April finds us on the seasonal cusp, the Flat having got off to a faltering start at Doncaster with the all the drama from Aintree yet to come.
On the bloodstock sales side, this time of year is very much about the breeze-ups, with the European season starting slightly later in 2014 owing to the absence of the Goffs Sale at Kempton. Labelling these types of auction as ‘ready to run’ sales can be misleading, and horses that emanate from the breeze-ups can go on to be so much more than just an early two-year-old, as indeed many of the pedigrees at the Craven Sale in particular would suggest.
One horse who should be the poster boy for breeze-up sales, certainly as regards his talent and durability if not precocity, is Midnight Legend. Bought back as a yearling by his breeder Limestone Stud, the son of Night Shift fetched 32,000gns at the following season’s Craven Sale. Having been sent into training with Luca Cumani, Midnight Legend won once at two, through not until September over the Rowley Mile. A further six Flat wins ensued, including a trio of Listed victories, before he was switched to Jackdaws Castle to the care of David Nicholson as a six-year-old.
Under the winter code, his ten starts over hurdles in three subsequent seasons yielded another four successes, with Grade 2 strikes on both sides of the Irish Sea, at Aintree and Punchestown. Midnight Legend’s final racecourse appearance saw him finish an honourable third to the great Istabraq in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle of 1999.
With more than 54 racing miles notched during seven seasons in training, Midnight Legend embarked on his stud career the hard way, covering smallish books of moderate mares but nevertheless finding his niche as one of the most reliable jumps sires in Britain, first at Conkwell Grange and, since 2006, with David and Kathleen Holmes at Pitchall Farm Stud. Now 23, he has never stood for more than his current ‘high’ of £4,000.
As Alan Yuill Walker highlights on page 82, Midnight Legend is the sire of the last two horses to have won their breeders the TBA’s monthly award – Wychwoods Brook and Seeyouatmidnight – and enjoyed a winner at the Cheltenham Festival courtesy of Midnight Prayer. Furthermore, the record of many of his daughters on the track, such as Molly’s A Diva, My Petra, Sparky May and recent Grade 3 BetBright Chase winner Bally Legend, points towards future success as a broodmare sire.
Admittedly, a future leading National Hunt stallion is not what most buyers would have in mind when heading to this season’s breeze-up sales, but who wouldn’t love to own a horse as versatile as Midnight Legend?
Moyglare’s global reach
In a little over a week in mid-March, two Moyglare Stud-bred sons of Holy Roman Emperor excelled on the world stage for their new Hong Kong connections.
Rich Tapestry, a six-year-old out of Refuse To Bend’s sister Genuine Charm, won the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal at Meydan and, at the time of writing, was all set for the Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup night. Eight days later, four-year-old Designs On Rome followed up his Hong Kong Classic Cup win with victory in the Hong Kong Derby. The three-parts brother to American Derby winner Simple Exchange and a half to dual Group 3 winner Sights On Gold is out of Summer Trysting, who died foaling last year but will be succeeded by two of her daughters at Moyglare, including Designs On Rome’s three-year-old full-sister Antique Platinum, currently in training with Dermot Weld.
Walter Haefner first became involved with the family in 1977 when purchashing Summer Trysting’s grandam Bubinka at Keeneland as a yearling. A subsequent Group 3 winner, Bubinka is herself a daughter of Best In Show’s half-sister Stolen Date and she has established her own significant branch of this high-flying family as the ancestress of such as Grey Swallow and Australian Group 2 winner Rekindled Interest.
Described by Moyglare’s Fiona Craig as “a tall backward mare, very typical of her sire Alleged”, Summer Trysting’s offspring have reportedly emulated their dam and, despite the mare having been sent to Holy Roman Emperor for his neatness and precocity, her resultant foal, later named Designs On Rome, was also on the big and backward side and was offered for sale as a yearling at Goffs.
The records show that no buyer came forward for him in the ring. Trainer Pat Flynn subsequently bought him privately for €10,500 and won with him in the August of his two-year-old season before guiding him to a runner-up finish in the Group 1 National Stakes behind Dawn Approach.
Now in Hong Kong having been sold privately through SackvilleDonald, Designs On Rome is proving the perfect advertisement for the years of nurturing of top-class families carried out by the Haefner family.