Sir Tristram – The Wonder Down Under

Sir Tristram 7

Question. What is the basis for acclaiming a stallion as a foundation sire? The most obvious answer is, “A sire that has created a tail male line through his sons and grandsons which have dominated the breeding of champion racers and champion sires to future generations”. Another definition of a foundation sire is, “A sire that inaugurated a clamour to a new breeding stud farm for his services, thus establishing the farm as a world class breeding facility”. On rare occasions, both definitions have been achieved by the same horse. Sir Tristram is a prime example.

Sir Tristram stood his entire stallion life at Cambridge Stud in Waikato, New Zealand., owned and masterminded by Sir Patrick Hogan. Sir Tristram is a legend in both New Zealand and Australia, where he led that country’s sire list six times, the broodmare sire list three times, his adopted homeland sire list three times, sired three Melbourne Cup winners, and dominated the yearling sales as breeders and buyers were falling over each other to acquire his get on offer.

Sir Tristram sired one hundred and forty stakes winners, forty-five of which were G1 stakes winners, and is responsible for two hundred stakes winners as a broodmare sire. He achieved these incredible numbers from Cambridge Stud, having never shuttled to ply his trade in the northern hemisphere. He put Cambridge Stud, and Hogan, in the bright lights of the world’s great breeding establishments. Sir Tristram is the epitome of a “Foundation Sire”.

The road to immortality for Sir Tristram, and subsequently Sir Patrick, was a colorful and very unorthodox journey. Sir Tristram was bred and raced by enthusiastic turf patron Raymond Guest in Ireland. Guest was the American ambassador to Ireland prior to breeding Sir Tristram. The sire of Sir Tristram was Guest’s great Derby winner Sir Ivor, while his dam was Isolt, an unraced daughter of another legend in Round Table.

Isolt descends from the epoch broodmare Selene (third generation) through her stakes winning daughter All Moonshine by Bobsleigh, a son of Gainsborough. Gainsborough was the sire of Selene’s great son Hyperion, one of the most accomplished sires in turf history. She also produced the very good sires Pharamond II, Sickle and Hunter’s Moon by other sires. With a pedigree such as Sir Tristram’s, Guest and his team led by top trainer Clive Brittain, were very high on the young colt. However, Sir Tristram would have other ideas as too becoming a great race horse.

Sir Tristram had a very ornery temper, so much so that the work riders would refuse to mount him during training sessions. They referred to him as “a man eater”. He would kick, bite, slam or do any other kind of aggressive posturing to avoid being told what to do. Warm and fuzzy he was not. Brittain would have a very difficult time to get the well bred colt fit enough to race. And to complicate matters, if Brittain did get the horse to the races, Sir Tristram would still deploy his roguish behaviour on the track, presenting the jockey with an overwhelming set of obstacles to deal with. Sir Tristram was not a desirable mount for anyone.

The big bay “Brat” would make nineteen starts in his racing career. He won two. He placed second six times and third three times. He ran when he felt inclined to do so, which was not often enough for most to think that he could be a good one for stud. Brittain could see some potential, however brief, in the colt and would actually ship him to Churchill Downs to run in the 1974 Kentucky Derby. Sir Tristram ran eleventh as a 25/1 outsider, never making an impact in the race.

With a less than stellar racing record, Sir Tristram was retired from the track and put up for sale. Hogan at this time was on the lookout for a stallion prospect to stand at his Cambridge Stud. With a modest budget of $160,000 to spend, Hogan travelled to the US, England, Ireland and France in his search. Those that were in his budget were unacceptable, while those he did like were too expensive. During his shopping trips, Patrick Hogan came within fifty feet of the horse he would eventually buy, but was not shown the horse by the farm staff.

