Bobby Zen

If you are a racing tragic, and I’d like to think that most TDN readers fall into this celebrated bracket, it is impossible to have a day off at the moment. Trials, Classics, they come thick and fast in these heady weeks of spring. We’ve waited winterlong, starved of any meaningful action, and now it’s hard not to feel a little queasy at the veritable feast of racing which is set before us, course after course after course. There’s barely even room for the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Maiden Hurdle. 

The Brits have been suitably chastened by the marauding Irish at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years but the Flat boys evened a few scores at the Curragh over the weekend when Richard Hannon notched a notable one-two in the G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas while Karl Burke celebrated victory in the G1 Irish 1,000 Guineas on a day in which he also lifted the G2 German 1,000 Guineas. Remarkably those two homebred fillies, Steve Parkin’s Fallen Angel (GB) and Newtown Anner Stud’s Darnation (Ire), are both first-crop daughters of Darley’s Too Darn Hot (GB), while another young Darley sire, Blue Point (Ire), was represented by his first Classic winner, Rosallion (Ire). The latter narrowly denied his stable-mate Haatem (Ire) from emulating his own sire, Phoenix Of Spain (Ire), in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Hannon clearly has a soft spot for Haatem, who was a Group 2 winner at two and bounced out in the G3 Craven S. on his seasonal resumption to win by three and a half lengths. He now has two Classic placings to his name and was just a head away from giving his breeder John Bourke a second Classic winner in three years following the 1,000 Guineas success of Cachet (Ire) (Aclaim {Ire}).

“Standing there being second and third in the English Guineas was galling,” said Hannon at the Curragh. “I feel so sorry for Haatem. It pulls at your heartstrings. He’s such a gentleman.”

Rosallion is now a proper star from a family who can do no wrong at the moment. To his victory in the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and runner-up finish to Notable Speech (GB) in the 2,000 Guineas he can now add his own Classic laurels, and his victory at the Curragh came less than an hour after his close relation, the 2,000 Guineas sixth Inisherin (GB) (Shamardal), blitzed his rivals in the G2 Sandy Lane S. at Haydock for Kevin Ryan. The pair are both grandsons of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s illustrious broodmare Reem Three (GB) (Mark Of Esteem {Ire}). 

Ryan also trained Triple Time (GB) (Frankel {GB}), who is a half-brother to the dams of both Rosallion and Inisherin, to win last year’s G1 Queen Anne S. at Royal Ascot. He is now positioned alongside Too Darn Hot in the stallion wing at Dalham Hall Stud, where it will be hoped that he can add another dimension to the burgeoning success of this dynasty. 

As for Too Darn Hot, burgeoning is also the word to apply to his stud career. Fallen Angel and Darnation are not new stakes winners for him: they were respectively Group 1 and Group 2 winners as juveniles, but their transition to Classic winners adds to the growing reputation of their sire, who is also responsible for the G1 Champagne S. winner Broadsiding (Aus) in Australia and Grade 2 winner Etes Vous Prets (Ire) in Japan, as well as the Group 3 winners Alyanaabi (Ire) and Carolina Reaper (GB).

Here’s to Lady Jane

The real life Lady Jane Digby created plenty of stir during her her colourful life with a string of love affairs before spending her latter years in Syria married to a sheikh. Her equine namesake was typically well named by Kirsten Rausing – the Group 1 winner is by Oasis Dream (GB) out of Scandalette (GB) (Niniski) – and she has stolen the limelight over the last week from the more celebrated Lanwades family which descends from Alruccaba (GB). 

Lady Jane Digby (GB) was trained for Rausing by Mark Johnston and her daughter Madame Ambassador (GB) (Churchill {Ire}) is now in the care of Johnston’s son Charlie. She won Wednesday’s Listed Rothesay S. at Ayr and the family was back in the spotlight on Saturday when the Listed Height Of Fashion S. went to Francophone (GB), who, less than a fortnight earlier, had been second in the G3 Musidora S. While we’re talking about the new stallion class of 2020, it would be remiss not to mention Francophone’s sire Study Of Man (Ire), who now has four stakes winners to his name.

