On 20 June 2019, Bjorn Nielsen’s homebred Stradivarius galloped to victory in the Ascot Gold Cup. The sun was out, it was Frankie Dettori’s fourth win on the card, it was even money favourite Stradivarius’ second consecutive Gold Cup victory and the Ascot crowd rightly lifted the grandstand roof.
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As both racing manager to Prince Khalid Abdullah’s powerful Juddmonte Farms operation and chairman of the race committee at York Racecourse, Lord ‘Teddy’ Grimthorpe is one of the most influential people in horse racing. The fifth Baron Grimthorpe, he is a former bloodstock agent and has been a member of the British Jockey Club since 2007.
At last it’s being said by someone beyond our borders. The siren call of “first aid” for South Africa’s export initiatives has finally reached the enclaves of those that really matter, thanks to a ream of links in a long chain of knocks on the proverbial door. Vast sums and great reserves of energy have been expended in the process, none more so than by the redoubtable Mayfair Speculators, otherwise popularly known as “M.J.”, now a name of the household variety in international racing circles.
John Boyce says that if Frankel's achievements with his first crop juveniles in 2016 are anything to go by, it looks like we may have discovered another super stallion. Time will tell. Another year will reveal all.
Galileo reclaims the money title; with just 10 days left in the year, he has 2016 progeny earnings of an incredible $30,082,927, and once again leads all six black-type categories, with 39 BTW, 71 BTH, 30 GSW, 54 GSH, a mind-blowing 14 Group 1 winners (by comparison, Dubawi, Tapit and North America number two sire Curlin have five each), and 24 G1H. Dubawi is second in Europe, with the earners of $17,886,202.
We hear plenty about Galileo (Ire), and rightly so. He is the stallion of our generation whose influence will be discussed by pedigree aficionados for decades, if not centuries, to come. For as much as I'm glad to be alive and writing about breeding under his reign, I've long harboured a preference for Galileo's erstwhile stablemate Montjeu (Ire), who was lost to us almost five years ago.
With the pace at which the European bloodstock community entered the home stretch of its gruelling autumn-winter cycle still full of running, we were starkly reminded of the contrasting fortunes of those who transact across open borders and the shackles with which local horsemen have had to contend for decades in getting our bloodstock between provinces, let alone across borders.
For the past 20 years, Seamie Heffernan has been the ultimate team player at Ballydoyle: self-effacing, patient, uncomplaining, a shoulder to the wheel. But his maiden Breeders' Cup success, unmistakably, was the result of an inspired and vivid exhibition of individual flair.
"The one thing that never ceases to amaze me, is how things have turned out for the Irish-based racehorse breeding business Coolmore, and its international agencies, Ashford in the USA and the Hunter Valley’s Coolmore Australia." - Mick Goss / Summerhill CEO
My grandchildren will tell you I’m “old” but next to the subject of this note, I’m still in the kindergarden. By my reckoning, Des Scott will be 90 next birthday. He was a junior at Durban High School in 1940, my father’s last year, which calls for some respect. Des earned that a long time ago though, through his dexterity as a businessman and in our game, as an exemplary owner of racehorses. This weekend, he achieved a new milestone as the breeder of an English Group One winner, Rivet, who catapulted himself into contention for the juvenile colts’ championship with a knock-out blow in the season-ending Racing Post Trophy (Gr.1).
'Tongue-tied' is not a term you’d ordinarily apply to Aidan O'Brien, a man who just last week was named number one trainer in the world. It’s a common practice among racehorse conditioners to apply aids like blinkers, visors, hoods, cheek pieces and tongue ties to assist in the regulation of things like gate and cruising speed, lethargy, concentration and easier breathing, and nobody it seems, pays more attention to these details than the top man in his profession.
Long before he became the world's first (and only ever) to command a million dollar stud fee and a yearling sales average in the vicinity of $3million, Northern Dancer had a few more tests ahead of him.
Ah good, Book II. Even better, Book IV. This is the week when the dealers in the obvious start to get a little queasy. You know the sort: the guys whose shallow convictions can be conveniently hidden in the deep pockets required at select sales. Did they read about the possible Raphael discovered in an Aberdeenshire manor the other day? Last valued in 1899 as a £20 copy, it may now be worth closer to £20 million. Some pin-hook!
From a South African perspective, outcomes at yesterday’s session of the world’s strongest yearling sale of 2016, begged the question: what price a Group One winning son of Dubawi, given his opening day average of 853.215 guineas (R15,357,87) of the stallion’s only Group One winning son in Africa, Willow Magic, first season incumbent of the Summerhill stallion barn. We speak of course, without bias!
You have to love this story just as much as you love the way Chris McGrath tells it. His favourite story of the week is also a perfect story for the time of year; a time when all of us, the dreamers, and the cynics, and everyone in between, follow each new yearling round the ring much as gamblers do the ball bouncing round the roulette wheel. Of course, the business needs the guys who pile millions on odd-or-even, red-or-black. But it also needs them to watch in bemusement, from time to time, as their chips are scooped by the fellow who has staked his modest all at far more precarious odds. The ball bounces, wobbles, and finally snags into a numbered groove: the wrong colour for many, but exactly the right number for one. And, because this game calls for skill as well as luck, that man will often turn out to be Bobby O'Ryan.
Galileo attracted another star-studded book of mares at Coolmore this year, as befitting his status as the best stallion in the world.
Underlying the dominance wherever it rests in our sport, is generally a matter of the locality of the great stallions, and right now the reigns of the Sadler’s Wells tribe through Galileo, Montjeu, High Chaparral and now Frankel, as well as Danehill and Dubawi have anchored the crown firmly within the island nations of Ireland and England, in that order.
With the word “plagiarism “very much in vogue in American politics at the moment, let me start with an acknowledgment: the article you are reading is the work of our old friend, Andrew Caulfied, one of the foremost authorities on bloodstock and pedigree analysis, and a regular contributor to the world’s most widely-read e-daily, the Thoroughbred Daily News.
Nobody needs reminding of the throttling drought that’s engulfed the Southern-African region in the past 2 years. We live in one of the most productive agricultural districts in the world, made thus through the serendipitous relationship between soil and soul; over millions of years, the Drakensberg mountain range, comprised largely of susceptible sandstone, has weathered back from its original position in the vicinity of Hilton to its current station at Giant’s Castle, leaving in its wake a rich endowment of minerals in the valleys of our neighbourhood.