Watership Down Welcomes Too Darn Hot's Brother


Too Darn Hot's brother with his dam, Dar Re Mi | Lara Surman/Zvari Marketing


While all about us nothing is quite as it should be, some pleasing normality can be found on stud farms, where the foaling and covering season has continued largely uninterrupted.

At Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber's Watership Down Stud, an eagerly awaited delivery was made this week when Dar Re Mi (GB) (Singspiel {Ire}) produced a colt by her regular partner Dubawi (Ire). The ninth foal for the treble Group 1 winner is her seventh by Darley's coveted sire. The youngster is, of course, a full-brother to Too Darn Hot (GB), last year's Cartier champion 3-year-old, who is currently romping through a book of prized mares at Dalham Hall Stud before boarding a plane for Australia this summer.

Traditionally the Lloyd Webbers sell their colts as yearlings and race the fillies. The potency of the Dubawi-Dar Re Mi mating had already been ably expressed through their daughters So Mi Dar (GB) and Lah Ti Dar (GB)—Group 3 and Group 2 winners respectively and also Group 1 performers. So when the colt who would become known as Too Darn Hot had “an issue with an x-ray” as a foal, it must have been, from a commercial viewpoint, pretty galling. But, retained to race, even without the rubber stamp of the vet, Too Darn Hot repaid his breeders handsomely. The unbeaten European champion 2-year-old went on to become a champion miler at three, with consecutive Group 1 wins in the Prix Jean Prat and the Sussex S.

In the wings waits his 3-year-old brother Darain (GB), owned in partnership by Qatar Racing and the Lloyd Webbers after being sold for 3.5 million gns to David Redvers at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, as well as 2-year-old and yearling sisters plus the new arrival.

“We are very happy with the colt foal, and it's her ninth foal in a row,” says Simon Marsh, who oversees Watership Down Stud and its sister farm Kiltinan Castle Stud in Ireland.

“Dar Re Mi is going to Kingman (GB) this year. We now have four sisters to Too Darn Hot and I think we just need to try to get some other blood. Putting some miling speed into her seemed to be the right thing to do with Dubawi, and Kingman looks like he's going to be a very good stallion. I think he'll suit her very well.”

Of Dar Re Mi's other offspring, he adds, “Darain would have run by now and he is ready to make his debut once racing gets going.  Her 2-year old is also going to John Gosden this year.”

One anomaly of this year's foal is the colour of his coat. “He's chestnut and she's never had a chestnut before,” notes Marsh. “There has to be a chestnut on both sides of the family to allow that to happen. On Dubawi's side it's in the fourth dam and goes back to Fall Aspen, who was herself dam of four Group 1 winners. In Dar Re Mi's pedigree it's coming from the fifth dam Marilla (Fr), who was chestnut as well, as was the dam of Slightly Dangerous, so this latent gene is all as far back as the fourth and fifth generation.”

As for Dar Re Mi's daughters now in the Watership Down broodmare band, Lah Ti Dar is currently boarding in France at Andreas Putsch's Haras de Saint Pair, and is in foal for the first time to Siyouni (Fr). Her elder sister So Mi Dar is off to Frankel (GB) this year and has a yearling filly by Galileo (Ire) as well as a colt foal by his half-brother Sea The Stars (Ire).

The stud has retained a 50% share in Too Darn Hot and has naturally been keen to support him in his new career.

“It was an extreme piece of good fortune that allowed us to race him and we bought a couple of mares last autumn to go to him,” says Marsh.

These include Frankel Light (Ire), a listed-winning daughter of Frankel (GB) bought for €1.3 million at Arqana in December.

He adds, “She's a beautiful mare who goes back to Aviance, one of the best Niarchos families, and she has had a Dark Angel (Ire) filly and has been covered by Too Darn Hot this year,” Marsh notes. “We also bought Gale Force (GB), who is a stakes-wining daughter of Shirocco (Ger) and a half-sister to [G1W] Seal Of Approval (GB). She's just had an Australia (GB) filly and was covered by Too Darn Hot on April 17.”

Claba Di San Jore (Ire) (Barathea {Ire}), the dam of Group 1 winners Jakkalberry (Ire), Crackerjack King (Ire) and Awelmarduk (Ire), was another Watership Down purchase back in 2012, and she, along with her Shamardal daughters Joyful Hope (GB) and Trapani (GB), is also among Too Darn Hot's first book.

“Joyful Hope, who we own in partnership with Andrew Rosen, is a stakes winner and she has a Dubawi filly this year,” Marsh says, and adds that Kelly Nicole (Ire) (Rainbow Quest), the dam of G2 Summer Mile winner Aljamaaheer (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), and the group-placed Montalcino (Ire) (Big Bad Bob), owned in partnership with Ben Sangster, are also going to Too Darn Hot.

