Thoughts Turn To June In Moyglare's Milestone Year

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Fiona Craig and Eva-Maria Bucher Haefner

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It is a year of important milestones for Moyglare Stud, most notably the 60th anniversary of its foundation by Swiss businessman and philanthropist Walter Haefner. The 50th running of the G1 Moyglare Stud S. will also take place on Sept. 11 at the Curragh, the famed Irish racecourse and training grounds which have been the beneficiary of significant support from Eva-Maria Bucher Haefner, who took over the running of Moyglare on her father's death, at the age of 101, a decade ago in June 2012.

A passionate equestrian who took up race riding in his 50s and became the 1963 Fegentri champion amateur at the age of 53, Haefner would surely have approved of his daughter's gathering of the reins at the Irish farm and continuing, with manager Malachy Ryan and advisor Fiona Craig, very much in the spirit of his beloved enterprise. Fittingly, in the early days of this noteworthy season, Moyglare Stud has already been represented by a decent smattering of classy representatives and has a couple of potential Classic fillies to savour in the coming weeks.

One of those, Homeless Songs (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), has been ruled out of Sunday's Poule d'assai des Pouliches on account of the lively ground, and she will likely take aim at the Irish 1000 Guineas on her home track. She is trained on the Curragh by Dermot Weld, a mainstay of the Moyglare operation for decades, who, in tandem with Walter Haefner, embraced a pioneering approach to racing abroad. Their travels resulted in victory in the 1990 GI Belmont S. for the Moyglare homebred Go And Go (Ire) (Be My Guest), followed the next year by lifting the inaugural Hong Kong Bowl with Additional Risk (Ire) (Ahonoora {GB}), who became the first overseas-trained winner in Hong Kong.

Continuity is a hallmark of Moyglare Stud, and doubtless one which has aided its success over the years. Fiona Craig joined the team in 1990, the year after the purchase of GI Acorn S. winner Aptostar (Fappiano) at Fasig-Tipton's Night of the Stars Sale in Kentucky. More than three decades later she still plays a key role in the operation and is looking forward to a Classic turn for Homeless Songs, a fifth-generation descendant of Aptostar and recent winner of the G3 Ballylinch Stud 1000 Guineas Trial. The filly's dam Joailliere (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), also trained by Weld, earned multiple group placings and won a German listed contest.

“We ran her mother on firm ground in the Guineas and she didn't run again for 10 months,” says Craig of the decision to swerve Paris on Sunday. “But Joailliere came back as a 4-year-old, and this filly is stronger than her dam. It's a long year and we'd love to race her all year and next year. She's a good filly and she deserves to run in the Guineas.”

She continues, “Mr Haefner always said 'you have to race them' and so Eva has a 6-year-old staying mare still in training.”

That mare is Search For A Song (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), one of eight black-type winners and two Group 1 winners for Moyglare's celebrated matriarch Polished Gem (Ire) (Danehill). The Irish St Leger heroine of 2019, Search For A Song appeared for the first time this season when running second to her full-brother Kyprios (Ire) in the Listed Vintage Crop S. The 4-year-old colt is one of a handful of horses Moyglare has in training with Aidan O'Brien and owned in partnership with Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor. They include the recent Cheshire Oaks winner Thoughts Of June (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who naturally is a potential candidate for the Oaks on the first weekend of the month for which she is hopefully portentously named.

In the meantime, Kyprios and Search For A Song will appear again on the same day this Friday, but in separate races in different countries, with the latter heading to the Knavesmire for the G2 Yorkshire Cup and Kyprios to the G3 Saval Beg Levmoss S. at Leopardstown.

These siblings, too, descend from a mare bought in America, a favoured venue for the globetrotting Haefner. Their third dam is the dual Grade I winner Talking Picture (Speak John).

Craig recalls, “Walter Haefner loved American racing. He found it faster and more exciting, and that's where most of the broodmares on Moyglare came from, such as Talking Picure and Grenzen. They bought Talking Picture out of the Gluck dispersal in 1978. She came off Elmendorf Farm and was in foal to Hoist The Flag. This is the one branch of the family that is still thriving for us.”

That branch stretches through Talking Picture's daughter Trusted Partner (Affirmed), winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas in 1988. That mare's most vaunted offspring is Dress To Thrill (Ire) (Danehill), a star for Moyglare on both sides of the Atlantic when winning the GI Matriarch S. at the now-defunct Hollywood Park, as well as the G2 Sun Chariot S. at Newmarket. She was also runner-up in the G1 Moyglare Stud S. of 2001. As can often be the case in families, while Dress To Thrill excelled on the track, her lesser-performed full-sister Polished Gem outdid her in the paddocks.

“Dress To Thrill had a very bad foaling with her third foal and was always a bit on borrowed time after that,” says Craig. Dress To Thrill produced six foals and died in 2010 at the age of 11.

“But then there was Polished Gem. Kyprios was her eighth stakes winner but you would not have picked out Polished Gem. Dress To Thrill had all this presence, real pazzazz. She was a bigger, stronger mare. But Polished Gem was more like Trusted Partner, quite weak and light.”

Kyprios's Ballydoyle stable-mate, the grey Thoughts Of June, is half-owned by Moyglare and is out of mare who exemplifies the profile prized by Bucher Haefner and Craig in her combination of talent and toughness. With 17 starts and six wins under her belt, Discreet Marq (Discreet Cat), who was purchased as a filly in training from her breeder Patricia Generazio, won the GI Del Mar Oaks among three graded stakes wins and seven Grade 1 placings.

“Her mum was as brave as they came,” says Craig. “She was with Christophe Clement and I watched her train and race for two years. Then the Generazios wanted to sell and Eva bought her. She was really game and never gave in.

