There is a distinctly gallic flavour to the stallion roster at Yorton Farm Stud in Welshpool these days. For although none of its six members actually bear a French suffix, all bar one formerly stood in France.
Gentlewave, an 18-year-old son of German sire sensation Monsun who won the Italian Derby and found only Dylan Thomas too good in the Irish equivalent, joined the operation from the Haras de Gélos in Pau in 2015.
Twelve-year-old Masterstroke, another top-class son of Monsun who scored in the Grand Prix de Deauville and ran third in the Arc, arrived from Haras du Logis in Normandy last year.
The Monsun sire-line is also represented by Arrigo, a Group 2-winning and Group 1-placed Shirocco half-brother to German champion sire Adlerflug. The 13-year-old is a new recruit from Haras du Mazet in central France.
Scalo — officially British-bred but German in essence, as a son of Lando who took the Preis von Europa at Cologne — was also imported to Wales last year, the 14-year-old being another former resident of Haras du Gélos.
Linda’s Lad, a Group 1-winning son of Sadler’s Wells who turned 18 last month, actually arrived via Vauterhill Stud in Devon. But he had stood at Haras de Grandcamp in Normandy until 2016.
The outlier at Yorton Farm is Pether’s Moon, an 11-year-old of Dylan Thomas who took the scalps of Dolniya and Flintshire to capture the Coronation Cup for Richard Hannon. He has spent his entire stallion career at Yorton Farm Stud, and has his first four-year-old runners in 2021.
It is not for the frequent trips to France and the opportunity to conduct deals over steak frites and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon that stud director David Futter is such a francophile when it comes to stallion selection, though.
Rather, it is because French-bred horses have been mopping up so many major National Hunt races in Britain and Ireland in recent years. Therefore, the country’s stallions have quickly built up a popular following, with well-known runners representing them at the big Saturday meetings.
Masterstroke, out of Lammtarra and Urban Sea’s Classic-placed daughter Melikah, will have one of those high-profile French-breds flying the flag for him in Britain in future thanks to Highflyer Bloodstock’s purchase of Pau hurdle winner Hardi Du Mesnil for €250,000 at Arqana last Monday. The half-brother to Willie Mullins’ Grade 1-winning novice hurdler Gaillard Du Mesnil was bought on behalf of Robert Waley-Cohen.
“It was great news that Robert bought such an exciting horse by Masterstroke,” says Futter. “I had tried to secure the stallion in 2019 as I thought we might be able to take advantage of him getting a few winners among his first three-year-olds running over hurdles in France, but we didn’t quite get the deal done.
“He did get a good number of those winners, including Floridee who scored in a Grade 3 hurdle at Auteuil, but it worked out okay anyway as he covered another 97 mares at Logis that year. When those runners come of age they could help advertise him too.
“I was chuffed to get him. I think everyone can agree now that Monsun is a serious influence in National Hunt breeding and, a bit like Sadler’s Wells, his sons just have a knack for being able to get progeny who can jump.”
Masterstroke covered 47 mares in his debut book at Yorton Farm Stud last year, and the operation is awaiting its first arrivals by him.
“We stand six stallions so we’re happy with averaging around 50 mares per stallion, unless one really takes off for whatever reason, as Blue Bresil did here a few years ago,” says Futter. “There are only so many National Hunt broodmares in Britain after all.
“He should be popular again this year, and I expect interest will pick up as breeders start to see his foals. It’s helped with Robert buying the horse, while Nicky Henderson has a promising four-year-old by him called Paros. I know Willie Mullins has a couple he thinks highly of too.”
Masterstroke commands a fee of £3,000 in 2021.
Gentlewave is a stallion who is particularly close to Futter’s heart. He is the sire of Easysland, who was bought by Yorton Farm as a three-year-old at Tattersalls Ireland for €20,000 and placed in training with David Cottin.
Easysland, who was co-owned by Yorton Farm client Chris Edwards, rose through the ranks in France and was sold to JP McManus after winning a cross-country chase at Cheltenham in December 2019. He subsequently slammed Tiger Roll to land the Glenfarclas Chase at last year’s Festival, and is a warm order to repeat his victory next month.
