Small-Time Irish Breeder Molloy Over The Moon With American Oaks Winner

Starspangledbanner: sire of Rhea Moon | Coolmore

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Small-time breeder Kevin Molloy was provided with the best possible Christmas present late on Monday night when Rhea Moon (Ire), the first produce out of homebred Callisto Star (Ire), became Starspangledbanner's fourth top-flight winner of 2022 when battling to Grade I American Oaks glory at Santa Anita.

Rhea Moon began her career for Ken Condon in Ireland, for whom she showed bundles of potential when placing in six-furlong maidens at Dundalk and the Curragh before being purchased privately by BBA Ireland's Michael Donohoe and international bloodstock agent Niall Dalton to join Philip D'Amato. 

Monday night's success was described by Molloy, who sold Rhea Moon through Ballybin Stud for £24,000 to BBA Ireland at the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale in 2020, as his best experience in racing. 

He said, “I stayed up to watch the race with my family and it was very exciting. We were concerned about the draw but she has that turn of foot which gets her out of trouble. 

“It was my best day in racing. To win a Grade I and to have that on the page is great. They are keeping her in training and I see more improvement coming so it's quite exciting.”

Peter Kelly of Ballybin Stud sold Rhea Moon along with her winning full-sister There's The Door (Ire) for €80,000 at the Goffs Autumn Yearling Sale last year and the Magna Grecia half-brother who commanded €145,000 to Johnny Hassett's Getinthegame syndicate at this year's Sportsman's Sale at Goffs. 

He recalled, “I know from talking to Ken Condon that he was mad about Rhea Moon and he went hard trying to buy the full-sister last year and the Magna Grecia this year as well. I thought she'd be a good filly but I never dreamt she could go on and win a Grade I, so it's great.”

Kelly added, “Rhea Moon was a gorgeous, big filly as a yearling. Big, scopey and strong but she was a small bit turned in in front, which spoiled it a little. I remember her being a gorgeous filly in the lunge ring-she'd a huge big action on her-and you just knew she was going to be good. I remember trying to put a few people on her. Every now and then you get a glimpse of what could be a good one and she was one that I really liked at home.

“The dam Callisto Star has had an exceptional start and I'm delighted for Kevin as he has three mares all of whom are from this family. The sister has won for David Evans and is not far off black-type while Johnny Hassett bought the Magna Grecia colt at the Sportsman's Sale off us. I'm delighted for Johnny as he was a big fan of the colt and hopefully this pedigree update will help them achieve a nice profit at the breeze-up sales next year.”

It has been a bountiful year for the progeny of Starspangledbanner. Rhea Moon capped a memorable season for the Coolmore sire by joining Aristia (Ire), State Of Rest (Ire) and California Spangle (Ire) by claiming success at the highest level. 

Rhea Moon's dam Callisto Star is back in foal to Starspangledbanner with Molloy excited about what the future might bring for a family he has nurtured for generations.

He explained, “There's stamina in the dam's side and, if you go right back, there's the Mill Reef influence in there as well. I think the match is very good and I was advised by Christy Grassick in Coolmore to bring Callisto Star to Starspangledbanner. Thankfully, the mare is back in foal to Starspangledbanner, which is good news.

“Callisto Star was unlucky during her training career. She was with Jim Bolger but got injured. To get off to a start like she has, with her first produce bagging a Grade I win in America, is great.”

Molloy added, “Her second foal, There's The Door (Ire), has won for David Evans and was not far off getting black-type. She had a lovely Magna Grecia colt sell to Johnny Hassett's Getinthegame partnership at the Sportsman's Sale in September. He was a lovely colt with a great temperament and it will be interesting to see how he breezes for them.”

Molloy's enjoyment at seeing Rhea Moon achieve big-race success in America was heightened by the fact that he is surrounded by the family at his base in Luttrellstown in Dublin.

He said, “Rhea Moon is a Dublin girl. She was born in Coolmore but she was raised here in Luttrellstown. I only have a small operation here. I have kept a few different broodmares from different lines but gradually got out of them. The one line I kept is from Mohican Princess (GB) (Shirley Heights {GB}). 

“Mohican Princess produced a number of good horses, including dual Group 3 winner Satchem (Ire) (Inchinor {GB}) and Eye Of The Storm (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who despite only having one eye, was a very talented horse. I kept Livia Galilei (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) out of Mohican Princess and I have some of Livia Galilei's daughters here as well. I've only got three broodmares altogether.”

Molloy added, “I take a lot of advice from Peter's Dad Paddy Kelly. I am guided by him and Christy Grassick. I get good advice and it's very enjoyable to have the mares around me. As I am speaking now, I am looking out the window at Rhea Moon's dam. That adds a lot. There are ups and downs but, to be able to go out and pet these mares on the nose, it gives you a lot of satisfaction. You get very close to them all.”

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