In a world where swift returns are increasingly desired, Moyglare Stud Farm remains settled against the grain, allowing the patient approach that has stood it in such good stead over six decades to direct its fate.
Ascot Gold Cup hero Kyprios, owned in partnership with the Coolmore team, is the result of over 40 years of cultivation as a descendant of North American champion two-year-old filly Talking Picture, purchased in 1978. Then there is its brilliant Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Homeless Songs, whose fifth dam Aptostar was bought in 1989. It has taken years of patience and perseverance to bring the families to such a rich point, and it is fitting that such rewards, alongside the Cheshire Oaks winner Thoughts Of June and the stakes-placed pair Tough Talk and Emily Gray, have arrived in Moyglare’s landmark 60th year.
Established in 1962 by Swiss businessman Walter Haefner, Moyglare Stud Farm today sits under the direction of his daughter Eva-Maria Bucher, aided by long-time advisor Fiona Craig and a close knit stud team headed by manager Malachy Ryan. Haefner is often alluded to as a visionary and in the breeding of racehorses, he was certainly that, in the early years delving into families belonging to some of the era’s most successful breeders while adopting his own global outlook.
It was an approach that swiftly pushed Moyglare to the top. During Haefner’s 50 years at the helm of Moyglare, numerous luminaries came off the Maynooth-based property, among them Be My Guest, Assert, Refuse To Bend, Go And Go, Brief Truce, Media Puzzle, Stanerra, Trusted Partner and Dance Design. And since passing into the hands of Haefner’s daughter Eva-Maria Bucher, the output has been much the same, with the likes of Free Eagle and Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Casual Conquest, and now Homeless Songs, Thoughts Of June, Search For A Song and her younger brother Kyprios flying the flag.
Kyprios, who landed his first Group 1 success when scoring in the Gold Cup at the expense of Stradivarius, and champion Search For A Song, whose five wins include two renewals of the Irish St Leger, are out of a truly remarkable mare in Polished Gem. By Danehill out of the 1988 Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Trusted Partner, Polished Gem has produced no fewer than eight stakes winners, with the list also including the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes winner Free Eagle, and Qipco British Champions Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes heroine Sapphire. It is a record great enough to fill an entire catalogue page – but then the Talking Picture family is a line that has rarely been out of the spotlight for Moyglare, notably in its role as source of Group winners Dress To Thrill, Forgotten Rules and Thunder Moon.
Indeed, much of the stud’s success has been built on the influence of a clutch of foundation mares, many of them sourced in America. In addition to Talking Picture, there was Grenzen, the granddam of Refuse To Bend, Media Puzzle and Go And Go, and Bubinka, the ancestress of Designs On Rome. Homeless Songs’ fifth dam Aptostar, winner of the 1988 Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park, was another such mare, joining the firm when bought for $750,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s ‘Night of the Stars’ Sale in Kentucky in November 1989. She had been a tough campaigner for Centennial Farms and was a daughter of Fappiano, then one of the most popular stallions in the US. Yet despite those credentials, she was far from an immediate success at stud.
“There weren’t a vast number of mares suitable for Sadler’s Wells at that time at Moyglare,” recalls Craig. “They were looking for a mare with a bit more speed, so they went to the Night of the Stars Sale in Kentucky and Aptostar was being sold by Centennial. Moyglare bought her, she came back to Ireland and went to Sadler’s Wells, and In Anticipation was the first result. There were a few more out of her by Sadler’s Wells and one by Indian Ridge but they didn’t do a lot. The stud ended up selling Aptostar and she didn’t really come up with anything else.”
In Anticipation, who won two of four starts for Dermot Weld, is the conduit through which Aptostar flows through Moyglare today. Not only does she sit behind Homeless Songs, whose Listed-winning dam Joailliere is a granddaughter of In Anticipation’s Listed-winning daughter Diamond Trim, but also Irish St Leger winner Royal Diamond, whose dam Irresistible Jewel won the 2002 Ribblesdale Stakes.
The best runner out of In Anticipation, Irresistible Jewel also foaled the 2011 Irish 1,000 Guineas runner-up Mad About You and 2012 Ribblesdale Stakes winner Princess Highway.
“It takes time,” says Craig. “It just shows that some of these mares can take 20 or 30 years to work. When Aptostar was sold, she looked very disappointing. But then she’d had In Anticipation. In those days, few stayed in training beyond three years and I think if In Anticipation had stayed in training at four, she probably would have ended up being a black-type mare. And Homeless Songs is now the fifth generation.”
