He's Got The Look: Lope De Vega On High With Classic Brace

Lope De Vega heads the sires' table in Europe with two Classic winners this season | Ballylinch Stud

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With two Classic winners to his name already this season, Lope De Vega (Ire) peers down at his peers from on high in the stallion table.

In an era of great depth to the European sire ranks, it is hard to begrudge the son of Shamardal his time in the spotlight with an increasingly burgeoning record of excellence. The Aga Khan's Rouhiya (Fr) landed the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches for Francis-Henri Graffard, followed by Sunday's easy victory for Look De Vega (Fr) in the Prix du Jockey Club. The latter win was all about succession, with both Lope De Vega and Shamardal having won this particular Classic – one which is often put forward as an increasingly influential 'stallion-making race'. Look De Vega is also from the family of the 2007 winner Lawman (Fr), who is a half-brother to his granddam, Larceny (Ire) (Cape Cross {Ire}).

Lawman was a former resident at Ballylinch Stud, where Lope De Vega now rules the roost. In addition to his Classic duo, the 17-year-old is responsible for another five black-type winners in Europe this season, while in America, Program Trading (GB) landed another Grade I and Silver Knott (GB) has won back-to-back Grade II contests. 

“We're optimistic that he's going to continue to have a great season because he has lots of nice horses to come through the system yet,” says John O'Connor, managing director of Ballylinch Stud.

It is not exactly headline news to say that Lope De Vega is a good stallion. In the preceding four seasons he has been in the top eight stallions in Europe, finishing fourth overall in 2022. But there are plenty of names surrounding him – the likes of Frankel (GB), Dubawi (Ire), Sea The Stars (Ire), Dark Angel (Ire), Galileo (Ire) and Siyouni (Fr) – who also pack a mighty punch.

“I think that's the measure,” O'Connor agrees. “And the thing is that those horses deservedly get outstanding books of mares, so you're not really going to be able to compete with them until you get somewhat equivalent mares. The top stallions cover the top mares and therefore they remain the top stallions. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“The end of Galileo's career is kind of a watershed moment in the European stallion ranks because he was just such an outstanding sire that it's kind of a new ball game. The mares that went to him have been distributed elsewhere and you see the emergence of the new top guard in terms of the stallions.”

He adds, “Lope De Vega has worked his way up from more modest stud fees but now, for the last number of years, he's covered very good books. This year's crop of three-year-olds is his first at six figures and we are starting to see a consolidation of top-class horses from these better books he is covering.”

A solid, big-walking chestnut, with that noble Roman nose handed down by his father, Lope De Vega started out at €15,000 and dropped to €12,500 in his third and fourth seasons at Ballylinch, where he has stood throughout, bar four stints of shuttling to Patinack Farm in Queensland. Since 2016, his foal crops have been comfortably into three figures, but that wasn't always the case. Starting off with 101 foals in his first year, the three subsequent seasons in Europe there were 77, 86 and 72 of his foals born. Hardly scant representation but also not sizeable compared to some stallions these days. 

 

Look De Vega streaks home in the Prix du Jockey Club | Scoop Dyga

 

Arriving in the stallion market in 2011 without a trace of Sadler's Wells or Danzig in his pedigree made him a pretty easy mate for many European and Australian mares. His success, particularly with Danehill-line mares, has been noteworthy, though his two most recent of 21 Group or Grade 1 winners worldwide, Rouhiya and Look De Vega, are out of daughters of Raven's Pass and High Chaparral (Ire) respectively. Lope De Vega's tally of stakes winners now stands at 130. The next test of any stallion is of course as a broodmare sire and sire of sires, and he is at the age where these elements are coming to the fore. At stud, two apiece in Ireland and Britain, stand his sons Phoenix Of Spain (Ire), Lucky Vega (Ire), Lope Y Fernandez (Ire), and Belardo (Ire). The latter, bred by Ballylinch Stud from Danaskaya (Danehill), was Lope De Vega's first-crop breakthrough horse, winning the Dewhurst S. and later the Lockinge. Now at Bearstone Stud, he should not be overlooked, insists O'Connor. Phoenix Of Spain now has his own breakthrough horse in Haatem (Ire), who is knocking on the door of a Group 1 win and has this week been purchased by Wathnan Racing. 

In the G1 Prix de Diane in less than a fortnight, there is a chance that Lope De Vega may feature prominently as damsire. Two of his daughters are responsible for Birthe (Fr) (Study Of Man {Ire}) and Gala Real (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), the winners recently of the G2 Prix Saint-Alary and Listed Prix de la Seine. 

Lucien Urano of Ecurie des Charmes is the co-owner-breeder of Look De Vega and he also part-owns Gala Real with Ballylinch Stud and Carlo Ancelotti of Scuderia dei Duepi.

O'Connor will not be drawn on longer-term interest in the stallion career of Look De Vega but says, “We have had a fairly longstanding partnership with Lucien Urano, just as we have had with [Lope De Vega's owner-breeder] Ammerland and other important breeders and stallion owners. There can be no doubt that there will be plenty of people looking at that horse. He's a very interesting potential stallion, for sure. He looks very good.”

Wherever Look De Vega eventually stands, the team at Ballylinch Stud has plenty to keep tabs on with some of its younger stallions on the way through. 

“The stallions are firing quite evenly. It's good to have a flagship horse like Lope De Vega but I actually think that both New Bay and Make Believe will make a big impact this year,” says O'Connor.

Indeed, New Bay (GB), another winner of the Prix du Jockey Club, has the G2 German 2,000 Guineas winner Devil's Point (Ire) to his credit this season, along with the Poule d'Essai des Poulains third Alcantor (Fr). The perhaps under-rated Make Believe (GB) has already sired a Jockey Club winner in the statuesque Mishriff (Ire) and has been represented by the Group 3 winners Sajir (Ire) and Making Dreams (Ire) this season. 

“He hasn't had big numbers up until now but his two-year-old crop are the ones that followed Mishriff,” O'Connor notes, immediately after watching a Ballylinch-owned runner just get beaten at Saint-Cloud by a daughter of Waldgeist (GB). A win-win, if you like. 

“Waldgeist had a good day at Saint-Cloud, with a first, a close second and a third,” he says. “I think we are going to start seeing a bit more action from him.”

Right now, however, it is Lope De Vega in the vanguard, and his international prowess is underlined by Group/Grade 1 winners in Australia and America on Saturday. Wherever his son Look De Vega goes next, perhaps to the G1 Grand Prix de Paris, he will start to be a crowd-puller. Rouhiya, meanwhile, is set for a potential clash of the English, Irish and French Guineas winners in the G1 Coronation S. for what should be one of the highlights of Royal Ascot.

 

 

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