THERE’s a bit of a change about the Commonstown gallops from my last visit to see Sizing John at the beginning of the 2017-18 National Hunt season. Where once you had the sturdy sons of Milan, Flemensfirth or Midnight Legend, it’s now a bunch of frisky two-year-olds heading up the gallops.
And their breeding makes you pause awhile - Dubawi, Kingman, Invincible Spirit, Zoustar, Frankel, Galileo. A list of the leading sires in the world. Add in the new kids, Sioux Nation and Saxon Warrior, and the flat string in Jessica Harrington’s care looks as strong as in any yard in the country.
The owners’ list feature some of the breeding powerhouses; Niarchos, Yulong Investments, Kirsten Rausing, and new US owners Hronis Racing are among the elite.
The yard is now split 70-30 towards the flat and comprises of over 170 horses. They warm down around the briefly redundant schooling fences after work under the instruction of daughter Kate and by the watchful eye of Jessica.
Harrington now has 75 two-year-olds among her team and is excited by the potential of her string.
The focus has shifted gradually to the flat. “Alan Potts died and he was my main source of high-class horses over jumps. The ones I have are quite nice and I’ll always have a few. It keeps me busy during the winter. I’ve got some very nice flat horses now, with proper pedigrees.
“They are very exciting, you just don’t know what they are going to turn out like. The ones that promise you everything could turn out to do nothing.”
Still, the thrill of the chase of big prizes is as strong as ever. The winning two-year-old Ocean Quest might be among the most laidback out for inspection but the trainer is as fired up as ever and not one to take it easy, up and down to the viewing points on the gallops, recovery from January knee surgery shrugged off with just a slight discomfort.
“In terms of ambition I want to win more classic races and races abroad. There are a lot of things on the hit-list I haven’t done yet. I’d like a Breeders’ Cup winner. I’d like to have a winner in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, all those places. I’ve had a Group 1 in France, I’ve been lucky enough to have horses to do that.”
Cheltenham or Royal Ascot, the buzz is the same. “Oh yes, and I’m off to Aintree this week, looking forward to that and then back to the Curragh.”
Big strides have been made in the last five years. Inside the back hall there is a long framed photo of Alpha Centauri, Alpine Star and Discoveries, racing to their Group 1 wins, and the pedigree of their dam Alpha Lupi underneath.
Scoffing some rather tasty locally made sausage rolls between lots, you are careful not to knock into Sizing John’s Horse of the Year sculpture on the sideboard behind. Jump racing’s great prizes already in the bag.
Monday morning’s string was highlighted by 1000 Guineas hopeful Discoveries, the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes winner, who is set to head to Newmarket at the start of next month, if she gets good ground.
She is the star of the show but is backed up by many decent older horses on the cusp of regular group company like Real Appeal, Cadillac and the Galileo mare Forbearance who will all keep group-race company this year.
But the two-year-olds could go to another level. “I’ve noticed with the two-year-olds I have this year, they are all well grown and strong horses. These have all got a bit of size and scope.
Saturn - first foal of Alpha Centauri
“They have done well over the winter and are all pretty forward in their coats. Some we get sent but some we have to get ourselves. Thank God I have a good teamwork.”
Is it harder work to keep these flighty youngsters under control and prepared for the track? Kate says no: “They learn quicker, but you can ruin one by having the wrong rider on them.”
The ‘all in the family’ connection go from the boss to the horses with the next offspring of Alpha Lupi warming up alongside his ‘nephew’ Saturn who has big shoes to fill.
“I have her [Alpha Centauri] full-brother here, Simpson’s Paradox he’s called, and he’s very different again. You could line them all up and one is more different than the other.
“Alpha Centauri was a big grey, Alpine Star was a little low insignificant filly about 15.2 and a mealy chestnut. Discoveries is bay with a big head, completely different again.
“The colt Simpson’s Paradox is very pretty, very attractive, and quite small but he is a middle of May foal. He’s only starting to grow now. They are an extraordinary family.”
The two-year-olds excite everyone and when picking three to follow, Kate and Shane Foley are keen on Saturn, Panic Alarm (Kuroshio) and the Bobby’s Kitten filly Leopardess.
The younger sires are represented too with four by Saxon Warrior and two by Sioux Nation. The ‘laid-back’ Saxon Warriors gain a favourable mention. Scarlett O’Hara is another to note, a Frankel filly from Mrs O’Kelly famed family, as are a Dubawi-Sceptre and a Galileo-Lady Lara.
Real Appeal will be seeking more group race success particularily around
“Plan A is always, win a race, plan B is get some blacktype and build on it from there. That’s what we did with Forbearance, and she got better and better.”
