Stratheden Stud

Brian Marheine

15 February 2021

Brian Marheine: From pit ponies to thoroughbreds

Ownership of a major share in the Sir Tristram champion racehorse Dr Grace (1986), a winner of 12 races, four G1s including the AJC Derby, stimulated Brian Marheine, a third generation Novocastrian (Newcastle) and coal mine owner, into thoroughbred breeding, at a high level. It is a move that is recalled here following the death of Charles Brian Marheine on February 15 on the eve of his 64th wedding anniversary.

It began in1996 with the purchase of John and Kay Park's Stratheden Stud, a leading north western NSW breeding operation on the outskirts of Tamworth, and at the stud's dispersal sale a start made on building up a broodmare band with the acquisition of half a dozen mares. At the sale, they also acquired Stratheden's sire king of the north-west, Switch in Time (Ire).

Moving further afield, they purchased seven mares at a Newhaven Park broodmare dispersal and travelled to England and came home with a further five. At its peak the Marheines had about fifty mares in their ownership on Stratheden, much of the planning and matings under the farm's resident manager, Brian's eldest daughter Judy Marheine.

One of the greatest prizes they secured on their way to a quality broodmare band was acquired out of the Newhaven Park sale, the American bred Sommes Sound. Her first Stratheden bred foal Assertive Lad, a Zeditave gelding, became Joint Champion 3yo Colt in Australia 2000-01 and Head of the 1999-2000 2yo and 2000-01 3yo (joint) Australasian Classifications. A $110,000 Gold Coast yearling, Assertive Lad in earning $3.3milllion won eight races including three G1s in Sydney, the Sires' Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes at two and later the Doncaster Handicap. He was also successful in the Magic Millions 2yo Classic and third in the Golden Slipper.

Snowdrift (Fr), an imported acquisition, proved very rewarding, producing to Snippets matings the brothers Snowland ($85,000 yearling, 9 wins, $1,140,660, 5 Group events including the AJC The Galaxy-G1) and Snippetson (a $550,000 Gold Coast yearling, 4 Sydney wins, runner up AJC Challenge Stakes-G2, STC Missile Stakes-G3).

Stratheden made the mating of another Zeditave product, Calming, with Commands that produced Calming Influence, a winner of five metropolitan races up to 1400m and G3 placed, but sold her in foal. A change of heart saw them buy the yearling and enjoy the fruits of her racing achievement.

Brian enjoyed success at G1 level when he was a syndicate partner in the ownership of the Fastnet Rock filly Amicus, a Waller trained winner of the Caulfield Thousand Guineas. Another owner of Amicus, a performer who won three other Group races, was Mrs Debbie Kepitis (Wopitt Bloodstock), one of the owners of wonder race mare Winx.

He also had a crack, an unsuccessful one, at G1 in the 2016 Randwick Champion Stakes and Victoria Derby, as a syndicate member in the ownership of the Waller trained Fastnet Rock gelding Tumultuous. Tumultuous attoned for those lapses, however, by winning six races and earning $1,430,175.

Although possessing respect as a good source of good winners and marketers of yearlings up to million dollars plus, the Brian Marheine management decided to wind back in 2010 and had a dispersal sale at the Magic Millions Gold Coast National, comprised by 21 weanlings, 21 broodmares and two race fillies.

Brian's 18 year stint as a thoroughbred stud owner was a fairly short one, but it continued his lifelong active involvement with the horse. It began at an early age, but blossomed when he left school at 14 and was put to work breaking in pit ponies for his family's Kent coal mine at Beresfield.

At the same time, he was a regular ribbon winning show rider, including winning his boy rider class at the 1947 Sydney Royal. Brian Marheine was also a leader of men, including being chairman of the Maitland Show Society from 1993 to 1997, and serving on the Australian Show Council.

Brian was also a polo player for Wirragulla, an exploit which saw his son Philip, contest as a World Cup representative. Philip is one of three children of Brian and Barbara (nee Mackay, Dungog) (married February 16,1957), his sisters being, Judy and Susan. Brian, and wife Barbara, a competent horsewoman herself, imbued their offspring with their love of the horse, and all went through the pony club and competed in the equestrian events, at the Sydney Royal and Brisbane Exhibitions.

Married to Willow Tree grazier Richard Duddy, Susan is one of Australia's top horse women, awards including National Dressage Championships.

Survived by Barbara, Phillip, Judy, Susan and families, Brian was farewelled at a Private Service at the Anglican Church, Dungog on Friday, 19th February.

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