There are a lot of people who believe luck plays a major role in producing elite racehorses. George Altomonte is not one of those people.
The owner of Corumbene Stud, Altomonte achieved a lifelong dream earlier this year when Overreach, the Exceed And Excel filly he bred and owns, won the $3million G1 Golden Slipper at Rosehill.
“To win the Golden Slipper is the pinnacle for any breeder and it was certainly the biggest thrill I have had in racing,” Altomonte said.
Meticulous in his planning for the matings of his mares, Altomonte believes the win of Overreach in the Golden Slipper stemmed from hard work, as opposed to what some would deem simply good luck.
“If you want to get the breeding of your horses right, you have to put the work in,” he said.
“I believe luck probably only accounts for five to 10 per cent of it.
“I put a lot of time in to selecting the right stallion for each of my mares.”
It is hard to argue with Altomonte’s breeding theories, after all, it was only five years ago the Corumbene Stud-bred Sebring won the Golden Slipper (pictured below). Whilst Sebring was sold as a yearling for $130,000, the achievement of a farm with just 30 to 35 broodmares to produce two Golden Slipper winners in the space of five years is nothing short of phenomenal.
Altomonte’s first exposure to horses came growing up in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, where his father used Clydesdale horses in his market gardening business.
The foresight and dedication Altomonte shows in his breeding of thoroughbreds has been just as evident in his business life. After finishing school, he did an apprenticeship and became a qualified motor mechanic.
In 1956, at the age of 20, Altomonte opened his first motor repair shop in Chatswood. Just 12 months later he opened his second, this time in Gordon.
Business continued to grow rapidly and in the late 1960s Altomonte’s Alto Group opened its first Ford dealership. Such was the success of the dealership, the Alto Group has continued to grow and now employs 500 people.
It was around the same time of opening his first Ford dealership that Altomonte began breeding horses at his property in Branxton at the Southern end of NSW’s Hunter region. However, he was not breeding horses to grace the racetrack, instead the polo fields and camp drafting arenas.
“I stood the first ever registered stock horse stallion Cecil Bruce,” Altomonte said.
“He was a very well-regarded stallion who stood for around $500 per serve and he would cover 50 to 60 mares a year.”
In the early 1970s, Altomonte switched his horse breeding attention from stock horses to thoroughbreds. In 1978 he purchased a 12,500 acre property at Dunedoo in the upper Hunter Valley, of which 700 acres was developed to become the thoroughbred breeding nursery of Corumbene Stud.
“The first G1 horse I bred was Paris Opera who was bought by Tommy Smith,” Altomonte said.
Paris Opera finished second to Courtza in the Golden Slipper in 1989, beginning Corumbene Stud’s affinity with the world’s richest two-year-old race.
In 2003, the Corumbene Stud-bred-and-owned Hasna finished third in the Golden Slipper to Polar Success before going on to win the G1 Sires’ Produce and G1 Champagne Stakes and claim Champion two-year-old honours.
The stud has built up an enviable record with young horses, having also produced G1 Blue Diamond winner True Jewels; Wager, who was runner-up three times at G1 level as a juvenile; and Gimcrack Stakes winner Donna Natalia.
“I have always concentrated on breeding sprinter-milers and I have never tried to breed distance horses,” Altomonte said.
“I have always tried to breed winners too. There are two ways you can breed. One is for the market and the other is for winners and I always mate them to win.”
Each year Altomonte compiles his own one page report on around 50 stallions from which he comes up with a short list of 20 stallions to breed to that particular season. He then forwards his short list on to three trainers and a bloodstock consultant for their views before finalising his matings. It is a thorough process and one that is quite clearly paying dividends.
“It is a task I have to do without interruptions so I plan to do it on weekends and the actual time taken would be five or six days.”
Despite all his significant accomplishments with horses, Altomonte has no doubt Overreach is his finest achievement yet. Overreach was just reward for the hours spent on selecting Exceed And Excel as the perfect mate for his unbeaten Snippets mare Bahia.
“I have always liked Exceed And Excel,” he said.
“He’s got a strong mare line, was a great racehorse and he is a very nice looking horse.
“My view is he will continue to go on and produce really good stock.”
Bahia is a daughter of the Rory’s Jester mare Miss Prospect, making her a half-sister to Exceed And Excel’s first G1 winner Reward For Effort.
“She was out of Miss Prospect and Reward For Effort had won that year’s Blue Diamond so you could see that it just clicked.”
An outstanding filly from day one, Overreach impressed Altomonte so much on type as a young horse he sent Bahia back to Exceed And Excel and has a weanling brother to his star filly.
“Generally we keep our fillies and sell our colts but he won’t be sold,” he said.
Altomonte is now looking forward to the Spring with Overreach, pictured above winning the G1 Golden Slipper.
“She is not a big filly but she is strong and they don’t have to big to be able to run,” he said.
“She has enjoyed her spell and strengthened up and will go back in about a month.”
In the meantime, the hard work has begun for Altomonte as he once again searches long and hard for the mating that can provide him with his next Overreach.
Story courtesy of Darley
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