Kate has the unenviable task of sorting out the work schedules. Other matters – budgets, staff, health and safety, endless paperwork for travel and yard inspections – the finger points to Emma Galway. Sourcing new staff, watching the rising costs of training– a monthly feed bill of €25,000 makes you blink – fall to her. The Ukraine war has had an effect as the country is the biggest grower of sunflowers which are a vital ingredient in horse-feed.
But Jessica is the director – “If I don’t like something, I tell you, and very quickly!” Shane Foley recalls an attempt a post-race debrief when he got as far as “I thought…” before being stopped in his tracks. “The last thing I want is a jockey that thinks!”
But the early-season banter is all good. There are many new boxes and extended gallops since Sizing John’s successes.
“I’ve got some very nice flat horses. You just don’t know how they’re going to turn out. It’s the fun of it,” she said.
Looking up that new potential star’s name Simpson’s Paradox, reveals that it is a phenomenon in probability and statistics in which a trend appears in several groups of data but disappears or reverses when the groups are combined.
No matter what way you look at it, all things combined, expect this to be a big year for the Moone yard.
The following horses were on the gallops this week.
3yo b f (4131-)
Mastercraftsman - Alpha Lupi
All being well she goes to the English Guineas, that’s the plan at the minute, provided the ground is fast.
I won’t run her unless the ground is quick. She’s like her sister, she doesn’t like slow ground, and the quicker the ground the better she goes.
She’s done well over the winter and I’m happy with her. The family all got a mile and her half-sister [Alpine Star] got a mile-and-a-quarter.
Her work is pleasing and we might as well try and go to Newmarket, if the ground is soft that’s that and we can then go to the Curragh.
I’m not going to make the same mistake I made with Alpha, running her on soft ground and then realising she couldn’t walk on it. Discoveries is the same, she struggled on yielding ground.
Another exciting prospect at Commonstown is the grey Galileo first foal of Alpha Centuari named Saturn. He’s excitable going back from the gallops but looks a very nice specimen and goes about his work in a professional manner.
“He’s pretty forward. She ran in May and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran in the middle to the end of May.“It just depends on how it goes in the next couple of weeks, whether he has another growing spurt or gets a bit weak or something. It’ll be what it’ll be. He’s very mature in his mind and he does everything very easily.”
4yo b g (10/2350-)
Australia - Queenscliff
He may run in the Gladness. He was behind Poetic Flare first time out last year but probably lost his way a little bit. He’s in a good place this year.
4yo b c (0/3-3)
Territories - Imperialistic
Mrs Theresa Marnane
He’ll be a nice horse going forward. I was delighted with his run (third at the Curragh to Malex) and he’ll go for a couple of premier handicaps.
Then we’ll see how we get on, I’m only really learning about him. He’s had plenty of time and it was only his second run the other day.
3yo ch c (95225-)
Siyouni - Rajaratna
I love him. He’ll go for his maiden and probably should have won last year.
3yo b f (014-4)
Sea The Moon - Alea Iacta
Miss K Rausing
I was a bit disappointed with her but she probably wants to go further. She was running over a mile and I think she wants to go a mile and a quarter. She might go to the Salsabil Stakes or the Blue Wind.
8yo ch m (12211/543-)
Mastercraftsman - Arabian Hideway
J P McManus
My good old stayer. She’ll run if we ever get soft ground for her. She’s in great order this year and I’m delighted with her.
3yo b f (2-)
Pivotal - Crystal Diamond
She should have won at the Curragh, she got knocked over, and then she didn’t run again.
She’s a lovely filly and she’s done very well over the winter. She’ll be ready to run in about three weeks and she’s starting to go very well.
6yo b g (/1030136-)
Pedro The Great - Breizh Touch
He was a little bit of a revelation last year. He’s a little bit between a rock and a hard place as I haven’t run him in a group or listed race yet but he’s rated 105. He’s not an over big horse and we’ll just see where we go.
3yo ch f (10-)
Zoffany - Compostela
Ms Gillian Khosla
She won in Killarney last year and then I ran her in the listed race (at Leopardstown) and the ground was too quick for her. She needs soft ground and she’s a stakes filly on soft ground.
3yo b g (210-)
Lope De Vega - Starflower
He was going to run in Naas the first day but he wants good ground. He’ll probably go six furlongs to start with and then six or seven furlongs.
He got castrated last year and then got colic so that’s why he didn’t run.
3yo b c (6217-)
Lope De Vega - Freedom March
Ecurie Ama Zingteam
I’m very happy with him and he’ll most likely go for a Guineas trial. I think he’s a miler and I think he’s a stronger horse this year.
4yo (45/32214-) b f
Fastnet Rock - Peloponnese
She has stayed in training this year because we thought she might improve a bit. We might try and sneak a bit of blacktype with her.