“The Generazios were breeders from New Jersey who bred many good grey horses and they always said to me, 'Have you had a grey yet?' When Discreet eventually had a grey Mr. Generazio said to me, 'That'll be the one'.”

She continues of Thoughts Of June, “But she's only just starting. We are looking at next year and onwards. Moyglare is not really commercial but there comes a point when you have to retire them, but there's not the urgency if they are good and they are racing and enjoying it. Why stop? Some of the horses bred are only starting as 3-year-olds.

“Eva wants racehorses. Her father didn't go racing as much but Eva and her children Chiara and Mischa go racing a lot more and they want to race them. It's so competitive in Ireland and therefore if you have something that can compete it's fantastic.”

Craig adds, “You watch Search For A Song coming down the yard in the morning and she loves it. I don't know whether she will win a Group 1 this year or not, but it seems a pity to put her in a field just yet.”

Mischa and Chiara Bucher race horses respectively in the colours previously used by their grand father Walter–blue and white to represent Switzerland, and green, white and gold for Ireland. The silks now sported by the Moyglare horses of a black and white jacket with a red cap and black star have a rich history as the former colours of Kaiser Wilhelm II, presumably based on the national colours of the German empire.

Whatever their heritage, they are silks which have become readily associated with the Haefner family's bloodstock, carried to success by a stream of top-class horses, including 2000 Guineas winner Refuse To Bend (Ire) (Sadler's Wells), Irish Oaks winner Dance Design (Ire) (Sadler's Wells), Free Eagle (Ire) (High Chaparral {Ire}) and Brief Truce (Irish River {Fr}).

“We're very lucky at Moyglare; some of the lads have been there for decades,” says Craig. “The good horses at the moment, are down to these lads and Malachy Ryan. They are the ones that do it day to day and they don't get much of the credit.”

She continues, 'The horses cannot be brought in and mollycoddled. There are big pastures and lots of trees so there are windbreaks but they have to stand out in the rain. They have to be hardy horses to compete in Ireland.

“It's not a beauty contest. Tough horses are what do it–horses that are tough enough to stay out all winter. The breeding business can get very complicated at times and it probably just needs to be kept simple. I am sure if you're a commercial breeder there are things that have to be done. But we're not really commercial–occasionally we sell things to keep the numbers down. It's 500 acres and we try to keep to around 100 horses, in the U.S. and Ireland.”

Craig adds, “We have put the odd good mare into an auction, and Eva's hope and my hope is that they would go on to be successful for someone else. They are probably going to be bred differently to how we would have bred them at Moyglare and I don't view that as a negative. For example, we sold Offshore Boom in 1997 to Joe Crowley. She was the cheapest mare in the draft and then she became the dam of Rock Of Gibraltar, but she wouldn't have been bred to Danehill had she stayed at Moyglare.”

There is no point ruing the occasional one that gets away, particularly if those who remain continue to do the stud proud.

“It's exciting to have the good ones but these things go in cycles, and if you keep doing what you do and you have some fillies, then you have a chance,” Craig says. “Moyglare has been through quite a big transition. When Eva took over the one thing we all realised was that we had to buy some new stock. Our bloodlines are so focused now that it's very hard to find something in England or Ireland that you can breed to. Galileo was such an amazing force of nature and he is throughout the pedigrees. It's equally hard to find stallions in the United States that would work back in Ireland–there's a handful–so what Eva has done in the last few years has left a handful of yearlings in training there with Christophe Clement.”

The strategy paid off in December with the Wait A While S. victory for the Uncle Mo filly Lia Marina, a daughter of Lira (Giant's Causeway), one of nine mares Moyglare has at stud in Kentucky. The Haefner family will always have strong ties to Ireland, too. Eva-Maria's support of the Curragh has been widely appreciated, and Moyglare Stud is involved in the longest-running Group 1 race sponsorship in its eponymous fillies' contest on Irish Champions Weekend.

“Eva likes helping people,” says Craig. “She helped local artists in Switzerland during the pandemic because all their work stopped. And that's why the stable staff canteen at the Curragh is sponsored because they deserve it, and it was also a significant reason for  her upgrading the facilities on the gallops at the Curragh. It was really for the community of the Curragh. All the lads live in the surrounding villages and if you lose the Curragh gallops you lose a whole world of people.”

Moyglare Stud's current crop of horses trained in Ireland also include the Classic-entered pair of Trevaunance (Ire) (Muhaarar {Ire}), who beat Thoughts Of June when breaking her maiden last September for Jessica Harrington, and Eclat De Lumiere (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), a recent fourth in the G3 Blue Wind S. The debutant winner Tough Talk (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) also looks a smart juvenile prospect for Ger Lyons.

“Eva started off with a real enjoyment of breeding and racing, but she became a very good student of it and learnt an awful lot,” says Craig

“I think it's a great satisfaction to her that the stud this year has done what it was bought to do 60 years ago. Her father didn't come to Ireland to buy a farm, he came to buy a show jumper but his flight was delayed and he got chatting in an airport bar and ended up buying a stud farm.”

Despite the hope and joy brought by horses of Classic potential, for Bucher-Haefner and for Craig, two absent friends are never far from their minds. Pat Smullen, Ireland's champion jockey who became synonymous with the Moyglare silks during his long tenure at Weld's stable, had become an advisor to the stud prior to his death in 2020.

“Pat will always be a part of Moyglare,” says Craig of her long-time friend. “He was an integral part of it all. He started off as a young rider but he ended up knowing the pedigrees and the families inside out, and that was the benefit of having someone riding those generations for so long. He won't ever not be a factor at Moyglare just because he's not physically here.”

She added, “Eva said the other day when she was watching Thoughts Of June win at Chester that she had tears in her eyes for her father. She was thinking of him and how excited he would have been, because that is a step to somewhere.”

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