The racing industry lost an unsung hero last week with the sad passing of pedigree expert Diane Neylon. A true treasure to all that study and respect the influence pedigrees have on the Sport of Kings. She will be warmly remembered for recommending some of the finest matings, advising on many successful purchases and offering proven advice on breeding theories throughout her life.
Diane was farewelled by son Mark, daughter Siobhan, her two grandsons Liam, 8 and Edward, 6, her brother Tony and a handful of close friends at her funeral last Friday.
“Having battled breast cancer successfully, unfortunately it was brain cancer that claimed her in the end. Without the restrictions Covid19 has caused, there is no doubt the room would have overflowed with all her friends and associates from her thoroughbred family there in person” close friend Ronda Matthews said. “Her dear friends and clients are proud to be part of Club Neylon – and she will be dearly missed by them all,” Matthews said.
Born on 24th September 1947, Diane Neylon was based in Gin Gin, Queensland, a town inland from Bundaberg.
Diane’s passion and talent were unlocking the secrets in thoroughbred pedigrees. She was a disciple of the famous published New Zealand pedigree expert, the late Harold Hampton, who advised the mating of Bonecrusher. He knew the secret of gender bias and passed it on to Diane. There were some families that she would not buy females from and others only colts. How she worked it out was a secret that she rarely shared.
Diane also worked closely with Clive Harper, known as Harold Hampton’s “interpreter”. Harper was able to analyse a pedigree to six generations and prove conclusively that Group winning pedigrees contain more intricate line-breeding, including sex balance and a higher number of close relatives.
“By studying critical gene pool mass over 20 generations, siblings and the large heart gene, especially on the female side, Diane could get a strong indication of where the genes come in. When you get a critical mass of families and common ancestors, they all come together and say – there you are! I haven’t seen you for a few generations. Let’s have some fun and beat the crap out of the opposition!” Matthews fondly remembers Diane saying.
Impressively, Diane advised the successful matings of and advised the purchase or attempted purchase of the following G1 winners, Private Steer, Racing To Win, Seasons Bloom, Choisir, Pierro, Mongolian Khan, Dark Ksar, Ike’s Dream and All Silent etc.
Diane advised a lot of successful matings but probably none better than Private Steer, the triple G1 winning mare by Danehill Dancer. Private Steer was bred by Randlab founder, Angelis Vasili, out of his Semipalatinsk mare Lisheenowen. Diane intensely recommended the breeding to Victoria’s Collingrove Stud stallion Danehill Dancer.
“She vehemently told Vasili not to sell her, and although she wasn’t much to look at, Diane knew she was going to be a champion,” Matthews said. “She advised another client to have a look at this filly, but he was not impressed. ‘It’s off set, it’s back at the knee on the near side, and its puny’ but Diane knew she was going to be a Champion and convinced her client to buy her paying $18,000.”
After a successful start to her career early on, Private Steer was transferred to John O’Shea and the rest, as they say, is history. At the end of an illustrious career Private Steer had the impressive record of 20 starts for 12 wins and over $3.4million in stakes. Her major wins came in the Doncaster Hcp G1, Stradbroke Hcp G1 and the All Aged Stakes G1. She was later sold at the 2007 Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale where she realised $1.4million for the lucky owners. A great spin on their earlier $18,000 purchase to almost $5million in prizemoney and sale proceeds.
“Diane proudly attended the Doncaster Handicap and recalled Glen Boss saying to her ‘When I asked her to go, it was like she had afterburners. She almost left me behind sitting on the ground. I could not believe the will she had to win!’” Matthews reminisced.
Racing To Win
John O’Shea (who knew Diane through Private Steer) became aware of Diane’s immense pedigree knowledge and asked her to find the best by emerging sire Encosta De Lago at the Inglis Easter sale in 2004 where he knew they’d be a hot commodity. It was days of work and in the end, Diane believed that there was only one worth considering – a grey colt that became known as Racing To Win. John followed her advice and snapped up the colt out of Surrealist from Boscobel Stud, for only $40,000 – the cheapest Encosta De Lago to ever sell at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sales.
