‘People will like what they see’
Paul Rothwell, Lacken Stud
LACKEN Stud in Bunclody, Co Wexford, is best known as the home of the remarkable rags-to-riches stallion Sandmason, who was largely overlooked early in his career but supplied the Grade 1 winners Black Op and Summerville Boy from tiny crops and consequently covered much bigger books of mares in the last years of his life.
“He could potentially have been one of the great National Hunt sires, but he just didn’t get the quantity of mares at the start and it’s a numbers game,” says Lacken Stud owner Paul Rothwell.
The operation lost Sandmason when he died aged 23 in 2020, but two years later it has a worthy replacement who deserves more patronage from the outset in the well-bred Derby runner-up Khalifa Sat.
The Free Eagle three-parts brother to Give Thanks Stakes winner and St Leger runner-up Unsung Heroine was trained by Andrew Balding to win a competitive maiden at Goodwood at two and the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at the same course at three. He stayed on strongly to finish second to Serpentine in the Derby, beating Group 1 winners Kameko, Mogul and Pyledriver in the process.
“Federico Barberini did the deal for us to stand Khalifa Sat,” says Rothwell. “The horse showed really good form as a three-year-old but was injured later in the season. He was due to return to the track at four last year, and Andrew Balding thought a lot of him, but said he’d need to be gelded.
“The owner Ahmad Al Shaikh wanted to breed from him, however, and that’s how he arrived here. He’s kept breeding rights in the horse.”
Khalifa Sat, whose fee has been set at €2,000 with concessions, has been impressing his first few visitors at Lacken Stud, reports Rothwell.
“I wouldn’t expect most people to come and inspect him until nearer when they want to send their mares, but anyone who has seen him at this early stage has said they think he’s a fine, big, scopey lad,” he says.
Rothwell is looking forward to showing off his new acquisition to more breeders when they visit Lacken Stud, also formerly home to useful jumps sires Beau Charmeur, Hubbly Bubbly and Meneval, during the ITM Stallion Trail next weekend.
“I’m keen for people to come and look at him because I know that when they do, they’ll like what they see,” he says. “Full credit to ITM for the Stallion Trail and any scheme that brings people into your yard. It’s all very welcome, especially in these strange times. Just to have people seeing your stock and getting to know new names and faces, it all helps.”
Rothwell acknowledges that Covid appears to have given sales of National Hunt stock a boost, but cautions against thinking the money has trickled down through all levels of trade.
“It’s positive at the top, but I’m not so sure below that,” he says. “For most of my life, you could have 10 horses in a year and sell seven or eight of them for a nice profit, with a couple of flops who lost money and maybe occasionally a superstar who would put the icing on the cake.
“But now that average horse, which is what most people produce, is in trouble as there’s not much of a market for them any more.
“If you have a foal, three-year-old or point-to-point horse and they tick all the boxes – good-looking, with a nice page and able to pass the vet – you’re on the pig’s back. But you usually tick one or two and not the others.”
Rothwell’s assessment of the market is sobering but probably correct.
But at least in the well-bred, good-looking and top-performing Khalifa Sat he and his clients have a stallion who looks capable of producing youngsters who will appeal to a wide range of buyers at the sales.
Reddy Coffey, Springfield House Stud
SPRINGFIELD House Stud in Knock, Co Tipperary, a division of the transatlantic Oak Lodge Group founded by Pat and Claire Fitzsimons at Oak Lodge Stud in 1980, boasts an outstanding heritage of success. Among the many high-class horses it has bred are two who achieved famous doubles – Cockney Rebel, who won the Group 1 2000 Guineas and Irish 2000 Guineas in 2007, and Blue Point, who took the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes and Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2019.
Springfield House Stud also boards stock for a number of leading international breeders, including Cheveley Park Stud, Kirtlington Stud and Elite Racing Club, for whom it raised dual Group 1-winning sprinter and record-breaking 6,000,000gns breeding-prospect purchase Marsha.
“We’ve been here 15 years now, and bred some very good horses on the farm, but it’s finding the next one that counts,” says Reddy Coffey, who runs the stud with wife Linda, daughter of Pat and Claire Fitzsimons.
“We were even the first stud anywhere to stand a son of Galileo, would you believe it, when we acquired Heliostatic in 2008. We bred the Group 3 winner Crius from him, but he’s since been sold to Argentina, where I believe he’s doing well.”
