When it was confirmed in August 2020 that Ananda Krishnan’s Kia Ora Stud had not only purchased Golden Slipper winner Farnan, but intended to stand him on its Hunter Valley property, it marked a re-emergence for the one-time breeding powerhouse.

Kia Ora, purchased by billionaire Malaysian businessman Krishnan in 2000, had been an epicentre of the Australian stallion scene throughout the 20th century, standing horses like Magpie, Midstream, Delville Wood, Gunsynd and Baguette.

However, it had fallen out of the stallion game until the purchase of Farnan, and subsequently Prague, as foundation stallion prospects.

In one way it wound back the clock for Kia Ora, but in many ways pointed to the future, Captivant joined the roster a year later, while in 2023, a landmark merger with Vinery created the biggest continuous thoroughbred farm in the Hunter Valley, albeit still under separate brands.

That strategy has been backed by an aggressive bloodstock acquisition play, with Kia Ora signing for close to $50 million of weanlings, yearlings and mares since 2020.

Key to it all is Farnan, one of five active Golden Slipper winners at stud, and at $55,000, the highest-priced locally bred stallion of his year. Breeders responded by sending 192 mares to him in his first season, and another 189 in the second year.  

His oldest crop are now yearlings and this year’s Magic Millions sale represents his first major commercial test, one which he looks to be passing with flying colours.

He has the second-highest aggregate and average of any freshman stallion, second to only Wootton Bassett, while, up until 3pm (AEST) Friday, his average was an impressive $360,238.

He also now has his first million-dollar lot, a rarity for a first-season stallion, when Lot 768, his colt out of Group 1 winner I Am Excited, offered by Bell River Thoroughbreds, sold for $1.2 million.

There was significance in who the buyers were, even if perhaps their presence on the docket was not surprising.

It’s not unusual for a stud to purchase a top colt by one of its young stallions, looking to double down on the success and give prominence to their sire.

Kia Ora had come together with Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, who were the trainers of Farnan in his short but spectacular racing career, to identify some of the best colts of his first crop.

They had already paid $375,000 for Lot 95, then $650,000 for Lot 544 before going to seven figures for Farnan’s most anticipated lot of the sale.

“We actually did create a partnership to try and target the progeny of Farnan specifically this year,” Bott said.

“Obviously we have so much belief in him with his profile at stud and we knew his ability as a racehorse. He was our last Golden Slipper-winning colt and it’s a great indicator for their success at stud.

“He’s what you’d really hope to see Farnan stamp in his progeny and he’s one of the best examples we could see and hope for.

“In his first year we wanted to support the stallion, try and find the best way to do that and with Kia Ora standing him, they wanted to back that concept and help do that, so there was an idea going into the sale that we would be organised going into the sale to do that.”

Bell River, run by the Ferguson family, celebrated its best-ever yearling result with the colt, which was particularly satisfying for James Ferguson, given the faith they had in the stallion.

“We believe he is the best son of Not A Single Doubt to have ever gone to stud,” he said.

“We worked out he was the best physical mating for that mare. We love that Not A Single Doubt sireline and we think if there is one horse that is going to carry Redoute’s Choice line into the future, this bloke could be it,” he said.

“For Gai and Adrian to be buying the best Farnan, it says a lot about what that colt looked like and his credentials.”

James’ father Andrew added: “Gai said to us all the way along, he was a standout and he was the one she had to have, so that was a ringing endorsement to us.”

Homebred Snitzel mare I Am Excited has already been a once-in-a-lifetime horse for the Fergusons, delivering them a Group 1 victory in their colours in The Galaxy.

The match with Farnan, her second as a broodmare, is an interesting one as it gives a close inbred cross (3 x 3) to Redoute’s Choice. That pedigree cross has yielded two stakes winners to date, Extremely Lucky and Insurrection.

“We actually did create a partnership to try and target the progeny of Farnan specifically this year” - Adrian Bott    

Kia Ora racing and bloodstock manager Luke Wilkinson agreed that Lot 768 was a clear pick among Farnan’s 39 yearlings catalogued at the sale.

“There were a lot of syndicates on him – I reckon we beat Henry (Field, Newgate) in the bidding – and I know a lot of other stud farms liked him. We’re happy to support our stallions and we’re thrilled to have such a nice prospect going forward,” he said.

Lot 768
Lot 768 being led around the pre-parade by Jock Ferguson (Photo: Magic Millions)

The first on-the-track ambitions have already been formulated among the new ownership team,

“Gai Waterhouse will train and she knows how to win a Golden Slipper,” Wilkinson said.      

Waterhouse has won seven Golden Slippers, six on her own, and one in partnership with Bott.