Shortly after the purchase of Racing To Win, Diane spoke to the late Trevor Stuckey and advised him that she believed O’Shea had bought a superstar advising him to buy a share. Stuckey took that advice and then some. He bought the whole horse!
Racing To Win finished his career with 30 starts, 13 wins and over $3.7million in earnings including five group 1 wins.
Some years later Steve Jostlear of Ampulla Lodge questioned John O’Shea and asked him directly “did Diane Neylon pick out Racing To Win for you?” O’Shea replied, “sure did, she knows her stuff that lady!”
I Am Invincible
Possibly Diane’s most significant and successful pedigree moment was that she advised the mating to produce the now breed shaping sire, I Am Invincible.
I Am Invincible’s dam, the Canny Lad mare Cannarelle, was bred by Ray Gall and bought by Helen and Mark Kassis as a yearling for $110,000, the top priced filly at the sale. Diane met the couple through the yearling sales and was later asked to recommend a stallion for Cannarelle. Diane steadfastly advised new season sire, Invincible Spirit at Chatswood Stud.
Diane believed in Invincible Spirit’s pedigree before the breeders or anyone else acknowledged it in the Southern Hemisphere. She knew his bloodlines would suit the pedigrees of many broodmares in Australia and New Zealand.
The resulting foal was a stunning colt from day one. Unfortunately, again it was sold as a yearling much to the protests of Diane. Being by a new imported stallion at the time, without Australian results on the board, his magnificent type still earned him enough admirers to fetch $62,500. Knocked down to Toby Edmonds on behalf of his dam’s breeder, Ray Gall.
I Am Invincible had a couple of trainers before Peter Morgan took over and he finished his career with 13 starts, 5 wins, 2 placings and $270,000 in earnings highlighted by his wins in the D C McKay G3, the John Monash G3 and a 2nd to Takeover Target in the Goodwood G1.
“Later when I Am Invincible arrived to stand at Yarraman Park, I fondly remember Diane being up front with Harry Mitchell, telling him that she bred this horse and she knew what mares he should cover. Interestingly, I don’t even think Harry knew who she was, but listened intently. Diane knew that I Am Invincible would be a huge success in this country due to the numbers of mares with pedigree lines to suit”, Matthews remembered.
Steve and Ceri Jostlear – Ampulla Lodge
Ceri explains “We first met Diane in 1999, over 20 years ago. She became a personal friend to us and was a guest at our wedding in 2007. Ampulla Lodge was standing stallions at the time and Diane recommended to some of her clients that their mares should visit our stallions.”
“We stood Super Jet (USA), who ended up a very modest sire, but when Diane sent a mare to Super Jet (USA) – you better take notice! The result of one mating was Skyerush, trained by the late Guy Walter, a near million-dollar earner, dual G2 and G3 winner. Another mare that she advised visit Super Jet (USA) was a mare named Wicked Way who produced The Pentagon. We raced him in partnership and won the 2010 Australian Grand National Hurdle by 8 lengths,” Ceri recalls “and he’s still with us on the farm today being a mentor for our young horses.”
“But it was our buying of weanlings and pin-hooking to yearling sales and Asia where Diane become a huge part of our team. Every year for many years Steve would book her on a plane and fly her down to Ampulla Lodge. It was arranged for a couple of weeks but always ended up a couple of months,” Ceri laughed. “Pedigrees, pedigrees and more pedigrees were the order of the day. A lot of late nights were had at Ampulla discussing the thoroughbred, bloodlines and catalogues. Steve always paid Diane well for her work as quite often she would not get paid by some clients. Steve was always bewildered by some breeders who would spend 50k on a service fee and then squabble over a couple of hundred dollars to get Di’s pedigree analysis. Diane would attend the weanling sales with us each year, we’d book her a room next to ours and go to the sales together looking for the next champion.”
