Above: Cluster standing at Larneuk Stud
Neville Murdoch admits his phone hasn’t been ringing off the hook in recent weeks, but was happy on Sunday when he took a call from a breeder who booked in five broodmares for stallions at his Larneuk Stud.
The mares will be split between Murdoch’s four stallions – Cluster, O’Lonhro, Last Typhoon and Wolf Cry.
He says Cluster will get two of the mares, while the other stallions will have one each.
A couple of winners in recent days has kept the Cluster name in conversations with breeders looking for a stallion capable of producing winners at an affordable service fee.
Cluster, by Fastnet Rock and out of Tarcoola Diamond (Last Tycoon/Potent) produced Righthere Rightnow for trainer Henry Dwyer at Tatura on the weekend. Bred by Larneuk Stud, it was the four-year-old mare’s second victory from 11 starts.
Caulfield trainer Gemma Rielly has a big opinion of Cluster filly Tarcoola Diva which broke her maiden status at Geelong on Friday at the three-year-old’s fifth start. She ran second at Caulfield as a two-year-old and finished six of 16 at her next start in The Showdown.
Tarcoola Diva was bred by Ken Williams of Tarcoola Stud who races the three-year-old filly with family and friends.
Williams explains that he raced Cluster’s mother Tarcoola Diamond which he had bought as a weanling and she went onto win five races, including the Listed Great Western (1400m) at Flemington.
“I then had a number of foals out of her and because the tax department was after me for not making any money, I decided I’d better sell her to make a profit for the stud that particular year,” he said.
“When I sold her she was in foal to Fastnet Rock and what came out of that was Cluster. She was sold to the Moran family and we say bred him but in the stud book it obviously says the Moran family bred it.
“They only got the mare and the foal right at the end. We did all the matings and I was glad to see that they did go back to Fastnet Rock a bit later and got a stakes placed filly (Miss Que).”
Williams said he had sent a couple of mares to Cluster, a Group 2 winner of the Theo Marks (1400m), because of his association with the horse.
“We DNA mate and we were comfortable with the matings,” he said.
“We have got another (Cluster) filly, Quality Diamond running around and she hasn’t won a race but is a bit like this filly and has shown a lot of ability but can’t get out of her own way.
“But the other filly has been thrown into the deep end a bit.”
Williams said Tarcoola Diva, from Explosive Cross (Bernardini/El Tornedo) which he also bred and raced, was an unbelievable type of horse. He said he’d bred a lot of horses, including Groups 1s, but the filly would be one of the nicest he has ever bred on type.
He bred multiple winner Diamond Jim (Encosta De Lago), A-Spirit (Flying Spur) which went to Hong Kong and Crystal Spur (Flying Spur) from Tarcoola Diamond. Cluster was the fourth foal out of the mare.
“I sold Crystal Spur and she ended up with a Zoustar selling in New Zealand for nearly half a million bucks,” he said.
Williams said Tarcoola Diva would get a chance of earning some black type in the coming weeks.
Tarcoola Diamond was sold for $430,000 at the 2010 Inglis Australian Broodmare Sale.
Murdoch said having a couple of winners would certainly help Cluster and create some discussion with breeders who hadn’t yet decided where they’d be taking their mares this season.
“We’re flying here, don’t worry about that,” he said.
“I am very happy with him and he’s a horse who is getting along nicely so we are not complaining.”
Murdoch admits that COVID-19 and its effect on the economy had created some uncertainty in tough times.
“It’s not brilliant but having said that I had two more bookings made on Saturday and one called through on Sunday morning,” he said.
“And it’s not late. Everyone is thinking it’s late but it’s not. Most horses haven’t even foaled yet so it will keep continuing for us all the way through.
“The one who called on Sunday has got five mares and is talking about coming up. And another guy has booked into O’Lonhro and they are coming along slowly.”
Things were quiet for Murdoch last week but says it took off again over the past few days.
“But we’ll be right,” he said.
“It’s interesting with the way things are with the economy and it’s going to be tough but I think a lot of people are only starting to think about foaling now. Mares are starting to foal down and they are thinking their mare is going to foal in the next three or four weeks.”
Murdoch said the smaller studs and the breeders who supported them were different to the bigger operations.
He said Cluster, which served 64 mares in his first season in 2015 and 34 last year, would hopefully draw attention to himself by producing more winners.
“Tarcoola Diva has a bit of smartness about her and has been quite good,” Murdoch said.
“She has been up among all the good horses having a go.
“She was bred by Tarcoola Stud and they have been pretty happy.
Murdoch said Cluster was a good stallion with a nice pedigree and had a lot going for him.
“He’ll be good and we’ll just keep kicking,” he said.
“This time of the year it helps to a have a couple of winners and he has a few more going around.
“Greg Eurell has a couple of mine by Cluster which will be poking out soon, so we’re going good. He has got some Cluster’s down there and had a couple trials the other day.
“No one is saying they are going to be superstars, but you have to get them rolling first and until you get them to the racetrack you don’t know.
“Greg has got half a dozen of them down there.”
While Murdoch said he thought Cluster’s progeny would be three-year-olds and above, the stallion had two-year-olds running around last year.
“He has had two-year-olds again this year and from his first season he had a stakes placed horse in Tasmania which was a two-year-old.”
Murdoch said while the Clusters could run as two-year-olds, he was unsure of what Eurell would produce from the six he has by the stallion.
He said it was difficult to make an assessment at the moment.
With four stallions on the roster at Larneuk, Murdoch said O’Lonhro and Cluster at this stage have been the best supported.
He said Wolf Cry and Last Typhoon both had two-year-olds on the ground this year and once they started running, people would warm to them.
“Matt Cumani has got a really lovely Last Typhoon over there,” Murdoch said.
“And Ben Brisbourne up at Wangaratta has one that trialled up there last week and it won.
“The Last Typhoon’s are two-year-olds and you never know where they are going to come from, you just don’t know.
“We just get them on the track and let them do the talking.”
While Murdoch said they don’t get the commercial mares lobbing at his Euroa stud, he has bought some nice mares in recent years.
“We have paid 50, 60, and 70 grand for some mares so we are happy,”” he said.
Murdoch said it just takes time to get them all rolling along.