McGivern Grasps A Golden Opportunity

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Jayne McGivern of Dash Grange Stud | Emma Berry

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“I'm on a mission to make GB great in its own right.” A statement from Britain's new prime minister, perhaps? No. Forget Westminster, and cast your mind instead to the rolling Cotswold hills that frame the area around Cheltenham.

Those words are uttered not far up the road from the home of National Hunt racing, at Overbury Stud, by the new owner of the stud's newest stallion. Jayne McGivern is unashamedly proud of her recent purchase of Golden Horn (GB), the horse who lit up the 2015 Flat season, graduating from Derby trials, to winning the Derby itself, followed by the Eclipse, the Irish Champion S. and the Arc. No prizes then for guessing that by the end of that glorious season he was made Horse of the Year.

Since those days, Golden Horn, now 10, has resided at Dalham Hall Stud on the Darley roster. But with his Flat stallion career perhaps not as explosive as it might have been hoped for, but with some eye-catching early results over jumps, he was sold this summer by his owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer to McGivern, whose passion for all things equine is equal to her formidable curriculum vitae in the construction industry. With a track record that includes London's Crossrail project, a major construction development at Madison Square Gardens in New York, and a seat on the board of one of the world's leading construction companies, McGivern has recently been appointed as the CEO of the Sports Boulevard Foundation in Saudi Arabia. Currently on her plate is that company's major urban regeneration of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Horses, then, provide a pleasurable respite during McGivern's return trips from Riyadh to the green pastures of her Dash Grange Stud, or nearby Overbury, which is temporarily home to her four broodmares and their followers. Golden Horn, meanwhile, is now a permanent resident at the latter and has been reunited with two old stablemates from his time at John and Thady Gosden's Clarehaven Stables in Jack Hobbs (GB), who was runner-up to him in the Derby, and Ardad (Ire), whose more precocious profile makes him a rather different prospect.

McGivern has been steadily making some notable purchases in her establishment of a boutique broodmare band. Queen Of The Stage (Ire) (King's Theatre {Ire}), the dam of the outstanding young hurdler Constitution Hill (GB) (Blue Bresil {Fr}), is perhaps the stand-out and was bought for €340,000 in May. Buildmeupbuttercup (GB) (Sixties Icon {GB}) was acquired last November, a year after the purchase of Jelan (Ire) (Milan {GB}), a full-sister to the Champion Hurdler Jezki (Ire). She had good reason then to wish to secure a stallion whose profile is rising fast among the National Hunt sector.

Of her mission to ensure that good stallions remains in Britain, McGivern told visitors to Overbury Stud last week as Golden Horn paraded before them, “I'm starting with the very best. I've looked for a stallion for some time and missed a couple for various reasons. I had a little go for Nathaniel and then [Newsells Park] stud got sold. But for the right reasons, I've ended up with this magnificent horse. I can pinch myself. I'm the luckiest person on the planet that he's mine. He's very intelligent and fortunately very fertile.”

Indeed he is. Golden Horn may have seen his appeal adjusting more from the Flat towards the National Hunt crowd but he has not been standing idle, and he covered more than 150 mares this spring before he left Newmarket. One of those was McGivern's treble listed-winning hurdler Buildmeupbuttercup, and while there are some smart jumping names on the list, such as L'Unique (Fr) and My Petra (GB), there are also still some Flat names to conjure with. At Overbury, which has been home to two leading first-season sires in Bertolini and Ardad, as well as multiple British champion National Hunt sire Kayf Tara (GB), it could be said that Golden Horn will have the chance to be involved in the best of both worlds.

McGivern is quick to emphasise that it is Golden Horn's genuine dual-purpose profile that appeals to her and, she hopes, to her fellow breeders. While his smattering of jumps runners to date can boast a strike-rate in excess of 60%, with 14 of his 23 representatives in this sphere having won, including the smart Grade 2 winner Stag Horn (GB), he has also had an encouraging summer on the Flat since relocating to Overbury. The thrice-raced Juddmonte filly Haskoy (GB) has won twice, including the Listed Galtres S., and may yet win back her second-past-the-post finish in the St Leger that was taken away in the stewards' room. The Andre Fabre-trained dual group winner Botanik (GB), meanwhile, is heading to the Breeders' Cup Turf, and another Godolphin representative, Trawlerman (GB), won the valuable Ebor.

“I do think that he's proving himself on the Flat and is a proper dual-purpose stallion,” says McGivern, who also owns 4% of Nathaniel (Ire), another stallion who has piqued the interest of jumps breeders but is eminently capable of siring top-class runners on the Flat.

“And I don't want to get political, but I think everybody may agree that Brexit has been a bit of a disaster for the thoroughbred breeding industry. I look at my own mares and the thought of sending them to Ireland, as we might have done some years ago, just doesn't work for me any more. It's incredibly expensive, it's a huge amount of admin, and I don't think that it's practical.”

She adds, “I have lovely mares, and I think it's really important that we start securing these terrific stallions for the United Kingdom.”

McGivern's broader-brush interests on the equine front run to the ownership of some smart eventers ridden by the current Burghley champion Piggy March. Together they won last weekend's CCI4* class for young horses at Blenheim Horse Trials with the grey stallion Halo.

“I'm fortunate enough that Pig rides for me, but really racing is my heart,” says the effervescent McGivern, who, like her husband David Crossland, previously rode in point-to-points.

“I am a National Hunt person. I love National Hunt racing. It is my passion and has been for most of my life. But that said, I'm moving to the dark side.”

It could be described as returning to the dark side, as McGivern's current horse on the Flat, the winning juvenile Sirona (Ger) (Soldier Hollow {GB}), is with Mark Johnston, whom she and Crossland previously had horses with in the 1990s. She also bid on the filly's full-brother at the recent BBAG Yearling Sale, but he was eventually bought by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

She says of Sirona, who was recently second in the valuable British EBF Fillies' Series Final, “I'm really chuffed at the way that she's panned out. We're entering her for a listed race at the end of this month and then a Group 3 in Dusseldorf in mid-November. And then I think we'll just turn her out and see what we've got as a 3-year-old, but her pedigree's perfect for Golden Horn.”

McGivern adds, “I'm moving over into Flat racing a little bit, because this is a dual-purpose stallion by anybody's measure. If it had been six weeks later, the deal might have been slightly different, but as soon as I heard he might be available, we moved very quickly. I think I was extremely lucky to get him and he will be with me for the rest of his life.”

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