Also trained by Charlie Johnston for her owner-breeder, Francophone represents the next generation of the family, being out of Lady Jane Digby’s winning daughter Francophilia (GB) (Frankel {GB}).

It was a good week for the white and green hoops of Lanwades as the previous Monday Lingua Franca (GB) landed another Listed race, this time in Hanover. She too is by Study Of Man and is a half-sister to Le Don De Vie (GB) (Leroidesanimaux {Brz}), who was beaten a nose in Group 1 company in Australia having also won the Listed August S. at Windsor before he was exported down under. 

Murphy at the Top Table

Before we get on to this year’s Derby, let’s just cast our minds back to last year, when Auguste Rodin handed out a five-length beating to White Birch (Ire), who ran a terrific race to finish third having been beaten only a neck in the Dante. Cheveley Park Stud bred the grey colt, who is by the stud’s resident stallion Ulysses (Ire) (who, like Study Of Man is a representative of the Niarchos breeding programme). White Birch has rewarded his trainer John Joseph Murphy and owner Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez with a faultless season to date, his three wins in 2024 culminating in his first Group 1 success. That perhaps tasted even sweeter given that his victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup came at the expense of Auguste Rodin.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for one as good as him,” said the trainer’s son George, who was celebrating the stable’s first top-flight winner on the Flat.

That quest for the good one has long been rooted in the history of the sport, and especially when it comes to the Derby, as Paul Hayward discusses in his column this week. It was heartening to hear owner Julie Wood speaking at Epsom last Tuesday as she watched her intended Derby runner Voyage (GB) (Golden Horn {GB}) have a spin round the track. Her excitement was palpable and her optimism level has perhaps risen again since Voyage’s trainer Richard Hannon saddled the first two home in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. 

Hannon doesn’t take himself too seriously in media interviews and he was happy to pull the owner’s leg about her throwing in “a curveball” by sending him a stayer to train each year from her selections bought at the foal sales. Wood, however, was adamant that it had long been her dream to have a Derby runner and now, all being well over the next few days, she will have her wish.

Of the 20 remaining in the Derby reckoning, four of the colts are by the 2012 winner Camelot (GB), the horse who, to these eyes, came closest to resembling his revered sire Montjeu (Ire), whose own influence on the Derby would almost certainly have been profound had he not died at the age of only 16.

It was already significant: from his first crop, Montjeu had the first two home, Motivator (GB) and Walk In The Park (Ire). His later winners were Authorized (Ire) and Pour Moi (Ire), with Camelot completing the set, and Pour Moi going on to be responsible for the shock 2017 winner Wings Of Eagles (Fr).

If you like the idea of a Derby winner being by a Derby winner then this may be your year, because along with Camelot‘s quartet, we could also have two runners by Sea The Stars (Ire) and a first for Golden Horn (GB). Then there’s the king of them all, Galileo (Ire), with two colts from his penultimate crop, Illinois (Ire) and Mr Hampstead (Ire), still engaged at the five-day confirmation stage. 

Gone But Not Forgotten

The 2016 King’s Stand S winner Profitable (Ire) may now have been sequestered to the Turkish stallions ranks but he was very much to the fore on Saturday when first Kerdos (Ire) won the G2 Temple S., followed an hour later by the G2 Greenlands S. victory of the five-year-old Mitbaahy (Ire). The latter set up a memorable day for his owners Jim and Fitri Hay, who enjoyed four winners from four different stables, at the Curragh, Goodwood and York.

Both horses, trained respectively by Profitable’s former trainer Clive Cox and by Charlie Hills, are entered to attempt to emulate their sire at Royal Ascot in the race which now been renamed the King Charles III S.

Whitsbury’s Wonders

Any stallion master will tell you how hard it is even to hit on one good stallion but Ed Harper of Whitsbury Manor Stud is currently the man with the Midas touch when it comes to introducing young sires. 

Showcasing (GB), bought from his breeder Juddmonte in 2010, set a good run rolling, escalating from a £5,000 stallion in his debut year of 2011 to a high of £55,000, with his current fee now having been trimmed to £45,000. He is already represented by seven sons at stud and has four Group 1 winners to his name.

