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A.P. Indy - Flaming Heart, by Touch Gold - WinStar Farm
WinStar Farm - Versailles, KY | 2011 | Entered Stud 2016 | 2019 Fee $7,500

Stallion Trail a Fascinating Mix of Old and New


By Daithi Harvey

The Irish Stallion Trail is firmly established now in the early New Year calendar and, blessed with freakishly kind weather for January, it was a pleasure to once again take to the roads and remind myself of the quality of stallion standing in Ireland and the magnificent hotels they live in. They say there is more than one way to skin a cat, though I hope I will never find out; similarly there are many different routes one can take on the trail with 28 different farms, dispersed the length and breadth of the country, opening their doors for members of the public and bloodstock professionals alike to take a peek behind the scenes.

My route began in Co. Cork and in Castlehyde Stud, one of the Coolmore farms situated just a mile or so outside Fermoy, which apparently is Ireland’s cleanest town. That ethos is also evident in Castlehyde, where Joe Hernon and his colleagues were showing stallions in a pristine, newly refurbished courtyard where some shiny new additions to the roster were being unveiled. Castlehyde Stud is home to both flat and national hunt stallions and as I entered the courtyard, the old stalwarts Yeats (Ire) and Westerner (GB) were being paraded for some national hunt breeders and the thought struck me that, with the recent addition of Order Of St George (Ire) to the roster, in this small space are housed the winners of six G1 Ascot Gold Cups, which is quite a statistic.

Order Of St George really is a magnificent-looking beast and he could well be the one to fill the void left by the untimely death of another Coolmore Ascot Gold Cup winner, Fame And Glory (GB), whose early crops of jumps runners have made such a strong impact in a short space of time.

I was eager to see Coolmore’s latest Irish based son of Scat Daddy to retire to stud and when Sioux Nation strides out of his box, it is hard not to be impressed. The G2 Norfolk S. winner sealed a highly successful juvenile season when winning the G1 Keeneland Phoenix S. and he added the G3 Lacken S. at Naas to his CV as a 3-year while also finishing third in the G1 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five S. at The Curragh. With his colleague in Fethard No Nay Never standing this year for €100,000, the €12,500 covering fee set for this powerfully built bay would seem to make sense for breeders.

Another rookie on the Castlehyde roster is Gustav Klimt (Ire). The son of Galileo (Ire) looked to have the world at his feet when overcoming trouble in running to the win the G2 Superlative S. at Newmarket as a 2-year-old and despite resuming his 3-year-old campaign in style, he didn’t quite make the anticipated progress when upped to the highest level, though a runner-up position in the G1 St James’s Palace S. and four other Group 1 placings is hardly shabby.

“This fella is on the cusp of great things,” remarked Joe Hernon as Starspangledbanner (Aus) strutted his stuff along the rubber-tiled runway. The 12-year-old has fought a well-documented battle with fertility issues since his first crop exploded onto the scene seven years ago. He was almost lost to the stallion ranks at one stage, but he seems to be in a great place at the moment, with the Coolmore team having figured out the optimum way to manage him. “He had a very successful covering season last year and we will aim for 120 covers again this year, limiting him to two a day,” explained Hernon. His progeny have really captured the imagination of buyers in the sales ring, as is recounted in a recent TDN article, and while breeders are encouraged to have a ‘Plan B’ in mind when sending him a mare, the chance of getting a Starspangledbanner foal from a €17,500 cover seems a chance many are keen to take.

Holy Roman Emperor (Ire) is one of those solid, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin type stallions, and for a stallion who sired three new Group 1 winners in 2018, he certainly falls into the category of ‘proven and good value’ at a fee of €15,000. He also wins the award for the most muscle bound horse in the Castlehyde stallion yard.

If quizzed on which of last year’s first-season stallions might sire a Group 1 winner from his first crop, not many bloodstock experts would have plumped for Ruler Of The World (Ire), but the G1 Epsom Derby winner confounded the experts when his daughter Iridessa (Ire) won the G1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in October. That feat was also achieved by a small first crop, as his initial covering season was curtailed by a setback and this half-brother to Duke Of Marmalade (Ire) deserves a lot of respect at a fee of €8,000.