“From our purchases with Diane we have over 85% winners to runners winning over $15million in prize money at an average of $157k per horse in our last 10 crops to race. One such horse was Seasons Bloom.”
“At the Gold Coast in 2013, we found a colt by Captain Sonador from Pyramisa’s Lass, bred by Basil Nolan’s Raheen Stud. On inspection we loved him and when we gave Diane the lot number to research the pedigree – it jumped out at her, we weren’t allowed to leave the complex without him – we had to buy him, securing him for $26,000. He was too small to present at the yearling sales, so we raced him in partnership with friends. Named Le Capitaine, he tasted success at his 2nd start and we subsequently sold him to Hong Kong where he became known as Seasons Bloom. He is now retiring from Hong Kong back to Ampulla Lodge with a record of 31 starts, 8 wins and earnings in excess of A$5million including the HK Stewards Cup G1 and two G2 wins.”
“Other selections include the G2 Sandown guineas & $230k winner So Swift ($7,500 weanling purchase), Black and White the Malaysian Champion 3yo & A$400k ($1,250 weanling purchase), G3 winner & $600k Excites Zelady ($19,000 weanling purchase), Solar Hei Hei HK winner of A$1.5M ($8,500 weanling purchase), Murt The Flirt G3 placed dual Magic Millions winner & $400k ($22,000 weanling purchase), the list goes on and on…”
“Diane was such an integral and valued member of the team at Ampulla Lodge. We were a great team; she was part of the Ampulla brains trust. We would look at the horses, their types and Di would study their pedigrees – together the successes speak for themselves. Her knowledge and expertise will be greatly missed. She taught Steve and I a hell of a lot about pedigrees over a 20-year period for which we are forever indebted to her; we will continue the tradition of pedigree analysis for each of our purchases”
Richard Anderson – Quilly Park
Richard Anderson from Quilly Park and Diane hit it off from the first time they met, as he was also intensely interested in pedigrees. Richard stands the stallion De Gaulle with co- owner John Pratt.
“Richard and Diane were like kindred spirits when it came to pedigrees”, Ronda Mathews said. “Together, they always wanted to find the answer to the intriguing question that we all grapple with – Why is there a will to win in some horses and not others? Why do some horses give their all to win despite adversity and sale toppers with perfect x-rays, can’t run out of sight on a dark night?”
“Diane advised on her 70th Birthday that she wanted to leave a legacy behind for the industry she loved so much, and through Richard her knowledge and research will continue,” Matthews said.
“She was very disciplined with the depth that she looked into a breeding chart. She would not just look at the catalogue page, she would go 7 – 15 generations back. Then she could show you the patterns that emerged. Her pedigree comprehension was entrenched from Harold Hampton. She knew how to find the gems in a family,” Anderson said. “She is still alive in my mind. I can still hear her telling me off and passing on her wonderful knowledge. I hope one day I can credit her with helping me breed the next champion sire.”
Englishman Peter Ebdon, probably better known as a professional snooker player winning the World Championship in 2002 & the UK Championship in 2006, has studied the pedigrees of the most successful horses around the world over the last 30 years. He has identified successful patterns and genetic reinforcements that occur consistently, in the very best racehorses.
He mentions how fortunate he was to be able to study the deliberately designed pedigrees of other professional pedigree consultants and mentions the help and friendship he valued from Diane Neylon.
“It was Diane who introduced me to the work of the great Harold Hampton which led me to developing a passion for thoroughbred pedigrees, which still burns brightly, 30 years later. I now own my own professional pedigree consultancy business in Designer Pedigrees Ltd and that might not have happened, if Diane hadn’t encouraged me, all those years ago,” Ebdon wrote.
“To quote from one of the most successful and intelligent breeders of all time, H.H Aga Khan: ‘Breeding thoroughbreds is like playing chess with nature’.”
RIP Diane Neylon