Neville Begg - The Last Link To Todman

Neville Begg, the former champion trainer and one of Australia’s most respected horseman, may be the only living link to the first Golden Slipper Stakes and its inaugural winner Todman.

The Stanley Wootton-owned Todman won the first Golden Slipper in 1957 and Begg was there as foreman for the brilliant two-year-old’s trainer, the late Maurice McCarten.

Neville Begg
Neville Begg Picture: Racing and Sports

Now 87, Begg was inducted into Australia’s Thoroughbred Hall of Fame in 2016 after a racing career that began more than 70 years ago in 1945 when he started working as a stable boy for McCarten at Randwick.

He spent 22 years with McCarten, rose to be his stable foreman for 10 years and played a pivotal role in Todman’s sensational but all too brief racing career in the late 1950s.

Todman was just one of many champions to pass through the McCarten stable during Begg’s time with the former legendary trainer, also a Hall of Fame member.

Todman Picture: Bronwen Healy

They included the mighty stayer Delta, winner of the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Victoria Derby, Cox Plate winner Noholme, AJC Derby winner Deep River, Caulfield Cup winner Columnist, the champion mare Wenona Girl (27 wins) and the Champagne Stakes winner Farnworth.

Begg was 36 when he took up training at Randwick in his own right in 1967 and soon became the major rival to the dominance of Tommy Smith as Sydney’s champion trainer. Begg never won a premiership but he did finish second to Smith nine times during the height of their rivalry in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Begg is credited with winning 139 stakes races including 39 Group One events. His outstanding winners included Australian Horse of the Year Emancipation (19 wins, 6 G1s), Divide And Rule (AJC Derby), Dark Eclipse (Golden Slipper), Dalmacia (Epsom Handicap), November Rain (VRC Oaks, AJC Oaks, QTC Oaks), Veloso (Spring Champion Stakes) and Heat Of The Moment (Chipping Norton Stakes, George Ryder Stakes).

Begg was renowned for his skill and care with fillies and mares – he won 10 Oaks classics around Australia – and counted many leading breeders and studs among the clients of Baramul Lodge, the Randwick stables he named in respect to Todman’s owner Stanley Wootton and the famed stud where the colt was bred.

In 1990 at the age of 60 Begg left Randwick for a training stint in Hong Kong, passing the baton at Baramul Lodge to his son Grahame. One of six Begg children, Grahame had been his father’s right-hand man since he was teenager.

Returning home to Australia and retirement from training in 1996, Neville Begg has maintained an active interest in the racing industry as a successful owner and breeder.

That involvement turns full circle for the octogenarian as we head towards this year’s Golden Slipper at Rosehill on Saturday week.

In what may prove to be the crowning glory of Neville Begg’s illustrious racing life, he is the breeder and head of the ownership syndicate that includes his wife Yvonne that is racing the Blue Diamond Stakes winner Written By.

Unbeaten in three starts, Written By is fittingly trained by his son Grahame. The impressive colt is the horse that has put the former Sydney resident back on the map as a Group One trainer following his move to Victoria almost three years ago.

Written By wins the Blue Diamaond
Written By wins the Blue Diamaond Picture: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

After his father left Randwick in 1990 Grahame Begg carried on the family training tradition at Baramul Lodge with a decade of notable success featuring Group One winners Telesto, Eye Of The Sky, Fraternity, Bonanova, Whisked and Mahaya.

He also set a standard for Australian trainers by winning the Hong Kong International Bowl twice in the 1990s with Monopolize and went on to enjoy more G1 success in Australia with Secret Admirer (Epsom Handicap, Flight Stakes), I Love This City (Randwick Guineas) and All Silent (Patinack Farm Classic, Emirates Stakes).

However Grahame Begg had not trained a G1 winner since 2011 when, in 2014, he decided to relinquish the Randwick stables that had been in the family for 47 years and take a break from the pressures of racing.

His return to racing in 2016 saw him shun Sydney for Victoria, resuming his training career in low key mode at Pinecliff, a private training facility near Mount Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula.

Grahame Begg
Grahame Begg Picture: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

He is now firmly back in the spotlight with Written By, a colt close to his heart as, in similar vein to his father’s connection with Todman, he looked after Written By’s sire Written Tycoon and dam Yau Chin when they were members of his Sydney stable.

