International Racehorse Magazine: Backworth Stud

International Racehorse Magazine: Backworth Stud

Backworth Stud, is a boutique Thoroughbred Breeding establishment, owned by Keith Russon and Ian Todd. It is on one of the most beautiful farms in the KZN midlands – a property enjoying sweeping views towards the Southern Berg and South Coast, filled with a depth of history, and that sense of establishment that comes from generations of custodianship.

Upon arrival at Backworth there is a welcoming feeling of warmth and tranquility. There is a surrounding breath-taking beauty, and one senses the attention to detail purpose which reaches from the impeccable facilities, to each paddock housing quality mares with outstanding pedigrees.

Backworth Stud was only established in 2000 – and in just 14 years have achieved immense success, including breeding the likes of Gr1 winning Chocolicous – who recently made the headlines again, foaling a chestnut Frankel filly in New South Wales, Australia. The foal is the first for Chocolicious, a daughter of Kahal.

Chocolicious, out of Candy Box by Exclusive Patriot, raced in South Africa and Dubai. Winning on debut and placing second from just two starts, the brilliant filly went out to win the Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship over 1200m.

Recognising immediate talent, her then trainer Herman Brown sent her overseas to Dubai. She debuted at Meydan eight months later, going on to place in all three starts in Dubai.

A decision was made to bring Chocolicious back to South Africa and immediately she continued her form, seven months later reigniting her South African racing career to place three times before another win.

She placed just two and half lengths off Ebony Flyer in the South African Fillies Sprint (Gr1), and in total achieved six wins with eight places.

Sold to Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, Chocolicious [pictured left with Frankel filly] was sent to the UK and covered by the brilliant Frankel standing his first season at stud, subsequently going on to sell for €400,000 at the Goff’s breeding stock sale in Ireland to Oliver St Lawrence.

Other outstanding achievements for Russon and Todd have been two Gr2 winners – First Again and Colour Of Courage, with multiple Stakes Winners Variometer and Raise The Bar carrying the Backworth flag to victory on numerous occasions.

First Again has returned to Backworth as a broodmare and is due to foal to Irish Flame this season, whilst Colour Of Courage, the first Group winner for his sire Judpot, was sold to Mauritius.

Not only have Backworth Stud produced the likes of the aforementioned, but also the likes of Raise The Bar, Varlet, Variometer, Glitter Star and Devonella. Keith and Ian sold the mare Emperor’s Warning in foal to Kahal, a mating which produced Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes winner Tales Of Bravery.

2012 proved to be a phenomenal year, with the Sporting Post statistics for the top 50 South African breeders of the 2011-2012 season – from just 37 runners – Backworth Stud ended up in 30th place on the National Log with R2,272,386 earnings, earning first position in Places to Runners of 38% and an outstanding percentage of 54% Winners to Runners, in a season which saw many of the progeny Keith and Ian had bred to win a number of Bold Black-Type races across tracks in South Africa.

Their achievements were recognized when they were awarded the KZN Breeders Award for Breeding Achievement in 2012.

Keith has been involved in the breeding industry for 40 years, and is recognized for his talent to raise fast horses. Besides training in horse veterinary, a great love of horses, and a passionate knowledge of pedigrees, he is an astute business man.

Based on previous experiences and learning curves, Keith and Ian chose to keep their farming operation small and hands on. They stand approximately 40 mares, each with classy pedigrees, but are continually investing in upgrading their broodmare band, and purchasing shares and services to the best stallions countrywide.

The result of which is reflecting in increasing successes in both the sales rings and racetracks across South Africa. One also regularly sees the Backworth Stud cream and brown racing colours on courses around the country.

Producing a class thoroughbred that is good legged and a reputation for being sound in training, Backworth’s yearlings consistently achieve high marks on conformation at the annual Yearling Sale inspection.

The 2014 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale saw Backworth sell four yearlings for an enviable average of R568 750 each – the top price of R1-million for an outstanding Silvano colt named Alloy, out of Refined Gold from the immediate damline of Horse Chestnut.

Running a hands on operation with the assistance of Manager Dillyn Brijlal, the mares are brought into their stables every day for feeding and each mare and foal are given plenty of personal attention – Keith points out that a number of trainers have said that Backworth-bred horses are a pleasure to start, own and train, owing to the horses’ easy-going temperaments – but with an internal fire to win.

Keith and Ian also attribute Backworth’s success to the ‘hands on’ way in which their mares and foals are taken care of and reared, in an environment where ‘soul’ is omnipresent.

When questioned about what the key to the ongoing success of Backworth is, Keith has an interesting theory which clearly works for Backworth Stud – not only in the pairing of suitable sires and dams, for conformation and pedigrees. “I like to believe that if you give your mares your best, they will give you their best!”

Backworth Stud is respected in the industry for their professionalism, their commitment, and believing in their branding – “We are worth backing”!

– Written by Candiese Marnewick
Article first appeared in International Racehorse Magazine, October 2014.

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