Lucky Escape For A&N Bloodstock Team After Horse Lorry Catches Fire 

The horse box that the A&N team had been driving home from the races | Dublin Fire Brigade

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Top breeze-up handlers Antonio Da Silva and Nikki Scallan of A&N Bloodstock had a lucky escape on Friday evening when, the horse box that they were driving on the way home from Dundalk races caught fire with the Jenny Lynch-trained Late Night Talking (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) inside it. 

But for their quick thinking, the couple's Late Night Talking, who had finished third in the mile maiden just a few hours earlier, could have met a horrific end when the vehicle burst into flames on the M50 motorway in Dublin. 

Sharing the terrifying account of what happened, Da Silva said, “First there was smoke and then there was fire. Nikki was driving and she pulled over as quickly as she could and then I jumped into the back of the lorry to get the horse out of there. Nikki tried to take a few things out of the box but there was just fire everywhere.”

It's not every young horse who would stand quiet as a lamb as the horse box they had been standing in just a few minutes previously threatened to explode but Late Night Talking took the nightmare experience in his stride. 

Scallan recalled, “I could get this smell of burning and then, before we knew, it was up in flames. We were between the Ballymun and Finglas turnoff on the M50. We couldn't do anything. We knew it was just going to go boom.”

She added, “It's a good job the horse was quiet, that's all I will say. It just happened so quickly. We were very lucky. Junior, who drives for Thomond O'Mara, happened to be passing and thankfully he had space for the horse in his lorry so we loaded him up and got him home safely, but he had been standing on the side of the road for at least 20 minutes or so. 

“If it had been the filly, Milliethemollie (Ire), who we also have in training with Jenny, it could have been a different story.”

Antonio Da Silva and Nikki Scallan with a Bungle Inthejungle colt who is breeze-up bound | Brian Sheerin

Like Milliethemollie, Late Night Talking was put into training with Lynch, the pair's neighbouring handler on the Maddenstown side of the Curragh, after he failed to sell at the breeze-ups. Milliethemollie has proved the venture to be worthwhile by winning at Dundalk in December while Late Night Talking has shaped with distinct promise in each of his three starts for the trainer. 

That shouldn't come as any great surprise as the A&N team have built up a reputation for selling a lot of winners in just a short space of time. So, what's the secret to their success? Hard work, it would seem.

Scallan said, “First lot goes out at five in the morning here. Sometimes they could go out even earlier. I get up and feed them all at four. Some guys come in and ride out a couple of lots before they go to work and then they come back to us at lunchtime to ride a couple more.”

She added, “We have around 20 breeze-up horses and another 10 in pre-training so 30 all together. We've had some nice horses for Takashi Kodama, the likes of Tosen Wish (Ire) (New Bay {GB}) and Pineapple Island (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}), and we have built up a good relationship with Airlie Stud as well. 

“They have sent us one to breeze almost every year and we sold a nice Starspangledbanner (Aus) filly on behalf of Airlie Stud at the Tattersalls Guineas Sale last year for 120,000gns. They're very loyal to us and we sold Lady Beano (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}) for them two years ago as well so it's been a good relationship. We have another nice Starspangledbanner (Aus) colt for them this year so hopefully he goes well for them.”

Da Silva, a former jockey in his native Brazil, has spent time working for Michael Halford and Aidan O'Brien. But it was in Mark Dwyer's, where he was based for four years, where he first met Scallan, with the pair deciding to take the plunge and go it alone in 2020. 

He said, “We started with one horse. We made a few bob and decided to get more. You need to keep investing. This is the job I love, breaking in the yearlings and watching them develop, and all of the sales companies have given us a chance to not only sell but to reinvest and buy some more. That's what you need to keep going and hopefully grow. 

“Sometimes I lose count of how many I ride in a day! It is great when the guys come in and we get a team of maybe five or six together in a lot. They all come in on a Sunday. That's our work day. We are glad of the help and everyone in this game, they are like family, you know? We all help each other out.”

