Thoroughbred Daily News
Flatter - Caressing, by Honour and Glory - Lane's End
Lane's End - Versailles, KY | 2014 | Entered Stud 2019 | 2019 Fee $35,000

Ballylinch Partnerships Built On Solid Foundation


John O’Connor at The Tetrarch’s grave, Ballylinch Stud | Emma Berry

By Emma Berry

The campaign for Britain to remain in the EU may have failed narrowly under the slogan ‘Stronger Together’ but at Ballylinch Stud that sentiment has become a business ethos that is reaping dividends.

The farm’s stallion barn has been augmented this season with the arrival of New Bay (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Fascinating Rock (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), which brings to five the number of Flat sires on the roster. Each member of the quintet remains in the part-ownership of his former racing owner, with high-power syndicates having been formed to launch their stud careers.

“I’m a believer in syndication of stallions,” says Ballylinch Stud’s managing director John O’Connor. “I feel that when people are equity owners in stallions they are more committed to that horse. I’ve always found that it has been beneficial to us. We know that we have a first-class stallion facility here with a lot of history and a track record of success.”

That record can be traced right back to Ballylinch’s foundation stallion The Tetrarch (Ire) (Roi Herode {Fr}), who laid roots so deep in the Kilkenny soil that his influence remains omnipotent, not just at the farm that was his home for two decades but throughout the world of thoroughbred breeding.

The Tetrarch’s owner Dermot McCalmont bought the land on which the stud sits in 1914 and set about building a suitable base from which to launch the second career of his unbeaten champion juvenile whose racing days were cut short by injury but whose brilliance was beyond doubt.

In a valediction that would be echoed almost exactly a century later by Sir Henry Cecil, The Tetrarch’s trainer Atty Persse is reported to have said upon the retirement of the famously spotted grey, “I honestly don’t think he would have been beaten at any distance. He was a freak and there will never be his likes again.”

Indeed, in common with so many of the great thoroughbreds of the modern era, Frankel (GB) is a descendant of The Tetrarch, whose stud career aped his racing career in being relatively fleeting but etched with brilliance. His poor fertility meant that he sired only 130 foals but he became champion sire of Britain and Ireland in 1919.

The Tetrarch’s name is immortalised not just in countless thoroughbred pedigrees but also, more palpably, in the beautiful mosaic-tiled box built to mark his arrival at the stud which remains in use to this day. He lies buried just yards from its door.

The bar was set high from the start at Ballylinch Stud and the pursuit of excellence remains in the formation of its current-day roster.

“We’ve set our standard. Horses have to be Classic winners or multiple Group 1 winners with big pedigrees by successful sires. We want to work with people who have a high-class horse but want somewhere that they can stand that horse and stay involved. That’s our business model at this stage,” states O’Connor.

“With all of the Flat stallions that we stand here at the moment the people who raced them have stayed involved, right through from Lawman (Fr) with Mr Marzocco and Mr Ciampi, then Lope De Vega (Ire)––Dietrich von Boetticher has been very influential in the development of him as a leading stallion.

“Then we have Prince Faisal with Make Believe (GB), and now Juddmonte with New Bay and Newtown Anner Stud with Fascinating Rock. It’s a system that seems to be working for us and we’re going to continue with that.”

The cut-throat rush for independent farms to sign up stallion prospects is one of the reasons that has led to a number of talented young colts being retired to stud without being given the chance to race on at three. This is not a path favoured by O’Connor, who nevertheless has his eye on potential recruits from their first year in training.

He says, “We would probably first start to look at a horse as a 2-year-old and watch his form. I think if you look at our track record we would like horses to train on well, so we’ll watch them even more as 3-year-olds and at that point we’ll be formulating a view as to whether we think that horse will succeed in our set-up. We would inevitably end up turning down some horses but we tend to buy into a horse that we want to use ourselves. That’s our benchmark. If we feel it’s a horse that we want to support with our own broodmare band then that’s the horse we want to get involved with.”

It’s an approach which has flourished with Lope De Vega (Ire) (Shamardal), the champion first-season sire of 2014 who is owned in the majority by the partnership of his breeder Gestüt Ammerland, SF Bloodstock and Ballylinch Stud. Ballylinch bred his Group 1-winning son Belardo (Ire), as well as treble Group 2 winner Very Special (Ire) and G3 Sirenia S. winner Burnt Sugar (Ire).

“Our own support of Lope De Vega paid off both for him and for us. We weren’t afraid of sending him a top-class mare and we were rewarded with a top-class foal in Belardo. Very Special and Burnt Sugar were also from that same crop. When a stallion really takes off it has a huge benefit for a stud farm,” O’Connor reflects.

“We created a very strong syndicate to support him, plus we have a number of share-holders who have been long-term investors in the syndicates and they buy into pretty well every one of our new stallions. They are given first preference when shares become available in a new stallion.

“The way the stallion business has developed over the last couple of decades allowed a niche for us to take that view because it became the era of the very big multi-national stallion-owning operations who also have enormous racing operations, so if they have a top-class racehorse they already have somewhere to stand him.”

