As negotiators try to secure the release of prized stallion Churchill Downs, which was bred by John Singleton, 30 more horses have been stolen.
As negotiators try to secure the release of prized stallion Churchill Downs, which was bred by John Singleton, 30 more horses have been stolen.

30 more horses stolen with prize stallion

The horse stud in Libya from which John Singleton's former prized stallion Churchill Downs was stolen on the weekend has suffered another cruel blow with terrorists returning to abduct the remaining 30 horses.

Golden Slipper placegetter Churchill Downs was snatched by armed gunmen in a bloody 14-hour raid on Libya's premier thoroughbred farm, Al Shaab Stud, on Saturday evening.

The terrorists also made off with five other stallions - including Brut Force, a son of 1999 Melbourne Cup runner-up Champagne, and the former Gai Waterhouse-trained Backdraft - and a dozen pregnant mares leaving 30 horses behind. Until they came back to finish the job on Wednesday.

"The situation here is worse," distraught Al Shaab owner Dr Amad Ashaab said.

"They came back and took the remaining horses."

Prized stallion Churchill Downs, pictured in 2006, was abducted in Libya. Picture: Erica Harrison
Prized stallion Churchill Downs, pictured in 2006, was abducted in Libya. Picture: Erica Harrison

Dr Ashaab had held out hope that a negotiated safe return of the horses, including Churchill Downs, was possible, but that optimism is fading.

"I still hope,'' he said. "But there has been no contact.''

Nigerian workers had been sneaking in food and water to the remaining horses at Al Shaab, according to Dr Ashaab.

Churchill Downs, along with a handful of other Australian-bred stallions, had been caught up in an increasingly bloody civil conflict in Libya for months before being stolen.

There was good news for the blue blood offspring of Churchill Downs on Wednesday at the picturesque country track at Yarra Valley.

An outsider with the bookies, Dash For Dee, an Australian-bred seven-year-old son of Churchill Downs, was booted home for victory by champion jockey Brad Rawiller in a 1950m race at the country Victoria track.

Dash for Dee wins the United Petroleum BM58 Handicap at Yarra Valley Racecourse on January 8. Picture: Ross Holburt/Getty
Dash for Dee wins the United Petroleum BM58 Handicap at Yarra Valley Racecourse on January 8. Picture: Ross Holburt/Getty

The timing of the raid is sadly ironic with the Magic Millions Yearling Sale currently underway on the Gold Coast given that is where Churchill Downs first came to prominence.

Bred by Singleton at his Strawberry Hills Stud, Churchill Downs was the talk of the 2005 sale - eventually going for $950,000.

Singleton retained a share in the stallion, which returned to the Gold Coast 12 months later to finish runner-up in the rich Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) with reigning Melbourne Cup winning jockey Craig Williams in the saddle.

In the autumn of 2006, Darren Beadman rode Churchill Downs to a third place in the Golden Slipper - the world's richest two-year-old race. He finished behind Miss Finland, who was part owned by Singleton's great friend, broadcaster Alan Jones.

Churchill Downs retired to stud in 2007, covering 541 mares up until his last season in Australia in 2011.

He was exported to Libya in 2012 with a view to adding some world class bloodlines to their fledgling thoroughbred industry.

Dr Ashaab founded Al Shaab Stud and has been the driving force behind efforts to build and maintain a thriving thoroughbred industry in Libya. He regularly attended sales on the Gold Coast to acquire horses to take back to his farm near Tripoli.