My next port of call took me to the other side of Fermoy to the Cashman family’s Rathbarry Stud where the family matriarch Catherine and her daughter Niamh Woods were holding the fort. Rathbarry has been synonymous with standing quality stallions for several decades and while Acclamation (GB) rightly holds pride of place at the moment, the farm has some interesting youngsters waiting in the wings. The most recent recruit is James Garfield (GB) and this son of Exceed And Excel (Aus) brings sound credentials with him. A group-winning 2-year-old, James Garfield claimed the scalp of Breeders’ Cup winner Expert Eye (GB) (Acclamation {GB}) in the G3 Greenham S. last year and was just chinned by Polydream (Ire) (Oasis Dream {GB}) in the G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest. He is by a proven sire of sires and has been fairly introduced at a fee of €7,000.

I must say I was quite taken physically with Rathbarry’s Kodi Bear (Ire) when he came out. He is a really imposing individual with huge presence and a great swagger. He seems to have bestowed those traits to a lot of his foals, as his first crop, offered late last year, made up to €66,000. At 20 years of age, Acclamation is in the veteran stage, but he is standing at a career high of €40,000 off the back of another productive year on the track for his offspring. His global influence runs deep, between a number of stallion sons carving out their own careers and multi-million guineas daughters setting records in the sales ring, and the Cashman’s are keen to prolong his influence for as long as possible. “We will restrict him to around 100 mares and he won’t be over-faced. He is really enjoying life and has been a fantastic horse for us,” said Niamh Woods.

While I’ve tried to mix things up on the trail each year and go to different farms, some things should remain sacred and should not be tampered with. So with lunchtime approaching, I aimed for Ballylinch Stud in Kilkenny where I was confident refreshments would be as impressive as the stallions on display. There were many folk present of a similar mindset when I arrived, and it was great to see Pat Smullen and his wife Frances there also as they caught up with Smullen’s old ally Fascinating Rock (Ire). The first foals of the dual Group 1 winner went down well last year, selling for up to €185,000 and he is a horse that certainly fills the eye. Lope De Vega (Ire) is well on his way to elite status and he is also developing that air of confidence that suggests he knows exactly how good he is. Among his throng of admirers was Arild Faeste, whose late wife Cherry Faeste bred one of Lope De Vega’s highest performing juvenile colts of 2018 Phoenix of Spain (Ire). There is little doubt, however, who Lope De Vega’s most exciting offspring is currently though, and having witnessed in person his daughter Newspaperofrecord (Ire)’s demolition job in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, she ranks high on my ‘most excited to see in 2019’ list of horses.

2019 is also a crunch year for Ballylinch’s Make Believe (Fr) whose first runners will appear later this year while New Bay (GB)‘s powerful ownership structure, which includes Ballylinch, Juddmonte and China Horse Club, should ensure he won’t be found wanting for some choice mares again this year.

With time to squeeze in one more visit, I pointed towards Naas and the O’Callaghan’s Morristown Lattin Stud where unusually three of the four stallions are grey. The ‘boss’ Dark Angel (Ire) is more white now than grey, but he looks in great shape as he prepares to embark on his 12th year at stud. According to Robert O’Callaghan, son of the stud’s owner Gay, they plan to cover between 180 and 200 mares with Dark Angel and at this stage he is probably due to sire another sprint sensation to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Harry Angel (Ire), Battaash (Ire), Mecca’s Angel (Ire) and Lethal Force (Ire), etc. His son Gutaifan (Ire) lives next door to him at Morristown Lattin and the spotlight will be on him this year as the wraps are taken off his first crop of 2-year-olds. They certainly were popular at the sales, but this is a ruthless and unforgiving business and the pressure will be on him to deliver just as his father did. Camacho (GB) is the elder statesman of the quartet and the 17-year-old’s 2019 fee hike up to €12,000 is reflective of his elevation to ‘Classic’ sire thanks to Teppal (Fr)’s win in the G1 Emirates Poule d’Essai des Pouliches last year. That win was no flash in the pan for Camacho, as he also sired a vast number of 2-year-old winners headed by the G2 Queen Mary S. and G2 Darley Prix Robert Papin winner Signora Cabello (Ire). While the third grey’s name El Kabeir translates into English as ‘The Boss’, the son of Scat Daddy has a long way to go to wrestle that moniker from his stallion mate Dark Angel, but he has a lot of attributes that give him every chance to be a success at stud. His own sire is the obvious starting point, but he also boasts an impressive physique with plenty of substance and a good walk and he was no slouch on the track either winning three American graded stakes races over eight and a half furlongs within the space of a little over three months. His first foals have just started to arrive and he won’t lack for support.

With darkness approaching I grabbed a coffee to go in the O’Callaghan’s office and helped myself to what appeared to be the last complementary Dark Angel baseball cap…sorry!, before heading for home as the odometer closed in on 500kms travelled during the day.

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