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Leading Breeders Of The World with Kirsten Rausing of Lanwades Stud in Newmarket, UK

By Lissa Oliver September 06 2011

Lanwades Stud in Newmarket, UK, founded in the 19th century, is one of the very few stallion farms in England still managed by its owner, Kirsten Rausing. Kirsten was one of the first women to own and manage a public stud, at a time when few females even worked on stud farms. Lanwades boasts a rich heritage and, appropriately, was at one time owned by Caroline, Duchess of Montrose, and later James Larnach, who won the 1898 Derby with Jeddah, who was eventually buried in the grounds. Throughout the war years Lanwades was used as a training and transit camp for officers and troops and later stood a number of successful stallions.

Kirsten purchased Lanwades, which then comprised 150 acres, in 1980. Her first stallion, dual Classic winner Niniski, stood his first season at Lanwades in 1981 and was the Champion First Season Sire of Britain in 1984, when his runners included Champion European Two-Year-Old Kala Dancer, winner of the Gr.1 Dewhurst Stakes, and the following year’s Gr.1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes victor, Petoski. Both horses were Lanwades-bred.

More importantly for the future, Niniski carries the Nijinsky line forward, through his sons Hernando and Lomitas and grandsons Sulamani and Silvano, all currently active and successful at stud in Britain, Germany, France and South Africa, respectively.

Throughout the past 28 years Kirsten has continually improved and expanded Lanwades Stud, with the addition of St Simon Stud in 1982, Staffordstown Stud in Co. Meath, Ireland, in 1990, and parts of Meddler Stud in the late 1990s. Lanwades currently boasts nearly 1,000 acres of prime grassland in Newmarket and Ireland.

In 1986 Niniski was joined at Lanwades by French Two Thousand Guineas winner Nishapour, who sired French Oaks winner Shemaka and French Derby winner Mouktar. Dual European Champion Miler Selkirk joined the Lanwades roster of stallions in 1993 and was, like his predecessor Niniski, also Champion First Season Sire with his first crop of runners. Gainsborough Stud-owned Champion European Miler Zilzal also stood at Lanwades for ten seasons, from 1996.

The latter’s retirement from active stud duties made way for Canadian Champion With Approval, Group One sprinter Piccolo and Derby winner Sir Percy to join Lanwades early in the new century. In 2009, the importation of Vita Rosa from Japan added another chapter in Lanwades’ history. Archipenko, a Group One winning son of Kingmambo, joined the stallion ranks for the 2010 season and currently stands alongside Hernando, Selkirk, and Sir Percy.

Kirsten Rausing with her mare Lady Jane Digby

Tell us how you entered the breeding world & how difficult was it getting started? “My interest started as a teenager in my native Sweden, really through eventing and studying the pedigrees of my thoroughbred eventers. I think it’s fair to say that it was 1,000-1 against me ending up where I am today, which is an indication of how difficult it was.”

What was the major turning point in your career? “It was definitely leaving Sweden in 1977 to come and work in Ireland for Captain Tim Rogers at Airlie Stud. The offer of a job and coming to work in the bloodstock industry was the turning point.”

What has been the best professional decision you have made? “To manage to get a bank loan to purchase 25% in Niniski at the end of his four-year-old season in 1980, particularly with the benefit of hindsight!”

What has been your greatest disappointment? “Too many to count! In this game there are always so many.”

What do you consider your greatest breeding triumph? “To date it would be the two full sisters Alborada and Albanova. The fact that they are full sisters and won five Group Ones between them is very special and they are still here with me, of course.”

What has been your most satisfying day at the sales? “Any day when you manage to sell all your offerings and they all find good homes. Obviously we’ve had a great many sales toppers, we’ve topped Goffs and Tattersalls, the October, December and Orby sales, on a good few occasions, but that’s not really relevant in the longer term. At the end of the day what matters is to sell of your offerings to good trainers.

“Another particularly satisfying moment was the purchase of the mare Entente Cordiale at the 2000 Tattersalls December Sale for the minimum bid of 2,000gns. I had been looking for a filly from her family for fifteen years and to find the horse I wanted and then have no other bid was very satisfying. She went on to breed seven winners of 35 races, including stakes winner Foreign Affairs. Her last foal is the four-year-old Motivator filly Motrice. To find something no one else wanted provides great satisfaction. Other examples of this were the important foundation mare Alruccaba (purchased with Mrs Sonia Rogers for one bid above the reserve price at 19,000gns) and her daughter Alouette (later dam of Alborada and Albanova), purchased in the ring to dissolve the partnership with Mrs Rogers for 21,000gns, that also being a single bid over the reserve price.”

What has been your proudest moment in racing? “The Dewhurst Stakes of 1984. Kala Dancer was from the first crop of Niniski, and a very small crop, and in winning the Group One and becoming European Champion Two-Year-Old he put Niniski on the map and, to a large extent, Lanwades Stud, too.

Niniski siring Hernando is also a very proud achievement and Hernando coming back here to continue the male line, which took three and a half years of negotiating. I shall be forever grateful to the Niarchos family for finally relenting and allowing me to purchase Hernando!

More recently Fame And Glory, who I bred in partnership with Ptarmigan Bloodstock, winning the Irish Derby in 2009 and this year, the Gold Cup at Ascot.”

Has there been anybody in the Industry who has had an impact on your career and you most admire? “Obviously the late Captain Tim Rogers of Airlie Stud who gave me the chance to work in Ireland and was a great mentor. He died thirty years ago, but the Rogers family still run Airlie Stud with great success. He was a marvellous stallion master and in many ways was the founder of the modern Irish bloodstock industry.
“I sent mares from Sweden to be covered by his stallions in the 1972 season and I went over with the mares as a flying groom. At that time I didn’t have any idea who he was or the impact he’d had on the industry. It’s fair to say he was quite a hard task master and a very efficient teacher.”

If you had the power to make one change in the thoroughbred Industry, what would it be? “This may sound very truistic and very obvious, but it has to be an increase in prize money in the UK and Ireland. It’s something we all need. Quite how this magical change should come about I’m afraid I can’t say! We are hemmed in by present legislation pertaining to the Levy and the solution isn’t going to be easily found.”

Can you name a best horse bred or sold? “On ratings it would have to be Petoski, winner of the Gr.1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, and Fame And Glory, winner of the Gr.1 Irish Derby and Gr.1 Ascot Gold Cup. The European Champion Two-year-Old, Kala Dancer, and Dragon Dancer, second in The Derby, are all good horses I’ve bred and sold. There have also been the fillies I have retained, Alborada and Albanova and Lady Jane Digby and quite a few others.”

What other aspirations would like to achieve in the future? “Number one – to survive in this industry as a breeder.”

What is the best advice you can give a young breeder entering the industry? “Not very exciting: work hard, observe and learn, and be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight. Enthusiasm and knowledge overcomes a lot.”

About the Author

Lissa Oliver
Lissa Oliver is based in Kildare, Ireland, and writes for The Irish Field, Racetrack magazine (Australia), the daily European Bloodstock News (EBN), European Trainer magazine, International Thoroughbred, and Thoroughbred Owner Breeder, as well as producing work for the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association. She has been nominated for the prestigious Clive Graham Journalist Of The Year Award since 2007 and has been a finalist in 2012 and 2013, and is also the author of three novels, 'Nero The Last Caesar' and the horseracing thrillers 'Gala Day' and Golden Dagger nominated 'Chantilly Dawns'.