ZHANG Yueshang’s decision to get involved in racing and breeding has been a godsend for both sectors, and his choice of BBA Ireland’s Michael Donohoe to be his anchor was a wise one. Saturday’s Juddmonte Irish Oaks success was a magic moment for the team, and well-deserved on many fronts.

On August 19th, 2012, Yulong Baoju won the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund 2yo Maiden at Dundalk on her debut. The daughter of Acclamation was the first thoroughbred purchase by Mr Zhang, and she made the perfect start to his new role as a racehorse owner. She was ridden that day by Fran Berry, and later she added three more victories, under Pat Smullen, Johnny Murtagh and Fergal Lynch, including wins at Naas and the Curragh.

Trained by Eddie Lynam, the Shadwell-bred Yulong Baoju was purchased as a yearling at Goffs by BBA Ireland for €40,000, won some €60,000 in three seasons racing, and was sold on for €50,000. All in all, this was a highly satisfactory start to ownership for Mr Zhang, but who could have envisaged where that first success would lead?

A few years after his visit to Europe, Mr Zhang travelled for the first time to Australia, saw the Irish-bred Fiorente win the Group 1 Melbourne Cup, and embarked on a programme of investing in bloodstock and property in Australia. Today, he is one of the industry’s leaders down under. He currently has about 1,000 acres of stud farms in Australia, though that is dwarfed by the 3,000 acre stud farm and equestrian school he has in China.

Best start

His breeding programme in Australia got off to the best start when, in 2019, Yulong offered their first draft of yearlings, and that consignment included the Group 1-winning Frankel filly Hungry Heart, the daughter of a Pivotal mare. Mr Zhang also stands a number of stallions, and in 2023 his Lucky Vega will be available again to breeders in Ireland at the Irish National Stud.

Lucky Vega has been as popular with Irish and British breeders as he was in his first season in Australia. The son of Lope De Vega (Shamardal) won the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes by more than three lengths at two, where the beaten horses included St Mark’s Basilica, and he ran second to Supremacy in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes.

He made just three starts in his second season, in order to facilitate his transfer to Australia for stud duties, finishing third and fourth in the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, before chasing home Poetic Flare when runner-up in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes. In that first season down under he covered a quality book of 130 mares, and Mr Zhang and Michael Donohoe have been very busy buying top-quality mares and fillies for his second season in Ireland.

Battling qualities

Back to the weekend, and the victory for Magical Lagoon in the fourth Irish classic of 2022. On just her sixth outing, and following her success at Royal Ascot in the Group 2 Ribbledsale Stakes, this daughter of Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) showed great battling qualities to give connections another big race win. At two she was successful in the Group 3 Flame Of Tara Stakes at the Curragh, while Concert Hall denied her another stakes success by a short-head in the Listed Salsabil Stakes at Navan.

Magical Lagoon is the 95th Group/Grade 1 winner for her late, great Coolmore sire, and provided the 196th win at that level for Galileo. Ironically, this 305,000gns purchase in Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale was bred by Coolmore, and how fortunate it was that Michael Donohoe went that extra bid for the filly. She is worth a small fortune now as she comes from one of Germany’s many successful female lines, a growing feature in European racing and breeding.

As mentioned, Coolmore bred the Oaks winner and, as fate would have it, they also used the services of BBA (Ireland) eight years ago to purchase her Lagunas (Ile De Bourbon) dam Night Lagoon at Fasig-Tipton for $1.7 million. A champion Group 3 winning juvenile in Germany and in foal to War Front (Danzig), Night Lagoon had extra-special appeal at the sale as her half-brother Novellist (Monsun) won the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes the previous year, and he was also a Group 1 winner in France, Germany and Italy.

Final offspring

Night Lagoon is the dam of 12 winners from 13 foals, and Magical Lagoon is her final offspring. All of her runners have won. In addition to her pair of Group 1 winners, Night Lagoon is also responsible for three others who were stakes-placed. This is a family that for years has been notable for the numerous winners bred by successive dams. Night Lagoon is one of eight winners from the German listed winner Nenuphar (Night Shift), she is one of 12 winners from Narola (Nebos), while Magical Lagoon’s winning fourth dam Nubia (Tuttlinger) had eight winners.

A quarter of the dozen winners from Narola were stakes winners, and in addition to Nenuphar she bred listed winners National Academy (Royal Academy) in Germany and Nostro Amico (Martillo) in Italy. Nenuphar also had an impressive 25% strike rate of stakes winners to overall winners, Night Lagoon being joined by her year-younger half-brother Night Tango (Acatenango). Both of his wins were in listed races and he was runner-up in the Group 1 Deutsches (German) Derby.

Galileo sired three of the seven runners that went to post for the Irish Oaks, while his sire Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer) appeared somewhere in the first three removes of all but one of the starters. While Galileo is the outstanding son of Sadler’s Wells, now Frankel has well and truly emerged as his best son, and Juddmonte’s star stallion too is on the cusp of a history-making achievement. This is a sire line that keeps on giving.