Racing is all about passion, history, tradition and family, which are the sentiments that breeders Lyn Armanasco and John Dickson share.
The daughter of the late and great trainer, Angus Armanasco, under the famous name of Sandown Lodge, Lyn in partnership with John Dickson continue the legacy started by their fathers in 1965.
Alf Dickson and Angus Armanasco were best mates and had raced horses together for years.
In 1962, they bought a yearling over in Adelaide called Munich who became a champion two and three-year-old. Being a stallion, Alf was adamant that together they would start a stud and Sandown Lodge was born.
Although the original land was lost many years ago to housing estates, Sandown Lodge continued to operate successfully at Narre Warren and then Pakenham, but when Lyn and John took over the reins in 2000, Alf wasn’t well, and Angus had retired.
“John and I didn’t want to run a commercial stud, and sold the property, but the name Sandown Lodge lives on today through our breeding interests. We retained a dozen of our best mares, and over the last 17 years we have ensured that their valuable bloodlines continue,” Lyn said.
Lyn has many wonderful childhood memories from her time around her father and the racehorses.
“When we were based at Mentone in the early days, Dad used the local beach to train his horses. There is a photo of me as a toddler, getting my dress wet, with Jovial Lad ridden past in the background, which made the front page of the Sun!”
“I grew up at Caulfield, and the racecourse was like my backyard. I got into trouble for picking flowers on the course for my mum. I was only eight and thought it was a lovely thing to do, but I was chased off the land by the grounds-men, and poor mum never did get her flowers.”
Being born into racing, Lyn was interested in horses from an early age and enjoyed helping out in the stables.
“I would help bring the horses in from the yards, and dad would tell me which box to put them in. I grabbed True Version, our most famous Sandown Lodge galloper and as I came in he reared up. Being quite small, he lifted me straight off the ground, so I gave him a good yank to tell him off. Dad yelled at me over the stables, “Be careful with that horse, he’s valuable”, to which I yelled straight back, “I’m your only child, and I’m pretty bloody valuable too!” All the stable-hands cracked up laughing, and Dad blushed and said: “sorry, kid.”
Lyn never did aspire to be a jockey herself though, blaming all the early mornings rides when she was young, putting her off for good.
“When I was only 12 and 13 years, Dad would wake me up if a jockey hadn’t turned up in the morning and say “Hey kid, we need you to come and ride a horse. He would get me out of bed before school and plonk me on a galloper. I must admit I was never any good at following Dad’s instructions in the mornings, because I was still half asleep, and I would complain the whole way around!”
“I loved going to the races though and attended almost every Caulfield Cup during that time. I recall Dad winning the first Blue Diamond in 1971 with Tolerance. His trainer’s prize was a pair of diamond cufflinks, and I remember Mum saying “Angus, you always lose your cufflinks, so she took them off him, took them into Prouds and had them made into a ring.”
Lyn still proudly wears the original trophy ring when she attends the Blue Diamond today, on which the Group 2 Angus Armanasco Stakes is held.
True Version proved to be a valuable racehorse indeed and stood at stud at Sandown Lodge in Pakenham. In the season of 85/86, he claimed the Standish, the VRC Sires Produce, the Champagne Stakes at Randwick and the QTC Sires Produce as well as the inaugural running of the Australian Guineas. True Version was undoubtedly the best-performed product of Sandown Lodge as breeders.
Armanasco and Dickson had further success standing The Judge, the sire of his Blue Diamond and 5 time Group 1 winner Zeditave, and having trained Star Kingdom, Biscay and Bletchingly for Stanley Wooton, they also stood Star of Heaven.
“We wanted to continue what our Dads had started, and we know that our Dads would be looking down and smiling on us,” Lyn said.
“John and I work so well together, and we are both equally involved in the pedigrees and discuss our matings plans for the future. It’s very much the way our dads operated; we just click.”
“I like to say that John is “my business partner, my best friend and the little brother I never had,” Lyn said.
Having bred many successful gallopers, their current pin-up is the sprinting superstar Malaguerra who will run in the Group 1 Darley Classic this Saturday at Flemington.
“Malaguerra was the last foal from our good mare Tennessee Morn, who produced Nella Dane, Don’t Get Excited and Elle’s Decree. Elle’s Decree was named after John’s daughter, who declared at the sales at the age of 7 that we were not allowed to sell a filly, we must keep the fillies! – hence the name.”
Lyn and John have been breeding with Swettenham Stud for the last four years, and are thrilled with their foals on the ground.
“We have a magnificent Toronado yearling going through the Swettenham draft at Premier next year that we are very excited about. Out of our well-performed mare, Enzed Girl, she also has a beautiful Toronado foal at foot.
“Our Toronados are the cream of our crop, we are so very pleased with them, and she will quite possibly be heading back to Toronado again.”
“We have also had great results with our horses sold through Swettenham. They have all been turned out professionally and beautifully presented. We sold a Stratum colt from Enzed Girl colt for $130,000, that was a terrific result as we would have been happy with $40,000 or $50,000,”
The Dickson-Armanasco families celebrate over 60 years racing and breeding horses together at Sandown Lodge, and gather annually for the running of the Sandown Lodge fillies and mares race, held at Pakenham for over 30 years.
“Our families are destined to continue breeding together through the next generation, with my little eight-year-old granddaughter and John’s son James, equally passionate about their horses.”
“They get on so well together, and when at the races they go through the fields and discuss all the runners. Although too young to bet, they tipped the winner in every race.”
“It would be just wonderful to see them continue our fathers legacy.”