Stars Align For Stallion Master Orlandi

Micheal Orlandi with Smooth Daddy | Racing Post

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It is fair to say that Micheal Orlandi-at 32 years of age–is one of the youngest self-made stallion masters in the business. He could, perhaps, also lay claim to being one of the most enthusiastic people working in the bloodstock industry.

Operating under the Compas Stallions banner, Orlandi has stood stallions at various farms, but from January 2020 they have a new home in Starfield Stud.

Measuring 95 acres in total, the farm is a stone's throw from Orlandi's family home and a short walk from the banks of Lough Owel, outside the town of Mullingar. The farm has been a dream of Orlandi's since he became immersed in racing and breeding at a young age.

“I used to follow racing with a fine toothcomb,” he says. “I used to love going to Goffs and picking up the stallion brochures. I didn't have any mares at the time, but I used to leaf through the brochures, thinking of the mares I'd like to send to each stallion. It was all fictitious, a game in my head.”

Brought up with ponies, Orlandi got a small insight into the stallion business through some Thoroughbred mares his father brought to nearby Tally-Ho Stud. That farm's local success story is something that sparked a dream in him and continues to influence his business.

“I suppose I take a lot out of Tally-Ho's book,” he says. “They're nearby and I remember going there when they stood the likes of Tillerman (GB), Chevalier (Ire) and Mr Dinos (Ire). Tony and Anne toughed it out and came across Danetime (Ire) and Red Clubs (Ire), and now they have Kodiac (GB). I suppose the trick is to stay in business until you find the stallion that makes you.”

Orlandi says another local hero helped fuel his dreams.

“Vaguely Noble (Ire) was bred at Cleaboy Stud, on the outskirts of Mullingar,” he says. “He was a champion racehorse, he won the Arc, and he set sales records at Tattersalls. He was probably the Frankel (GB) or Sea The Stars (Ire) of his time. But the fact that such an influential stallion came from just a couple of miles away, that seems surreal.”

Orlandi's interests began in racing, though how it happened is a little unusual.

“It would be unheard of nowadays,” Orlandi says. “But my primary school principal used to take me to my local track, Kilbeggan. That's where my interest in racing and breeding started. I also spent a summer with Dot Love, when she had the likes of Hear The Echo (Ire), One Cool Cookie (Ire) and many other great chasers.”

A trip to college didn't spell the end of Orlandi's involvement in the racing and bloodstock worlds. “I went to college with Madeline Burns and that's how I met her father Maurice,” he explains. “I was blown away meeting a stallion man who stood the likes of Clodovil.”

Orlandi describes Maurice Burns as very influential in his career, as he does Mark Johnston, for whom he next worked.

“He brought me to Keeneland, introduced me to all of his owners, his vets, his jockeys, etc,” Orlandi says. “I was going to Ascot and Glorious Goodwood–places I'd dreamt of going. Mark was exceptionally good to me, as were a lot of his owners, some of whom I've stayed in touch with since.”

Johnston, Burns and breeders Paul and Marie McCartan are mentioned by Orlandi on numerous occasions.

“From listening to all of them, I learned so much about the industry as a whole,” he explains. “But I still ask a lot of people for their opinions and views. I definitely don't think I have it all sussed out–I don't think I ever will. Nobody knows, nobody has a crystal ball. You need to box clever.

“The industry is forever changing and it's also an industry where opinion becomes fact, so it is important to talk and find out what people are thinking. For me, standing a stallion, I have to know what people want.”

After working for Mark Johnston, Orlandi moved to Newmarket to set up on his own as a bloodstock agent. It was then that he became involved with James Acheson, best known for racing Equiano (Fr) (Acclamation {GB}) and standing him in partnership with Newsells Park Stud. Acheson invested in the agent's first foray into the stallion business: Cappella Sansevero (GB).

A listed and Group 3 winner as a juvenile, Cappella Sansevero also finished second in the G2 Coventry S. and third in the G1 Phoenix S., ending the season with a 1 3/4-length defeat in the G1 Middle Park S. behind Charming Thought (GB), Ivawood (Ire) and Muhaarar (GB). Pedigree was a big part of the appeal for Acheson and Orlandi, though, with the latter explaining, “We took a punt on Showcasing with Cappella Sansevero. He was by a first-season sire, although he was Showcasing's best colt at the time. He is also out of a Royal Applause mare and that's something I was conscious of–a proven broodmare sire who's known for producing speed and toughness. There was little point in buying a top 2-year-old who had stamina on his dam's side, because that could potentially come through in his offspring. He has speed on both sides and that's something Paul McCartan spoke to me about. The genes can come through and it's something that has happened before with stallions.”

Standing any new stallion is a challenge and surely even more so when the stallion master is an unknown quantity, something Orlandi was very aware of.

“I have to be really grateful to all the breeders who have supported me,” he says. “Especially those who came to Cappella Sansevero first. You have to remember, they didn't know who I was but they trusted my judgement and signed a contract. It is very difficult to break into this industry, regardless of who you are. It's so competitive and it changes so quickly–you can be on top of the world one day and down the next.”

