Depending on your racing preference, it’s either a time of the year to hunker down and long for the start of the Dubai Carnival as the next bout of meaningful action on the Flat or it’s time to swathe yourself in tweed and rejoice that the big-name jumpers are now back out in force. And for those of us who swing both ways (in a racing sense) this time of the year is more exciting than Christmas morning, with top-class action having been coming thick and fast under both codes.
Peter Moody’s us-and-them rant about the proliferation of ‘third-rate’ British stayers in Australia’s best longer-distance races is unlikely to dampen the ardour of those who make the pilgrimage from the southern hemisphere to Tattersalls for the Horses-in-Training Sale each autumn. Indeed, this year again they were out in force, with 2.5 million guineas spent on 23 thoroughbreds all now on their way to Australia – and to those add a sizeable number of private purchases throughout the year.
The last two winners of the Melbourne Cup – Green Moon and Fiorente – were both secured in the latter manner from the stables of Harry Dunlop and Sir Michael Stoute respectively. While there’s a certain amount of national pride to be derived from horses born in Britain or Ireland heading around the world to advertise the superiority of our middle-distance stock, there’s also some regret if, like me, you love nothing more than the type of tough stayers and dual-purpose prospects who are increasingly being lost to these shores.
Fiorente’s dual appeal
Moody may have thought he was insulting our way of training in this country to say that Fiorente would have ended up as a steeplechaser had he stayed here, but Black Caviar’s trainer perhaps doesn’t fully appreciate the depth of passion for the winter game in this part of the world. Whether or not he would ever have been tried over the sticks is a moot point but prior to Fiorente’s departure for Gai Waterhouse’s stable there had certainly been interest expressed in him as a National Hunt stallion by at least one member of the jumping fraternity.
There’s no hotter sireline in the National Hunt ranks at present than that of Monsun
It’s easy to see why. There’s no hotter sireline in the National Hunt ranks at present than that of Monsun, and the Ballymacoll Stud-bred Fiorente is out of a mare by another of the farm’s homebreds, Pilsudski, from the family of Coolmore’s young jumps stallion Mountain High (who, incidentally, sired AP McCoy’s 4,000th winner, Mountain Tunes).
With most Australian breeders more focused on speed, Fiorente may yet find his way back to the northern hemisphere when he retires to stud, but the tide may be starting to turn in that regard and it has been encouraging to hear that Dynaformer’s son Americain, the 2012 Melbourne Cup winner, has been well supported in his first season at Adam Sangster’s Swettenham Stud in Victoria.
As highlighted by Andrew Caulfield on page 80, however, there are no shortage of sons of Monsun currently standing under the National Hunt banner. Most famous of them all is Haras du Cercy resident Network, sire of the superb Sprinter Sacre, but unless you’re a member of the breeders’ co-operative that owns the stallion you can pretty much forget about sending him a mare. Schiaparelli, Getaway and Arcadio are all standing in Britain and Ireland, and, as Andrew laments, Darley has released Shirocco from its ranks to stand alongside Presenting and Robin Des Champs at the Cashman family’s Glenview Stud, where he will be kept busy.
Forward-thinking British National Hunt breeders made the most of Shirocco while he was still at Dalham Hall Stud and he had no shortage of representatives at the inaugural TBA National Hunt Foal Show at Bangor in July, including a section winner bred by Richard and Sally Aston.
A high-class jumping mare to have visited Shirocco in his second season was Lady Cricket, who, among her 11 victories landed the Thomas Pink Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2000 for David Johnson, who retained her as a broodmare. The result of that mating, now four and named Red Sherlock, was the fitting winner of the finale of that same meeting this year – his third consecutive bumper victory – bearing his mother’s colours for the family of his late owner/breeder, who died in July. He became the third of Lady Cricket’s offspring to earn jumping black type and her many fans can look forward to the exploits of Red Sherlock’s brothers in years to come as Lady Cricket has returned to Shirocco twice subsequently, producing two colts.
Flying the flag
Alan Yuill Walker wished to mention in dispatches in his Breeder of the Month column other notable British-bred successes around the world. Lack of space prevented him from doing so in that forum so we will pay tribute here to those Alan had selected, who are George Strawbridge for Moonlight Cloud (Prix de la Foret), New England Stud and the Vela brothers for Maarek (Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp), and Tim Vestey for Seal Of Approval (Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes).
An extra special mention must go to Ian and Emma Balding of Kingsclere Stud for not only breeding Side Glance, who landed the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes on VRC Derby day at Flemington, but also for breeding his sire, Passing Glance, and his trainer, Andrew Balding. Quite an achievement.