Upper Hunter Country

Upper Hunter Country

This year marks the 35th year since Elizabeth Park’s iconic Mare and Foal statue was unveiled and the occasion was fittingly celebrated at the August Scone Country Markets with the theme the ‘Horses’ Birthday’.

The statue was unveiled on 3 March, 1982 by the Hon Eric Bedford and cost about $75,000, commissioned by local horse breeders to ‘promote Scone as the leading horse breeding centre in Australia’ as a ‘wonderful tourist attraction to give pleasure to the many people who see it’.

Gabriël Sterk, the Dutch born artist who created the sculpture in his foundry in Adelaide, was contacted by Upper Hunter Shire Council’s Tourism and Events Coordinator, Jan Sinclair.

Gabriël now lives and works in France’s Aix-en-Provence and in his reply email wrote “During 1980, the horse breeders of the Upper Hunter Valley approached the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney with the hope to find an equestrian artwork to promote the Upper Hunter Valley region. Mr David Archibald learned about my work and my equestrian work appealed to him. He asked me if I could do a life size mare and foal for Scone.

“I accepted the commission by phone. It took me a year to finish the statue in plaster, but the contract hadn’t been signed. When the horse breeders learned the statue was interesting other people, they took a little private plane to Adelaide and when they saw the statue finished in plaster they did not take long to decide to sign the purchase contract. Scone nearly missed out!” Gabriël said.

Gabriël’s reply email arrived on the eve of the Horses’ Birthday markets.

“I was so thrilled to hear back from Gabriël and his story on the commission of our wonderful sculpture,” Jan Sinclair said. “Tourists love the sculpture and often ask for more information about its origins and creator so it’s great to know first-hand how it all came about. Gabriël’s timing was perfect and tied in really well with our market day theme on Saturday.”

With spring already on the horizon and the current lovely warm weather, the September markets will have a ‘Spring into Spring’ theme. Markets are held the second Saturday of each month, Saturday 9 September will be the next market.

For more information or to apply for a stall contact the Scone VIC on 6540 1300 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and to find out more about Gabriël Sterk see

Wayne Bedggood


Published in News
Monday, 31 July 2017 15:31

Scone - Horse Capital of Australia

The origins of the Upper Hunter Valley’s thoroughbred breeding industry date back to the early 1800’s when the first settler and horse breeder George Bowman chose to live and breed horses in the Hunter Valley.

Scone has long been known as the home of thoroughbred racing and breeding in Australia with legends like Makybe Diva being trained right here on local soil.

The area is well known across the world for producing some of the finest in the industry. 

Newmarket in England, Kentucky in the USA, and Scone in the Upper Hunter together form the nucleus of a fascinating industry.

Every farm is a working business. Some are family-owned and operated for many generations. Others private businesses or part of world-leading and world-renown operations. All have a unique story to tell, from their history and heritage to its architecture

The world's most dominant thoroughbred operations - the Irish-owned Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Darley - have large scale permanent bases in the Upper Hunter, and other international investor's include Sheikh Hamdan, his Excellency Nasser Lootah who owns Emirates Park at Murrurundi, the Sangster family and others.

The calibre of thoroughbred horses in the Hunter was highlighted with the wine of Scone bred Shocking in the 2009 Melbourne Cup.

Bred and born at Ilala Stud, by George and Felicity Fraser, Shocking further cemented Scone in the history of one of the world's most prestigious horse racing events.

Australian-owned farms more than hold their own against international competition with Arrowfield, just outside Scone on the Gundy Rd, the leading Australian-owned farm - and among the world's top thoroughbred operations with three generations of Champion Australian Sires, Danehill, Redoute's Choice and Snitzel. 

Other notable studs include Vinery, Yarraman Park and Segenhoe.

But don’t take our word for it. Come on up! And see it for yourself. It will be an experience you will never forget.

All visitors are invited to experience for themselves the hidden beauty and magic of our stud farms their history and heritage and the champion horses they produce.

Visitors are welcome at our studs but you must book ahead. To arrange a visit or tour please contact Upper Hunter Country Tours and Events on 0475 080 370 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that we can arrange a memorable experience.

Published in Attractions

2017 Country Championships

Launched in 2015, the inaugural Country Championships proved a resounding success for the racing industry and generated unprecedented interest and coverage.

