Cornwall Park Stud, at Toolern Vale on the western outskirts of Melbourne, will be home this upcoming breeding season to debut stallion Johannes Vermeer.

By Galileo, from the Holy Roman Emperor (Ire) mare Inca Princess (Ire), the horse is a stout addition to Victoria’s stallions ranks, and not least to Cornwall Park, which is run these days by Peter Boyle and Lisa Gordon.

The property hasn’t been a commercial breeding entity for decades but has, in its past, stood the likes of G1 Cox Plate winner Our Poetic Prince and G1 Australian Derby winner Ivory’s Irish (Best Western). Cornwall Park’s history is rich, dating right back to the late 1890s.

Boyle and Gordon took hold of the property in July last year after learning of it through a tweet by Ballarat trainer Pat Cannon.

“We were just about to sign for a property in Bulla,” Gordon said. “A friend of Pete’s in the Hunter, Steve Irwin, saw a tweet from Pat Cannon, who had just gone to look at the place, saying what a grand old farm it was going to waste.”

Within hours, the pair was on the road from Sydney to Cornwall Park.

“That was 9 o’clock on the Friday night, and by 10 the following morning we were in the car,” Gordon said. “We met them (the owners) on Sunday, and moved in the following weekend.”

Starting to sparkle

Cornwall Park is leased by Boyle and Gordon from owners Alex and Nicole McIntyre, who purchased it from Sir Donald Trescowthick, of Harris Scarfe fame, in 2019.

Boyle takes the reins with a lifetime of industry experience behind him, having worked at Segenhoe Stud, Byerley Stud and Baerami Thoroughbreds in his time, not to mention time spent at Emirates Park under the tutelage of Trevor Lobb.

Lisa Gordon and Peter Boyle | Image courtesy of Cornwall Park Stud

The couple said that COVID-19 worked in their favour when they moved in last year.

“To be honest, it was the best time for us,” Boyle said. “We had time to clean up before anyone came on the place, because it was pretty rough here.”

“To be honest, it (COVID) was the best time for us. We had time to clean up before anyone came on the place, because it was pretty rough here.” – Peter Boyle

Gordon said the bones of the property were there, but they didn’t really want clients onsite until they had pulled weeds, tidied up and done some sort of facelift.

“It’s a beautiful old place, and there’s been a few hard yards to pull her back together,” Gordon said. “We were surrounded with weeds and mess and garbage, wreck and ruin really. It’s been a lot of work, but she’s starting to sparkle again.”

Gallery: Some of the facilities at Cornwall Park Stud

Johannes Vermeer

The arrival of Johannes Vermeer brings the Cornwall Park stallion roster to five, which is an impressive figure for an operation so new.

Earlier this year, Boyle and Gordon brought four stallions across from the former Rangal Park Stud, with that property’s owner, Eric Buttler, dispersing his operation on account of poor health.

The stallions were the evergreen Danerich, a sire of 10 stakes winners, and Boom TimeCliff’s Edge and Soul Patch. The latter is a son of the emerging sire Shamus Award and will cover only his second book this upcoming season, while Boom Time, a winner of the G1 Caulfield Cup in 2017, will cover his third.

“Soul Patch has let down into a beautiful animal,” Boyle said. “He’s quite a big horse, but he’s balanced with good bone, and Danerich speaks for himself. If he had stood in the Hunter Valley, he could have been anything, but he wasn’t given the great mares and he’s done it all himself.”

Soul Patch | Standing at Cornwall Park Stud

The deal with Rangal Park was done through bloodstock agent Sue Turner-Walsh, with Buttler recognising the potential of Cornwall Park for his stallions.

“They’d looked at other farms, but even (trainer) Kenny Keys had said this was where Soul Patch belonged,” Gordon said. “They were so impressed with the place, and our proximity to the city is something too. We’re probably one of the closest studs to the CBD or any of the metropolitan trainers. The location is really incredible for us.”

The deal to stand Johannes Vermeer this season came about similarly.

The 8-year-old Irish horse, trained in his early career at Ballydoyle by Aidan O’Brien, hasn’t been seen on a racetrack since his last-start fourth in the G2 Blamey S. at Flemington in March 2019. Before that, he’d had three starts in Australia, running second to Gailo Chop (Fr) (Deportivo {GB}) in the G1 Caulfield S. before a third to now barn-mate Boom Time in the 2017 G1 Caulfield Cup.

Johannes Vermeer was then a gallant second to Rekindling (GB) in the G1 Melbourne Cup, downed by just a 0.5l in an O’Brien father-son clash. Rekindling was trained by Joseph O’Brien, returning an historic quinella for Australia’s great race.

Rekindling (GB) (pink cap) and Johannes Vermeer (Ire) (blue cap) in the 2017 G1 Melbourne Cup | Image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

Before all of this, however, Johannes Vermeer was a Group 1-winning 2-year-old in France, winning the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud, and then the G3 International S. at The Curragh as an older horse.

His overall stats boast 16 starts for four wins and a further eight placings. He was off the podium only four times in a career that took him to Ireland, England, France and Australia.

“He had tendon dramas all along,” Boyle said. “In the end, they gave way, and that’s where he’s been at since he last raced. He’ll be standing at Cornwall Park for his syndicate of owners, and I think he’ll do well. They’ll support him heavily, and will be selling a limited number of breeding rights too.”

Johannes Vermeer will debut at $11,000 (inc GST), and he is already getting bookings. Boyle said breeders are interested, and he expects the horse will cover any number around 50 to 80.

Johannes Vermeer (Ire) | Standing at Cornwall Park Stud

“The market down here is starting to look at that stayer’s facade again,” Boyle said, “and what better way than a horse with a pedigree like his. At the end of the day, he was a Group 1 winner as a 2-year-old, as well as a Group-placed three and 4-year-old.”

Physically, the new stallion is letting down from training. He is 16 hands in racing nick, and Boyle was surprised by how robust he was.

“He’s got quite good bone about him for a European horse,” he said.

Galileo gold

With the recent passing of his sire Galileo, Johannes Vermeer’s arrival to the scene is timely. He joins just six other sons of Galileo at stud in Australia in 2021, and they are Adelaide (Ire), Highland Reel (Ire), Amber Grey (Ire), Finn McCool (Ire), Kellstorm (Ire) and shuttler Churchill (Ire).

Of these, only Highland Reel, at Swettenham Stud, is based in Victoria.

Johannes Vermeer was sold to Coolmore ownership as a yearling in 2014, costing €300,000 (AU$483,101) at the Goffs Orby Sale. He has a notable page, being a full brother to the Group 2-winning filly Elizabeth Browning (Ire) and Listed winner Sapa Inca (Ire).

It’s the family of Miletrian (Ire) (Marju {Ire}), the British Champion 3-Year-Old Female Stayer of 2000, and subsequently Shirley Heights (GB). Johannes Vermeer is bred on the Galileo/Danehill (USA) cross that has produced so many exceptional horses in recent times, including Frankel (GB) and Highland Reel, and the brilliant race fillies Minding (Ire) and Love (Ire).

“We’ll give him every opportunity here at Cornwall Park, and hopefully he’ll get good numbers,” Gordon said.

Article Courtesy of TDN