Dermot knows the family very well
A constant presence throughout the decades has been trainer Dermot Weld, whose lengthy association with Moyglare ranges from the Group 1-winning milers Refuse To Bend, Trusted Partner and Brief Truce to the 1990 Belmont Stakes hero Go And Go. To this day, Go And Go remains the only European-trained winner of a North American Triple Crown race.
Over 30 years on and Weld is the man in charge of crafting Homeless Songs’ campaign. The daughter of Frankel was brought along steadily by the Rosewell House trainer last season, scoring well on debut at Leopardstown in a three- race campaign. And she again looked potentially special upon her return this season when running away with the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown, an opinion vindicated next time out when she stormed clear of the subsequent Oaks heroine Tuesday in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh. Fast ground unfortunately ruled her out of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot; her dam Joailliere didn’t appreciate a similar surface when she ran in the 2015 Irish 1,000 Guineas, prompting a degree of caution to be exercised this time around.
“The Curragh was brilliant,” says Craig. “And the best thing was that Eva was there – it wouldn’t have been the same without her. “Dermot knows the family very well. And in Rosewell, you’ve got lads who’ve done generations of these families and they’ll say to you ‘that’s like so and so’ or ‘that reminds me of this’. That’s very useful information to have, especially when it comes to matings.
“This family are all a bit quirky. Her dam Joailliere was a bit like that and her half-sister [Group 3 winner] Carla Bianca was as well. Their dam Majestic Silver [a Linamix daughter of In Anticipation] was as mad as a box of cats. They got her at Rosewell to the point where she could work but she never ran. But she was the most athletic filly the mare ever produced and I’ve no question that if she could have run, she would have run well. “With Homeless Songs, Dermot was trying to train what’s between the ears as much as anything. We all knew that the ability was there, we’d seen her work in a manner similar to the Curragh performance before, so we knew it was there. It was just a matter of keeping it under wraps.
“She has matured into racing, though. She is turned out and hand grazed a lot at Rosewell, and she’s really progressed. After the Guineas, she stood there in the winners enclosure as if she might start grazing, she was good as gold.”
Homeless Songs has forged a flawless partnership with jockey Chris Hayes this season. Yet there remains a sadness that Pat Smullen, who partnered many of the farm’s greats for more than 20 years, is not here to watch her development. Smullen, a popular figure across the industry, passed away aged 43 in September 2020 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
“We miss him every day,” says Craig. “It was horribly unfair. The first Group winner he rode for Moyglare was Token Gesture in the 1996 C.L. Weld Park Stakes. Mick [Kinane] rode the other Moyglare runner, Absolute Glee and she ran third – there were only a couple of heads in it. Mick went to ride for Aidan O’Brien the following year and Pat took over, so he got to know the families well – at the end of the day, the people that ride them know more about them than any of us ever do.”
While plenty of new blood has been added in recent years, at heart Moyglare is a collection of well-established families that were incorporated early in its history. It helped that Haefner was an excellent horseman himself, accomplished enough to be the Fegentri champion amateur at the age of 53 in 1963.
There was this unusual situation where the owner, trainer and jockey had each ridden around Epsom.
“The farm is about 500 acres,” says Craig. “A few bits have been added on a little bit over the years but it’s still really as laid out as it was in 1962. Major Eric Miville, the breeder of Turn-To [a high-class American two-year-old who later became hugely influential at stud] and a Swiss ex-patriot, sold the dairy farm to Mr Haefner. They had met in an airport hotel bar in Dublin – Mr Haefner had flown over to buy a show jumper and went home with Moyglare.
“In the early years, Major Miville encouraged him to buy off good breeders like the Rothschilds and to partner with the Wildensteins.
“Despite Mr Haefner being a very good rider, he didn’t have the time to go racing a great deal but he had a great understanding of jockeys – he would study them. He actually rode round Epsom, so when we went to the Derby with Refuse To Bend, there was this unusual situation where the owner, trainer and jockey had each ridden around Epsom.
“Going back to 1962, his initial purchases were all in Europe. But he had a lot of American business interests, he enjoyed travelling to America and enjoyed the racing there. Moyglare was actually one of the first European studs to send mares to America. In 1968, they sent Irish Lass and Whitepaper to go to Sea Bird and Ribot. From that, Irish Lass bred Irish Bird, the dam of Assert and Bikala [both winners of the Prix du Jockey Club]. And then Whitepaper was sent to Caro, and from that bred [Prix d’Ispahan winner] Carwhite.