Along with Darain, another 3-year-old the Lloyd Webbers will be looking forward to seeing at the races this year is Shimmering (Ire), a Lope De Vega (Ire) great grand-daughter of one of the stud's foundation mares Crystal Spray (Beldale Flutter). The Lingfield maiden winner's dam Crysdal (GB) (Dalakhani {Ire}) is also on the Too Darn Hot list.

“Shimmering won her maiden for John Gosden and he was planning to run her in the Fred Darling but obviously that's changed now,” Marsh says.

Even with some exciting prospects ready to be unleashed, it will be hard to top last year for the team at Watership Down and Kiltinan Castle which saw three of its graduates crowned champion in their respective divisions. Along with Too Darn Hot, the much-loved stayer Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) and the G1 Cheveley Park S. winner Millisle (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) represent another important aspect of the operation which boards a host of well-credentialed mares for clients.

“We were very proud to have three champions from the farms in the same year,” Marsh says. “Stradivarius has been an extraordinary story. His owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen has had mares at Kiltinan for many years and has bred some fantastic horses from there, but obviously Stradivarius is the flag-bearer. Two years ago Bjorn bought a mare called Parade Militaire (Ire) (Peintre Celebre) in America, and she is out of a sister to the dam of Stradivarius. She has just had a Sea The Stars filly, who is a obviously a very close relation to Stradivarius, and she will visit Sea The Stars again.”

Another of Nielsen's mares at Kiltinan Castle is Danilovna (Ire) (Dansili {GB}), a half-sister to Lillie Langtry (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}), who is in turn the dam of Minding (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). Closely replicating the cross that produced the seven-time Group 1 winner, Danilovna has visited Galileo in the last two seasons and has a yearling filly by him as well as a colt foal. She will visit Sea The Stars this year.

“It's fantastic for the breed that that are still breeders like Bjorn out there who are not too obsessed with speed and are focused on breeding middle-distance horses,” Marsh adds. “I admire John Magnier and the Coolmore team for the way that they breed brilliant middle-distance horses and dominate those races.”

Stonethorn Stud Farms, the owner-breeder of last season's European champion 2-year-old filly Millisle, played a part in the phenomenal success story that is Juddmonte Farms. Stonethorn's late principal Gerry Jennings raced Sorbus (GB) (Busted {GB}) and bred her daughter Bahamian (GB) (Mill Reef), who was sold to Prince Khalid Adbullah as a yearling for 310,000gns in 1986. From that purchase has sprung the likes of Wemyss Bight (GB), Oasis Dream (GB), Zenda (GB) and Kingman (GB). Jennings was also the breeder of Green Castle (Ire) (Indian Ridge {Ire}), one of the mares now owned by his son Francis, who bred her daughter Millisle.

“Stonethorn Stud Farms have had their mares at Kiltinan now for about 15 years. Millisle is now a Cheveley Park winner and will be a fantastic mare to bring back to the farm when her racing career is over,” says Marsh. “She's in training with Jessie Harrington, who is very pleased with her, though obviously frustrated that she won't be running in the 1000 Guineas at the beginning of May. But she's on track to run either in Ireland or England or wherever, and Jessie is very confident that she will stay a mile. She seemed to be running on at the end of the Cheveley Park. She's grown and she's furnished and is a very exciting prospect.”

Millisle's dam, now 21, is now back in foal to Starspangledbanner. Stonethorn Stud Farms also has listed winner Drumfad Bay (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) at the stud, who has been tested in foal to Blue Point (Ire) and has a Siyouni yearling filly, as well as listed winner Trethias (GB), an Invincible Spirit (Ire) mare out of Dar Re Mi's half-sister Evita (GB) (Selkirk).

“She was bred by Watership Down Stud and Francis Jennings bought her from us. She is now in foal to Dubawi. Greenisland (Ire), who is Millisle's half-sister, has a really nice Sea The Stars yearling filly which they will put into training. She is due to foal a Starspangledbanner filly on 25 April.”

Among the other breeders on the client list at Watership Down and Kiltinan Castle is Philip Freedman of Cliveden Stud, who has four mares boarding, including his G2 Lancashire Oaks winner Horseplay (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}). She has recently delivered her first foal, a colt by Kingman, and is visiting Dubawi.

American owner-breeder Andrew Rosen has his dual Group 3 winner J Wonder (Footstepsinthesand {GB}) at the farm.

“Her Dubawi 3-year old named Boccaccio (GB) has won both his starts and would be running in a Classic trial now if there were any,” says Marsh. “We sold him for 850,000gns to Godolphin and he looks like a very good horse.”