After arriving home empty handed, Hogan was perusing pedigrees when he stumbled upon Sir Tristram. He liked the pedigree very much. He contacted his bloodstock agency to send a report on their assessment of the stallion prospect. The report was not very flattering. They noted his hocks were bent, he is weak and unattractive. Hogan however had already made up his mind he was buying this horse solely on his pedigree. The reports of his front end were less damaging in negativity and he had always remembered his father’s advice; “No horse is perfect, put up with the faults behind the saddle but don’t give away too many up front”.

With the decision made to acquire Sir Tristram, Patrick Hogan had now hopefully found his stallion. Sir Tristram was then put in quarantine before his long journey to New Zealand. During quarantine the colt would endure the harrowing nightmare of a fire in the barn he was stabled. Several horses perished in the blaze, but not Sir Tristram. During the confusion of the fire, he had been kicked by a mare, in a well aimed location, and had almost lost his chance to breed right there. He fortunately survived both ordeals.

Upon arrival at Cambridge Stud, the new resident stallion soon displayed his volatile nature. Many of the shareholders would back out, causing further obstacles for Hogan, but he carried on. Sir Patrick would work long and hard, sending the best mares he had as well as devising safety precautions for himself and the others on the farm that would have to attend to “Paddy”, as he was christened by the farm staff, to protect from being savaged.

Hogan and his staff wore armour akin to the protection worn by a goalie in hockey, to reduce the risk of serious injury. All of this however would eventually be worth the effort as Sir Tristram far exceeded the expectations of Hogan and would completely justify the faith he had in Paddy as a breeding stallion.

Sir Tristram, although not supported fully by many doubting breeders, got off to flyer with his first foal crop, born in 1977. Among this crop was Sovereign Red, winner of the Victoria Derby, Australian Derby, Caulfield Guineas and Western Mail Classic at three as well as the BATC Doombeen and the Underwood Stakes at four. All of these races are G1 events. Sovereign Red was to be the first of his forty-five G1 stakes winners.

Gurner’s Lane from the second Sir Tristram crop became the first of his Melbourne Cup winners. The gelding would go on to Australian horse of the year honours. He also added the prestigious Caulfield Cup to his racing resume.

The other two Melbourne Cup winners sired by Sir Tristram are Brew the winner in 2000, and Empire Rose in 1988.

There is an impressive list of sons and daughters of Paddy to have won G1 stakes races. The balance between fillies and colts, or geldings, is split almost down the middle. Twenty-four G1 winners were females, while twenty-one were males.

The female G1 winners are Empire Rose, Isolda, Limitless, Lurestina, Mahay, Mapperley Heights, Noble Heights, Only A Lady, Cure, Our Tristalight, Popsy, Pride Of Rosewood, Queen’s Road, Riverina Charm, Royal Heights, Our Starline, Trichellet, Trissaring, Tristalove, Tristanagh, Tristar, Tristina, Tristram Rose and Tristram’s Belle.

Among the colts and geldings, aside from Sovereign Red, Gurner’s Lane and Brew, are Admiral Lincoln, Dalamacia, Dr. Grace, Dupain, Fair Sir, Glastonbury, Grosvenor, Irish Chance, Kaapstad, Marauding, Military Plume, National Gallery, Noble Peer, Sir Vigilant, Tasman, Trissaro, Tristram’s Edition and Zabeel.

The last name in the G1 stakes winners list, Zabeel, has recently retired from stud duty at Cambridge. Zabeel became the chief heir to his sire’s throne as he became the most accomplished sire son of Sir Tristram, and also in furthering Sir Patrick Hogan’s establishment as a pre-eminent breeding stud. Zabeel retired to stud in 1991 after his productive racing career which saw him win the VRC Australian Guineas, Moonee Valley Stakes, Alister Clark Stakes, Craiglee Stakes and Debonair Stakes. He won seven of nineteen starts.

Sir Patrick would stand the son of Sir Tristram at Cambridge for the stallion’s entire stud career where Zabeel sired one hundred and fifty-six stakes winners, of which forty-four were G1 winners. He was awarded fifteen Dewar Stallion Trophies and was the leading sire in Australia twice and New Zealand four times. He has been the champion broodmare sire three times in each jurisdiction as well so far. Zabeel has carried on tail male line with distinction.