Cappella Sansevero had his first runners in 2019, the highlight of which was undoubtedly Pierre Lapin (Ire), winner of the G2 Mill Reef S. The stallion's unbeaten flagbearer was bred by Paul and Marie McCartan's Ballyphilip Stud and is a half-brother to top 3-year-old Harry Angel (Ire) Dark Angel {Ire}).

Pierre Lapin isn't the only Cappella Sansevero 3-year-old to look forward to, according to Orlandi. “Eloy D'Amerval was bred by Brian Duffy and was a very impressive maiden winner at Naas for Gerry Keane, having won an Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Barrier Trial before that. He was subsequently sold to a Hong Kong-based owner and is now in training with Ger Lyons. From the whispers I hear, they think the world of him and I believe he's going to start back in a Guineas trial.”

It hasn't been all plain sailing, though. “We enjoyed huge success with Cappella Sansevero but sadly I can't say the same for our second stallion venture, Strath Burn,” Orlandi says. “Having said that, I probably learned more about the stallion game with Strath Burn than I did with Cappella Sansevero.”

Though the stallion business can be such a fickle one, Orlandi sheds some light on his motivation, saying, “I love the way stallions can have a lasting impact on the industry. Financially, it is high-risk but the potential for reward is huge. A successful stallion can be life-changing.”

One of the next up and comers on the Compas Stallions roster is Paul and Clare Rooney's G1 Prince Of Wales's S. winner My Dream Boat (Ire) (Lord Shanakill).

“My Dream Boat now has his first yearlings and the majority of breeders who sent him mares last year were repeat business,” Orlandi says. “It's great to see as it means that they were happy with their foals by him. He breeds them very similar to himself–great limbs, lovely walkers, very athletic and light on their feet.

“He has enough foals on the ground to give him a chance and he'll have some flat runners too. The Rooneys have strongly supported him–he means the world to them. ”

Orlandi's success with what many would deem risky choices has led to an increase in demand for his services. Bloodstock agent Billy Jackson-Stopps, with the backing of Abdulaziz Al-Rabban, joined forces with Orlandi to purchase Kuroshio (Aus). Originally a reverse shuttler from Darley Australia to Overbury Stud in 2015, the son of Exceed and Excel (Aus) yielded 20 runners from his lone crop in the UK, which resulted in four stakes horses. His highest-rated performer is Dunkerron (GB), who finished second in the G2 Vintage S., while the highly rated juvenile Kurious (GB) trained on as a 3-year-old to land back-to-back stakes contests over five furlongs.

Kuroshio covered 108 mares in Ireland in 2019. “We had a great year with Kuroshio last year–he covered a great book of mares and was well supported by numerous top breeders,” Orlandi says. “More and more renowned breeders have chosen to use him in 2020 which is a great advertisement for Kuroshio and for the brand.”

Orlandi made a greater personal investment in his stallion roster last year when purchasing a significant share in his latest recruit, Smooth Daddy (Scat Daddy).

“Like everyone, I was keen to get a son of Scat Daddy and Smooth Daddy came on my radar,” he explains. “I flew out to Kentucky two years ago to see him, knowing that the chance of buying a son of Scat Daddy was getting slimmer as time went on.

“Smooth Daddy is a great physical with an exceptional walk. He is out of a stakes-class mare who has bred two other stakes horses and comes from the family of Sioux Nation, who is also by Scat Daddy.”

Smooth Daddy was a $170,000 yearling and had the ability to win a Grade III on the turf, beating hot favourite Time Test (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) into second. The bay was well received by breeders, covering 72 mares last year.

Last year was also a landmark one for Orlandi's bloodstock agency, Compas Equine, with Orlandi having purchased his first stakes winner in the shape of Orlaith (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}). Orlaith was unsold at the yearling sales and sourced by Orlandi privately at a “cheap and cheerful” price from the Magnier family's Grange Stud. She went on to win the Listed Byerley Stud S. for Iain Jardine, beating subsequent Group 3 winner Al Raya (GB) (Siyouni {Fr}). After finishing third in the Listed Rockingham S. and fourth at Group 3 level, she went on to reward connections at Tattersalls, where she sold for 185,000gns.

To ensure 2019 was a year to remember, Orlandi also bred his first stakes winner, Gustavus Weston (Ire). Bred in partnership with John Harrod, the son of Equiano won the G3 Phoenix Sprint S., which saw his breeders sell his dam for a fine profit of 95,000gns in December.

There are no new additions planned for the Compas Stallions roster in 2020, with Orlandi's hands full with his new farm and his mind very much on breeders and their mares.

“Last year we covered our highest number of mares,” he says. “And I'm hoping to build on that again in 2020. I am planning on expanding our clientele and this goes hand-in-hand with breeders' success in the sales ring and on the track.”

The “brand” is something Orlandi refers to often, and has been a strongpoint particularly when members of the Compas Stallions roster stood at different farms in the past. They have been reunited since January 2020 at Starfield Stud, where Orlandi's attention to detail is evident. He is putting considerable effort into upgrading the stud, beginning with a new row of stallion boxes and rebuilding the old stables before re-seeding the entire farm and remapping the fields. Despite starting from scratch on a budget, he has invested in quality everywhere.

The new farm and its roster will be unveiled to the public as part of open days on Feb. 7 and 8. Orlandi looks to it with a mixture of excitement and anticipation, saying, “Starfield Stud is new to people, but it's been my home forever.”

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