Our Around The Globe pages have recently been enhanced with reports from Danny Power and Stephen Howell of Australia’s Inside Racing magazine. With such an overwhelming European assault on the Melbourne Cup, not to mention other key Spring Carnival races, there’s been plenty of cross-hemisphere interest this autumn.
In Australia, there has been much hand-wringing at the supposed dearth of homegrown stayers, while in Europe, prices for horses with decent form at ten to 12 furlongs have
sky-rocketed, with potential Australian interests finding themselves in competition with the National Hunt brigade.
But, as Danny Power points out in his blog ‘The Breed’, breeding stayers shouldn’t be a problem in Australia. Darley shuttles its two recent Derby winners, Authorized and New Approach, to studs in New South Wales and Victoria and, after the success of dual Cox Plate hero So You Think, Coolmore relocated High Chaparral from New Zealand to its base in the Hunter Valley.
New Zealand has always been a rich source of staying blood for Australian buyers and in addition to stalwarts such as Zabeel, Melbourne Cup winner Shocking has recently been retired to Rich Hill Stud, which has also been the shuttle base for another Derby winner, Sir Percy.
While breeders can hardly be said to flock to middle-distance stallions, presumably for fear that so many of the yearlings by such sires are deemed to be non-commercial, there’s a strong flow of owners looking for horses who have shown potential on the track.
Victorian trainer Robert Smerdon, who made his first visit to Tattersalls’ Horses In Training Sale in October, confessed to have spent double the amount he had intended to when splashing out 440,000gns on two Juddmonte-breds, but he was confident that syndicating them back home would not be a problem.
Over-subscription to the syndicate might be, however, and demand exceeding supply was a problem faced by Alastair Donald of Sackville Donald, who was responsible for buying this year’s Australian Group 1 winners My Kingdom Of Fife and December Draw from British interests for owner Richard Pegum and his associates.
“The market has become so strong for the type of horses suitable for the Melbourne Cup and you pay a huge premium for them,” said Donald. “The Australian market has really grown for us – I had six or seven to buy but only bid on one horse at the sale.”
This is surely a matter of concern for the Australian industry. As Power says: “Those at the head of the Australian breeding industry should not only be worried about that exodus of money, but also should be working on ideas to encourage Australians to breed and buy stayers – maybe bonuses for horses aged four and older winning races beyond 1800 metres would encourage investment and also encourage administrators to programme more staying races.”
Jump racing faces similar plight
This is a similar problem to that faced on this side of the world by National Hunt breeders. While Brightwells’ Cheltenham sales have been the success story in this sector in recent years, the store horse market has taken a dramatic downturn, with lack of interest in fillies a serious concern.
Part of the TBA National Hunt Committee’s remit is to enhance the appeal of racing mares over jumps – an uphill struggle when so many of the bigger yards contain so few racemares – and an increase in opportunities for fillies and mares to race against their own sex will surely aid this aim. It has been encouraging to see some of the autumn mares’ races hotly contested, with recent Lingfield scorer Heather Royal, a half-sister to Barbers Shop, one who went straight into the notebook as a potential black-type winner for the future.
There’s always been something extra special about good jumping mares
Perhaps it’s the scarcity factor, but from this biased viewpoint there’s always been something extra special about good jumping mares. Dawn Run remains the only horse of either sex ever to have completed the Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup double, while Like-A-Butterfly, Function Dream, Lady Rebecca, Quevega and Sparky May have all become real favourites in recent years, with Fiddling The Facts outstripping all others in my affections.
The TBA has recently published a guide to its updated Elite National Hunt Mares Incentive Scheme, which is generously supported by the Levy Board and is aimed at encouraging British jumps breeders to patronise the increasingly appealing ranks of domestic stallions. Free and subsidised nominations are offered by way of incentive and for those who consider such a ‘bribe’ to be a poor alternative to using the supposedly better stallions on offer across the Irish Sea, think again. The list contained in the booklet highlights the fact that there’s currently a decent choice of young and established jumps sires in this country, including such unheralded names as Pasternak and Great Palm, who have provided the winners of the last two runnings of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
On the list of many eligible mares currently resident in Britain, and among those whose owner has already made use of the scheme, is the Welsh National winner L’Aventure. Her first foal, a solid daughter of Kayf Tara, is being retained by owner/breeder Christopher Harriman and if she’s anywhere near as tough as her mother, who won nine and was placed in 19 of her 58 starts, she’ll give all fans of jump racing plenty to cheer about.