Believing In Ballylinch

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Make Believe | Ballylinch Stud

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Although his first crop is just four this year, Make Believe (GB) has made an impressive start at stud with his flagbearer, Mishriff (Ire), backing up his Classic-winning year with a recent win in the Saudi Cup. With the flat season due to start in a few weeks, racing pundits are already guessing at what possible route the winner of the world's richest race might take this year. For Make Believe, the breeding season has started in a strong vein and the team at Ballylinch Stud, where the sire stands, have every reason to look forward to the year ahead.

“This would be the strongest book that he covers,” said John O'Connor, manager of the Co. Kilkenny stud. “There have been some more calls since the Saudi Cup, but the basis was already laid for it. Very pleasingly, both the dams of Mishriff and Believe In Love (Ire) are coming back to him.”

Believe In Love, who is in training with Roger Varian, was a progressive filly last year and rounded off her 2020 campaign with five wins from nine runs including the G3 Prix Belle de Nuit at Saint-Cloud. Among Make Believe's other notable winners from his first crop are Rose Of Kildare (Ire), Tammani (GB) and German champion 2-year-old filly Ocean Fantasy (Fr).

“That was an exceptional crop and he's backing it up with some very nice 2-year-olds from last year, including one trained by John Gosden called Third Kingdom (GB),” said O'Connor.

Mishriff's win in the Saudi Cup was a remarkable feat and the poignancy of the win for his owner Prince Faisal has not been lost on anyone. “I think it was an exceptional performance for both horse and trainer to go to a race of this caliber in Saudi without a prep while training through the winter,” O'Connor said. “He was taking on top-caliber performers from the States on the surface that they would be more accustomed to and they had the advantage of a prep run and training in warmer climates.”

O'Connor continued, “Prince Faisal has been developing that Rafha (GB) family for a number of years. He bred both Kodiac (GB) and Invincible Spirit (GB) from that family. Make Believe is one of his favorite racehorses. So it was highly appropriate that Prince Faisal should breed his first really top-class horse too.”

There are early signs that Make Believe works well with mares from the Acclamation sire line as well as the Sadler's Wells line.

“It's still early days for working out nicks, but it does seem fairly obvious that he can go well with the Sadler's Wells line,” said O'Connor. “Tammani is out of a Sadler's Wells mare and Rose of Kildare is a granddaughter of Galileo (Ire).”

Eager to build on these successes, O'Connor has made strides himself with mare purchases to bolster Make Believe's future crops. “We recognized early on that Mishriff was a very high- class horse. We tried to take a leaf out of Prince Faisal's book and so we have a mare from the Rafha family, which we got from Hill 'n' Dale. She's a group-winning Galileo mare and she's currently in foal to Make Believe.”

With support like this Make Believe, could reach the level of global success that is frequently achieved by his stablemate Lope De Vega (Ire).

“Our model really follows that line where we do syndicate the horses and with all the horses that we stand here, the original racing owner has stayed involved,” said O'Connor. “I think that's extremely important because the person who has raceday success with the horse is going to have a vested interest in them doing well as a stallion.”

The newest recruit at Ballylinch, Waldgeist (GB), shares similar connections with Lope De Vega and has his first foals this year with those already on the ground receiving rave reviews.

“The reports are excellent,” said O'Connor. “He's been very well supported. As you know, he was raced like Lope De Vega by Gestut Ammerland who combined with Newsells Park to breed Waldgeist, and they're both supporting him well. They've both got some very nice foals by him. We've got some really nice foals on the ground here, at Ballylinch, including one of our own out of a mare called Fort Del Oro (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), who was a champion sprint filly for us; her colt I would call exceptional.”

Aside from the aforementioned stallions, the Ballylinch roster also includes New Bay (GB), who was a leading first-season sire in 2020, and Fascinating Rock (Ire), who recently sired his first stakes winner in America, Earls Rock (Ire), who was bred by his racing owner Newtown Anner Stud.

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