Enthusiasm In The Air as Dullingham Park Embarks on First Season

Shaquille | Adam Houghton


“The grey colours, there's a big plan behind all that. Eventually my daughter will take over. I'm doing this for my family when I'm no longer here.”

Those were the words of owner-breeder Steve Parkin in a TDN interview penned in September last year, revealing all about his ambition to stand stallions at Dullingham Park Stud, plus the succession plan which he hopes will guarantee the long-term future of a racing and bloodstock empire he's spent the last two decades building.

Five months on and the wheels are now firmly in motion when it comes to Britain's newest stallion operation, so too the immersion of Parkin's eldest child, Fabienne, in everything the business entails.

Described by Parkin as “in love with the game”, Fabienne is already no stranger to taking on responsibility when her father's absence demands it, such as on this cold Newmarket morning when she's tasked with accommodating the latest two members of the TDN team to have descended upon Dullingham Park during the Tattersalls February Sale.

The state-of-the-art facilities and the new stallions they've recently become home to certainly leave a lasting impression on this first-time visitor, thanks in no small part to the infectious enthusiasm for all of it shown by Fabienne.

In this most unforgiving of industries, only time will truly tell whether Fabienne has inherited her father's famed business acumen and work ethic, but the hunger for more success in the familiar all-grey colours of Clipper Logistics has clearly rubbed off in spades if the evidence of this one morning in her company is anything to go by.

“I'd love to win a Classic, personally,” Fabienne begins when we start to discuss which races would be top of the bucket list for the Parkin family. “Fallen Angel is second favourite for the 1,000 Guineas which is beyond exciting. The Guineas for me is a huge thing and possibly the race I want to win the most. And York is our home track, so I'd love to win the Juddmonte International or the Nunthorpe.

“But I'm as excited for a Southwell maiden winner as I am for winning a race at Royal Ascot or the other big meetings. It's that passion that my family and my father bred into me. They raised me to love my racing and to love my breeding. I'm only young and I'm only starting, but I've got great mentors around me and everyone has been really supportive in helping me learn.”

Fabienne briefly looks starstruck when she recounts that renowned owner-breeder Kirsten Rausing is among those who have generously offered guidance or just a sympathetic ear, the pair having crossed paths when Rausing paid a visit to Dullingham Park during the Tattersalls December Sales.

At the helm of Lanwades Stud for more than four decades, Rausing knows more than a thing or two about standing stallions and was clearly as keen as the rest of us to cast her eye over the two additions to the Newmarket ranks for 2024, not to mention their impressive new digs.

“We purchased Dullingham last year and we've sort of revolutionised it,” Fabienne says of the rapid development. “We've knocked a few things down and we've built a few new stallion boxes and a covering shed. We've turned it into our station down here which is really nice, to have a base in Newmarket and a very exciting new venture as a stallion farm.

“We've had a few stallions in Ireland that we've either invested in or raced and then stood at Ballyhane Stud with Joe [Foley]. It's fantastic to now be able to offer the English breeders a service over here. We are English owner-breeders and to support the English market is really exciting for us.”

That excitement seems to be reciprocated by breeders who have flocked to see the two stallions on the Dullingham Park roster, headed by Shaquille (GB), who stands for a fee of £15,000 in his first year having taken the sprinting scene by storm in 2023.

Trained by Julie Camacho, Shaquille won seven of his nine career starts, notably becoming just the second horse after Muhaarar (GB) to win both the G1 Commonwealth Cup and G1 July Cup as a three-year-old on his way to being crowned Europe's top sprinter at the Cartier Awards.

Shaquille is also the highest-rated son of the four-time Group 1 winner Charm Spirit (Ire) who, like Muhaarar, is a grandson of the former Shadwell stalwart Green Desert, with the pair being by Invincible Spirit (Ire) and Oasis Dream (GB), respectively.

Ollie Fowlston, quickly settling into his own new role as managing director of Dullingham Park, says of Shaquille, “He's been unbelievably well received. We've got all the right breeders on board that we'd hoped for and they're loving what they see.

“He's just a very good-looking horse. He's beautifully balanced and a great walker. He's very correct in front with lovely big feet on him. He's got a lovely head as well, a good shoulder and a lovely wide hip on him. If we can get the first crop of foals looking and walking like him, that will be the first big hurdle jumped.”

Shaquille certainly cuts quite the figure as he calmly struts his stuff in the serene surroundings of Dullingham Park, taking everything in his stride and looking anything but the character who threatened to throw away his two Group 1 wins by rearing as the stalls opened, forfeiting several lengths to the rest of the field.

Only a horse of immense talent would have been able to overcome such adversity on his way to beating the best sprinters Europe has to offer, the horse of a lifetime for Camacho and partner Steve Brown, as well as owner Martin Hughes, who co-bred the colt out of the unraced Galileo (Ire) mare Magic (Ire), herself a daughter of Cheveley Park Stud's multiple Group-winning sprinter Danehurst (GB) (Danehill).

Those closest to Shaquille always maintained that he was the consummate professional to do anything with at home and Fowlston confirms that the colt's temperament has been nothing but an asset since he arrived at Dullingham Park, before going on to consider the adjustment this new venture has been for him following 25 years at Tattersalls.

“It's been exceptional how he's settled in really, because we've had so much building work going on and diggers around the place,” Fowlston explains. “He's not batted an eyelid at all and it's like he's lived here for a few years. Funnily enough, the first night he spent on the farm was the first night he'd ever spent away from the Camachos because he was born there as well.

