Bren O’Brien



One year in the Valley: The curious case of Written Tycoon

Written Tycoon's ascent to the status of champion stallion came via an unconventional route, and that unusual path is set to take another turn when his current yearlings hit the sales ring in early 2023.

Foaled as a chestnut without a drop of Danehill blood in his body, the cards were stacked against Written Tycoon becoming a sire of significant influence.

The fact he was afforded a career at stud at all is somewhat of a miracle.  

As a yearling, he was flashy but not overly remarkable. He was offset and a bit over at the knee but Grahame Begg saw enough to pay $50,000 for him at Magic Millions, less than half the average price.

What became apparent is that he had inherited his sire Iglesia’s greatest attribute, speed. Rumoured to be the fastest horse at Randwick when put into work, Written Tycoon won on debut for Begg and then again at his third start, the G2 Todman Stakes. Suddenly, the flashy chestnut became the medium of significant interest for stallion syndicates.

A syndicate involving Sherrif Iskander won the bidding war and while throat issues prevented Written Tycoon winning any further races either for Begg or John O’Shea, he found himself a home at Eliza Park in Victoria at the end of his racing career.

It was the era where Danehill blood was everywhere among Australian stallion ranks. While the great stallion had passed away in 2003, his sons were firmly taking up his legacy. Redoute’s Choice, Flying Spur, Exceed And Excel and Fastnet Rock would also be crowned Australian champions in their own right, as the sireline dominated much of the early 21st century.

Finding mares to go to Written Tycoon in such a competitive environment was a hard-enough gig, but a bitter legal stoush in the background proved a bigger threat than his marketability.


In 2009, at the same Great Southern Sale where his first crop of weanlings were being offered, Written Tycoon himself, on court order, would return to the sales ring. Iskander doubled down on his belief in the stallion and together with Eliza Park and some other investors, bought the other ‘aggrieved’ parties out for $625,000, a fraction of what he had been syndicated for a few years earlier.

The complicated journey for the stallion was far from over. A change of strategy saw him moved to Queensland by Eliza Park in 2012, without a great deal of consultation with his remaining shareholders.

Iskander’s long-time bloodstock consultant Suman Hedge recalls having to ‘start all over again’, convincing the notoriously sceptical Queensland breeders to back a ‘Victorian’ stallion who had done his racing primarily in New South Wales. 

It was an extremely hard sell, but one farm that did support him was Daandine, where Written Tycoon himself was bred a decade earlier.

They sent a chestnut mare to him called Kitalpha and a year later she produced a chestnut colt. Named Capitalist, he would win a G1 Golden Slipper Stakes and do more for Written Tycoon’s commercial value than any other of his progeny.

Capitalist wins the 2016 Golden Slipper. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Written Tycoon’s return home to Queensland proved short-lived. Iskander wanted him back in Victoria and with Eliza Park under some financial strain, the stallion was sold again, with Iskander getting together with Woodside Park to purchase him in a dutch auction.

Woodside would be his third home in seven years at stud, hardly a recipe for success. Stallions usually rely on consistent support to build momentum, but from the Rowsthorn’s family property Written Tycoon would continue to defy the naysayers. From a $13,750 service fee on his arrival in 2013, he would stand for $110,000 in his final year there in 2019.

However, his nomadic stallion career was far from finished. Circumstances conspired that he would finally get his shot in the thoroughbred heartland in the Hunter Valley, at one of Australia’s most revered and respected studs, Arrowfield.

The Covid-19 pandemic prevented Arrowfield from shuttling a trio of Japanese stallions in 2020, while the death of Redoute’s Choice the previous year had left the stud with a lack of depth when it came to proven sires. In unusual times it was an unusual solution but, with a 30 per cent service fee cut thrown into the mix, Written Tycoon headed to Arrowfield where he was afforded some of the best mares in the country.

Written Tycoon has navigated an unconventional path to the top. (Photo by Bronwen Healy/Yulong)

Through his work with Iskander as well as with Eliza Park and Woodside Park, Hedge has followed every step of the stallion’s career at close quarters and he is still in awe at the quality of mares Written Tycoon served that year, his 14th at stud, at age 18.

The list of mares included the legendary, unbeaten Black Caviar and her sister Naturale, the dam of Written Tycoon’s dual Group 1-winning son Ole Kirk. There was also eight-time Group 1 winner More Joyous, multiple Group 1 winner Shoals and her dam, The Broken Shore, as well as 35 more of Arrowfield’s best.

“I still can’t believe the calibre of mares he got that year,” Hedge told Asian Racing Report.

The foals conceived in his one year at Arrowfield from that extraordinary book hit the Australian yearling sales in 2023, and anticipation is extremely high. The average price of his yearlings has already grown by 900 per cent from $35,000 in 2014 to $315,000 last year but given the quality of mares he had in 2020, it is set to go to even higher levels.

The recently released Magic Millions catalogue contains 55 of that crop of 153 foals and more than half, 28, are chestnuts like their sire.

Arrowfield Stud offers 13 yearlings including five colts out of mares by another champion sire, Snitzel. There is also a colt out of The Broken Shore and another out of a daughter of champion filly Miss Finland. There is a filly from the family of Redoute’s Choice and another filly from the Group 2 winner Don’t Doubt Mamma.

Don't Doubt Mamma wins the G2 Let's Elope Stakes at Flemington. (Photo by Pat Scala/Getty Images)

Expectations are that there will be a similarly strong representation in the Inglis Easter Sale catalogue later in 2023, where Arrowfield has been the dominant vendor for much of the past 20 years.

But this is Written Tycoon’s only crop conceived from the Hunter Valley. The latest ownership twist in the Written Tycoon tale was in 2021, when insurance costs meant that the shareholders, still headed by Iskander, decided to shop for suitors.

Arrowfield and Vinery, represented by Gerry Harvey, were the two at the front of the queue, but it was the Yuesheng Zhang-backed Victorian outfit Yulong who swooped in with an offer that could not be refused.

“I have to give both John Messara and Gerry Harvey credit, when they saw the deal on the table from Yulong, they said we would be mad not to take it,” Hedge said.

Written Tycoon returned to Victoria for a third time last year, but this time as champion stallion of Australia.

His reward for persisting through a roller-coaster? Yulong backing the stallion in by spending close to $30 million in purchasing 48 mares to go to him over the past two seasons. That list includes 14-time Group 1 winner Melody Belle, four-time Group 1 winner Tofane and $4 million purchase Away Game. The first crop from Yulong, his fifth home at stud, has arrived this spring.

And so despite the stallion having marked his 20th birthday earlier this year and having been sold at least six times, his story continues to be written.



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