Bren O’Brien



More than just a stallion – A Vinery legacy like no other

No stallion in history has produced as many winners as More Than Ready, whose recent death highlighted both his phenomenal global record and his indelible impact on one Australian farm in particular, Vinery Stud.

Long-time General Manager Peter Orton couldn’t have pictured a finer return to public stallion parades at Vinery Stud than last Saturday morning.

The morning sun was doing a perfect job of illuminating one of the Hunter Valley’s most well-appointed farms. The abundance of recent rain created a lush green carpet for Orton and his team to showcase their seven-strong roster to the big crowd that had assembled for the first large-scale parades in the post-COVID era.

But news from abroad had left a grey hue over what was an otherwise idyllic morning. More Than Ready, the stallion which had in many ways helped build every post and rail on Vinery, had died aged 25 at WinStar Farm in Kentucky.

More Than Ready had spent the last of his 19 seasons at Vinery in 2019, creating a legacy that saw him use Australia as the foundation of unprecedented success around the world.

He is the only stallion ever to sire more than 2000 winners – he is currently at 2120 – and those winners have come in a remarkable 39 countries around the world.

A total of 866 of those winners were in Australia, including 75 stakes winners, while his impact was very much felt in Hong Kong and Japan as well, where he has had 27 and 24 winners respectively.

While the enthusiasm for the current Vinery stallion roster from the breeders and hangers-on dotted across the farm’s breakfast lawn party provided some distraction, the profound loss of a horse who played such a significant part in Vinery’s rise was clear in the emotion of Orton’s voice.

“He’s built us all here,” Orton said of the stallion. “He has been an absolute legend. He has made up what Vinery has today and he continues to contribute through his sons and daughters. He is just a phenomenal horse and a phenomenal personality. It is heartbreaking to see him go.”


Peter Orton and More Than Ready. (Photo: Vinery Stud)

The numbers tell one story but the greatest tribute to More Than Ready is perhaps the impact he had on Vinery itself. When Orton, who had been a key architect of John Messara’s now iconic Arrowfield Stud, moved the two kilometres down Segenhoe Road to take up his Vinery position in 2000, he needed to find a stallion to build the name of Vinery in Australia.

Then under the ownership of Dr Tom Simon, Vinery was a two-state operation trying to forge its name both in the Hunter Valley and in Victoria. Orton, who had worked with the phenomenally influential Danehill in his time at Arrowfield, was aware that this new operation needed a point of difference.

He achieved that by pursuing ‘outcross’ stallions; stallions who weren’t from the Danzig/Danehill line that had become so prevalent. While the rest of the industry was zigging, Vinery chose to zag. First came Red Ransom, and then Orton sought another shuttle stallion with which to build upon that approach.

“When we started Vinery out here we had to begin under a new name. We had to go and find him (More Than Ready) and I remember seeing him at the tie-up stalls in Saratoga in America. From that day, we were desperate to get him,” he said.

I remember seeing him at the tie-up stalls in Saratoga in America. From that day, we were desperate to get him.

A son of Southern Halo, More Than Ready won five of his seven two-year-old starts for Todd Pletcher, two of them at Graded level before claiming the G1 King’s Bishop Stakes in his three-year-old season, where he was fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

He commenced his stud duties at Vinery Kentucky in 2001 and later that year made the first of what would be 19 trips to the Hunter Valley.

From his first American crop, More Than Ready would produce 10 stakes winners, but he fared even better from his first Australian crop, which featured 12 black-type winners.

Among that collection were the Group 1 winners Carry on Cutie, Perfectly Ready and Benicio.

Greater success would flow from subsequent crops, notably the triple Group 1 winner Sebring and his eight-time Group 1 winning daughter More Joyous.

More Joyous and Nash Rawiller wins the Queen of the Turf Stakes in 2012. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Eagle Way winning the G2 Jockey Club Cup. (Photo: HKJC).

Sebring winning the Golden Slipper. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

More Than Ready’s versatility was a hallmark, producing winners of Golden Slippers and Derbies alike.

In Hong Kong his success was spearheaded by Eagle Way, the Queensland Derby winner, who would prove an elite horse in his new home, including his victory in the G2 Jockey Club Cup.

The best of his American progeny seemed to come later in his stud career, with star mares Rushing Fall and Unit and multiple Grade 1-winning sons such as Roy H, Catholic Boy and Verrazano.

Earlier this year, as he was completing his 22nd year at stud in Kentucky, More Than Ready had his first stakes winner in Japan, Jean Gros, one of his 24 winners in that country.

“His progeny won group races all over the world, they have won on every track and every surface,” Orton said. “He is a phenomenal horse and a true all rounder.”

His progeny won group races all over the world, they have won on every track and every surface

Through his sire sons and broodmare daughters, More Than Ready continues to make a massive mark. In Australia, Sebring, who died in 2019, made a significant impression from his base at Widden, producing 76 stakes winners, while Lyndhurst Stud-based Better Than Ready has followed his father’s lead as a prolific winner-getter, particularly of two-year-olds.

His daughters have also produced a host of racetrack stars, including Japan’s best dirt sprinter Cafe Pharoah as well as Australian stars Miracles Of Life and Bivouac. The latter was among several Hunter Valley stallions on parade over the weekend out of More Than Ready mares, with that list also including the G1 Golden Slipper producer and now Widden resident Rebel Dane, and recent Newgate addition Tiger Of Malay.

Spectators at the Vinery stallion parade. (Photo: Vinery Stud)

The influence of the great, and now late stallion is nearly everywhere you want to look in 21st century global racing, but nowhere is it more so than at Vinery.

In 2005, with Dr Simon looking to reduce his level of interest, Vinery welcomed new partners into the business. Transitions in ownership, however well managed, can be difficult, but Orton and his team were emboldened by what More Than Ready was building from the stallion barn.

As Dr Simon’s investment disappeared to be replaced by an ownership group of Alan Green, David Paradice, Gerry Harvey, Greg Perry, Neil Werrett and Steve McCann, there was effectively another silent partner, anchoring the first 20 years. An equine partner.

More Than Ready did as much for Vinery as any other stallion has for a farm in Australian racing history and as the sun shone on his successors in the stallion barn on Saturday, there was cause for reflection and considerable optimism from the other major fixture over that time.

“The farm is really in a great place at the moment, we are really happy with our young horses coming up,” Orton said.

“It is really going to underpin us for where it is all going to go in the future. It’s a long game and we have got some really good horses here that we are looking forward to seeing what they can do.”



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