Ballincurrig House Stud

Ballincurrig House Stud was established by Michael Moore with the help of his late sister Josie and the Co Cork-based farm has since established a reputation for breeding, raising and selling top quality stock.

Their past Derby Sale consignments produced such Grade 1 winners as Captain Chris, China Rock, Shot From The Hip, Ballyadam Approach and Fingal Bay.

From an impressive honour roll, Michael Moore is quick to choose his favourite memory. “Without doubt, the one for us would have been Captain Chris, because the owner, Lenny Walker, has been a client and a friend for a long time. I think that was one of the first horses he bought and he’s still here.”

Captain Chris was the penultimate lot through the ring in 2007, but he proved a late highlight as Aiden Murphy stretched to €250,000 for the King’s Theatre gelding.

“He was beautiful,” Moore remembers. “He had cost quite a bit of money as a foal as well, but he was a lovely, big, athletic horse, and was that real sales colour.”

Traditional type

On the stereotypical Derby Sale horse, Moore says, “Back in the day, it would always have been your taller, 16.2hh plus horse. Now, I think maybe not as much as it was, but still, probably more so than the Land Rover Sale.”

Discussing next week’s draft, the consignor mentions some smart pedigrees and likeable sires, but maintains a realistic attitude. “We might have a big draft, but we probably have more racehorses than sales toppers.”

Irish hold their own

Unusually, given current trends, every single one of Ballincurrig’s 13 catalogued were bred in Ireland and are by Irish sires. Moore has strong opinions on the subject. “The buyer shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Irish-bred horses are still very much holding their own when it comes to winning the four-year-old maidens and the Graded races on the track.”

“The French horses winning the top races are all horses that had form in France and the problem is, until Ireland gets more in touch with the French system, we can never compete. We should have three-year-old bumpers, or three-year-old point-to-points.”

Little by little

Moore has an interesting take on how the Irish system should adopt. “The problem is that they’re not necessarily not doing anything from two to three years old, when they should be broken and doing pockets of work. There’s less fat on their lungs and it benefits their health when they’re doing work.”

When asked if Irish-bred horses are precocious enough for this, he replies, “I’ve no doubt they are. Not every horse bred in Ireland is 16.3hh.”

Moore’s point is strengthened by the faults in the current system, where three-year-olds go from sales prep and straight into an often intense training regime. “He’s drilled right through until he runs. And if he doesn’t make it, he’s broken. Some horses get lost in that system because they can’t take it.”

Mount Eaton Stud

Versatility is the name of the game at the Hore family’s Mount Eaton Stud, where their success stories range from Royal Ascot winning two-year-old Prince Of Lir, to dual Grade 1 winner Cousin Vinny. It is perhaps then appropriate that Phil Hore chooses a dual-purpose performer as his favourite Derby Sale graduate.

“The one horse I always took from it, and because of this week, was Pique Sous. He was sold the Derby Sale, but he won a Royal Ascot.” The grey’s royal victory came in the Queen Alexandra Stakes, having previously won a valuable handicap at Leopardstown and a Grade 2 novice hurdle.

Notable performances in defeat included placings in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and valuable Tattersalls Ireland Sales Bumper. Trained by Willie Mullins for Supreme Horse Racing, he was sold by Mount Eaton Stud to Andrew Slattery for €12,500.

Fond memories

“He was a fine, elegant Martaline horse,” Hore recalls. “He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea there, but we always really liked him. Sizing Tennessee was always a good sort of horse as well. I always find the good ones never give you any problems.”

Ladbrokes Trophy victor Sizing Tennessee appears under the second dam of a Getaway filly that Mount Eaton Stud offer as Lot 82 next week. Another homebred follows eight lots later, in the form of a Blue Bresil filly out of Philip Hore-bred Grade 1 performer Beluckyagain.

Pinhooking is another key part of the County Wexford operation and they enjoyed a dream update since purchasing the Order Of St George gelding out of Rostellan. Catalogued as Lot 368 next week, the bay is now a half-brother to Grade 3 winner and Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle runner-up West Balboa.

Realistic expectations

“We have five grand horses with a bit of breeding,” Hore tells me. “I don’t think you can get too carried away in this sort of climate but hopefully, they’ll go there and appeal to plenty of buyers.”

That said, there are always certain expectations at this sale in particular. “You want to bring your best horses to the Derby Sale. I think when buyers go there, they expect to find big, good-looking horses with great action. Anything other than that doesn’t cut it.”

Flying the flag

As with Ballincurrig, the Mount Eaton draft is Irish through-and-through, so Hore’s opinion on the popularity of French-bred horses isn’t surprising.

“The best French horse seemed to come from France with form a lot of the time. I’m sure that if you did the statistics of unbroken French-bred horses versus unbroken Irish and English-bred horses, that there’s no big variation. The unbroken three-year-old from the Derby Sale has every chance of being as good as their French counterpart.”

On whether Ireland needs to make any changes, Hore adds, “I think we’re competing fine with the French with our four-year-old point-to-point system. I know you can get a French Triumph Hurdle winner as a three-year-old, but by and large, I think the four-year-old point-to-point is doing that for us. We don’t really need to go down the route of three-year-old races, because that will only dilute race programmes with small fields.”

Castledillon Stud

Timmy Hillman is something of an expert on the history of Tattersalls Ireland, with his father Michael having served as a director for over 20 years, while his grandfather was the original owner of old Fairyhouse Stud where the sales complex is now sited.

Himself now a key member of the bloodstock team, Timmy also runs the family’s Castledillon Stud, who was leading consignor at the Derby Sale in 2022 and 2023. Castledillon’s Derby graduates are led by seven-time Grade 1 winner Native Upmanship, who was sold at the 1996 edition for £8,800 cash.

The farm’s latest Grade 1 success came this March when Grey Dawning captured to Turners Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, marking a third Graded win for Brendan Bashford’s €40,000 purchase.

Castledillon Stud bring 16 stores to next week’s sale, though Timmy Hillman is keen to let the horses do the talking. “I think there’s just a good, solid bunch of nice horses. I suppose there’d be a horse for everybody in the draft.”

On the typical Derby Sale horse, he says, “The better ones will always end up at the Derby Sale. Traditionally, it was a fine, big chaser.

“Now that’s changing a bit in that they don’t need to be the massive, big 16.3hh horse anymore. There are sharper horses there now too.”

Patriotic praise

The majority of Castledillon’s 2024 draft are Irish-bred, and Hillman is quick to praise our home product, despite the growing demand for French-bred horses. “Plenty of Irish-bred horses still come out and do the business as well. Like Grey Dawning, who we sold and won a Grade 1 this year.”

On whether Ireland can learn from France, he comments: “They’ve been going on about three-year-old races at all these seminars, but until that actually happens, there’s no point in us selling two-year-olds, because you’re only slowing the next man down for a year.”

He added: “It would be great if we could start doing that, because they’ll then come to hand quicker. I have no objection to it at all.

“You’re still going to get French horses that aren’t precocious. Like the prime example is Beaumec De Houelle and his first three-year-olds. They probably took a bit more time, and now as four-year-olds they’re flying.”

Asking Timmy for a highlight from past Derby Sales was always going to be a tough question, but one he’s quick to answer. “The last couple of years have been great as leading consigners.”

“It’s deadly when they go on to win the big ones. That’s definitely what we all need, because it’s going to attract the buyers back to you again and build up a sense of trust in a way.”