Springfield House Stud is also home to Unfortunately, a son of the late former champion first season sire Society Rock and half-brother to the prolific sprinter Look Busy. He was sent out by Karl Burke to win the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin and Group 1 Prix Morny at two and the Group 3 Renaissance Stakes at three.
“It’s an exciting year for us as Unfortunately has his first runners,” says Coffey of the horse, who spent his first covering season at his owners’ Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket. His yearlings sold well, and his debut two-year-olds are with the likes of Richard Hannon, Karl Burke, Kevin Ryan, Richard Fahey, Con Marnane and Al Shaqab Racing. We’ve bred a good few by the sire ourselves, and they’ve just turned yearli ngs, so we’re looking forward to seeing how he goes. He should get off to a good start, as he was a very precocious horse himself. In fact, he was the quickest Prix Morny winner of the last 10 years, running a faster time than Dream Ahead, Earthlight, Lady Aurelia, No Nay Never and Shalaa.”
The Coffeys and their team will be welcoming breeders to Springfield House Stud to inspect Unfortunately during the ITM Stallion Trail.“The scheme is a huge positive,” says Reddy Coffey. “Even if it’s someone who hasn’t got any mares and only has an interest in racing that comes here, they could bring their child, cousin, next door neighbour, and they might become an owner one day. Everyone has to start somewhere, and we need to show people it’s not a sport just for elites and that anyone can get involved in some way.”
Coffey believes that an unexpected benefit of the Covid pandemic has been the wider exposure of racing to the masses, encouraging more people to get into it.
“When a lot of other sports were cancelled or forced behind closed doors, TG4 started showing a lot of Irish racing,” he says. “People were sitting at home with nothing to do, and started watching it as it’s free to air, and I think we picked up a lot of new admirers and even owners.
“We should all get our heads together and think of more ways to convince people racing isn’t a rich man’s game and make it easier for them to get involved.”
It’s not just preparing for the ITM Stallion Trail and selling nominations to Unfortunately that will keep Springfield House Stud busy in the early part of 2022, as it has plenty of top-class mares to foal and prepare for covering.
“We have Scarlett Rose, the dam of Blue Point, in foal to Earthlight and due in March, and we have Melody Blue, Blue Point’s half-sister by Invincible Spirit, retiring to the stud,” says Coffey. “We also bred Measure Of Magic, a dual listed winner who was third in the Commonwealth Cup last year, and her dam is back in foal to Kodi Bear and due in February. Lough Mewin, one of our older mares who bred the US Grade 3 winner Queen Of The Sand, is back in foal to Footstepsinthesand. She’s carrying a filly, who we hope to race one day and bring back to the broodmare band.
“It’s all dreaming at this stage of course, but that’s the wonderful thing about this time of year- – new life brings new hope.”
better time to get into
what we’re doing’
Ger O’Neill, Castlefield Stud
CASTLEFIELD Stud in Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny, has only recently started standing thoroughbred stallions but its owner Ger O’Neill will be well known by many in the industry as a former world champion show jumper and producer of sports horses.
The operation stood Hunting Horn, a Group 2-winning and Group 1-placed son of Camelot, for the first time last year and has added Mirage Dancer, a Group 1-winning son of Frankel, and Alkumait, a high-class son of Showcasing, to its roster for 2022.
O’Neill’s decision to branch out into thoroughbreds is poignant, as he explains: “The late Jonathan Fitzpatrick, who bred Sir Gerhard, was a good friend, and he always wanted to stand stallions – in fact, we were looking at some together before he died.
“So a friend of mine, Darragh McCarthy, and a friend of Jonathan’s, Jack Tuohy, formed Capital Bloodstock to buy a stallion in his honour, and to keep his legacy going. Doing it for Jonathan is certainly motivating us to make it a success.”
The Capital Bloodstock team have been careful to honour their friend’s memory by purchasing three credible stallion prospects.
“I was really taken by Camelot when I saw him at Coolmore so when the chance arose to stand Hunting Horn, who would be his highest rated son in Ireland, I was particularly keen to get him,” says O’Neill.
“He gave us a good start and now we have Mirage Dancer, the first son of Frankel to stand in Ireland and a Group 1 winner out of a Group 1 winner from one of the very best pedigrees in the studbook.
“We’ve just bought Alkumait to add a speed element to our portfolio. He was extremely fast, and won the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes in a quicker time than a lot of good horses, including Harry Angel and Ribchester. We’re selling a select number of breeding rights to him, and they’re going down very well.
