Aldebaran Truly International
“Trotting in Australia and New Zealand needs to be part of the world scene,” says a recent visitor to Southland, Aldebaran Parks principal Duncan McPherson.
McPherson attended the Winton Harness meeting in April as a guest of Southern Harness and HRNZ Board Member Kevin McNaught. Aldebaran were also sponsors of the Gold Chip Super Final, one of the features of the days racing.
Aldebaran Park is an agistment and breeding organization with its ‘home’ farm in the heart of the Goulburn Valley region in Victoria but it also has branches in America and Sweden.
Aldebaran was set up by McPherson and well known Australian trainer Chris Lang and his wife Sharon.
“We rate ourselves as an international destination for trotters in the world and we started with Aldebaran Park in 2004. Chris and Sharon are great mates of mine and my father started with Graeme (Lang) back in 1962. Chris came to me and said we should get together and have some horses. The irony is that my late wife, myself, Chris and Sharon all have the star sign Taurus. The brightest star in the Taurus constellation is Aldebaran so that’s where the name came from,” said McPherson.
Duncan says the family connection goes further back than Aldebaran. His grandmother visited New Zealand in 1954 and bought horses out of Southland.
“We had the opportunity to buy the good ones but never had the money to.”
His father also visited New Zealand in the 1960s and bought a horse called Eden.
“She was by Morris Eden. Her best progeny was Rebecca Campbell. She won the 1975 Youthful Stakes and the 1976 South Australia Oaks.”
Eden was bred by the late Ted Lowe and was out of Cavendish which was a half-sister to the useful pacers Globe Direct (13 wins) and Chief Lochiel (9 wins).
Aldebaran these days concentrates on the trotting market and has about thirty five well bred mares under it’s name including one of the Australia’s greats, Maori Time.
She won twenty four of her sixty six starts including the Group One 2013 NSW Trotting Oaks, The Trotters Mile at Menangle and the 2016 and 2017 Aldebaran B Collins Trot. She won a total of $421,301 in stakes.
“Maori Time raced in the Elitloppett in Sweden. She’s heading for motherhood with Readly Express which won the Group One European Championship.”
Aldebaran also consigns yearlings to the Australian and New Zealand Trotting Sales.
At the 2018 Prydes Australian Premier Trotting Sale they sold a full brother to Maori Time for $60,000. They also sold three trotters in this year’s NZB Standardbred Christchurch Sale.
Southlander Wayne McEwan bought Aldebaran Fawkes (Love You – Solar Power) for $21,000, KPC Racing Australia bought Aldebaran White Sox (Muscle Hill – U Dream) for $50,000 and Aldebaran Floss (Muscle Hill – Another Love) sold for $25,000.
They also have two resident stallions on farm in Victoria – Group One USA winner Aldebaran Walkabout (Muscle Hill – Letsjustalkboutme -USA T3 1.52.2) and Skyvalley – NZ T 1.56.2 (Muscles Yankee – Chiolas Lass NZ).
McPherson knows Southland has produced some great pacing horses over the years but says it now has the opportunity to get fully into breeding world class trotters.
“In Australia we have very brown paddocks and are hard feeding. If we can understand where our food bowl is and where our potential outcome needs to be, I think there’s an opportunity to breed world class horses here in Southland.”
He says breeders in New Zealand and Australia now have access to the best trotting genetics in the world.
“We need to understand that we’ve been behind in our breeding. I always said it’s a twelve to fifteen year programme for us to catch up but as long as we’ve got our Muscle Hill and Dream Vacation mares we can probably catchup a bit quicker. I think we’re between year eight and year ten at the moment. Australian and New Zealand Trotting has one of the fastest growing gene pools in the world. We can now go to studs in America and Europe and command some respect. Fifteen years ago they frowned upon us.”
And he says Australasia has the fastest growing sub two minute trotting gene pool in the world.
“We are breeding greater number of trotters than ever before. Finland only has between 150 and 200 broodmares. Australia has a gene pool of between 800 and 1000 mares.”
Aldebaran also has a strong profile in America and is breeding horses in Australia to Northern Hemisphere time and then sending them to America to be trained.
“Our trainer up there is Jonas Czernyson and he’s won five grand circuit races in the last six years for us. Why do we send horses to America to race? We need to send a statement to the rest of the world that our trotters are internationally relevant.”
They also purchase well bred trotting stock out of America and bring them back to Australia.
“We were very fortunate. We bought a Cantab Hall filly at the 2010 Lexington Sales. We bought her to Australia and put her in foal to Muscle Hill and that foal Aldabaron Walkabout won the Bluegrass – a grand circuit race in America last season at Kentucky at the Red Mile. To send a weanling to America and win a stakes race like that is a great thrill.”
As part of their commitment to making the Australian Trotting stock more international they continue to buy fillies with international pedigrees and breed foals to Southern Hemisphere time.
“We buy fillies from all round the world and impregnate them to southern hemisphere time and then import them back into Australia. We’ve been doing that programme for six to eight years. We now have a global gene pool at Aldebaran Park in Australia. We have Readly Express fillies, Viking Kronas fillies and Credit Winner colts. We think we can now take the sport to another level.”
They also have a presence in Sweden and have horses trained by Pasi Aikio, head trainer at Menhammar Stuteri.
Aldebaran are big sponsors of trotting in Australia and their sponsorships include naming rights to the Aldebaran Park Mile Rate at Tabcorp Park, the Monte Series and the Vicbred Super Series for Trotters.
They also sponsor the Maori Mile at the Bendigo Harness Racing Club which is the richest Group One sprint for open class trotters held in regional Australia.
Their sponsorships now extend to New Zealand with the $20,000 Aldebaran Park Trotters Super Gold Chip Final at Winton.
Aldebaran Park is also a strong advocate of the HERO program in Victoria which sees the re-education and re-homing of Standardbreds following their racing and stud careers.
They’re also partners of the Harness Breeders Victoria “Follow the Foal” programme.
McPherson says that Aldebaran, through all promotions and sponsorships support their Charity Partner – Women’s Cancer Foundation, raising awareness of Ovarian Cancer through support of the Team Teal (New Zealand) and Teal Pants (Australia).
“I think we have an opportunity through Team Teal to endear ourselves to the general public and to make our sport socially relevant. You then have an opportunity to attract sponsors. Sponsors equal ownership and ownership equals demand on progeny.”