Just how much of a statement of intent is the purchase of Walk In The Park by Coolmore?
The official announcement came yesterday that the sire of both Douvan and Vautour will now stand at Grange Stud along with the likes of Flemensfirth, Milan and Westerner. The 14-year-old son of Montjeu began his career at stud in France in 2008. He was due to continue at Haras de la Huderie in Normandy at a fee of €3,500 before the move to Ireland.
Stud manager Albert Sherwood said of the purchase: “Douvan and Min are two of the most exciting young horses around so we're delighted to have secured him. As well as getting great racehorses he gets sales horses too with one of his foals topping Goffs December at €70,000.”
An athletic racehorse, Walk In The Park was placed in all his runs as a juvenile before finishing second in the Epsom Derby to Motivator in 2005. His career at stud had proven somewhat lukewarm until the Mullins duo burst onto the scene, and clearly further progeny will now come under greater scrutiny.
Coolmore’s action to purchase the stallion comes during a season when Joseph O’Brien has launched an assault on the Irish National Hunt scene. Training for JP McManus out of his father’s original yard at Owning Co Kilkenny, the O’Brien National Hunt wing is expected to expand under the backing of McManus. Though his father Aidan’s name appears as trainer, it is understood that this is son Joseph’s first step into the training ranks.
The season has been going well with another exciting winner in the bumper at Leopardstown over the weekend. Aspen Colorado swept to a stylish victory and has now been installed as favourite for the Cheltenham Champion Bumper. The stable also have the favourite for the Triumph Hurdle. Ivanovich Gorbatov won at Leopardstown over the Christmas period, comfortably getting the better of Willie Mullins’ young filly Let’s Dance. The son of Montjeu was pretty slick over his obstacles and is now three from four under rules.
It will come as no surprise to see that the yard’s strongest division is the team of young bumper runners. A winter of 16 wins from 31 runs tells its own story. This compares to just three wins from 10 runs the year before. Long term plans are uncertain, but there’s little doubt that Joseph has already made an impact.
The addition of Walk In The Park to Coolmore’s roster could well provide O’Brien with quality jumpers down the line, giving JP McManus the ammunition to challenge Ricci and Gigginstown at the very highest level.
It’ll soon be a decade since the mighty Istabraq set out on a career of dominance over hurdles. This winter has already hinted at exciting times ahead for team O’Brien over the jumps. With so much talk of a Mullins monopoly, maybe a familiar foe is about to launch a challenge on the Irish National Hunt scene.