J Wonder now has as a full-brother to Boccaccio on the ground, a 2-year old filly by Galileo who is going into training to with John Gosden, and she will visit Kingman this year.

Another American client is Vinnie and Teresa Viola's St Elias Stables, which has three mares at Watership Down including Dazzling (GB) (Galileo {Ire}). The sister to Group 1 winner Roderic O'Connor (Ire) is another on her way to Too Darn Hot, while the same breeder's Limonar (Ire) (Street Cry {Ire}), the dam of G3 Bahrain Trophy and Belmont Derby winner Spanish Mission, is now in foal to Frankel, a full-brother to Spanish Mission's sire Noble Mission (GB).

Marsh says, “We also board mares for the Niarchos family including Group 2 winner Bocca Baciata (Ire) (Big Bad Bob), who has had a beautiful Dubawi yearling filly. We are waiting for her to foal and she's due a Galileo on 8 May.”

The international representation continues through the Rifa Mustang operation, which is managed by Paul Hensey and boards nine mares at the farm.

“We sold a very good-looking No Nay Never filly out of Aspasi (GB) (Dalakhani {Ire}) for them last year. She was bought by Charlie Gordon-Watson for 325,000gns,” Marsh adds.

Al Wasmiyah Farm, owned by Ali and Mohammed bin Hamad Al Attiyah, is a relatively new client for Watership Down and has sent four mares to board, including America Nova (Fr) (Verglas {Fr}). She too had a high-priced yearling last year when her Siyouni colt was bought by Shadwell for 800,000gns. The dam of stakes winners Sir Patrick Moore (Fr) and Stellar Path (Fr), both by Astronomer Royal, and also of Nyaleti (Ire) (Arch), has recently foaled a Kingman colt and was covered by Frankel last week.

Among the Lloyd Webbers' own broodmare band, it's not solely descendants of Darara (Ire) (Darshaan {GB}) which hold pride of place, though the aforementioned Evita is extending another branch of the foundation family and is visiting Night Of Thunder (Ire). Her Australia (GB) yearling filly will be retained.

Not long after Dar Re Mi, Watership Down Stud had another top-class race filly on their hands in The Fugue (GB) (Dansili {Ire}). The winner of four Group 1 races was represented at last year's October Yearling Sale by her Dubawi colt, who sold for 1 million gns to Qatar Racing and is now named Mahomes (GB).

Marsh says, “She is in foal to Sea The Stars and has a very strong Shamadal colt foal on the ground. Mahomes is with John Gosden who seems very happy with him at the moment.”

Another daughter of Dansili at Watership Down is the Group 2-placed Earring, who is out of the Grade 1 winner Together (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). The 7-year-old mare now has a yearling filly by Lope De Vega, to whom she is returning, and she has a colt foal at foot by Kingman.

Group 2-winning sprinter Royal Intervention (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}), who runs for the Lloyd-Webbers in partnership with Will Farish, has already been seen in action this year at the Saudi Cup meeting. The Ed Walker-trained filly is being aimed at the G1 King's Stand S. Her dam Exciting Times (Fr) (Jeune Homme) is currently in foal to Mastercraftsman (Ire).

Like most other people in racing, Simon Marsh is anxious for the Flat turf season to get properly underway but is grateful that the breeding season has been able to continue during the coronavirus crisis.

He says, “At the moment everyone is having to follow government protocols but the covering season has carried on and that's thanks to all the staff on the stud farms and for the stallion farms for keeping everything going and allowing mares to be covered. That takes a lot of effort and dedication from a lot of people.  Everyone in the game is concerned for the breeze-up market and then for the yearlings, but luckily there are a lot of people working incredibly hard to get racing and the sales going as soon as it's safe to do so.”

One of the casualties of the currently suspended season was Newbury's Greenham meeting where, for the second year running the stud would have been supporting the colts' Classic trial, which was to be run this year as the Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes.

Marsh explains, “Newbury is our local track and Madeleine is a director there. The sponsorship became available and it seemed a very sensible race for us to support. It's a great shame that it hasn't been able to be run this year but obviously we are looking forward to supporting it next year. ”

Too Darn Hot meanwhile is a name being given a wider airing as the marketing campaign for his first southern hemisphere covering season gathers pace.

“He's stopping his mares fantastically. We couldn't be happier with his fertility and he's covering the most amazing book of mares for a first-season stallion,” Marsh says.

“So everything here is going according to plan and the Australian arm of Darley was extremely keen to have him go down to Australia. By all accounts, since it's been announced that he's going there he's been very popular and hopefully he will get some nice mares. It's very exciting—it's another chapter.”

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