Of all the achievements in thoroughbred breeding downthe years, there has always been something especially impressive about the individual who has stood behind a stallion they raced themselves, and subsequently enjoyed great success racing his homebred progeny.
That strong home support is usually born out of pride in one’s own colt, and a desire to see his offspring run in the same colours, but it is often done for commercial reasons too. It saves money on nominations to other people’s stallions but also, more importantly, demonstrates to mare owners that you are prepared to put your money where your mouth is.
On other occasions, it has to be said, an owner-breeder will end up singlehandedly underwriting their colt’s career at stud simply because other breeders don’t share the same enthusiasm for him in his early years. It’s always particularly satisfying when a stallion makes it in those circumstances, against the dictates of fashion.
Jim Bolger provides the best recent example of a horseman prospering with progeny of stallions he raced himself, having bred so many top-class horses from his Galileo colts Teofilo and New Approach, and latterly by New Approach’s son Dawn Approach.
Bolger bred, owned and trained both the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas winners last year, with awe-inspiring self-sufficiency.
Poetic Flare, who struck at Newmarket, is a son of Dawn Approach, while Mac Swiney, who scored at the Curragh, is by New Approach out of a mare by Teofilo.
Bolger has also reaped the rewards of standing Vocalised, who sired the breeder’s National Stakes winner Verbal Dexterity.
Guy Pariente’s feat of building his Prix Jean Prat fourth Kendargent into an elite sire with precious little assistance from other breeders is also pretty astonishing.
The French businessman bred high-class horses such as Goken, Kendam, Kenhope, Morando and Restiadargent from the son of Kendor when he was standing at his Haras de Colleville in relative obscurity, before other operations noted those results and jumped on the bandwagon.
Pariente was following in the footsteps of his compatriot Jean-Luc Lagardere, who bred the majority of the Group winners by his own homebred Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Linamix – the damsire of Kendargent – by sending him mares with often unconventional pedigrees. They included no less than an Arc hero in Sagamix and a Classic winner in Vahorimix.
Peter Brant is also giving the growing number of colts he is retiring to stud on either side of the Atlantic every chance by supporting them with his own mares. Graded stakes winners Demarchelier, Fog Of War and Raging Bull, who carried Brant’s green silks with distinction in the US, have been lavished with good mares at their bases in Kentucky and New York, while Sottsass, who won the Arc for Brant, received many of his owner’s best mares during his first season at Coolmore last year, including the dams of top-class fillies Fleeting and Uni.
Ted Voute has past and present experience of working with renowned owner-breeders who have tasted tremendous success breeding from stallions they raced themselves.
High Line showed what strong home support can do for a stallion
“When I started in this business I worked for James Delahooke at Adstock Manor Stud, where the Barnett family’s horse High Line stood, and they had just about every stakes winner he ever had,” he says. “We used to say a good stallion is one who gets stakes winners for all breeders, but a great stallion is one that gets them for the person who owns him!”
High Line showed what strong home support can do for a stallion. Initially afforded scant regard by other breeders as an unfashionably bred stayer, he made people sit up and take notice when siring four consecutive winners on the first day of the York Ebor meeting in 1980, led by the Barnetts’ homebred colt Master Willie in the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup.
“That was some day,” remembers Voute. “I remember driving to York with James and he casually said, ‘do you know, we could have four winners on the card today’. We never thought it would actually happen though.”
Voute enjoyed another spectacular day at York last August, thanks to his client Prince Faisal’s outstanding colt Mishriff winning the race that the Benson & Hedges later became – the Juddmonte International.
Mishriff, who has also triumphed in the Prix du Jockey Club, Saudi Cup and Dubai Sheema Classic and earned £11 million in prize-money, is one of three stakes winners the Saudi prince has bred from Ballylinch Stud resident Make Believe, who carried his silks to victory in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Prix de la Foret.
“I remarked to the Prince just recently that most of Make Believe’s stakes winners are his,” says Voute. “He’s bred Mishriff, the Prix Chloe winner Noticeable Grace and the Prix Isonomy winner Tammani, as well as Third Kingdom, a good horse who was sold for 135,000gns at the Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale, and won a local Group 2 in Saudi Arabia on his first start for his new owners.
“It’s quite interesting, as he didn’t go out and buy a lot of mares for him like a lot of people would have – he just selected six from the 12 or 13 mares he keeps each year. It was questioned in the early years why we were only sending six, but that’s 50 per cent of our broodmare band. If it had gone wrong we’d have been stuffed.
“But the Prince was very clever, he chose the right mares for Make Believe and has continued to do so. Another six are going to the stallion this year, all from his best families.”
Prince Faisal’s faith in his own former top-class colts even extends to Olden Times, the Prix Jean Prat winner of 2001. He is sending two mares this year to the son of Darshaan, who stands at Throckmorton Stud and is practically a private stallion nowadays.
“He’s the sire of Eydon, a three-year-old who ran a close third on debut at Newcastle in December for us, and Roger Varian thinks might be quite good,” says Voute. “The Prince is always trying to get a filly by Olden Times, so he could eventually breed her to practically any stallion out there.”
Prince Faisal’s familiarity with his own stock, built up over decades of nurturing their pedigrees and watching them race, has no doubt been advantageous in identifying the best matings for Make Believe.
“The Prince was very clever, he chose the right mares for Make Believe”
“Whenever the Prince is in Britain he spends a lot of time on the farm, studying the horses when they’re turned out, so he knows their physiques and temperaments by heart,” he says. “So it’s not luck that he’s bred these good horses from his own stallion, it’s his wealth of experience.
“The matings are completely his doing. He starts his plans in August, and keeps putting names into the mix and taking them out, until he gives me the final list and asks if he’s done anything drastically wrong in terms of inbreeding, which of course he never does.”
