There’s a well-known saying in the bloodstock industry about ‘breeding the best to the best and hoping for the best’.
It’s a perfectly sound theory – highlighted this year by the success of Galileo and Ouija Board’s son Australia – yet with the top stallions commanding fees well into six figures, even those with a black-type mare could be forgiven for thinking twice about parting with enough cash to buy a couple of new Ferraris.
In the ante-post lists for next year’s Derby, nestled among the blue-bloods of Coolmore, sits a colt whose racecourse brilliance belies his sire’s modest reputation and stud fee.
Step forward Elm Park, emphatic winner of the Racing Post Trophy, who is a son of Phoenix Reach. A liaison with this triple Group 1 winner had cost roughly the same as a fortnight in Marbella, all inclusive. Value for money, as Lady Emma Balding, the breeder of Elm Park, would no doubt agree.
Phoenix Reach will stand the new season at a slightly grander £5,000 on the back of Elm Park’s exploits and Richard Kent, owner of Mickley Stud where the 14-year-old is based alongside four other affordable stallions, would like to improve on this year’s underwhelming tally of nine bookings.
“Realistically we hope Phoenix Reach can cover 40 mares next season,” Kent tells Carl Evans. “I’ll be very disappointed if people who appreciate racing and racehorses don’t use him.
“The longer you stay in this business the less you know – you could never have forecast this sort of success. We would have covered a mare for a load of straw!
“After Elm Park won at Doncaster we had lots of jumping people asking us for good packages but we’ve had to say no. He deserves a fee increase.
“The lesson is you should never turn your back on a horse that wins three Group 1 races.”
Warren Greatrex may have to wait to get his hands on Phoenix Reach’s progeny but the up-and-coming jumps handler is doing perfectly well with what he has, as evidenced by a 35% strike-rate at the time of writing.
Greatrex, whose wife Tessa is integral to the set-up as she helps to buy the horses that he trains, is a rising star of the National Hunt scene with a host of promising youngsters in his stable, including possible World Hurdle contender Cole Harden.
The trainer, who learnt his trade under the great David Nicholson, made the move to leave salaried employment with owner Malcolm Denmark and start his own operation at the historic Uplands stable in Lambourn, the former base of another legend in Fred Winter. It was a brave call.
“I did three seasons at Weathercock House and I felt things weren’t going the way I wanted,” Greatrex explains to Tim Richards. “Therefore a decision had to be made.
“I knew it was a risk, having a young family and leaving a salaried job with 40 horses. I started at Uplands in 2011 with only ten horses, but I believed in myself. On reflection, it’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made.
“Our string is now up to 70 and I get a great buzz from having young horses with bright futures. I couldn’t have imagined it would have gone so well so quickly.”
It’s not been going well for Newbury racecourse lately – and no, I don’t mean The Racecourse, Newbury – with numerous complaints covering everything from outdated amenities to pitiful prize-money and improbable dress codes.
Chairman Dominic Burke admits to Alan Lee that Newbury was “stuck in time” but says that all the track’s shortcomings have been recognised and are being addressed as a matter of urgency.
“We need to be leaders and our intention is to be there,” he states (pages 56-60). “By the start of 2018, we will be in a position to launch a Newbury that aspires to be the York of the south.”
We will hold you to that, Dominic.