In the Beginnning
The Little Avondale of today claims a proud history from the past, with the third generation of Williams carrying the thoroughbred legacy forward.
Over three decades from 1940, the famed Te Parae property of Alister and Nancy Williams provided the impetus for the modern operation. Check BRED TO WIN for a bit of real thoroughbred history and to see Buzz Williams and father Alister a year or two ago.
Even before Mr and Mrs Williams senior married in 1939, the former Nancy Teschemaker had set the ground rules: without her horses and dogs, she would not be leaving the South Island.
Having gained approval, the young bride arrived on the 1200 acre Williams sheep and beef farm east of Masterton. And with just two mares, one a gift and the other bought for five pounds, she set about creating a dream.
Nancy Williams possessed a superb eye for stock and, in tandem with her husband's ability to read and assess a pedigree, the pair made a lasting impact on the New Zealand thoroughbred scene.
The English mare Sunbride, foaled in 1942 and purchased for 1250 guineas, and the all-time champion stallion Oncidium were their greatest coups.
Nancy Williams saw Sunbride's head poking over a box at Trentham after the mare arrived by ship and purchased her by tender, against advice. But as Alister Williams, a co-founder of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Assn, went on to tell the racing journalist Stan McEwen, she had the last word.
"Sunbride had four filly foals to start with, none of whom had shown any distinction on the racecourse, and at the time was in foal to Faux Tirage.
"I said to my wife, this mare Sunbride has not been much good. I think you should sell her.
"My wife replied: I refuse to entertain any thought of selling Sunbride. When I go broke and I am evicted from Te Parae, Sunbride and I will walk down the road together.
"The foal Sunbride was carrying was the 1957 Melbourne Cup winner Straight Draw and it is to my wife's everlasting credit that she never once said to me 'I told you so.'
" As Sunbride provided the female line to follow, Alister and Nancy's first stallion was the prepotent Sabean, imported from the UK in 1947, followed by the hugely successful duo of Agricola and Oncidium.
Oncidium was a peerless stallion. With six crops racing at the time of his tragically premature death, he topped the Australian and New Zealand three times and produced a legendary roll of honour including Leilani (Caulfield Cup), Taras Bulba (AJC Derby), Dayana (VRC Derby), Gold Brick (AJC Derby), Young Ida (NZ Oaks), Sandarae (VRC Oaks), Grand Cidium (Caulfield Guineas) and Oncidon (Metropolitan Handicap).
Clearly, the Williams' sons Tom and Richard (Buzz) had the opportunity to learn from the best.
"The greatest lesson from my mother was her attention to detail: she was meticulous about everything to do with the horses," says Buzz Williams. "The combination with Dad was unbeatable. The international experts said it couldn't be done but Nancy Williams did it: she produced the perfect yearling.
"Their philosophy was buy the best, breed to the best and hope for the best. It paid off."
Buzz & Susie
When Buzz and Susie married in 1967, followed by Tom's marriage to Gay, Alister and Nancy moved to the 119 acre former dairy farm Little Avondale on the outskirts of Masterton. Their sons continued to run Te Parae in partnership until 1994, with Tom concentrating on the sheep, beef and deer and Buzz taking responsibility for the horses.
Although the family ties would never be broken, fifteen years ago a decision was made to separate the business units. Buzz, Susie, Sam, Anna and George moved with the bulk of the horses to the town property where the breeding operation has flourished.
Initially, the Little Avondale partnership held shares in just two stallions - the mighty Zabeel and Gary Chittick's Centaine. With their original female lines still intact, taking the stud onwards and upwards was a challenge Buzz and family have tackled with relish.
Little Avondale's first stallion was Carolingian, succeeded in 1999 by Towkay, the son of Last Tycoon and Princess Tracy. Zed joined the LA team in 2007. He is from the pre-potent Eight Caret family and by New Zealand's champion sire Zabeel and out of a multiple Group 1 winning Danehill mare in Emerald Dream. Now based with Mark Cochrane at Grangewilliam just north of Whangaui and is enjoying a stellar run with the likes of Group 3 winning 3 Year Olds Survived and Usainity. Per Incanto with the infamous Street Cry bloodline has started off his stallion career brilliantly serving 261 mares in his first two years at stud and has an outstanding first crop of yearlings to front up with at the 2014 Karaka Yearling Sales.
Nadeem, the first Group 1 winning son of Redoutes Choice to stand in NZ. Nadeem covered 87 mares in his first New Zealand book and finished the 2013/13 racing season with eight black type winners to his name equalling Snitzel’s results at the same time in his career and two more than Not a Single Doubt. These horses stand at $49,500 and $33,000 respectively.
Boosting the acreage to 250, setting up the property with appropriate fences and boxes, acquiring new blood to complement the old lines --- it's been a family affair from start to finish, and that's the way Buzz Williams likes it.
"I suppose what I take the most satisfaction is that everyone has got involved including the kids and that's where I've had the biggest thrill: passing on the enthusiasm Mum and Dad gave me. I've been incredibly lucky."
With Sam and Catriona picking up the reins of Little Avondale in 2005, it's clear the traditions laid down by Alistair and Nancy Williams have carried over into the new millennium.
As Sam Williams says, "'Little Avondale, Big on Winning,' might be a new brand but my grandparents' commitment to quality will never change.