John O'Connor Q&A: 'He Could Be A Dominant Horse Next Year'

John O'Connor: has hinted that Bay Bridge could remain in training next year | Tattersalls 

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Rare are the days that John O'Connor of Ballylinch Stud enjoyed at Ascot on Champions Day last Saturday. No sooner had the G1 QEII celebrations died down after Bayside Boy (Ire) (New Bay {GB})'s victory, a horse the stud bred and co-owns with Teme Valley, when another runner that the stud owns jointly, Bay Bridge (GB) (New Bay {GB}), lowered the colours of Baaeed (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) in the G1 Champion S.

   It was an afternoon that propelled Ballylinch resident New Bay into the spotlight and continued the excellent momentum that the stud has enjoyed in recent weeks after homebred Place Du Carrousel (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) bagged the G1 Prix de l'Opera.

   From discussing plans for Bayside Boy, Bay Bridge and Place Du Carrousel to describing New Bay as an elite stallion, Ballylinch Stud's John O'Connor makes for an excellent interview in this week's Q&A.

 

Brian Sheerin: Now that the dust has settled on British Champions Day, have you had the time to think further about the Breeders' Cup for Bayside Boy and Bay Bridge?

 

John O'Connor: The Breeders' Cup is under consideration for both horses. We'll let the horses tell us if they are ready to go or not. It's a short run in from British Champions Weekend to the Breeders' Cup, so everything needs to go right and the horses will need to have bounced out of Ascot well. We'll play it by ear.

 

BS: You hinted earlier in the week that one of the two could go to stud next year. Has that conversation moved on at all?

 

JO'C: Those are ongoing conversations. These are good horses and deserve plenty of thought put into their future plans and that's what we will do.

 

BS: It could be viewed as an afternoon that propelled New Bay into elite stallion status if he wasn't already considered to be in that bracket already. How proud are you of the stallion?

 

JO'C: He was already on his way to elite status and Saturday really pushed him over the threshold. That confirmed that he is an elite stallion. He's managed to do it with relatively smaller numbers. He didn't have huge numbers but the really good horses, I have found down through the years, always have high percentages of elite runners. When you have that, you know they are going to make it.

As the numbers increased, he has confirmed that as he went on and he has been one of those horses whose stats have always told us that he is a really high quality stallion. He's confirming that now with his runners reaching a high level. He has bigger and better crops to come–he covered a very good book this year–so there's been an incremental increase in the quality of mares that were sent to him. The really top breeders want to use him so he is in a good position.

 

BS: Alex Elliott commented at one of the yearling sales recently that he was on a mission to buy up as many New Bays as possible because, sooner rather than later, they were going to be out of his price-range. It must give you huge pleasure to see that so many in the industry have cottoned onto the horse from an early stage.

 

JO'C: It does, yes. Some very good judges like Alex cottoned onto him early and he actually bought Batemans Bay (Fr) who we race in partnership with one of his clients. He's a pretty good horse as well, and a progressive one, so yes, Alex has been one of those who identified New Bay at an early stage and he will be the beneficiary of that.

 

BS: Bay Bridge has only run 10 times so, if he was to stay in training next year, you'd imagine there could be a lot more to come from him given he's trained by Sir Michael Stoute.

 

JO'C: I would hope so. That's obviously a conversation that we will have with his owner-breeder James Wigan who is a very astute man in the business. James has experience with horses at the highest level so we will take on board his views on that. I think he could be quite interesting if he does stay in training. He could be a very dominant horse next year. He had an injury-curtailed season this year and he's a lightly-raced horse who has a very good win to run strike-rate. He has an awful lot that you would like in a top-class horse in the sense that he has an ability to quicken and a fantastic will to win. When you tackle him, he fights really hard and is hard to beat in a finish so he is an admirable racehorse and one I am looking forward to seeing on his next run, wherever that may be.