Zabeel has sired three Melbourne Cup winners, Might And Power, Jezabeel and Efficient, as well as Vengeance Of Rain, Sky Heights, Savabeel, Don Eduardo, Inaflury, Mouawad, Reset and the great Octagonal. This marvellous horse won close to six million dollars during his racing career, which saw him named as the Australian horse of the year for the 1995/96 season. Among his biggest victories are The Sire Produce Stakes at two, Australian Derby, Rosehill Guineas, Canterbury Guineas, Cox Plate and Mercedes Classic at three, and the Underwood Stakes, Australian Cup and a repeat win in the Mercedes Classic at four.

Octagonal has been a solid leading sire to continue the tail male line. His son Lonhro was a multi champion on the track winning such prestigious races as the Caulfield Guineas, Australian Cup, C.F. Orr Stakes, and double victories in the George Ryder Stakes and Caulfield Stakes. Lonhro would stand stud beside his sire at Darley’s Woodlands Stud and has continued the sire line set forth by his great grand sire Sir Tristram. Lonhro has already won a sire championship in Australia and is now shuttling between Woodlands and Darley’s Jonabell Farm in Kentucky. Among the top of his get are Pierro, Denman, Benfica and Beaded.

Returning to Sir Tristram and his sons, we see many more become excellent sires. Grosvenor, Kaapstad, Marauding and briefly Dr. Grace, who died after only three years of stud duty, as well as  Sir Sian and El Qahira have sired multiple G1 stakes winners each, and their own successful sire sons. This is only a brief sample of the extraordinary record of Sir Tristram’s sire line legacy.

Now we shall now have a look at his broodmare sire record, which is stellar to say the least. As stated previously, Sir Tristram’s daughters have produced two hundred stakes winners collectively. Among the top race winners from Sir Tristram’s daughters are Kingfisher Mill, Viscount, Viking Ruler, Timber Trader, Danske, Ethereal, Nothin’ Leica Dane, King’s Gambit, Bint Marscay, Rock “n Pop, and Freemason.  These are a sample of the G1 stakes winners produced by the daughters of Sir Tristram.

By becoming such a reliable source of top class race horses on both sides of a pedigree, Sir Tristram would be the most sought after name within a pedigree at the yearling sales in Australasia. The buying frenzy for his get, and the get of his next generation produced by his daughters, was akin to the explosive and dizzying sales during the early 1980’s for Northern Dancer offspring. In fact, as a Canadian, I see the remarkable similarity to the sire record and importance to a smaller breeding country of one pre-potent stallion to the country. In other words, Sir Tristram was to New Zealand, what Northern Dancer was to Canada in world-wide breeding circles.

Paddy would break record after record each year at the sales. His son Zabeel took up the mantle after Sir Tristram, much the same way as Northern Dancer and his sons Sadler’s Wells, Danzig and Nijinsky had done. However, where Sir Tristram has exceeded Northern Dancer is in the fact that he established Sir Patrick Hogan’s Cambridge Stud as a world class breeding farm. Northern Dancer had had the luxury of operating from an already established world leader at Windfields Farm.

Despite the always tricky nature of handling Sir Tristram, the farm staff and Sir Patrick genuinely loved Paddy. Yes he was very scary to have around, but Sir Patrick was, and still is, a very clever and resourceful horseman. He was not of the belief that one should try to break the spirit of such a headstrong animal. Hogan stated “If anybody tried to break that spirit, the horse would become completely unmanageable. He would probably have to be put down for safety’s sake”. He believed, and rightly so, that the spirit of Sir Tristram was his best attribute.

Hogan personally did much of the handling, especially when Paddy was to be taken to the breeding shed for a rendezvous. Paddy despised having a foal within eyesight when he was to perform his duty. Hogan and his team also had to make sure Paddy was muzzled during these acts of duty, as he was notorious for savaging his intended mate.