Da Silva added, “I was a jockey in Brazil and have a good few wins under my belt. I finished second in a big race on my final ride in Brazil before deciding to come to Ireland where I spent five years working for Mick Halford, five years with Aidan O'Brien and then four years with Mark Dwyer. When I met Nikki, we said we'd try to make it ourselves. The first horse worked and every year we have tried to improve. We have some nice clients as well, for breeze-up horses and pre-training, so that's a big help as well.”

Coulthard (Ire) could be viewed as one of the first horses who first put A&N on the map. Sold for just £27,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Goresbridge Breeze-Up Sale in 2020, the Coulsty (Ire) colt placed in four of his five maiden starts for Michael O'Callaghan in Ireland before winning twice and placing in Grade 3 company for Phil D'Amato in America. 

Scallan brings a different level of expertise to the outfit. A former amateur jockey, she has built up a wealth of knowledge on the sales circuit and also spent time with fellow breeze-up handler Katie McGivern before going to work for Dwyer. 

Speaking about her background, she said, “I used to work for Timmy Hillman at Castledillon Stud and did a lot of sales work as well. I actually used to ride in a few bumpers-the best I ever managed was a second back in the day. Honey Pie was the name of the horse. Philip Fenton actually bet me. It was down at Cork and I think I had Tony Martin behind me that day. That used to be great fun. 

“But it was Katie McGivern who got me into the breeze-ups. I'm from Wexford and, when she got engaged to her husband Tom, she moved her breezers down to Wexford and asked me to be her head girl. I did the breeze-ups with Katie that year and it was the following year that I went to Martin.”

Da Silva is just one of many Brazilians to be making a name for himself on the breeze-up circuit in Ireland. Diego Dias, Robson Aguiar and more have confirmed themselves to be extremely sharp in unearthing top-notch talent at basement prices and Da Silva explained how he takes great pride in his fellow countrymen's success. 

He said, “I am very proud and we all try to help each other out when we can. Just because one guy is training in one place doesn't mean we can't all help each other out. We like to see each other get good results and we all work hard to go forward and be better each year. 

“Everything is different in Brazil. Even the way we break horses in is different. The horses in Brazil were always very sharp and, all of the Brazilian jockeys riding here in Ireland, they all learned how to ride on quarter horses, sprinting horses. You know, you start riding quarter horses at 10 years old in Brazil. You could be 28kg or 30kg on top of a horse that weighs 500kg. Everyone knows a bit of that and then they come here and see how the Irish people take their time with horses.”

Scallan added, “The one thing I would say about the Brazilians is they all have a great clock in their heads. They also have a great eye for an athlete.”

It is Antonio who can be credited for picking out Kingdom Of Riches (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) for just £38,000 at the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale in 2022. The horse went on to make 220,000gns at the Tattersalls Craven Sale last year, thus delivering the couple's greatest ever result in the ring. 

He recalled, “There was just something about that horse that kept catching my eye. He was a bit tall but he looked like a good horse. I had a guy willing to take half of the horse with me but, when I bought the horse, he said he no longer wanted him. I said, 'that's fine, I'll keep the horse myself.' Nikki and her daughter Megan took a leg and thankfully the horse turned out to be good and made 220,000gns. That made me very proud. 

“Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. A lot of time when I come home from the sales, Nikki says, 'why you buy this, why you buy that!' After two or three weeks, she might say, 'oh, this actually is a nice horse!'”

So where is the next Kingdom Of Riches in the batch of 20 juveniles who have been pencilled into this year's breeze-up sales. The beauty is that nobody knows the answer but there is a certain colt by Bungle Inthejungle (GB) who has been putting his hand up recently to suggest he is a bit better than average. 

Scallan said, “There is a Bungle Inthejungle colt who looks a nice horse and, actually, Vandeek (GB) is in the second dam. We bought him off Kelly Thomas, the breeder of Vandeek, at Doncaster and he doesn't have a bad walk for a Bungle. He does everything so easily and we're thinking of the Craven or Donny with him.”

On the remainder of the breeze-up squad, Da Silva added, “We have a nice Sands Of Mali (Fr) colt. He's a bit on the weak side but he should suit Donny or the Guineas Sale-something like that. There's another nice Acclamation (GB) colt there as well. He's a sharp, strong horse-a proper two-year-old. We also have a nice Havana Grey (GB) filly as well.”

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