 

BS: It wasn't all about the boys last weekend, either. Fact Or Folklore (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) has had a brilliant time of it with her first two foals, Statement (Ire) (Lawman {Fr}) and Self Belief (Ire) (Make Believe GB}), winning a series of listed races. Perhaps the broodmare band at Ballylinch sometimes doesn't get the recognition it deserves with the stallions flying the flag so well.

 

JO'C: That's the nature of the business, that the stallions get the most publicity because that's the way the industry is set up. But I have always taken the view that broodmares are extremely important to any stud farm and we have invested and had good support from owners with funding the purchase of some really nice mares.

We've been lucky to have raced some very nice mares as well and Fact Or Folklore is one example. We raced her in partnership with David Hyland and we were happy to buy her to continue her stud career here. She's made an exceptional start to her new career as a broodmare. Statement is her first foal and Self Belief is her second foal. Her third foal, a colt by New Bay, sold extremely well at Tattersalls Book 2 last week for 425,000gns to Stroud Coleman. She looks like she's an elite broodmare and it shows you that they don't have to start off being outstanding to turn out to be really good. She's one of those who is going to work her way up through the ranks, I think. It would appear that Lope De Vega passes on some very good traits and he's a very promising broodmare sire.

 

BS: We should probably credit Place Du Carrousel (Ire) (Lope De Vega) for kick-starting this golden run.

 

JO'C: That's absolutely true. Place Du Carrousel is a filly we bred and we retained half of her as a yearling. She's out of a mare [Traffic Jam (Ire) (Duke Of Marmalade {Ire})] that we bought with a good race record. Her racing owner Alexis Adamian owns her in partnership with us and she boards at Ballylinch. This is her first foal, it's an extraordinary start for a broodmare to breed a Group 1 winner with their first foal. Place Du Carrousel will probably stay in training next season, so we could see her in the top fillies' races next year, for sure.

 

BS: And it turned out to be a timely win for Place Du Carrousel in the Prix de l'Opera as her half-sister by Kingman (GB) sold for 1,050,000gns at Book 1 to Shadwell.

 

JO'C: It's lovely to see that Shadwell are back buying top-class stock and a pleasure to see Sheikha Hissa so involved. She takes a personal interest in looking at the horses and that's wonderful to see. It's a great legacy that her father left her that interest and knowledge of the business. We would look forward to Sheikha Hissa having great success in the future. She has two very nice horses to go to stud next year in Baeed (GB) and Minzaal (Ire), so that could set Shadwell up for the next number of years in their stallion operation. If it is self-sustaining, that would be wonderful.

 

BS: And on the market at Tattersalls and beyond, I suppose we are running out of superlatives to sum up the demand for yearlings.

 

JO'C: You could say that it defies gravity when you think about what's happening in the world. The bloodstock market has always had its own internal mechanism and sometimes it is affected by greater world events but quite often it is not. It seems to have its own momentum. There aren't many horses at the top level and there are enough players at that level who want to participate. It can defy what's happening in the international monetary markets. Sometimes the top end of the bloodstock market is a bit of a special commodity in its own right.

 

BS: It could be another exciting weekend for Ballylinch with Lone Eagle (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and promising juvenile Lord Of Biscay (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) running at Newbury.

 

JO'C: Lord Of Biscay is an interesting horse who won his maiden very well on good ground. It remains to be seen if he will be equally as effective on soft ground. He seems to have plenty of speed and he's a half-brother to Bayside Boy, so Alava (Ire) (Anabaa) is a mare who has been doing very well. Roger [Varian] likes him a lot and he's a horse who didn't go into training early in the year and we took our time with him. Roger has always said he's a real natural runner and he showed that first time out. It's a big step up and a change in surface conditions so it will be a big learning curve for him and us on Saturday. There's another horse we bred and part-own running in the race called Oviedo (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) and he has legitimate aspirations of running well in that race as well. Lone Eagle had a little setback earlier in the year so we are looking forward to getting him back on the track.

 

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