Special Chapter looms for Raheen Stud family
Chapter And Verse has pocketed $966,325 in prizemoney and could land another $580,000 if he's successful at Saturday's Magic Millions, but his worth and sentimental value extends many moons beyond what money he earns.
The five-year-old son of Rothesay was bred by the Nolan family of Raheen Stud, which has 11 horses catalogued to be sold at the Gold Coast Yearling Sale over the next week.
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Like almost everyone on the land, Raheen's owners Basil and Di Nolan watched on with dismay as the drought ravaged rural Australia in 2019.
"2019 takes the cake. We had eight inches (of rain) at Raheen. We've been there quite a while and the lowest I can ever remember is 14 (inches). It's by a long way the worst I've seen it," Basil said.
"It's marvellous how people have coped. We're a fairly resilient bunch farmers, obviously you've got to be. But people are really doing it tough.
"I'm probably blessed that I do have a few distractions that get me away from it, but a lot of people don't have those distractions.
"To get away to a sale and see that everybody else is in the same boat, it's a bit of a help."
While the drought has baked the farm over the past 12 months, it was nothing compared to Melbourne Cup Day 2018, as tragedy struck the family when Basil and Di's son, Basil Jr, died in a farm accident aged 45.
Junior was admired across the industry, the friendly, happy face at the sales who took great pride in all of Raheen's successes.
His father described him as "the backbone of Raheen Stud" and said he "kept the farm running like clockwork."
Now, the four children he had with wife Natalie - Basil (16), Lily (14), James (11) and William (8) - are carrying on the family tradition at Raheen, part of their grandparents' team at the sales, riding every high and low the breeding industry brings.
"For them to be here and want to be part of it, that's the driving force for Di and I," Basil said.
"To have them here and have them interested and wanting to be involved, it's marvellous.
"We've never forced any of them and neither did Basil force any of them to be in it either, they just followed him and wanted to be in the business.
"We're pretty proud of them."
Young Basil describes working for his grandad as "pretty tough, but he's fair".
"It's a family experience. We all get in and try and do our best. Present the horses as nice as we possibly can and hopefully get top dollar for them," he said.
Lily, who rides on the farm with her brothers, says she has thought about continuing at the farm when she's older, while James is like a little marketing manager, all business as he proudly showcases the Raheen brand.
"The sales are great. You are always learning off Grandad and seeing all the people coming to look at your horses is fantastic," he says.
"I think it's going to be a good sale. We've been pretty busy, which is a good sign."
The Nolan family does not share in the ownership of Chapter And Verse, but they are still very much part of the story. He carries the distinctive "N" brand on his left shoulder and was a horse Basil Junior always had a special link to.
"Young Baz was a big part of so many of these horses I've got," trainer Desleigh Forster noted after Chapter And Verse won soon after his passing.
"He's reared them and been there the whole way through … it was nothing for him to ring me on the way home from the races and just chat about the horses."
Naturally when Chapter And Verse won last year's Magic Millions QTIS race, the tears flowed freely, as they will if he happens to be successful again on Saturday.
So how confident are the young Nolans of success?
Basil is circumspect, simply saying "I hope so" when asked if he will win, but James didn't hesitate.
"Yes!" he beamed, without a hint of uncertainty.
His grandad, learned through years of hard luck stories and prior to that as a bookmaker, is more circumspect.
"He will have a good horse's weight. Luck in running and draws and all those sort of things come into play, but Desleigh's got him going well," he said.
"You always aspire to win a race Magic Millions Day. Because Magic Millions have been so good to Raheen over the years and it's always very good to be there and win one."