The Old Guard of Woodlands Stud

They may have been competitors on the racetrack back in the mid 90’s, but former star gallopers Octagonal and Strategic have become close mates, living side by side following their recent retirements from stud duties.
Octagonal's statue at Woodlands Stud

The pair reside in adjoining stallion runs at Darley Woodlands near Denman in the Hunter Valley, enjoying retirement at the same farm where it all began for Strategic back in 1992.

Bred by the Ingham family, Strategic is a son of Zeditave out of the Luskin Star mare Sudden Impulse, a daughter of G1 Golden Slipper-winning filly Sweet Embrace. He was born at Woodlands on 13 September 1992 and was raised at the farm before entering Crown Lodge at Warwick Farm.

Joining Strategic at Crown Lodge under the guidance of John Hawkes around the same time was a striking black son of Zabeel. He was born at Sir Patrick Hogan’s Cambridge Stud in New Zealand on 8 October 1992 and was purchased by the Inghams at Karaka for $210,000. Out of the imported Pieces Of Eight mare Eight Carat, the colt was named Octagonal.

Octagonal and Strategic in their adjoining paddocks, October 2015

Octagonal and Strategic first met on the racetrack in the 1995 Golden Slipper. Strategic went into the race as the short-priced favourite having posted five consecutive wins in the lead up, while Octagonal was undefeated in his two starts and was the second elect with punters.

Octagonal stormed home over the concluding stages to be beaten narrowly into second place by Flying Spur, while Strategic finished a brave fifth after being trapped wide throughout.

Nine days later they met again in the G1 Sires’ Produce Stakes. Octagonal won in what would become the first of his ten G1 victories, while Strategic finished fourth.

They only faced off on one more occasion. In the spring of their three-year-old year, Octagonal and Strategic lined-up in the G1 Caulfield Guineas. The race was won by Our Maizcay with Octagonal finishing strongly for third and Strategic failing to run out the mile and finishing in fifth place.

However, both horses tasted G1 glory on their very next starts. Two weeks later Octagonal defeated the older horses, including Horse of the Year Mahogany, in Australia’s weight-for-age championship, the WS Cox Plate.

Strategic was sent for a spell following the Caulfield Guineas but on resumption he too was able to beat the older horses, claiming the G1 Australia Stakes over 1200m. He ran second in the G1 Lightning Stakes on his next start and was retired to stud two starts later.

Octagonal developed a huge following and was revered for his ability to continually prevail in close finishes. Over the Sydney autumn carnival, he won the three-year-old Triple Crown of the Canterbury Guineas, Rosehill Guineas and Australian Derby and was subsequently crowned Australia’s Horse of the Year.

As a five-year-old, Octagonal recorded his tenth G1 win in the Mercedes Classic, a victory that saw him become the highest-earning horse in Australian racing history. It was announced that his following start in the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes would be his final start before retirement.

Unfortunately for connections and his legion of fans, Intergaze spoilt the party and Octagonal had to settle for second.

He retired the winner of 14 of his 28 starts and close to $5.9 million in prize money.

Octagonal then joined Strategic on the Woodlands stallion roster in 1997 with Octagonal commanding a service fee of $30,000 and Strategic standing at $7,000.

Octagonal’s stud career could not have begun any better with Champion colt Lonhro, who would go on to win 11 G1 races and become a Champion stallion, in his very first crop. Strategic also made a flying start to his stud career, siring G1 winner Mistegic and G2 winners Upbeat, Fair Embrace and Pelt in his first crop.

The initial success of both stallions saw their popularity soar. By 2001 Octagonal was standing at $50,000 and by the following year Strategic’s service fee had risen to $25,000.

While the G1 winners didn’t come as frequently as they once appeared they might, both Octagonal and Strategic carved out successful careers as stallions.

Octagonal retired from stud duties following the 2012 breeding season while Strategic covered his last mares last year. Both stallions sired four career G1 winners, with Octagonal siring 25 Stakes winners and Strategic 27.

John Sunderland, General Manager at Woodlands said, “Both horses are lovely horses to look after. They are both good natured and get on well with each other. Octagonal is a favourite of everyone but Strategic is a lovely old horse too. Each night they are brought into their stables at the same time and they are probably like two old men chatting about the good old days.”

The legacy of both stallions will live on for years to come through their daughters who now grace many of Australia’s best stud farms. Octagonal is already the broodmare sire of 28 Stakes winners, while last year’s G1 Queensland Derby winner Sonntag is one of 15 Stakes winners from daughters of Strategic.

Octagonal wins the 1995 Sires' Produce Stakes with Strategic fourth