An initiative of Racing NSW and supported by the Government of NSW, The Country Championships was created to support and promote NSW racing in country areas, ensuring that horses from across the state are part of The Championships in Sydney in the autumn.

About The Series

  • The Country Championships consists of a series of seven qualifying races, each held at a club representing one racing region in NSW.
  • Each race will be worth $150,000 in prize money, and will be contested by eligible horses that must be under the care of a country trainer in that region.
  • An eighth ‘Wild Card’ race, worth $50,000, will be held to provide one more opportunity for horses to qualify for the final that have already contested an earlier heat.
  • The first and second horse in each regional race will qualify for the $400,000 Country Championships final to be held at Royal Randwick in Sydney on Day 1 of The Championships, Saturday 1 April 2017.

Sunday, 5 March 2017 SCONE 1400m Hunter & North West 

Sunday 26 March 2017 MUSWELLBROOK 1280m Wildcard - All regions

Saturday, 1 April 2017 ROYAL RANDWICK 1400m FINAL

Published in Events & Festivals
Monday, 09 January 2017 12:00

Upper Hunter Country

Only a short 90 minute drive from Newcastle CBD and 3 hours from Sydney, the Upper Hunter Valley offers visitors a true country experience. If you are after a weekend break to escape the hustle and bustle of city life but don't want to venture too far then the Upper Hunter is the ideal location.

Most of the Upper Hunter's generous 18,000 square kilometres is devoted to national parks, nature reserves as well as rural uses like grazing, cropping, dairy farming and horse studs. Before you even leave the highway you will see cows, sheep and goats grazing and horse galloping in the fields.

We have an enticing selection of award winning and boutique epicurean food producers, wineries, cafes and restaurants. There is an annual calendar of festivals and events which includes many diverse horse activities to experience and enjoy.

The region is world famous as the horse capital of Australia and is home to many world-renowned horse studs, and the Australian Stock Horse Society National Headquarters.

The Upper Hunter is also the gateway to the wilderness of the Barrington Tops National Park where you can get lost from the outside world and embrace the rivers, forests and mountainous countryside. Lake Glenbawn also provides for fishing, water skiing and boating, with some gorgeous picnic spots to indulge in sampling the region's food and wines.

The region is one of the most diverse environments in Australia, from western grassland to alpine forests and subtropical zones. There are a wide variety of national parks ranging from comfortable family picnic grounds at Towarri National Park to wilderness areas of the Barrington Tops and Goulburn River National Parks. So whether walking, riding or four wheel driving, there's a place for you.

The Upper Hunter has a wide variety of accommodation from luxury B&Bs to award winning motels, caravan parks, cabins, farm stays and apartments.

Whether you are looking for a short break or a long stay, the region offers an enticing variety of activities. So pack the family, bikes and boats and come on up!

Published in Attractions
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 00:00

A Widden Welcome...

The historic Widden Stud in the south west corner of Muswellbrook Shire provided an outstanding insight into the Thoroughbred Breeding Industry which is a major part of the economy in Upper Hunter Country.

Widden Stud put out the welcome mat to well over 200 members of the public on Saturday 23rd August when they presented 11 magnificent stallions at their annual Open Day. The parade included such great performers as Serbring, Zoustar, Stratum, Shamus Award and Star Witness.

The stud covers over 8,000 acres along the narrow valley floor of Widden Brook surrounded by the ancient sandstone cliffs of the Wollemi National Park. As well as the world famous thoroughbred enterprise, Widden also operates a high quality commercial beef herd including Hereford and Santa Gertrudes cross cattle. The valley is home to other famous horse studs including the neighbouring
Baramul Stud operated by well-known Australian business entrepreneur, Gerry Harvey.

The property has been the home of the Thompson family since the 1830s with the first racehorses bred at the stud in 1867. Since then, racehorses from Widden have taken on the best on the track in Australia and around the world. The stud has an outstanding record of winners over many generations.

For racing and racehorse enthusiasts, the list horses from Widden reads like the “Who’s Who” of the thoroughbred world. A row of “headstones” chronicle the Stud’s fabulous history and outstanding breeding record with names such as Vain, Bletchingly, Todman and Marscay etched in sandstone tablets from the surrounding cliffs dating back beyond the Dreamtime.        

Published in Attractions