“The sire’s also got Gentlemansgame, who looks an exciting horse,” says Futter. “He recently finished second to Gaillard Du Mesnil in a Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival on only his third start, which bodes well.
“All the right point-to-point trainers have Gentlewaves in their string and there’s just no bad press with him really. He gets good-looking stock, trainers like them and they’re always the subject of good reports.”
Gentlewave has been advertised at the rather odd fee of £3,250 in 2021.
“Everyone’s asking us about that,” laughs Futter. “If nothing else we’ve got people talking! We like to pitch our stallions at different price points, which is a task in itself when you’ve got six on your hands, and we also wanted to drop all the stallions’ fees this year to help the breeder.
“But I think he was great value at £3,500 last year and we didn’t want to sell him at lower than £3,000, so we arrived at the figure of £3,250.”
Linda’s Lad became hot property in recent years on the back of his French-bred sons Cash Back, Draconien and Tout Est Permis becoming top-class performers over jumps in Ireland.
“When we got him last year he had a lot of good horses coming through, and I thought Britain was probably just a bit short on proven sires of Grade 1 horses, for all that we have a lot of exciting young stallions,” says Futter.
“He was standing down at Vauterhill Stud with Graham Heal when he suddenly became very popular, with lots of Irish breeders wanting to use him, and that would have been a lot of hard work for Graham as he runs the farm more or less on his own.
“So I approached Graham and with the help of Richard Venn we got the deal done and brought him up to Yorton. I’m delighted, as he’s a proven horse who gets good sale results and winners-to-runners strike-rates. And he’s our first ever son of Sadler’s Wells.”
Linda’s Lad is available at a fee of £2,500 this year.
Scalo had led a relatively quiet life at stud in France until the 2019 Deutsches Derby winner Laccario emerged from his third crop.
Laccario also finished third to Ghaiyyath in the Grosser Preis von Baden before being transferred to be trained by Graham Motion in the US last year, when he ran second in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
By the time Laccario materialised, Scalo had been sent from Haras du Logis Saint-Germain in Normandy to the French provinces. But Futter was still willing to give the striking brown stallion a shot.
“I’d tried to buy him when we got Blue Bresil,” he says. “He’s a horse I was always attracted to. He’s a Group 1 winner, is extremely good-looking and has a nice pedigree. He’s by Lando, an outstanding champion who sired the likes of Fox Norton, Air Force One and Caracciola over jumps, out of a mare by Exit To Nowhere — and that’s a line I love.
“After he sired Laccario I didn’t think we’d be able to get him, but he was in the same stud in Pau that Gentlewave had stood at, so I flew down there with my partner Birte who vetted him. We both liked him, we got the deal done and we’re chuffed to have him.”
Scalo does indeed tick many boxes, but British and Irish breeders tend to stick with what they know and it’s fair to say that not everyone would have been keeping up with results from Germany and had the sire’s name on their lips. Futter was ready to make people take notice of him, though.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t stand stallions and expect breeders to do all the work,” he says. “You’ve got to be seen to be actively buying their stock, and if there are no lots by stallions like Scalo at the sales then you have to find them in the French countryside and bring them back to Britain.
“We’ve bought about six Scalos in order to get them into sales and to give them the opportunity of going into training. The dealing side of the Yorton Farm business is now as big as, if not bigger than, the stallions.
“It’s huge. You’ve got to show clients that if they’ve bred something you like by one of your stallions, you’ll support them either by buying or underbidding the horse. It gives them the confidence to breed.”
Futter also feels that Scalo, who stands at £2,000 this year, will be of long-term benefit to Yorton Farm’s own breeding programme.
“Speaking personally, I’m really hoping to have fillies by him enter our broodmare band,” he says. “We’ve got 70 mares here, and it’s so important to get good lines like those that Scalo has into the herd. Lando and Exit To Nowhere were good influences for jumps and outcrosses to Sadler’s Wells.”
