'He Could Be What The Market Is Looking For,' – Heavyweights Weigh In On Stallion Trail

Little Big Bear | Brian Sheerin


Whether you're a trainer, a pre-trainer, a breeder or just a general racing nut, it seems as though the Irish Stallion Trail was the place to be on Friday and Saturday. But how much can be gleaned from two days of stallion parades? Quite a lot, actually. 

Relationships have been forged and business has been done on the Trail and luminaries of the industry Johnny Murtagh, Dick Brabazon, Guillaume Vitse and Craig McCracken were left singing the praises of Irish Thoroughbred Marketing [ITM] for what proved to be another stellar weekend. 

Vitse was a notable force on the Trail. Breeder of Unquestionable (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, the master of Normandie Breeding was at Coolmore Stud on Friday where the Frenchman promised to make the most of his visit to Ireland.

Vitse said, “It was lovely to see Wootton Bassett. We tried to see him last year but obviously he wasn't here because he was in Australia. We also went to Rathbarry, Castlehyde, Coolmore and Ballylinch today. We are going to Yeomanstown, Kildangan, the Irish National Stud and Tally-Ho Stud on Saturday.”

He added, “I am a big fan of Blackbeard (Ire). He is a stunning horse. I really fancy him. He is just what my wife [Camille] and myself love in a horse. He's the perfect mover and he has everything. I love him. 

“I like quality horses and this guy, from my point of view, has so much quality. I really like Sottsass (Fr) as well. He's another really good mover. He has a short back and is very strong and was a champion racehorse as well. Sottsass and Blackbeard are very different horses but we like both of them.”

While France offers the Route des Etalons, the Irish Stallion Trail is a slightly newer phenomenon with over 30 stallion farms opening its doors to visitors across the two days and Vitse voiced his support of the initiative. 

He said, “This is my first time doing the Stallion Trail. It was pretty cool to go around and see the stallions. I think the Stallion Trail, just like the Route des Etalons, provides you with a good opportunity to meet a lot of people. I think it's a very good initiative and now we have a good idea about the stallions we like. When we get back home, we will discuss with our partners the right pick for our mares.”

Asked what stallions he was most looking forward to viewing on Sunday, Vitse added, “Mehmas (Ire). I am really looking forward to seeing him. I am looking forward to seeing Good Guess (GB) and Kodiac (GB) as well. It is probably the last few years we can use Kodiac so it will be good to see him.”

Leading Irish breeder Craig McCracken of McCracken Farms, top trainer Johnny Murtagh and renowned pre-trainer Dick Brabazon were others who reported to have gotten huge value from the two-day event. 

McCracken said, “I've been to Coolmore, Yeomanstown, Tally-Ho, Starfield and Kildangan. Of the cheaper stallions, I'd give Dubawi Legend (Ire) a chance. I have a breeding right in the horse but he did finish second in a Dewhurst and he is a son of Dubawi (Ire) so I can't see him not working. He has every chance at a price. Good Guess (GB) was one of the main takeouts of the weekend for me. He's a very slick horse, a lovely cross between Kodiac (GB) and Pivotal (GB). He could be what the market is looking for. He's a very obvious one for me. At our level, and of the stallions we can afford, I'd be weighing in behind Good Guess, Little Big Bear (Ire) and Native Trail (Ire). Those are the ones who have caught our imagination.”

He added, “I'd be a big fan of the weekend. I mean, in what other industry would you get it? Would the manager of your local football club get the opportunity to pick the brains of Pep Guardiola? The answer is no. Take Mrs Tally-Ho [Anne O'Callaghan] for example. That woman could run the country. For me to have the opportunity to run my thoughts through some of the best in the business, that has to be worth something, so the weekend is of huge value to me.”

It wasn't just the breeders who were out in force. Murtagh and Brabazon were other notable figures to be getting the miles in with the latter revealing the weekend provided a huge networking opportunity.

Brabazon said, “I have one mare and, while I am unlikely to be using some of the top stallions, my clients are using the stallions and it's very important for me to be able to talk to them and say that I have seen the stallions. That's what's important. You see the good points and the bad points and you're clued in to what traits they might pass on to their progeny. 

“Also, when you see horses on the racetrack, it's fascinating to see how they have developed as stallions. Paddington (GB) for example, he's a fine-looking horse but you can still see the racehorse in him, and I can't wait to go back and see him next year when you will see the stallion in him. The other thing I became very aware of is that Siyouni (Fr) is becoming a very important influence. You have Paddington and St Mark's Basilica (Fr) at Coolmore. If you went back a few years, he didn't exist. Now, he's a very important influence. We're slowly seeing the changeover from Galileo (Ire).”

He added, “I did quite a bit of small bits of business on the Trail. I bumped into clients at Ballylinch and we got to talk about their horses. It's an important networking opportunity and I think it's wonderful. We should open up the training yards, open up the studs, and open up the industry more going forward. We're building up the interest in the industry in the sport over those two days and that can't be a bad thing.

“The studs are great that way. I'll give an example, I was down at Coolmore and, the group in front of us, a lot of the visitors had special needs. There was nobody rushing them through or anything like that. They got the same treatment as everyone and it wasn't a case of Coolmore selling a breeding right or anything like that. I think that shows a bit of class from Coolmore and fair play to them for providing everyone on the tour with the same level of care and attention.”

Murtagh has won some of the best races around the world as a jockey. Think Sinndar (Ire), Yeats (Ire) and High Chaparral (Ire). In his role as a trainer, he was busy scouting some of the new kids on the block and he wasn't disappointed.

He said, “We have one mare here belonging to us and I just went down to Kildangan Stud to have a look at some of the stallions I never saw before. I never saw Blue Point (Ire) before and, given he had a phenomenal year, I was keen to see him. On the Friday of the tour, you probably get more of the breeders in attendance while the Saturday is more of a casual racing fan. But, listen, as trainers, we probably don't get around to see these wonderful stud farms as much as we'd like. There were a lot of nice horses on show and we'll probably go and see some of the stallions at the Irish National Stud on Saturday as well.”

Asked about his thoughts on some of the younger sires coming through, Murtagh said, “We've a King Of Change, an Arizona, an Earthlight and a few others by first-season sires. We try to buy a few first-season sires because you never know who is going to be the next superstar. We buy the yearlings on spec. We went last year to the sales with the idea of buying two-year-old types and we bought Havana Greys, Kodiacs, Mehmases, Ardads and Oasis Dreams. You know, we have two-year-old types and we go and buy as many as we can on spec then we try to sell them when we get back. It's a tough business and we put our own money up front but we buy the horses we like and you need to have those two-year-old types.”


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