Guineas runner-up Integra (Lunchtime) as foundation sire. He purchased a few cheap mares for Bennett for matings with Integra including imported Tempergaze (USA) ($4000), the mother of eight times Gr.1 winner and $3,774,806 earner Intergaze.

As a breeder, Les enjoyed considerable amount of success from a small band of broodmares, besides Integra including among their progeny Integra’s Bletchingly half-brother Bletchencore (a good Sydney sprinter and sire of winners to Gr.1 level), the stakes winning Zephyr Zip siblings Zephyrz (won Magic Millions 2YO Classic, Newcastle Coca-Cola Classic) and Cloudlet (eight wins included four in Sydney and the Gosford Slipper, 3rd SAJC San Domenico-Gr.2) and Sea Swell, a Charmande (USA) winner of the Sandown Guineas, second in the ACT Black Opal and AJC Up and Coming Stakes and fourth in the Caulfield Guineas.

In his pursuit of the key to the production of racing excellence, Les Young has travelled the world, visiting leading studs and racetracks in Great Britain, Ireland, France, the United States and New Zealand. He admired the no frills and simple efficiency of Claiborne Kentucky when he first visited in the 1980s to pay homage to the great Secretariat.

On his half century plus journey with the thoroughbred, Les Young has also made big contributions as an industry leader including serving on the NSW Breeders’ Association committee, as a foundation member and vice president of the NSW Racehorse Owners’ Association, six or seven years on RIPAC (Racing Industry Participants Advisory Committee), representing breeders and including a term as chairman, foundation member from 1995 of the Equine Advisory Committee of the Federal Government’s Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation involved in allocating funding for equine research projects, and as a past president and life member of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents of Australia.

Les Young has also made a big contribution to breeding and racing as a journalist, including compiling reviews for the national journals Bluebloods and the weekly Sportsman. He initiated the Breeders’ Guide, a feature that ran for many years in the Sportsman and also wrote for them for 38 years (1979-2017) a segment entitled Breeding World. He has no specific plans for the future, but hopes to spend more time writing on thoroughbred breeding matters and enjoying high level racing. He will also continue at the helm of the Doncaster Bloodstock Agency.