THERE may be some sore heads at the Irish National Stud [INS] today following a party last night to mark the success of Phoenix Of Spain in last Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas.
In the immediate aftermath of the race it was revealed that the INS had purchased the horse during the winter. His 16/1 success at the Curragh surprised even the horse’s biggest fans and has left the INS board and management team looking very clever.
Industry experts estimate that Phoenix Of Spain would have been worth just over €1 million before his classic success and his value today is over €3 million. Another Group 1 win, particularly if at Royal Ascot, could see that figure double.
Cathal Beale, INS chief executive, declined to disclose the numbers involved but he did confirm that the horse definitely will not be sold. It’s thought a handful of 5% shares were snapped by some the stud’s loyal clients during the off-season and Beale said the stud was open to selling a limited number of shares later in the year, though the price will be higher.
“We offered shares to 20 clients, all of whom had been involved in two of our last three stallion syndications. That was the criteria. We only wanted to sell a few, the idea being that we would syndicate him again at the end of the season.” Beale added that there was been considerable interest this week in securing the southern hemisphere breeding rights.
“It’s been a very good week, with lots of lovely messages,” reported Beale. “We fully expected the horse would come on for the run and we were hoping for a good placed effort which he could build on. To go and win as he did, beating the champion two-year-old by three lengths, was beyond our wildest expectations.”
Beale noted that the race time was the third fastest recorded in 50 years, and Timeform has given Phoenix Of Spain a rating of 126, stating “the sky is seemingly the limit” and predicting he will be “very hard to beat in the St James’s Palace Stakes”.
The INS made its daring purchase following a lengthy and thorough investigation. Beale explained: “My colleagues Patrick Diamond, Gary Swift and myself keep an eye on anything that moves and Phoenix Of Spain came on our radar last summer, as early as his maiden win in July, and certainly after his Group 3 win in August.
“He was only beaten a short-head by Magna Grecia in the Group 1 Futurity and I think he was one of only three two-year-olds in the top 20 last season who were not obviously spoken for in terms of their stud career.”
Swift and Diamond went to see the horse at the end of the season and were impressed. Beale recalled: “They came back with glowing reports, they loved him physically. He was a big frame of a horse who was bound to improve as a three-year-old. I went to see him myself and it was one of those rare occasions where we all in agreement. It was then down to our board who showed great faith in us by telling us to close the deal.” The board is chaired by Matt Dempsey.
The INS dealt with agents Geoffrey Howson and Matthew Houldsworth, who look after the racing interests of owners Tony Wechlser and Ann Plummer. A price was agreed and in such cases it is normal for bonuses to be paid should the horse subsequently achieve certain milestones on the racecourse.
In January the Lope De Vega colt had a training setback. “He had to walk for a couple of weeks but things were going very well again up to 10 days before the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket when gave a cough and that stopped him in his tracks.”
Trainer Charlie Hills did not need much persuasion to switch targets to the Curragh and the rest is history.
Phoenix Of Spain is said to have come out of last Saturday’s race “extraordinarily well”. Beale concluded: “The Lope De Vega sire line includes Shamardal and Giant’s Causeway. Like all of those horses, Phoenix Of Spain likes to race prominently and get on with things. He has a huge stride and massive cruising speed.”
Phoenix Of Spain also represents a major success for Cathy Grassick of Brian Grassick Bloostock, who planned the matings for the horse’s late breeder, Cherry Faeste. The horse was bought as a foal for 78,000gns by pinhookers Barry Mahon and Michael Fitzpatrick (Kilminfoyle House Stud). They sold him for 220,000gns as a yearling.