“We were determined to try to stand the best we could, as there was no point coming into the stallion market as unknowns with something mediocre.”
Launching new stallions in the age of Covid might have been expected to be a challenge, but in fact the pandemic has brought unintended benefits.
O’Neill says: “Covid meant travel was more restricted and I was unable to go abroad for competitions, so I was at home to launch the new stallions, and it has given Jason Foley, the reigning European champion under-18 and best under-21 rider, to take over with the Castlefield Sport Horses.
“Also, demand for horses of all kinds has really been on fire in the last few years, so it feels like there’s never been a better time to get into what we’re doing. Breeders are really keen to produce horses and it all seems positive.”
Breeders are often loyal to studs they are familiar with, but O’Neill reports that the market has been very receptive to the new venture.
“I think people are often interested in something fresh and Jack Tuohy has a deep knowledge of the industry and knows a lot of people at the sales, so he’s been a great front man for us,” he says.
“We’re striving to make this a success, and to work with breeders to make them successful too. We’re supporting the stallions ourselves, and will be looking to buy their progeny at the sales down the line.”
O’Neill is looking forward to showing the stallions to breeders during the ITM Stallion Trail, having been impressed by last year’s virtual event.
“I found it very interesting myself last year, seeing all the horses and studs online, but of course it will be even better when breeders can get up close to the stallions to see what suits their mare, and to have a chat with people in the flesh,” he said.
‘Trade has been incredible, almost miraculous’
Alastair Pim, Anngrove Stud
LEGENDARY auctioneer David Pim founded Anngrove Stud in Mountmellick, Co Laois, on the site of his family’s dairy farm in 1970.
The first stallion he stood on the property was Lucifer, a US-bred son of Crimson Satan who would supply Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle hero Flame Gun and the dam of Grade 1 King George VI Chase winner Barton Bank.
Anngrove Stud went on to stand the Champion Hurdle heroes Monksfield and Alderbrook as well as the likes of Arctic Lord, Pollerton, Prince Regent, Sexton Blake and Welsh Term.
David’s son Alastair, one of the most familiar faces – and voices – to wield a gavel on the rostrum, has maintained the tradition of standing high-class National Hunt stallions at the stud, and the roster currently boasts Vendangeur, Famous Name, Marcel and Aiken.
“Vendangeur’s small early crops bred in France came up with Arzal, who won a Grade 1 novice chase at Aintree by eight lengths, and some very smart horses in Ireland like Barra and Chateau Conti,” says Pim of the Group 2-winning son of Galileo.
“His oldest crop conceived here has just turned four, so hopefully he might get a few nice point-to-point winners in the months ahead.”
Famous Name, the prolific blacktype winner by Dansili, “has shown with his crops bred at the Irish National Stud that he can get good jumpers such as Famous Milly and Pisgah Pike and his first proper National Hunt-bred foals are now three-year-olds,” he adds.
As for Marcel, the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy winner by Lawman whose oldest crop bred at the National Stud in Newmarket are three-year-olds, the verdict is: “He’s off to a fair start from a very small number of flat runners, with three winners of five races, and his only runner over hurdles is Helvic Princess, who has finished placed.”
Pim waxes lyrical about Marcel’s conformation, saying: “He’s absolutely gorgeous – a spectacular, big, strapping horse with great depth and bone. He should suit National Hunt mares down to a T.”
Breeders can judge the quality of the stallions for themselves when Pim throws open the gates of Anngrove Stud as part of next week’s ITM Stallion Trail.
“I’m always happy to show people around the stud but this initiative has been particularly good for selling nominations and meeting people,” he says.
“People mightn’t turn up here under ordinary circumstances but when they’re doing their round of all the studs, they often pass by our door as we’re slap bang in the middle of the country.”
Pim is better positioned than many to comment on the extraordinarily buoyant atmosphere in the bloodstock market, considering wider world events, as he was centre stage at so many robust sales in 2021.
“Trade has been incredible, almost miraculous, and that goes for National Hunt sales as well as flat,” he says.
“The middle of the flat market has been nearly better than the top, as Books 2 and 3 at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sales were phenomenal.
“I’m not sure anyone can say for certain why that is, but more people just seem to have money to spend after lockdowns.”
Breeders wishing to produce jumps stock to capitalise on that fevered demand at the sales would be well advised to check out Anngrove Stud for its stallions, who are carefully curated and conveniently located.