Bobby Zen

Stuart McPhee can blame Emma Balding for the fact that he has now accumulated interests in more than 20 mares worldwide, but the man who prides himself on his bargain buys can now call himself a Classic breeder.

Metropolitan (Fr), who also became a first Classic winner for his sire Zarak (Fr) in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains, has delivered a dream for his British breeder, who has mares not only in his home country, but increasingly in France and also Australia. 

“I’ve had black-type horses before, but a Classic winner is just unbelievable,” says McPhee. “As is the thought that I might have bred a horse that will become a decent stallion in time.”

Based in Orford, Lincolnshire, McPhee admits that the lure of the French premiums has become hard to resist and he now keeps half of his broodmare band across the Channel. Metropolitan’s dam Alianza (GB) (Halling) boards at Marie-Laure Collet’s Haras de Clairefontaine and was a by-now famously inexpensive purchase at 800gns from the Darley draft at the Tattersalls February Sale of 2015. 

“I like Storm Cat in a pedigree and her dam was by Storm Cat,” he says, recalling what drew him to the unraced three-year-old filly. “If I buy from Darley or Shadwell, which I do quite often, there’s usually a lot happening on the page, although it turned out that not much was happening on her page. But her dam Darley bought for, I think it was a million dollars. So again, you think, well, I’m getting the daughter of a million-dollar mare.”

Alianza’s dam, Cercle d’Amour, was also unraced and is a sister to the Listed winner Royal Tigress, as well as being a half-sister to the Norfolk S. winner Warm Heart (Diesis). 

McPhee continues, “She’s absolutely beautiful, and Zarak‘s good looking, so no wonder Metropolitan is so good looking, as well as having plenty of speed.”

McPhee was one of the shrewd breeders to use Zarak in his early seasons. Metropolitan is a member of his third crop, when his sire was still available for €12,000. Nowadays, Zarak‘s fee has risen t0 €60,000.

“She’s been covered by Erevann,” McPhee says of Alianza. “Even before this happened, I was trying to persuade the Aga Khan Studs to give me a foal-share on Zarak because she did well last year. And I couldn’t quite swing it, but they convinced me to go to Erevann instead, which is not a totally dissimilar pedigree. In fact, I have sent two mares to him.”

He continues, “When I buy now, I usually buy in France. I’ve got about 10 or 11 out there and I’m attracted by two things. One, I think at the sales there, especially in the middle market, they give every individual a chance. And of course, the breed surprises. Even with just the little handicappers I get €3,000 or €4,000 a month from them [in breeder’s premiums]. It just makes such a difference.”

Collet attended Longchamp with McPhee to watch their graduate race in the Classic and had more confidence in the outcome than the breeder.

He recalls, “Marie-Laure was there with me on Sunday and she said before the race, ‘I’ve had two horses that I’ve raised run in this race before. One came third, one came second. I know we’re going to win today.’

“And there was such joy in the winner’s enclosure for, well, everyone. I suppose there always is, but it’s a bit different if you’re not used to it.”

Alianza’s current two-year-old is a colt by Elarqam (GB) who is in training with Stephane Cerulis, while McPhee has a yearling colt by Romanised (Ire) to send to the yearling sales later this year.

“She’s got a very nice Romanised colt and then there ‘s the Goken filly [foal], which I’m now quite tempted to keep, obviously,” he says. 

“The hard thing, for someone like me, is to know whether I should keep the mare or sell her. Tattersalls were on the phone this morning saying, ‘Bring her to the Sceptre Sale in December’.”

Describing his collection of mares as running to a “frightening number”, he adds, “I wouldn’t like to add them up. It must be over 20 because I’ve got some in Australia as well. That was a similar situation to France really. We see some of their stallions coming up here, the likes of Zoustar, and they just seem to have a broader spectrum of stallions [in Australia]. The European mares over there are not so fashionable, so I can get bargains. I have two ex-Juddmonte mares there, both beautifully bred. One’s from Frankel‘s family and the other one’s related to Hasili. And I got them for less than 10 grand. They were inexpensive there compared to what they would’ve cost here.”

Casting his mind back to his introduction to racing as an owner and breeder, he cites the influence of the Balding family as key to his ongoing involvement. 

“It must have been 20 years ago, probably more now,” McPhee recalls. “It was at the time that Andrew Balding was just taking over from Ian. I lived about a mile away from them and one day I phoned up Ian and said, ‘I’m thinking about buying a horse but I’ve only got about £5,000.’ He and I had never met before but he said, ‘Well, come over and have a chat.’ And I went over that afternoon and he showed me around Kingsclere.”

He continues, “I found a three-year-old ex-Darley filly for sale on the internet. She was in Newmarket and Ian said he would go and have a look at her for me. He’s just such a sweet man. 

“Anyway, he did and I bought her. She was called Kelpie and she won four times, placed six times. Our plan was for Kelpie to be Andrew’s first winner. He was taking over on January 1 but she won on December 28, so she was Ian’s last winner.

“And then Emma said, ‘Keep her and breed from her.’ That’s what got me started.”

McPhee came close to providing first-season sire Mohaather (GB) with his first winner at York on Thursday when Yah Mo Be There (GB), whom he bred in partnership with Nigel Kelly at Mandy Rawding’s Manor House Farm Stud, was beaten a short-head by Andesite (GB) (Pinatubo {GB}). Yah Mo Be There, who sold for £95,000 at the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale last year, is the first foal of the Shadwell-bred mare Shurakaa (Ire) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}), who was another February purchase back in 2021. McPhee returned to that happy hunting ground this year to buy an unraced three-year-old from Godolphin named Tottori (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), whose dam is a half-sister to the former Andrew Balding-trained Group 1-winning sprinter Donjuan Triumphant (Ire), for 1,000gns. The filly is now in training with Adam West in Epsom.

He adds, “She’s burning up his gallops and I am sure she will need the race but I am hoping she will run at Goodwood on Saturday.”


The post ‘A Classic Winner is Just Unbelievable’: Stuart McPhee Celebrating Metropolitan’s Success appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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