There was a time not so long ago when the phrase ‘colonial Australian speed’ was de rigueur among breeders the world over, and our sprinters were coveted globally as reverse shuttle stallions.

Off the back of the tremendous impact of stallions like Exceed And Excel and Fastnet Rock, global giants such as Darley and Coolmore were willing to chance their hands sending as yet unproven stallions to the northern hemisphere to spread that Australian influence, and turn local heroes into potential global stars.

With the 2024 northern hemisphere breeding season set to kick off, there will be just one active Australian-bred reverse shuttle stallion.

Coolmore’s Starspangledbanner is set to begin his 11th season in Ireland - quite an achievement for a horse who battled fertility issues early in his breeding career.

The decision to give Zoustar a year off his duties at Tweenhills Stud after five seasons of shuttling, leaves Great Britain not only without an Australian-bred shuttle stallion, but without an Australian-bred sire of any type.

The United States, previously a ‘shuttle home’ to Lonhro and more recently Vancouver and Astern, is also without a single Australian-bred stallion among its contingent of 427 active sires listed on

The absence of Australian sires on American stallion rosters is not so surprising when you consider that the only two horses with an (AUS) suffix to feature on the American sires’ table in 2023 were Astern and Vancouver, both sons of Medaglia D’Oro, who finished 170th and 174th respectively.

In Great Britain, Exceed And Excel, who hasn’t reverse shuttled since 2020, was the leading Australian-bred sire in 2023 on earnings, sitting 18th on the table, with Starspangledbanner 30th and Fastnet Rock, whose last overseas trip was 2021, in 34th. Zoustar finished 45th, while Brazen Beau (75th) was the only other Australian-bred sire inside the top 100.

Australian-bred stallions in Top 100 on Great Britain sires table in 2023

Rank Stallion Runners Winners Stakes winners
18 Exceed and Excel 113 41 3
30 Starspangledbanner 123 40 1
34 Fastnet Rock 35 15 2
45 Zoustar 98 28 3

There are a couple of major reasons why the number of Australian stallions shuttling north for the new year has dried up, but no doubt the circumstances of the pandemic played their part, with restricted human movement making it harder to get horses across the world.

Reverse shuttling from Australia was largely driven by the two major international players, Darley and Coolmore, with both changing tack in recent times when it comes to their willingness to travel their best-credentialled Australian breeding stock.

Darley, the breeding operation of Godolphin, was quite willing to chance its arm, sending Australian stallions abroad. Of its current residents, Astern travelled to Kentucky for five consecutive years from 2018 to 2022 while Brazen Beau went to Great Britain for four years straight.

In the past decade, former Darley Australia residents Epaulette, Hallowed Crown, Shooting To Win, Sidestep, Sepoy and Helmet, all reverse shuttled.

But for whatever reason, in recent years Darley has opted to keep its foremost Australian-bred stallions at home. Bivouac and Microphone have retained exclusivity in Australia, and so far, to this point, has Anamoe, Godolphin’s most prolific Group 1 winner ever.

It is a similar story for Coolmore, who could have considered shuttling a horse of Home Affairs’ profile.

Coolmore has kept him on home shores, serving huge books at a big service fee. It could have also possibly looked at taking a horse like Everest winner Yes Yes Yes to Ireland.

Of its other current residents, Pride Of Dubai shuttled to Ireland twice from 2017, while New Zealand-bred So You Think had four seasons in Ireland.

Starspangledbanner is an exceptional case, given he has had considerably more success from his northern hemisphere crops (28 stakes winners) than his home base (nine stakes winners).

His greater value to Coolmore in Ireland was made clear when he didn’t come back to Australia in 2022, although he did return in 2023, serving his largest-ever Australian book from Jerrys Plains, having previously had a long residency at Rosemont in Victoria up until 2021.

Starspangledbanner's progeny record

Foaling location Runners Winners Stakes winners
Southern Hemisphere 232 156 9
Northern Hemisphere 403 240 28
Overall 635 396 37

The key to sustained success for Starspangledbanner from Ireland was that he was seen as proven in UK conditions as a dual Group 1 winner in Great Britain while he is by an established reverse shuttler of a similar race profile, Choisir.

The only Australian-bred entire to win a Royal Ascot sprint since Starspangledbanner was another future Coolmore stallion, Merchant Navy, who never shuttled. That lack of travel by Australia’s best sprinters in the past decade is also a factor in the lack of reverse shuttlers.

Two Group 1 wins in Great Britain made Starspangledbanner an attractive stallion prospect for northern hemisphere breeders. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images)

So too is the extraordinary growth of bloodstock values in Australia, which has meant it makes more sense to keep the best sires at home. Of the Australasian-bred stallions currently inside the top 10 on the sire tables, only Zoustar has left the country since 2020.

And Zoustar is an interesting case on whether Widden should persist in reverse shuttling him, even though he has made a bright start with his GB-conceived crops.

He stood for £30,000 in Great Britain in 2023, the equivalent of $58,000, while his 2023 Australian service fee was $220,000. Such a difference is owed to the fact that Widden and Tweenhills waited until he was proven in Australia before reverse shuttling him, but it does put them in an interesting predicament.

They have indicated Zoustar, who has four northern hemisphere-bred stakes winners, including Group 1 winner Lezoo, will return to Great Britain in 2025.

But the basic maths tells us every four foals he has overseas is worth one in Australia.

Added to that is the fact that the average yearling price of Zoustar’s yearlings in the northern hemisphere last year was $70,327 compared to $413,294 in Australia.

So while Zoustar may become a sire of considerable influence in the northern hemisphere, his Australian-bred progeny will always carry substantially more commercial value.

Zoustar's progeny record

Foaling location Runners Winners Stakes winners
Southern Hemisphere 650 487 43
Northern Hemisphere 146 67 4
Overall 796 554 47

Newgate has become an Australian breeding powerhouse over the past five years and boasts considerable American connections, but its current roster shows that none of the 13 Australasian-bred members has reverse shuttled.

The only shuttle stallion at Newgate is Irish-bred Cox Plate winner State Of Rest, a son of Starspangledbanner who had Group 1 success in France and Great Britain as well as in Australia.

Arrowfield Stud has always been renowned for its international approach, particularly when it comes to bringing stallions to Australia.

But the only Australian-bred horse on its 2023 roster to have reverse-shuttled is Snitzel, who had two seasons in Japan - 2007 and 2011.

Australian bloodlines do still have an appeal in the northern hemisphere, just not in the case of reserve shuttle stallions.

There are three Australian-bred stallions permanently domiciled in Ireland - Elzaam, Kuroshio and Barely A Moment.

Elvstroem and Complacent are still active in France, Counterattack is resident in Germany, Helmet in Italy, Epaulette and Fast ‘N’ Famous in Turkey and Scissor Kick in Morocco.