The start of the year allows those breeders who are not sitting up waiting for mares to foal to get out and about on stallion visits. The recent officially organised Irish Stallion Trail and La Route des Etalons in Normandy have become annual fixtures for some, and in Ireland in particular the trail offers racing fans a reconnection with their former heroes.
While the object of any stallion farm opening its doors is primarily to encourage breeders to book nominations, there’s no harm in allowing, for one weekend a year, access to the wider public. All too often we hear complaints of Flat racehorses being retired too soon.
Why not continue to allow people to see these horses who, let’s face it, have generally been granted a place at stud only because they were among the best of their generation? It’s a great way to keep fans engaged, and who knows how many of them may be encouraged to become owners or breeders after being given a behind-the-scenes view of where the lives of racehorses begin?
Despite the existence of the stallion parades at Goffs UK’s January Sale and the Tattersalls February Sale, it remains preferable, in my view, for Britain to follow the examples set first by France and then by Ireland, to formalise a weekend of ‘open house’ viewing at stallion farms across the land.
I understand the geographical arguments that have been put forward but there are enough studs clustered in relatively close proximity to allow this to be a viable opportunity, both for existing breeders and perhaps for attracting new ones.
On a recent visit to Coolmore Stud I was fortunate, like the record numbers who attended the Irish Stallion Trail, to see the great Galileo at home and looking terrific at the age of 21.
Under the Coolmore umbrella at various studs there are seven of his sons on the Flat roster and another three among the National Hunt stallions, while scattered around different studs in the country you have the likes of Teofilo, Decorated Knight, and Frankel’s full-brother Proconsul, who has relocated from Mickley Stud to Annshoon Stud.
In Britain we have Frankel himself, along with Intello, New Approach, Ulysses and Mondialiste, while Telescope was a popular addition to the jumping ranks a few seasons ago.
The best to the best
With Australia we were given the perfect example of how breeding the best to the best really should come up trumps when this son of Derby winner Galileo and Oaks winner Ouija Board won the Derby himself before also snagging the Irish version of his Classic, just like his mother and father before him.
Long before the attempts to sharpen up Galileo’s stamina influence with some faster mares, we’d already seen just how well the Classic blend works. In the nine-time champion’s first year at stud he was visited by Lordship Stud’s Oaks winner Love Divine, and this daughter of Diesis duly provided Galileo with his first British Classic winner, Sixties Icon, who led home a trifecta for his sire when The Last Drop and Red Rocks filled the minor places.
Now 16, Sixties Icon can lay claim to being one of the most underrated stallions in the British Isles. He’s standing this year for £6,000, the fee at which he started ten years ago, with a dip to £4,500 for his third and fourth years at stud followed by a rise to £8,500 when his first-crop runners surprised many who had marked him the ‘jump sire in the making’ label assigned to most St Leger winners.
By the 2012 Flat season those same folk were swiftly reassessing their opinion of Sixties Icon when he recorded his first two-year-old winner as early as April 8, then Chilworth Icon became his first black-type winner in the Woodcote Stakes on Derby day.
The stallion owes plenty of his success to Mick Channon, whose close involvement with Norman Court Stud, where Sixties Icon has stood throughout this career, means he has bred and trained many of his better runners.
But as Channon commented all those years ago after Chilworth Icon’s success at Epsom: “People say I’ve been getting on with his two-year-olds but I can’t make the horses win. If they didn’t have the ability they wouldn’t be doing this.”
The trainer remains Sixties Icon’s greatest cheerleader and advertisement. Last year, when the stallion recorded a near-50% winning strike-rate, a number of the multiple scorers from West Ilsley were sons and daughters of Sixties Icon, ranging from the dual five-furlong-winning juvenile Kinks to the redoubtable old stayer Fitzwilly, whose tally runs to eight wins and 24 places from 68 starts.
Like their sire, who remained in training at four and five, adding the Jockey Club Stakes and three more Group 3 contests over 12 and 13 furlongs to his CV, his offspring tend to be hardy and progressive.
In the last five seasons Sixties Icon’s books have numbered 52, 39, 39, 64 and 56. With a constant influx of new stallions who offer a glimmer of commercialism before the market likely takes against them, it’s easy for such a horse to be overlooked.
But that’s a shame, because not many horses will achieve what Sixties Icon did on the racecourse, or what he has at stud from limited resources, while boasting a pedigree from the very top drawer.