Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Shareholder's Royal Ascot Win Raises Questions For Breeder

Shareholder (inside) | Horsephotos

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It had been a bit of a tough run for Skyfall Thoroughbreds' Geoffrey Von Honste, truth be told, and he was thinking that it was time to call it quits. Covid had been hard on business, there were a couple of bad breaks with the horses, and things just didn't seem to be working out for him in the Thoroughbred game.

But they say that life is what happens when you're making other plans, and on Thursday, the thing that happened was that he became a Royal Ascot-winning breeder when Shareholder (Not This Time) won the G2 Norfolk Stakes by a length. That result came just 20 days after another success, when First World War won his second graded stakes in a three-month period in the Grade III Penn Mile. Suddenly, Von Honste has some decisions to make.

“We were planning to step out of it, to be honest,” he said. “Then First World War became a graded stakes winner, and then this horse wins at Royal Ascot.”

A native of Belgium, Von Honste lives in South Africa, where he owns a cattle farm and plans to launch a medical cannabis business. He has raced horses in England and America, and, he said, “I have always been a big fan of dirt racing, much more so than racing in the U.K.”

Von Honste owns Shareholder's dam, an Invincible Spirit (Ire) mare named Cloudy Dancer (GB), and while she was unraced, he liked her pedigree and didn't want to sell her. He sent her to Brendan and Olive Gallagher's Frankfort Park Farm in Lexington, where he bred her to Street Sense. She produced a colt, Who Said Go, who was fourth in his only start at Kempton as a two-year-old.

Her next–and to date her only other foal-is Shareholder. Cloudy Dancer was not covered in 2023, and aborted a Street Sense foal this spring.

Shareholder after winning the Norfolk Stakes | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Von Honste chose Not This Time for her mating, “because I think the Giant's Causeway line works well on the Green Desert line,” he said. “It was going to be really good mating.”

Gallagher, who raised and sold the colt, said he loved Shareholder from the time he was a young horse, and entered him in the Keeneland September Sale with reasonably good expectations. “He was always a beautiful horse and he had some veterinary issues as a yearling, but they obviously haven't stopped him,” he said. “But it's typical. It's all about the veterinary these days. We always loved the yearling.”

He brought $62,000. “I was very disappointed as to what he made as a yearling,” said Gallagher. “There was so much interest in the horse from the agents and all the buyers, but we sold him for what we sold him for. Jim McCartan and Willie Browne were the two people there that bought him on the day and they were the two people that were willing to take the chance on the horse.”

McCartan brought Shareholder to the 2024 Arqana Breeze-Up sale, where he had high expectations for him. “He's one of those natural talents,” he told the TDN's Brian Sheerin before the sale. “Not This Time is top of the pops-he's a sire on the up. I actually rang a couple of pals of mine in America and they told me that Not This Time is the horse who really is on the way up. The stock from his better mares are coming through now and his stud fee has gone up to $150,000. He's getting into that bracket of Into Mischief, Curlin, and those sorts of horses.”

Shareholder sold for €460,000.

Like Gallagher, Von Honste said he was also disappointed in the September sale price.

“I was not happy with the price,” he said. “It was a great breeding. The dam has a very deep pedigree, and but I was disappointed in the selling price. Not This Time had gone from $40,000 to $135,000, and the people who bought Shareholder had better luck with him, but that's the way it goes.”

Earlier this year, when Cloudy Dancer aborted her Street Sense foal, Von Honste considered bringing her to South Africa and getting out of racing altogether. Now, he has had several calls from buyers interested in buying Cloudy Dancer from him. Will he go through with it?

“I honestly don't know,” he admitted. “I was planning to step out of the Thoroughbred business. After Covid, we had a few financial setbacks. It's very expensive, so we decided we're going to stop, we're going to quit. Then we had another Group win with First World War and then we just had this horse winning a group race as well. Now we have to rethink it.”

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