Then came the current buzz stallion Havana Grey (GB), whose sustained success last year after his first runners dazzled in 2022, has seen his fee rise from £6,000 to £55,000 in six years. He has four second-crop sons entered in the G1 Commonwealth Cup, including his star performer to date, Vandeek (GB).

There is a long season ahead, but the latest recruit to Whitsbury Manor is also starting to turn heads with his first runners. Sergei Prokofiev, with six winners to his name already, clicked into a different gear this week, with the Listed National S. win of the unbeaten Enchanting Empress (GB), followed by victory in the G3 Marble Hill S. for Arizona Blaze (GB), who was co-bred by Whitsbury Manor with Llety Farms and had won the opening juvenile race of the Irish turf season. Both youngsters are co-owned by Amo Racing with Giselle de Aguiar and will presumably be seen next at Royal Ascot.

A Mug’s Game?

Brian Sheerin reported last week on the decision by Star Bloodstock to wind down its breeze-up business and focus instead on racing two-year-olds with a view to selling them on in training. 

The operation’s Matt Eves referred to the sale of subsequent multiple group winner Malavath (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}), who had actually been a profitable pinhook for Star Bloodstock, rising from a £29,000 yearling to a £120,000 breezer.

Eves said, “Malavath selling for €3.2 million at Arqana. That was the moment I asked myself, ‘why are we the mugs in the middle?’”

It would not be a surprise to see more in the breeze-up sector adjust their focus for next year, despite the addition of two new sales in Ireland in 2025, for this year has been tricky for plenty of consignors.

Eddie O’Leary didn’t pull his punches in TDN on Saturday after the Tattersalls Ireland Breeze-up Sale when giving his thoughts on the plans for extra dates. He said, “I’m going to be very vocal on this. The clearance rate has been good here today but there is only a finite number of horses that can pass through the breeze-up sales every year. It was always about 500 or 600 horses that would go through the breeze-ups. That’s all the market would take. Now it’s up to 1,500. It just can’t take it. That’s why the middle market is on its knees. There’s too many horses in the system.” 

And that was just the edited version.

But there is little doubt that, whether you are a breeder, a pinhooker or a consignor, you need everything to fall right for you on sale day – or even before that in order even to get your horse into a sale. The winds of fashion blow so quickly hither and thither that it is very hard to catch it right if you are a commercial breeder operating on a relatively limited budget. And perhaps the small breeders (this correspondent included) are the biggest mugs of all. 

Last week I watched as a bunch of yearlings for different owners were paraded before a sales inspection team. By far the nicest among them physically was a filly who, unfortunately for her breeder, just happens to be by the ‘wrong’ stallion (albeit one who sired a Classic winner only two seasons ago).

“We can’t give those away,” said the inspector. The sales companies know what’s hot and what’s not, and have a difficult job, from an abundance of horses put forward, in making the best selection for their sales. But it was a stark illustration of just how hard it is even to get eyes on your horse. 

A Rider Fit for a Duchess

In Derby week, we shouldn’t really be talking about the winner of a Class 6 handicap at Yarmouth, but there’s a link, so bear with me. 

Our own small stable has been fortunate enough to be able to call on the services of David Goodwin, whose list of equine connections couldn’t get much loftier. The first person to sit on Shergar (Ire) when the great horse was being broken in at Michael Stoute’s stable, Goodwin later rode the Derby winners Slip Anchor (GB) and Commander In Chief (GB) in his days working for Henry Cecil.

A daily visitor to the gym before riding out second lot for John Berry, he simply refuses to retire and remains one of the most stylish riders on Newmarket Heath. His recent partner has been Duchess (Fr), a three-length winner at the seaside on Wednesday, much to the delight of Goodwin, who turned 73 on Tuesday.

“It just meant that my birthday lasted for two days,” he said with a smile as he brought the mare a bag of celebratory apples and carrots. 

 

The post Seven Days: From Fast to Feast  appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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