Foals First, Celebrations Later at Spirit Dancer's Birthplace

Sir Alex Ferguson and Greg Parsons with Spirit Dancer as a foal | Upperwood Farm Stud

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A properly international Saudi Cup meeting saw the major races claimed by stables from  Japan, America, Britain and Ireland. A clash with two rugby internationals will have had plenty of viewers indulging in some channel-hopping, but for some of racing's most crucial workers – those on stud farms – the work can't just be put aside for an afternoon on the sofa.

Such was the case for Greg and Lottie Parsons of Upperwood Farm Stud in Hertfordshire, who had a “36-hour day” on Saturday, having been up all night foaling.

“It started a couple of days ago and it's just been non-stop,” says Greg Parsons, who would have had more reason than most to want to tune in to the Saudi action as he was responsible for foaling the G2 Howden Neom Turf Cup winner Spirit Dancer (GB) seven years ago for his client Sir Alex Ferguson. 

“I had to grab half an hour of sleep so I haven't seen the race yet but someone just sent me a clip of the finish,” Parsons told TDN on Saturday evening. “It's just been the most wonderful story really.”

The previous weekend Parsons was busy foaling Spirit Dancer's dam Queen's Dream (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}). She delivered a filly from the first crop of Stradivarius  (Ire) exactly a week before the youngster's illustrious elder brother claimed his third Group victory and his second in the Middle East after his G2 Bahrain International Trophy win last November. 

Spirit Dancer was one of two sons of Frankel (GB) to have notched a Group win on Saturday, with Military Order (Ire), the full-brother to Derby hero Adayar (Ire), having held off Lord North (Ire) in the G3 Winter Derby at Southwell. 

Spirit Dancer's mating was the first planned by Ferguson and his then-partner in the mare, Niall McLoughlin. They bought the Gestut Fahrhof-bred Queen's Dream in 2015 when she was carrying her second foal on the advice of pedigree expert Alan Perry, who continues to advise Ferguson on his matings along with Parsons.

“She had been covered by Maxios when he bought her and she came to us then and has been here ever since,” said Parsons. “We had one or two other mares for him initially. Sir Alex has been the most fabulous client and he won't deny his horses anything. He's a real animal lover.”

Queen's Dream's six subsequent foals have been bred solely by Ferguson, and they include the promising four-year-old  Hampden Park (GB) (Sea The Moon {Ger}), who won on his third start last season for Andrew Balding and was handed a rating of 90. The mare's current three-year-old, Road To Wembley (GB) (Postponed {Ire}), is trained by Richard Hughes and has made four starts to date.

“I know Andrew thinks a lot of him,” Parsons said of Hampden Park, who was patriotically named by Ferguson after Scotland's national football stadium.

There looks to be plenty more to come from the family, not least from Spirit Dancer himself, who is in the form of his life at the age of seven. He posted his first win at three and has won in every season since, with his first Pattern success coming in York's G3 Strensall S. last August.

Parsons added, “We used to call him Diego when he was here and when I took him up to Richard Fahey's he weighed 490kg as a yearling. He was a bull of a horse. Richard has done a splendid job with him.”

Queen's Dream didn't make it to the racecourse but she is entitled to have bred a good one. A daughter of the Listed winner Quetana (Ger) (Acetanenago {Ger}), her granddam is the G2 German 1,000 Guineas winner and G1 Preis der Diana runner-up Quebrada (Ire) (Devil's Bag) who was herself out of the GI Yellow Ribbon S. winner Queen To Conquer (King's Bishop). The 14-year-old Queen's Dream has a two-year-old colt by Masar (Ire) in the paddocks at Upperwood and she will be covered this year by Pinatubo (Ire) at Dalham Hall Stud.

“She's certainly an alpha mare in a group – she's the boss – but she loves her friends and we keep her to a routine,” said Parsons, who will hopefully be getting a bit more sleep in the weeks to come.

“We have 10 or 11 mares to foal this year,” he noted. “I like to try to keep the numbers sensible. I don't have anyone sitting up for me, I like to be hands-on.”

 

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