As Gold Trail ( Hussonet (USA) -Trail of Gold by Danewin) prepares for the King’s Stand S. G1 at Royal Ascot tonight his breeder Alan Atkinson is working on his farm near Greenmount, south of Toowoomba in Queensland’s Darling Downs region.
Describing himself as semi-retired, Alan runs cattle on his own 120-acre property, and breeds thoroughbreds in association with his brother Rob and nephew Jim, who manage neighbouring Furlong Stud.
Alan explains, “Rob and Jim set up Furlong Stud about 15 years ago, then I came in and bought a half-share. We each have three mares of our own, and breed in partnership from another eight mares.”
The Atkinsons have deliberately limited their broodmare numbers while steadily increasing their quality, a policy that, according to Alan, has produced an 80% winners-to-runners record over the past four or five years. Gold Trail is the best of those winners, with a seven wins, including this season’s ARC Railway H. G1 and AJC Shorts H. G2, nine placings and almost $600,000 from 26 starts. Most recently, he finished a courageous fourth, after making all the pace, in last month’s Singapore TC Krisflyer International Sprint G1.
Although bred by Alan, Gold Trail (ex Trail of Gold by Danewin) is very much a family achievement, and Rob’s interest in pedigree analysis has played a key role in his story.
Alan says, “Rob and Jim bred Trail of Gold and Rob told me she was the best pedigree he’d ever done, so I bought her for $60,000 at the Magic Millions Premier Sale.”
Trail of Gold won four of her 29 starts including the AJC James H.B. Carr S. LR, and when she went to stud, Rob advised Alan to send her to Hussonet. The result was Gold Trail, sold for $75,000 to John Wallace at the 2006 Magic Millions Premier Sale. However, his preparation didn’t go smoothly.
Alan recalls, “He wasn’t very big, but he was always good-natured and was one of the picks of the draft. Then, six weeks out, he looked sick and began to lose weight, and our vet Max Wilson discovered two holes in his lip where a snake had bitten him.
“Our selling options were limited so we took him to the sale, and he recovered, but he wasn’t blooming. Obviously, the snake venom didn’t do him any harm!”
Trail of Gold’s three subsequent yearlings by Arrowfield sires have returned a further $540,000 in sales receipts to the Atkinsons. Three-year-old filly Prerequisite (by Charge Forward ) has won twice in Sydney and placed fourth in the AJC Light Fingers S. G2, while her two-year-old colt by Charge Forward, sold at the 2009 Australian Easter Sale and named Wild West, is yet to race.
This year Furlong Stud offered Gold Trail’s full sister at Magic Millions Premier and achieved their best-ever yearling price when Vin Cox Bloodstock bid $330,000 for her.
From a family that’s been breeding horses in Australia for around 150 years, Alan Atkinson isn’t fazed at all by the prospect of Gold Trail’s imminent participation in one of the world’s great racing carnivals.
Nevertheless, he does ask about the state of the track (it’s good, which is good news for Gold Trail), and confirms that he will be setting the alarm and getting up to watch the horse from Furlong Stud in the Darling Downs run at Royal Ascot.
Pictured: Gold Trail parading at Royal Ascot, where he finished 10th in the King’s Stand S. G1 after injuring himself as he left the starting gates.