The recently arrived Arrigo also offers something a bit different from a pedigree perspective, as a rare stallion son of Shirocco — the multiple Group 1-winning source of high achievers Brown Panther, Wild Coco and Windstoss on the Flat and wondermare Annie Power and Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco over jumps.
“I’m aware there’s a few people who knock Shirocco but I don’t see how anyone who looks at his record with an open mind possibly could,” says Futter. “He fires in one winner after another every day, week after week.
“What’s more, Arrigo’s brother Adlerflug is a champion sire in Germany, with five Group 1 winners to his name including last year’s Arc second In Swoop.
“He stands 16.3 hands and is the most gorgeous horse. I’ve seen his stock and they’re fantastic looking too. So what’s not to like?”
Arrigo — whose fee in 2021 has been set at £1,300 — is another who might not exactly be a household name in Britain and Ireland, but Futter is undeterred.
“Some will say I’m taking it to extremes with Arrigo but it doesn’t bother me at all,” he says. “I put my money where my mouth is, and on looks and race performance, he’s as good as any other stallion we stand.”
And so to Yorton Farm’s longest-serving stallion, Pether’s Moon, who happens to be enjoying a bit of a moment.
He is already off the mark with a black-type hurdler in France, with his daughter Annelorelas having scored over hurdles and run a close second and third at Auteuil last year at three.
The filly was bred by Yorton Farm and sold to her trainer Gabriel Leenders and Chauvigny Global Equine for £19,000 at the inaugural Goffs UK sale held at the stud in September 2019.
Another Yorton Farm-bred, the filly Honey Wolf, has finished a length second over hurdles at Pau on her sole start for owner-trainer David Cottin, with the front two pulling 14 lengths clear of the third.
Meanwhile Pether’s Moon’s only domestic runner to date, the Paul Webber-trained Lunar Flight, stayed on well to be beaten just a length in fifth in a mares’ bumper on the Lingfield Polytrack last month.
“Standing a National Hunt horse from scratch can be like pushing water uphill every day, trying to get them going and giving them the opportunities,” Futter says. “But Pether’s Moon is looking like he could make it all worthwhile. We’re very excited about him.
“He has a long way to go but he gets nice looking stock, and with a black-type hurdler and a couple of horses already banging on the door he’s certainly going in the right direction.”
Pether’s Moon stands at a fee of £2,000 for the present breeding season.
Futter has been heavily involved with the French racing and bloodstock industry for years now, and firmly believes that the large number of big-race winners over jumps in Britain and Ireland who started their careers in France is down to one thing: the fact they are put to work at a younger age.
Consequently, he is one of a growing number of voices in Britain calling for domestic National Hunt-bred horses to race earlier in their lives than has traditionally been the case.
“I’ve been a massive supporter of giving these horses a three-year-old jumps campaign for years,” says Futter. “It’s one of the reasons we started our own sale — to try to get a genuine two-year-old store market going, so the horses go into training sooner.
“I’m convinced that there are no better stallions, mares, breeders or trainers in France than in the UK or Ireland, but the one thing they have done is put their horses into training at an earlier age.
“Other disciplines such as dressage and show jumping have also seen the benefit of it, and are realising horses improve for the early training — even if it’s just getting them up on a wagon and giving them the experience of travelling to the gallops, or going on a horse walker. It’s got to be better than being stood in a field with all its mates having no education at all.”
Futter is working with others in the industry to press the case for three-year-old National Hunt races restricted to jumps-breds.
“I know not all horses will be able to race at three, and that’s fine, but at the moment we’re not giving the domestic breed a chance,” he says. “Everyone in the business is becoming aware that we need to provide opportunities if people want to race their three-year-old jumps-bred stock, and I hope we can get to the stage where a programme is introduced.”
Ever ebullient, Futter is optimistic for the industry even in the face of international transport problems resulting from Brexit, which he hopes and believes will be resolved by the busiest point of the National Hunt covering season.
“There’s a great buzz about British racing and breeding, and a group of people all working towards the same goal to prove we’re as good as any other country when it comes to producing top jumpers,” he sums up.