While the Beggs are well accustomed to dealing with elite blueblood bloodstock Written By is very much a fairytale story for the family.

He is by Written Tycoon, a boom sire that Grahame Begg selected as a $50,000 yearling and trained to become a Group 2 winner, while his dam Yau Chin was found by Neville Begg in a country sale catalogue and cost him a meagre $3000 as a yearling.

Yau Chin was purchased by Neville Begg at the Scone Yearling Sale in 2007 and was trained by Grahame Begg for one win over 1200m at Newcastle from 10 race starts.

The plainly-bred daughter of Tobougg has since become broodmare gold for Neville Begg with Written By the best of the four winners she has produced from her first four foals since her retirement to stud.

Fortuitously for the Begg clan Written By was retained by Neville Begg after the colt failed to make his reserve of $200,000 when he was offered for sale as a yearling at the Melbourne Premier Sale in 2017.

Reared on Huntworth Stud near Cootamundra in NSW, he was offered through the draft from Basinghall Farm at Nagambie in Victoria and went unsold when the bidding stalled at $180,000.

That was the second stroke of good fortune for the family as Yau Chin had earlier been offered for sale by Neville Begg while in foal to Written Tycoon. She went through the ring at a winter bloodstock sale in Melbourne in 2015 and was retained by Begg after falling $5000 short of her $70,000 reserve.

A few months later, in the spring of 2015, Yau Chin produced the colt that is Written By.

He is now a multi-million sire prospect following brilliant wins in each of his three starts in Victoria and arrives in Sydney seeking to be only the sixth youngster to complete the Blue Diamond Stakes-Golden Slipper double and the first since Sepoy in 2011.

It would be an achievement of massive proportions for Grahame Begg given his connection to the colt’s sire Written Tycoon.

A Queensland-bred son of the late sire Iglesia, Written Tycoon went to stud after a racing career groomed by Begg after he had purchased the colt for $50,000 for new stable clients out of the 2004 Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast.

Written Tycoon won two of his first three starts for Begg including the G2 Todman Stakes to earn a start in the 2005 Golden Slipper Stakes. His Slipper chances were dashed by a wide barrier draw, finishing 11th behind Stratum.

Written Tycoon was later at the centre of an ownership collapse. In the fallout he was transferred from Begg to fellow Randwick trainer John O’Shea and went on to race only four more times for one placing before his retirement.

At stud Written Tycoon’s achievements have far surpassed his racing record.

They include being Australia’s Champion First Season Sire in 2010/11 and Champion 2YO Sire in Australia in 2015/16. Written By is his fifth Group One winner and his popularity with breeders has grown year on year to the extent that he covered 166 mares in 2017 on a service fee of $88,000.

Written Tycoon’s best son to date is the 2016 Golden Slipper Stakes winner Capitalist, who retired with world record earnings for a 2YO. He is now at stud along with Written Tycoon’s other notable Group-winning sons Rich Enuff and Winning Rupert.

Written Tycoon
Written Tycoon Picture: Racing and Sports

There is also a Golden Slipper link on Written By’s female side. His dam Yau Chin is out of Tillia’s Daughter, a Umatilla mare bred from Dilemma, a daughter of the 1985 Golden Slipper winner Rory’s Jester.

When Written By won the Blue Diamond Stakes he became the first Group One winner bred and owned by Neville Begg in some 50 years of breeding from his own mares.

Due to his age Begg watched Written By’s Blue Diamond win on television from his Sydney home but you can be sure he will at Rosehill to lead the colt back to scale should he win the race that first touched him with Todman some 61 years ago.

It’s what golden racing memories are all about.

Racing and Sports

Chris Scholtz

Managing Director Tronta Media P/L; Contributing Editor Racing & Sports
Chris is an award winning racing media professional working in the print, radio and online mediums since 1971 and managing director of his own racing industry media company since 1988. He has covered all of Australia’s major racing carnivals, numerous international events and is widely recognised as a leading form assessor and race analyst. Chris brings his passion for racing to as its contributing editor since its launch in 2000.