Queen Mary-bound 'Monster' Love Reigns Has Grogan Family in Dreamland

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Love Reigns | Coady

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In winning her maiden by almost ten lengths on debut at Keeneland, Queen Mary favourite Love Reigns (Ire) (US Navy Flag) tore to shreds what many people thought possible for an unraced 2-year-old filly in the month of April.

There would have been more competition had Real Madrid taken to the field against a bunch of schoolboys such was the authority of the display. Love Reigns burst into the lead from stall one, powered home to win unchallenged, and the clock backed up what filled the eye.

Not even Golden Pal (Uncle Mo), who won the G2 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint over the same course and distance in 2020, could run a quicker time than Love Reigns did in that scintillating debut.

“Any time Ben McElroy vets your horse, you know you have something special, so I was delighted that Ben bought her. When you breed horses, all you can hope for is that they go to the best trainers, and we couldn't have dreamed of better connections buying Love Reigns,” – Eoghan Grogan

Now her breeders, the father and son team of Pat and Eoghan Grogan at Killourney Mor Farm in County Offaly, are rightly dreaming about what the filly might go on to achieve at Royal Ascot.

“It's not often you see 2-year-olds win maidens by about ten lengths, especially over five and a half furlongs, and we were gob-smacked watching it,” said Eoghan, who works full-time on the farm alongside his Dad.

“I watched it with my father and, as soon as she crossed the line, I turned to him and said, 'this is a monster.' She looked incredible at Keeneland and it's the stuff of dreams to have bred one like her.”

He added, “We always loved her and she was the pick of that crop in 2020. She was a tank, a real ball of muscle.

“For her to go on and do that, it was just unreal. There has been a fantastic buzz around town and we're really looking forward to Royal Ascot now.”

Pat Smullen put Offaly on the map. The Faithful County, as it is known, is also famous for being home to Open Championship-winning golfer Shane Lowry as well as the internationally recognisable Irish whiskey Tullamore Dew.

Love Reigns may soon join that list of famous Offaly produce which is all the more remarkable given the Grogans never set out to become breeders.

Pat, a builder by trade, was once owed money by a man who settled the debt with a horse. While that horse was never much use, it sparked a love affair with the sport that burns bright to this day, and the family are keen to capitalise on their recent run of success.

“It's mad really, because if he [Pat] never got that first horse, I don't know if he'd have come down this route at all. I had no interest in horses at the time either,” explains Eoghan.

“That horse he got as part of the deal didn't work out but he was bitten by the bug and then he bought Don't Care (Ire) (Nordico) a year afterwards. She was a very good producer and got things going for us which caught my interest. I saw that you can make a good living out of this game if you have the right stock and that's what it's all about really.”

He added, “We've eight mares of our own and there's six boarders for other clients. Myself and my father are at it full-time and it's starting to take off in the past three or four years but it has been 20 years in the making. Some of the families are starting to develop as we wanted so it's great.”

Love Reigns is out of Humble And Proud (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}), whose career at Ballydoyle was cut short through injury, but she has become a proven producer on the farm. Not that things have been all plain sailing with her second career as a broodmare. They haven't.

Before her most prolific son, Glorious Empire (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}), became a Group 1 winner in America, Humble And Proud didn't go in foal for three years but, after having one of her ovaries removed, has gone in foal in each of the last four seasons and is bidding for a fifth in the coming weeks.

Grogan explained, “She's gone from being written off to one of our best broodmares and it wasn't as if her progeny were a massive success in the sales ring at the start either. They weren't. I think the best price we got for one before Love Reigns was £40,000.”

In Love Reigns, the Grogans certainly brought something special to the Orby Sale last year and were rewarded when Ben McElroy went to €160,000 to secure the filly on behalf of Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables.

Grogan remembers, “There was loads of interest in her. She was vetted five or six different times and all of the good guys were on her. Any time Ben McElroy vets your horse, you know you have something special, so I was delighted that Ben bought her. When you breed horses, all you can hope for is that they go to the best trainers, and we couldn't have dreamed of better connections buying Love Reigns.”

He added, “She was a stunning individual with a temperament to match her looks. She actually had a colic on the Saturday of the Orby Sale and I was wondering if it was going to work out or not with her but she settled down pretty quick. She tightened up a good bit and didn't show herself as well as she can on the Saturday but, she bounced back great on the Sunday, and from then on she was great. She has always had a great temperament and nothing really fazed her.”

It is that bombproof temperament which should stand to Love Reigns when she makes the trip over to Royal Ascot for the Queen Mary.

One of her last pieces of work was reported to have gone well at Keeneland, according to McElroy, who is predicting a big performance from the filly in the Queen Mary, provided she gets her ground.

He said, “She worked on Sunday and it's all systems go for Royal Ascot now. The ground was actually soft at Keeneland and I definitely think she will want it firm at Royal Ascot. Hopefully we get lucky with the weather and, if we do, I'd be very happy about her chances in the Queen Mary.”

McElroy knows a thing or two about what a Royal Ascot winner looks like. Dual Royal Ascot scorer Campanelle (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), who returns in Ward's raiding party for the this year, was also sourced in Ireland by McElroy on behalf of Stonestreet for 190,000gns and the renowned agent recalls how Love Reigns was just what he looks for in sourcing a royal runner.

He explained, “Barbara Banke loves Royal Ascot so, when we go to the sales, we're looking for something that's going to be a precocious 2-year-old that will suit Wesley Ward and be out in April or early May. That sets you up, if you are good enough, to take a tilt at one of the 2-year-old races at Royal Ascot. Obviously in her case, she always showed herself to have a lot of potential and Irad Ortiz rode her in two or three pieces of work before she ever ran and relayed to Wesley that she was his best 2-year-old, never mind Stonestreet's.”

McElroy added, “We were excited for her debut at Keeneland but she was drawn one in a 12-horse field, which is always a worry, but she proved Irad right on that performance. One of the reporters from the DRF told Wesley that it was the fastest 2-year-old performance in Keeneland, which encompasses Breeders' Cup races, meaning she ran faster than Golden Pal did as a 2-year-old. Visually, it looked very impressive, and the clock backed it up.”

Humble And Proud, the rather aptly-named broodmare, gave birth to a Mehmas (Ire) colt last week, and the Grogan family are now contemplating a return to US Navy Flag (War Front) on the strength of what Love Reigns did on debut.

She may only have graced the track once, but it's not often that a filly has left such an impression. Like McElroy, the Grogans will be hoping that Love Reigns can prove their eyes-and the clock-right in the Queen Mary.

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