Champion Owner and Breeder
Growing up through the war years and into the 1920s, Sheila Gwynne would often skip high school to ride horses. She rode trackwork and even drove pacers. Many years later she bought horses for racing, and in 1948, was so successful that she topped the winning owners’ list. Moreover, she had become the first woman in the State to become Leading Owner.
Gwynne’s interest in breeding grew and she excelled in what had been essentially a man’s world. She bought a mare and foal for 42 guineas. The mare was Jolly Girl from the line of Jolly Beggar. She produced a mare called Jolly Imp, then a foal in 1949 that was to become one of our great champions, Raconteur. Raconteur fulfilled Gwynne’s dream to win a WA Derby, which he did in 1952 at the age of three. A week later he won the Perth Cup, making it his 10th straight victory.
When Raconteur retired from racing in the late 1950s, Gwynne bought property in Armadale to stand him at stud. The property became the renowned Fairfields Stud. Gwynne began looking for a stallion to cross with Raconteur mares, and on a trip to England in 1960, came across a handsome black stallion. He was proud and spirited. She traced his pedigree meticulously and believed that Raconteur mares, of which she had quite a few, would gel very well with this strong black horse. She imported the stallion from the UK. He was Indian Conquest and he became her 2nd champion sire.
Sheila Gwynne was a prime mover in the establishment of the Western Australian Racehorse Owners’ Association and later chaired the organisation.
Gwynne loved horses. A trailblazer in the breeding industry, her success put Western Australian thoroughbred breeding on the national map.
On the day Raconteur was born, Gwynne said to her daughter, “Sal, I’ve bred my champion.’ How right she was.