On May 21, 1997 Sir Tristram suffered a broken shoulder while frolicking in his paddock. Tragically he could not be saved. It was the saddest day of Sir Patrick’s life when he said goodbye to his beloved Paddy, tears flowing from his eyes. He was heard to say “Thank you Paddy, where would I be without you” as he held the great stallions head in his arms. This sadly mentioned scene was recounted in the excellent book “Give a Man a Horse” by Dianne Haworth which chronicles the life and accomplishments of Sir Patrick Hogan.

To have one great stallion is a major coup for any breeder. To have a worthy and dominant successor of said stallion is like catching lightning in a bottle twice. Zabeel has been a wonderful reward to Sir Patrick after losing Paddy, and has gone a long way to ease the blow of losing his career defining horse. He had purchased Zabeel solely because he felt obligated to stand a quality son of Sir Tristram, to honour his memory. Zabeel has more than held his end of the bargain.

The honours to Sir Tristram are justly earned. He is a member of the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame, inducted in 2008, and Sir Patrick commissioned a life size statue placed prominently at Cambridge Stud directly in front of the main core of the beautiful farm. However the ultimate honour is that Sir Tristram was buried standing and fully intact, which is the historical way of honouring a horse whose life was greatly and genuinely appreciated. Paddy deserved no less.

I am sure that many racing fans in New Zealand and Australia are very aware of the legacy of Sir Tristram. However we in the northern hemisphere do not have near as much knowledge of this great sire, and have very few of his get among our breeding stock. I sincerely hope that this state of affairs is corrected, and soon. The blood of Sir Tristram would go a long way to help northern breeders achieve sounder and competitive horses. I have high hopes for Lonhro to have success with northern mares in his breeding endeavours at Darley Kentucky.

The dynasty of Cambridge Stud is the spectacular result a horse who was giving a chance by a man who had complete faith in the animal, when the rest of the world had written him off. Sir Tristram’s spirit and Sir Patrick’s vision formed a bond that made for a success which could not be crushed.

A truly remarkable story, and one that transcends not only racing but life itself. Sir Tristram was a foundation sire, in every way possible.

(Photo courtesy of Cambridge Stud)



  • I had heard of him to be a real monster and a great stallion. I did not know how great he was. Thanks for the blog on this guy. I learned a lot about him.

  • Great Article, outstanding website.

  • He was a great one. Shows how the bloodlines don’t lie.

  • Linda Mathess Hinojos

    Another jaw dropping article. I know so little about where the great horses recognized came from. Your articles are most entriguing. Can’t wait for the next one.

  • Really great article. Thank you.

  • Wow what an inspiring story. I love your articles and am learning so much insight about these wonderful horses. Thank you so much. Please keep it up.

  • What an inspiring story!! There is so much to learn about all the wonderful horses around the world. Thank you so much for you bringing the stories of these wonderful horses to life. Great reading!!!!

  • A great article. Thank you. How fortunate for the breed, for Sir Patrick, for fans of honest racing, and the incredible beauty of horses themselves. I too hope his progeny will make an impact on North America. Sir Patrick should be a model to all handlers of horses by his patience and willingness to take his time learning to read Sir Tristram and accept this great stallion as nature made him.

  • Oh what a pity KY breeders quite rudely snubbed the mighty Lonhro (who is a favorite of mine) hopefully the unexpected exploits of Gronkowski might remind breeders of what they have missed!

  • I worked as a stable hand prepping yearlings in the late 80’s. He was genuinely royalty and we had a few yearlings by him. I never forgot the name and now I own a mare who’s grandfather was Octagonal. You can see the blue blood in her, stunning! I loved this article and reading others like it. A local Mornington Peninsula artist named Lyn Beaumont painted the Dynasty of Kings – A beautiful painting capturing the spirit perfectly of the true legends of Thoroughbred Racing. Sir Tristram, Zabeel, Octagonal and Lohnro.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.