Voute has recently taken up the role of interim CEO of Blue Diamond Stud, which has also thrown its weight behind its own multiple Group 1-winning colt at stud.
Imad Al Sagar’s operation has bred several promising juveniles from the first crop of its triple Group 1 winner Decorated Knight, a son of Galileo closely related to Giant’s Causeway, and raced the unbeaten filly Silver Bullet Lady, who was purchased as a yearling to support the sire.
“I can’t claim any credit for the success of Decorated Knight, but he’s bubbling under with some promising youngsters and could easily spring up with something very good this year,” says Voute.
“I talk to Imad every day and he’s very energetic and ambitious, and he takes a lot of pride in doing his own matings. He’s going to support Decorated Knight with more mares again this year – he’s very passionate about the horse.”
Newsells Park Stud general manager Julian Dollar has overseen the careers of several stallions and in every case he says that home support, in terms of sending them mares and buying their foals and yearlings, has been a commercial imperative.
“I’m a great admirer of what Tally-Ho Stud have done – their business model for standing stallions is unsurpassed really,” he reflects. “They know what sort of stallion they want, they have the broodmare band and clients to support them, and they’re not afraid to get stuck in and support their stock at the sales.
They do such an exceptional job that nearly every year one of their horses is the champion first-season sire.
“Mount Nelson was our first stallion and we recognised we had to give him every chance from the outset
“Then there are other people who take the attitude that despite the fact they own a chunk of a new horse, they don’t believe in supporting unproven sires, and we fall somewhere in the middle, although it depends on where the stallions need some support.
“Mount Nelson was our first stallion and we recognised we had to give him every chance from the outset, so we went to market with John Warren and bought 30 mares at various sales, and must have sent him a total of 50 mares in total. We definitely bred his best horses, including Librisa Breeze and Penhill, who cemented him as the ultimate dual-purpose stallion.”
Equiano, a more obvious commercial proposition, required less numerical home assistance in his early years at stud but was still granted some blue-chip mares by Newsells Park to maintain quality levels in his crop, while Nathaniel covered full books in his first four years at an unchanged fee of £20,000 thanks to the unwavering support of his owner-breeder the Rothschild family, Newsells Park and other syndicate members.
“It was a long time until we got another stallion, but when Without Parole came last year we were very keen to support him with some of our most exceptional mares,” says Dollar. “We took the lead from John and Tanya, who bred and raced him and have really thrown the kitchen sink at him at stud.”
Among the mares sent by the Gunthers to their son of Frankel were Dawn To Dance, the dam of dual Group 3 winner Policy Of Truth; Impressionist, a Listed winner and Prix de Malleret runner-up; and Atomic Blonde and Beyond The Sea, smart daughters of Scat Daddy and Sea The Stars.
Newsells Park reciprocated by supporting Without Parole with Date With Destiny, the Listed-placed mare who was George Washington’s only foal; Lady Eclair, a Listed winner and dam of a Listed winner; and the stakes winners My Special J’s and Skrei.
Dollar continues: “Our latest recruit A’Ali has a good partnership behind him who are willing to support this fast, precocious young stallion with like-minded mares that will hopefully get him off to a strong start with good sales results and, most importantly, early winners.
“A sample of the mares they’ll be sending are Al Raya and her dam Fig Roll, and the stakes winners Riskit Fora Biskit and Shumoos.
“Newsells Park Stud isn’t necessarily known for fast and precocious mares, but all the ones we do own will go to A’Ali to give him every opportunity – the likes of Maureen, My Special J’s, Royal Empress and Skrei.
“He’s a horse I like, as he looks exactly how you would expect a fast and precocious horse to look: neat, but well made with a great step for a sprinter and a very laid-back, easy nature. He should hold obvious appeal to commercial breeders.”
One of the most recent examples of racing owners standing foursquare behind their high-class colt in his second career is Anoj Don and Daniel MacAuliffe with Fighting Irish, their Group 2-winning son of Camelot.
The seven-year-old was installed at Haras d’Annebault just outside Deauville last year, so his connections have been welcoming his first foals.
“Fighting Irish won three races over six furlongs at two, including the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte, and is the only Group-winning sprinter by the sire – but he showed his versatility when also running third in the German 2,000 Guineas over a mile at three,” says Don. “He ran a cracking race to be beaten just two lengths in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, with the likes of Invincible Army, Unfortunately and Sioux Nation behind.
“Sadly, he later picked up an injury and didn’t perform so well afterwards, so we decided to retire him to stud. It was a little late in the season by the time we arranged for him to stand at Haras d’Annebault, and we missed getting him in the stallion books, but we announced a bonus of €50,000 for the breeder of his first Group winner as a two-year-old or three-year-old in France, Britain or Ireland and he attracted some interest.
“We’ll once again be offering the €50,000 bonus to the breeder of his first Group winner from his second crop, and we will be supporting his stock at the sales in the years to come.”
Don and MacAuliffe have shown other breeders the way by sending Fighting Irish some well-credentialled mares last year, including African Plains, a daughter of Oasis Dream and Haydock Sprint Cup heroine African Rose and thus closely related to champion two-year-old Native Trail; Chillala, a placed full-sister to the useful Broken Stones; and Nirodha, a fourtime winner and a half-sister to the classy Coolagh Forest.
“It makes good sense to breed across the Channel, as the French government supports breeders and owners with lucrative premiums and prize-money is generally better than in Britain or Ireland,” adds Don.
Who knows, in five years’ time we might be hailing Don and MacAuliffe as geniuses for propelling their own colt to stallion stardom. Either way, they deserve respect for invoking the spirit of Bolger and Lagardere and giving it a bloody good go.