“Back then, Moyglare was selling everything bar the odd one that had a problem. I remember in that 1980 crop of yearlings there were some quite good horses like Assert and Chalon, who won the Coronation Stakes.
“From 1981, the yearlings were retained and that was really significant as that meant the stud kept Irish Edition, the dam of Go And Go, Final Figure, the dam of Market Booster [second in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Irish Oaks] and Temporary Lull, the dam of Token Gesture and grandam of Candian International winner Relaxed Gesture.
They were all out of American lines that had been purchased. None of those mares won more than a small race and they may have looked disappointing but over time you can see how significant to the stud they have became.”
She adds: “The history of Moyglare shows that the mares don’t always have to do something. I like them to have at least tried to do something, as it gives you an element of soundness, both physical and mental. Pedigree is important too but they also need to have the right shape to them and some indication that they’ve tried – and more than once. It’s a combination of all that and then on top of that, you have to have luck as well.”
Moyglare today is a fusion of the old and new. The bedrock families continue to be well represented including Trusted Partner, whose clan covers a sister to Kyprios in Listed winner Amma Grace, who went to Dubawi this year, and Sapphire, now a multiple stakes producer who formed part of Palace Pier’s First book.
Similarly, there remain 15 descendants of Aptostar including Carla Bianca, who went to Sea The Stars this year, Mad About You, who visited New Bay, Majestic Silver, who visited Blue Point, and Princess Highway, who visited Gleneagles. Homeless Songs’ dam Joailliere was among the debut book for St Mark’s Basilica.
“We went through a lull where we didn’t have a lot of good fillies,”
At the same time, the stud has made an effort to add new blood. To that end, recent years have featured the purchases of Celestine, a daughter of Scat Daddy purchased for $2.55 million who subsequently won the Grade 2 Honey Fox Stales for Moyglare, and Grade 3 winner Beautiful Lover, a daughter of Arch bought for $650,000.
Moyglare also dipped into the Ballymacoll Stud dispersal in 2017, coming away with All Our Tomorrows, a Kingman granddaughter of Hellenic, and Musidora Stakes winner Liber Nauticus. The latter has since provided Moyglare with the promising two-time winner Trevaunance.
“We went through a lull where we didn’t have a lot of good fillies,” says Craig. “So for the last decade, Eva has replenished. To compete in Ireland now, you have got to be so good. You’re not going to get there with a filly rated 78 or 80 and yes, that might make a broodmare for somebody but if we kept every one like that, there would be hundreds of them. It is very hard to say goodbye to lines but sometimes you have to move on. And once you decide to cull, don’t look back on it. They might go to someone with a slightly different approach, and you hope they go on to do well.”
Beautiful Lover, who visited Coolmore Kentucky stallion Munnings this season, is one of seven mares based in the US alongside a cluster of horses in training with Christophe Clement.
“It’s getting much harder to mate mares over here now, mainly because there’s such a small pool of stallions,” says Craig. “Moyglare has quite a lot of Galileo mares and now a lot of stallions not only descend from him but are out of Galileo mares as well – there’s a limit as to how close [inbreeding] you can go. So that’s why there’s still a few mares in the US. The American progeny used to come back to Ireland but they stay there now and so far, that’s been a lot more successful – in the first crop, Eva had Lia Marina, an Uncle Mo filly who won the Wait A While Stakes last December. “It’s just easier to get the outcross in the States. And I think that if you look at the calibre of filly available over there, there’s a bit more value and so they can be cheaper in the long run.”
It is ten years since Walter Haefner passed away but in the intervening period, there is the sense that Moyglare remains in very safe hands, with Eva-Maria having approached the management of the farm with his same zest.
“The mares were Mr Haefner’s real love,” says Craig. “He would go down to the fields, lean on the gate and watch the mares.
“Eva loves the place as do her children, Chiara and Mischa. She’d often came to Moyglare when she was younger.
She’s learnt a phenomenal amount in the past few years and goes racing as much as she can. She doesn’t have an enormous crew of staff. Pat Farrell is still there after 40 years and Malachy took over from Stan Cosgrove. They all work hard and are really good guys.
“Mr Haefner went at it himself and Eva is now very much the same, and 60 years on the stud he bought is still doing what it was bought to do – I think that’s the greatest satisfaction for everyone involved. Walter Haefner would be incredibly proud of his daughter for not only taking over his great love but for finding her own way – for example, racing in partnership but still continuing to win races in the stud’s famous