'Not Always Dark At Five O'Clock' – Coolmore Excited By Bright Additions

Paddington: the four-time Group 1 winner is new to the stud for 2024 | Coolmore


Coolmore Stud's Mark Byrne has acknowledged that many breeders will be in two minds about covering their mares after what he described as one of the most “unusual” years of trade in 2023 but but encouraged supporters of the stud to retain the faith by saying “it's not always dark at five o'clock.”

Byrne was speaking during the Irish Stallion Trail where visitors to Coolmore got a chance to see newbies Paddington (GB), Little Big Bear (Ire) and The Antarctic (Ire). Parallels were drawn between the quandary facing breeders in 2024 to that of the Covid year of 2020 with Byrne keen to point out that many people were rewarded for their resilience at the yearling sales in 2022.

The polarisation of the market in 2023 was one of the main talking points at almost every sale be it yearlings, breeding stock or even National Hunt. Byrne agreed that 2023 presented challenges but took several positives from last year's trade and says he is looking forward to working with breeders for the upcoming season. 

He said, “There are several ways to look back on last year's market. It was tough. Nobody is doubting it was tough. But it was tough in every aspect–tough for people selling horses but also tough for people buying horses as well. We tried to acquire stallions, yearlings, mares, you name it, and it was still very hard to buy them so there is still a lot of money in the market. It was just so competitive to buy the nicer horses. In that respect, the market was so unusual. I've never seen it so strong at the top and then it falls away rather steeply. I know it's a word we keep hearing a lot but things have become very polarised. 

“Nobody outlays more money in the game than stallion masters do. They put so much up to buy these stallions and they have to make it work. Everyone wants it to work and there's no point in saying the stallion masters charge too much or that the mares aren't good enough. We're all in this together and we have to make it work as a collective. I was looking at some of the figures at the end of last year and on paper it was probably the second best year of all time for turnover, just behind the best year we ever had, which was in 2023.”

Byrne added, “Breeders have to keep going. What's the alternative? If you stop you won't have a product to bring to the sales. But this is an important year for them and now more so than ever breeders will need to steady the ship and use the good stallions that they can afford. There's always an element of risk involved but you don't overstretch that risk by leaving yourself exposed by using a stallion you can't afford. 

“I can remember March and April when Covid just broke out. We were wondering whether or not we'd be able to cover mares in 2020. There was a bit of a pullback but people eventually decided to cover their mares. The 2022 yearling sale season was one of the best I ever attended so, the people who decided to pull up during Covid, they might have been left ruing that decision in 2022. I think there are similarities with the dilemma some people are faced with this season in light of the market last year but who's to say what's happening today will be happening tomorrow? It's not always dark at five o'clock.”

Coolmore will be hoping that Paddington can prove something of a beacon of light at €55,000 to breeders. The four-time Group 1 winner is the third top-class son of Siyouni (Fr) to retire to Coolmore in recent years and Byrne says he is confident that the brilliant Irish 2,000 Guineas, Sussex, St James's Palace and Coral-Eclipse winner has all of the right ingredients to be a hit.

He said, “Anyone who sees Paddington will agree that he is a beautiful horse. He is also a hardy horse given he won four Group 1s in the space of just 68 days. He won the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the Coral-Eclipse, the St James's Palace and the Sussex Stakes. Horses such as Kingman (GB), Frankel (GB), Giant's Causeway and Sadler's Wells, they all came close to doing something similar but Paddington is the only one to have been able to do that as a three-year-old. I think that's a massive testament to him as well. 

“Bought by Laurent Benoit on behalf of Coolmore for €420,000 at Arqana, Paddington hails from a lovely Wildenstein family. I think there are loads of good ingredients there for him to be a success and, of course, he is by Siyouni. He is our third son of Siyouni to stand here at Coolmore and the two others [St Mark's Basilica (Fr) and Sottsass (Fr)] are world champions. That bodes well for Paddington.” 

Byrne added, “He's going to be very well-supported and Monceaux has committed a strong selection of mares to him. He was obviously raised by Henri Bozo's Ecurie des Monceaux farm in France. A lot of the top breeders in Britain and Ireland are also keen to row in behind him and give him the support that he deserves.”

While Paddington proved himself at the highest level over a mile and a mile-and-a-quarter, Little Big Bear was devilishly-quick and represents something altogether different at €27,500. The European Champion Two-Year-Old put in arguably one of the most memorable performances posted by any juvenile in recent years when romping to a seven-length success in the G1 Phoenix S. at the Curragh and he clearly has the looks to match that ability.

Little Big Bear is another beautiful horse,” Byrne said. “I remember when he sold at Deauville he was the talk of the sale and I actually thought he'd make a lot more than €320,000. He went on to become the European Champion Two-Year-Old and got a rating of 124 which is a freakish rating. But then again, he produced a freakish performance in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes where he was seven lengths clear of his rivals. He was just a phenomenal racehorse and won four times as a juvenile at a combined aggregate of 15 lengths.

“Anyone who comes to see him won't be disappointed as he has size, strength, scope and a lot of quality. Pedigree-wise, he's very well-bred as well. You'd have to think at €27,500, he'll be on a lot of people's lists.”

The Antarctic, a full-brother to the Champion Sprinter Baattash (Ire), will appeal to plenty of smaller breeders at €6,000 and he completes the trio of newbies with Byrne stressing the importance for fresh blood at a stud of Coolmore's status.

He said, “The Antarctic is another interesting horse and is the most expensive colt by Dark Angel (Ie) ever sold at 750,000gns. He won the Lacken Stakes, which Caravaggio and Sioux Nation also won, but The Antarctic won it in record time. He's incredibly well-bred and is a full-brother to Baataash, who we all knew so well. It's a story that every Irish breeder knows and loves with the dam, Anna Law (Ire) (Lawman {Fr}), being bought inexpensively by Paul McCartan and going on to produce brilliant horses like Baattash and The Antarctic, not to mention her latest two yearlings through the ring making a combined 3.3 million gns.

“When you talk about being commercial, this guy was fast, good-looking and has a great pedigree. I think he'll be very popular for breeders who are looking for a bit of value. One thing I've noticed is that he is quite similar to Havana Grey (GB). 

“Havana Grey is out of a Dark Angel mare and this guy is by Dark Angel. They were both rated 113 and have similar enough race profiles as they placed in the Prix Morny. They're not too dissimilar.”

On keeping things fresh with the new blood at Coolmore, Byrne concluded, “It's like a Premier League football team. You need to keep buying new players and freshen up the roster with new talent every year. This is a fast-moving industry and, as a stud, we need proven stallions, stallions who are about to have their first runners and are just getting going, then you have the stallions in between and also the fresh blood coming through. You don't know where the next Sadler's Wells or No Nay Never is going to come from.”


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