SINCE 2013 seven mares have won three €5,000 bonuses courtesy of the Weatherbys ITBA NH Fillies Bonus Scheme and last month the dependable six-year-old Agusta Gold was the latest to add her name to this illustrious list.
The Gold Well mare, who was breaking her maiden over fences at Thurles in a 53-length romp, was adding to hurdle and bumper victories accrued since April 2018. She is owned by Kieran Leavy, Lorcan Cribbin, Fergus Healy and trainer Mag Mullins, and the €15,000 in bonuses she has accrued can be added to the approximate €89,000 won on the track.
Principal owner Kieran Leavy reported that he and his partners “keep a few mares, both flat and National Hunt, as an interest in the game.”
Agusta Gold, bought for €17,500, runs in the Portarlington GAA colours, a club which the Leavy family has been involved with for a long time. “That is where I met Lorcan Cribbin,” Leavy said.
“Our fathers took us racing around the country at an early age and we were involved in the Portarlington Racing Club which had horses with Mick Halford and P.J. Finn, and so that is where we got the bug for it.”
The most notable filly Kieran and Lorcan have been involved in was the Willie McCreery-trained Fiesolana. She won four blacktype races on the flat for them – including the Group 2 Dubai Challenge Stakes – before being sold for a sizeable sum to the Niarchos family, for whom she added the Group 1 Matron Stakes in 2014.
The owners predominantly send their horses to trainers Peter Fahey and Mag Mullins.
Kieran said: “Both Peter and Mag are thoroughly professional and really know how to get a horse to peak on the day.”
The evidence of this can be seen in Agusta Gold’s incredible record of never being outside the first four in 14 career starts.
Kieran and his colleagues predominantly buy fillies to support the ITBA Mares Bonus Scheme “because if it doesn’t work out we always have the option of sending her back to the breeding shed.
“We only buy mares of good stock, with a good conformation, and at the moment I have a Shantou filly in pre-training.”
The Weatherbys NH Fillies Bonus Scheme was set up in response to a dip in demand for National Hunt fillies during the recession. The scheme’s two main objectives have been to help promote fillies at National Hunt sales and encourage breeders/owners to put their fillies into training.
In the case of Agusta Gold and her owners, both these objectives have clearly been met. As Kieran succinctly puts it: “It is a fabulous initiative that I would recommend to any other breeder or owner.”
Agusta Gold was last seen going down narrowly to the Grade 2-winning Alsa Mix of Alan King’s in a mares’ listed chase at Bangor. It was the third time she had gained blacktype in her career.
Kieran said: “She is a mare that leaves everything on the track, that goes on any ground and her incredible consistency is her biggest asset.
“As for future plans, we will leave that to Mag, as she knows her inside out, but you’d imagine we’d keep to the valuable mares’ chase programme and possibly another listed chase next.
“The new Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham next season is something we’d definitely have our eye on.”