She’s got to improve but you never know with those fillies, especially the Fastnet Rocks.
3yo b f (1-)
Lope De Vega - Dream Club
Newtown Anner Stud Farm Ltd
She’s a lovely filly, she’s big and very strong. It’s taken a bit of time to get her going but she’s in the right place. She might run in a handicap and then on to a stakes race.
3yo b f
Sea The Stars – Green Room
She’s going well, we are just waiting ‘til probably the beginning of May, just give her a bit more time. She’s a middle of May foal, so she’s a late foal.
5yo b m (4313131-)
Galileo - Nechita
Newtown Anner Stud Farm Ltd
She’s won her listed and won her Group 3. We’ll look at fillies’ races, four-year-olds and upwards, over a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half, maybe even a mile-five as long as the ground is quick.
She bounces off quick ground so she’ll probably be making a few journeys to England.
Flor De La Luna
5yo b m (P1/2860-)
Miss K Rausing
Sea The Moon - Fresa
She wants soft ground and she’ll go anything between a mile and a half and two miles. Need soft ground.
Ha Ha Ha
3yo b f (-4)
Dark Angel - Fashionable
I was delighted with her, she’s a half-sister to Jack Naylor and she needs to step up to a mile.
She ran very well at the Curragh to get as close as she did on her first run. Plan A is to win her maiden and take it from there.
4yo ch g (101002-)
Mastercraftsman – Fikrah
Mill House LLC
He’ll go mile and a quarter, mile and half in handicaps, he seems to be in a better place than last year, and stronger this year.
Leo De Fury
6yo ch g (56/50513-)
Australia - Attire
For the first time in his life he managed to get through the winter without having any operations.
He’s in a very good place and we’re going to step him up in trip. He might run in the Mooresbridge at the weekend but then we are going to run him in the Vintage Crop and see if he stays.
I see no reason why he won’t, he’s by Australia. He needs good ground.
3yo (417-) b f
Galileo - Night Lagoon
She will run in the Salsabil Stakes and she got an entry today in the Oaks [Epsom]. She did a racecourse gallop the other day and we were very happy with her.
She’s always been a big strong filly and she seems to be a bit sharper than she was last year. She took a little while last year to get going.
3yo b f (231481-)
Sea The Moon - Angelic Air
She runs in Gowran. She’s a nice filly going forward and we’ll try and sneak a bit of blacktype.
5yo b g (/131319-)
Sidestep - Runaway Sparkle
He’ll go for anything on good ground. He’ll start off in the Amethyst and then might go to Ascot. Hopefully we can get him placed in a Group 1.
6yo b g (/5132040-)
Shamardal - Danelissima
He’ll be running over a mile to a mile and a quarter on good ground. He’s in a good place this year. He doesn’t like the Curragh, but he loves tracks like Leopardstown and Galway.
That’s Just Dandy
4yo b g (0/931-2)
Dandy Man - Union City Blues
One I’m just learning just learning about – it was his first handicap last week and he ran well. He’ll be running premier handicaps and we’ll see how we develop from there.
The Blue Brilliant
4yo b f (321128-)
Fastnet Rock - Butterfly Blue
Mrs David Nagle & Mrs John Magnier
She ran a blinder in France but didn’t run well when she came back here. She was meant to run the first day at the Curragh but when I saw the weather forecast I didn’t bother with her.
She’ll run in anything over a mile or a mile and two. If the ground was real soft, I’d run her over a mile.
3yo b f
Newtown Anner Stud
She hasn’t run and is a Wootton Bassett filly that’s being going nicely, so we’ll find a maiden for her. Probably seven furlongs or a mile.
3yo b c (53-5)
Siyouni - Cabaret
If he doesn’t sit in the stalls he’ll be alright!
I’m going to step him up to a mile and a quarter which I think will help him.
3yo b f (35215-)
Dark Angel - Starlit Sands
Miss K Rausing
She’ll go for a six furlong race whenever the ground is good, she’s just about ready to go now.
I like to get some blacktype with her because she’s a nice filly. She hasn’t grown much over the winter but she’s very, very strong.
3yo b f (414-)
Muhaarar - Liber Nauticus
Moyglare Stud Farm
She’s a lovely big filly, she grew again during the winter and is an enormous filly. She’ll go a mile and a quarter, stepping up to a mile and a half. The aim is to get blacktype and take it from there.
3yo ch f (01-3)
Mastercraftsman - Quads
I was thinking of running her in the Guineas trial at Leopardstown but it’s only 18 days before the Guineas. I’ll see how she’s come out of Saturday but this morning she’s very relaxed.
I’m delighted with that. All being well, she’ll go for the Irish 1000 Guineas. It wasn’t ideal coming back to seven furlongs from a mile but I was delighted with her. She’s a lovely big filly.