That high-level support has continued with more recent recruits. Juddmonte will be supporting New Bay––one of three G1 Prix du Jockey Club winners at Ballylinch along with Lope De Vega and Lawman––and China Horse Club has also invested in the newcomer from the family of Oasis Dream (GB) and Kingman (GB).

Meanwhile, New Bay’s contemporary Fascinating Rock will not struggle either, with his owner-breeder Maurice Regan having invested heavily at recent breeding stock sales in some enticing new recruits for Newtown Anner Stud with the main aim of supporting his pride and joy.

It would be remiss not to mention the stallion who now inhabits The Tetrarch’s box and who is a relation of New Bay, Beat Hollow (GB) (Sadler’s Wells). The 20-year-old marks another way in which Ballylinch differs from many major stallion operations. Having started at his breeder’s Banstead Manor Stud, Beat Hollow is now more widely regarded as a National Hunt stallion and was recruited to fill the void left by the death of King’s Theatre (Ire), who is well on his way to a fourth champion jump sire title almost six years after he was lost to colic. However, Beat Hollow proved that he can still fire at the highest level on the Flat when his son Wicklow Brave (Ire) lowered the colours of Order Of St George (Ire) in last year’s G1 Irish St Leger.

“It’s been a little bit of a tradition here,” explains O’Connor. “The first stallion we stood here in my time was Bob Back and he sired a Classic winner on the Flat and a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner under National Hunt rules. He was the quintessential dual-purpose stallion. We’re not necessarily interested in standing a horse that can’t do both. He must have been a high-class Flat horse who has either the pedigree or the physique, or both, who could get you a good horse under both codes.

“Bob Back prepared the way for King’s Theatre, and when King’s Theatre died we had a very loyal clientele who were used to using a stallion of his ilk so we were trying to pick a horse as close as we could to King’s Theatre’s talent. Beat Hollow was the one we chose and this year will tell for sure how successful we are at that.”

Continuity has been a watchword at the stud which has had just three owners in its 102-year history. Dr Tim Mahony bought Ballylinch from the McCalmont family in 1986 and just over two years ago passed the baton to successful Irish-American breeders John and Leslie Malone, who also own Bridlewood Farm in Florida.

“Tim Mahony had a very big influence in what I suppose we would call the re-establishment of the modern Ballylinch,” says O’Connor who has himself been at the helm for almost 30 years. “When Tim bought the property it didn’t have any stock on the place so in many ways we were starting afresh. He was a good businessman, was keen to plan ahead and was very supportive.”

The arrival of a new owner could well have brought consternation for those involved with an operation that prides itself on tradition and heritage, but in John Malone any such fears have been allayed by the twin positives of a business-as-usual approach coupled with a major investment in new stock.

O’Connor continues, “There are lots of new additions to the property and it’s an exciting time. One always looks forward to this time of year to see the new crop of foals and to see the progeny of your young stallions coming through and to be able to assess what their influence might be in terms of physique. Of course we have to wait until a later time to see what their influence might be on the racecourse.

“It’s obvious that John Malone is an extremely clever businessman but he doesn’t take a very hands-on view of how a stud farm should be run. He tends to be supportive of the management in place and encourages them to do the same things but to do them even better. Those were the instructions he gave me and I’m carrying them out as best I can.”

The Malones’ Irish property portfolio has been enhanced with the purchase of Castlemartin Stud from Lady O’Reilly, and the Kildare farm is now used for yearlings. While Bridlewood Farm is run entirely separately, O’Connor and manager George Isaacs are in regular contact.

“Because of the great distance involved it’s important for the management of each farm to be able to run independently,” O’Connor explains. “Of course we’re very conscious of the fact that we work for the same man and we try to help each other in every way we can. For instance, we bought a half-sister to Treve, called Trophee, and she’s actually in quarantine at Bridlewood on her way back to us.”

The stakes-placed Trophee (Fr) (Mr Sidney) is but one of a number of broodmare prospects bought by O’Connor since the Malones’ acquisition of Ballylinch.

He says, “Having a strong broodmare band is particularly helpful in the launching of careers of young stallions. We’re constantly trying to build and improve the quality of the broodmare band here and the Malones have been particularly supportive of that. We discussed it and they’ve given us a good budget to strengthen the broodmare band. We’ve been doing that over the last few years and we will continue to do so.”

The home team now numbers around 50 mares and, along with homebreds such as Danielli (Ire) (Danehill), the dam of Chriselliam (Ire) (Iffraaj {GB}) and Very Special, includes new blood via the likes of recent purchases L’Amour De Ma Vie (Dansili {GB}), bought in foal to Galileo (Ire) in December 2015 for €600,000, and Lady Penko (Fr) (Archipenko), a £360,000 signing from last year’s Goffs London Sale who recently foaled a filly by Golden Horn (GB).

O’Connor concludes, “It’s important not to become complacent about a broodmare band but we’re very happy with where we are and the stallions have been well supported. If they are good enough themselves then the mares they cover won’t hold them back.”





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