“It's very exciting and quite surreal [to have Shaquille at Dullingham Park]. You go up to the stallion yard and when you see Shaquille's head sticking over the door you do have to pinch yourself a little bit.

“I'm really enjoying it. It's very different from my previous job at Tattersalls. It's selling but selling in a different capacity. It's been a great help my grounding at Tattersalls and having got to know all the breeders has made life a bit easier.”

Having Soldier's Call (GB) join the roster at Dullingham Park should also make Fowlston's life a bit easier. With the speedy son of Showcasing (GB) breeders already have a pretty good idea of what they're going to get as he embarks on his fifth season at an increased fee of £8,500, the first four having come under the supervision of Joe Foley at Ballyhane Stud in Ireland.

Bought by Foley for 85,000gns as a yearling, Soldier's Call was a notable success story for the Clippers Logistics team as a two-year-old when he carried the grey silks to a trio of high-profile victories in the G2 Flying Childers S., G3 Prix d'Arenberg and Listed Windsor Castle S., before going on to fill the runner-up spot in the G1 Nunthorpe S. at three.

Ranked third among the leading first-crop sires in Europe last year with 26 individual winners, Soldier's Call looks set for another big year in 2024 following a promising start, with a trio of three-year-old maiden winners in Britain already on the board.

“Joe's done a great job starting him off,” Fowlston says of Soldiers Call. “He's got big numbers on the ground. I think he's got 105 two-year-olds to run for him this year and I think he's got bigger books to come. We couldn't be more excited and it's something for breeders to look forward to as well.

“There's a bit of a gap in the English market for a horse like him. Breeders can come here and they know that he'll start off a young mare. He'll get a good winner and you can go to the sales and get well paid if you have a nice one by him.

“He's going down very well at the moment and already he's had the three three-year-old winners this year. He'll no doubt have early two-year-old winners on the turf when the season starts and we'll be taking bookings I'm sure right up until mid-May.”

Dorothy Lawrence (GB) was one of the flagbearers for Soldier's Call's first crop of juveniles last year, producing her best effort when beaten just a short head in the G3 Dick Poole Fillies' S. at Salisbury. She should be competitive in more good races for the Clippers Logistics team in 2024 if training on as well as her sire did.

As for fellow homebred and Karl Burke trainee Fallen Angel (GB) (Too Darn Hot {GB}), she will be tasked with trying to deliver on Fabienne's dream of winning a Classic when, all being well, she lines up in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday, May 5.

The form of her victory in last year's G1 Moyglare Stud S. would appear to put her in there with a leading chance, already having provided that memorable day at the Curragh which carried extra significance for the whole Parkin family.

“It really does,” Fabienne agrees when it's suggested to her that it means more to win any race with a homebred. “When you see your foals born at home and then they go on to be successful on the racetrack, it's beyond exciting.

“We had Fallen Angel last year who obviously won the Moyglare and there was a lovely story behind that with us breeding her and then losing the dam. That was very poignant and moving.

“I think we're lucky really. You have to have a bit of luck in this industry, as much as you can try and be clever about what you do. We're a very young operation in terms of our breeding and we've already been so successful. To have already bred Dramatised and Fallen Angel from the farm at home is really exciting.”

G2 Queen Mary S. and G2 Temple S. winner Dramatised (Ire) (Showcasing {GB}) is now a member of the broodmare band which reportedly numbers around 30 at the Parkin family home in Yorkshire, the 300-acre Branton Court Stud near Harrogate, plus another 50-60 in Ireland. The hope is that Fallen Angel will one day follow in the footsteps of her late dam, Agnes Stewart (Ire) (Lawman {Fr}), by joining those ranks, even better if she does so as a Classic winner.

As for the four remaining empty stallion boxes at Dullingham Park, Fabienne confesses that she has already earmarked one for Night Of Thunder (Ire) colt Flight Plan (GB), who fittingly won last year's G2 Dullingham Park S. at Leopardstown and has the potential to make up into an even better four-year-old in 2024.

However, it's Foley who gets the last word–not unusual, I'm told–when it comes to the biggest and brightest prospects for the Clipper Logistics team this year, providing the inside track in his role as bloodstock advisor to the Parkin family.

“Who's he?” Foley asks when the name Night Raider (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) is put to him during our conversation at the February Sale, briefly threatening to throw this interviewer off the scent of the nine-length Southwell winner before the twinkle in his eye reveals there is a big opinion there waiting to be unleashed.

“I remember buying him as a foal, I thought he was the best foal I'd ever bought,” he soon delivers. “He was always a beautiful horse and he's always impressed the people who were around him. He's a big horse at 16.1hh and he's out of a Shamardal mare, out of a Dubai Millennium mare. There's a lot of Dubai Millennium in him.

“He doesn't look like his half-brother [G3 Palace House S. winner Far Above] at all. He'd lead you to think that there's a lot of speed in the pedigree, but it's a very classy family. He looks like a miler, he gallops like a miler and he wasn't stopping when he won at Southwell.

“Danny [Tudhope, jockey] adores him, he thinks he's a really high-class horse. He's just won a December maiden, so he has an awful lot to prove, but on our team he's the horse with the most potential.

“We're very excited to see what he does, but we've been disappointed in the past–we're hoping for the best and expecting the worst,” he adds, betraying the same boundless optimism as Fabienne but the experience to know better.

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