As Brexit looms ever nearer, two of the biggest stud groupings in the British Isles have each exiled what might be described as an under-performing stallion, writes Tony Stafford. Might future events make those decisions by Coolmore and Cheveley Park appear questionable or even mistaken?
Step forward from Coolmore the 2011 Derby winner, Pour Moi. The son of Montjeu had already been relegated to the stud’s National Hunt division by the time his first crop had embarked on their third season. Even the shock Derby success of 40-1 shot Wings Of Eagles, stand-out member of the second crop, couldn’t sway the powers that be that he should be reinstated into the elite flat-race team. Maybe if Wings Of Eagles hadn’t broken down, finishing a close third, when trying to add the Irish Derby to his Classic tally, history might have been different.
Looking at subsequent results, though, it is hard to say that Coolmore got that initial decision wrong as Wings Of Eagles sticks out like a sore thumb as a top-class product of Pour Moi’s. Only Mine, a sprinter, is another rare exception to the general rule that he gets ordinary flat-racers for the most part. Hence his latest switch, from their Beeches stud to the Haras de Cercy, the Cooperative stallion farm in the middle of France, north-west of Lyon, which effectively replaced the French National Stud when it ended activity earlier in this decade. Ironically, it has coincided with an upturn in Pour Moi’s fortunes in jumping, more of which later.
Meanwhile Garswood, a Group 1 winner for Richard Fahey and David and Emma Armstrong, stood for five seasons at Cheveley Park after the farm bought an interest from the Armstrongs, thus returning him to his original birthplace. As a son of the highly-successful Dutch Art he was expected to get reasonably early or mid-season two-year-olds but the two crops to race have been generally later-developing.
So another commercial decision was made. Garswood, although still featuring in the Stallion Book I picked up at Tatts December sales, and listed at £5,000 a pop at Cheveley, instead has also made the move to France. He is now based close to Deauville at Haras de la Huderie where another one-time Armstrong star, Birchwood, who spent most of his racing career in Godolphin blue, is also based.
Garswood’s fee as principally a sire of Flat racers, is held at €5,000, actually higher than the £3,500 in his final season in Newmarket. Pour Moi, meanwhile has slipped to €3,500, so markedly less than the €5,000 of his final year at the Beeches. He attracted the services of only 53 mares – Wings Of Eagles covered well over 200 at the Haras de Montaigu, where he was born - so Coolmore have snapped up the younger Derby winner and have reduced his fee from the €12,000 it was this year in France to €6,500 for next year.
I’ve seen a good few Garswood youngsters and they have all been well-grown. Ray Tooth sent his decent broodmare Lawyers Choice to him and she produced a very strong foal, later called Bogeyman, who has been gelded and is unraced as a two-year-old with Hughie Morrison. Winners for the stallion have been relatively thin on the ground but, within days of his exile, what could easily be his best son to date emerged on the Newcastle Tapeta just over a week ago.
Splendidly, a 35,000gns yearling sold by Cheveley Park, who bred him, is a half-brother to four winners. Sent out by Karl Burke and starting 16-1, he overcame inexperience to beat better-backed and more seasoned rivals trained by Simon Crisford, Jedd O’Keeffe, Richard Hannon, who provided the odds-on favourite, and a fellow newcomer from William Haggas. As those horses came to the last furlong challenging for the lead, his big white face and two white hind legs on a big frame could be seen slicing through the field for an eventual neck victory.
Splendidly could be the horse to give the sire’s reputation the sort of forward propulsion it needs. In the polarised French breeding world, which is dominated by Siyouni, Le Havre and Kendargent, there is plenty of room for a less expensive sire to make an impact. Haras de la Huderie will be hoping that will be Garswood’s opportunity. My own guess is that, as time goes on, trainers might start to believe that some of the stouter-bred Garswoods could have the physique to be trained for hurdling.
Pour Moi, with six-year-olds on the ground, has had plenty of opportunity to sire decent jumpers, and Coeur De Lion, from that first crop, has been a dual-purpose performer for Alan King, proving a smart handicapper at both codes. The odd winner from the next two crops has not been sufficient to have his being identified principally as a producer of jump horses, but that quick switch by Coolmore to the NH division four years ago is now clearly having its effect.
Jim Bolger, famed for his early support for Galileo’s sons and daughter, so richly justified and rewarded with Teofilo and New Approach, was also an adherent to Pour Moi after his retirement immediately following the Derby triumph. I was in Deauville, having successfully fulfilled the task of buying back Laughing Water, a winning Nicolas Clement-trained filly for Ray Tooth and a partner, who wanted to end the relationship.
I asked David O’Laughlin, from Coolmore, to come to look at her and to suggest a potential mate. He said: “I think Pour Moi is great value. Jim Bolger is sending a number of mares to her.” It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.
The product of that mating is Waterproof, and like so many of the line, he was slow to come to hand and even though he has been placed second a couple of times, has only a 51 rating on the Flat. Switched to hurdling by Shaun Keightley he dropped an immediate hint that better might come when third on debut at Huntingdon in November.
By that time, two more of the sire’s three-year-olds had already appeared. For Everyone, trained in Ireland by Mark McNiff, had an early trip to England, at Hexham on Derby Day, but pulled far too hard and beat only one horse home. Like Waterproof he is rated only 51 on the level, but back in Ireland he won his next two races over jumps, both at long odds. In the second of them he beat Joseph O’Brien’s A Wave Of The Sea, who won his next two impressively and was then only beaten narrowly by stable-companion Cerberus in a competitive race at Listowel.
The first to make an impact was coincidentally a Bolger-bred gelding called Repetitio, unplaced in all four starts for Jim as a juvenile. He turned up in Nigel Hawke’s West Country yard in the summer and made his debut over jumps in July. His first three races for Hawke were all at Newton Abbot, and showing gradual improvement, he won third time out in August.
Then came the post-switch Pour Moi acceleration. Tavus had won three of his last four races for Roger Charlton in Tony Bloom’s colours, starting off on 60 and ending after his third win on 78, the wins coming at 12 and 14 furlongs. He realised 105,000gns and very quickly made the first repayment when making a winning debut for Jedd O’Keeffe at Newcastle last month. I wonder if Brighton FC’s chairman wishes he’d sent him to Willie Mullins rather than sell?
Bolger and one-time Lambourn trainer Brendan Duke have had a long association. Brendan, since his return to Ireland when his traditional English-based Irish clients started to feel the pinch of the financial crisis at the beginning of this decade, has always trained some of his mentor’s home-breds and Clemencia is another. He had been unplaced in his five Flat runs and there seemed to be no discernible improvement a week after the last of them when he made his jumps debut at the end of August.
Then, sent to Cork on Sunday last week, Clemencia faced the 2-5 shot Pasley, a recent impressive Flat winner for Joseph O’Brien and beat him by 15 lengths, still in Jackie Bolger’s colours. Last Friday, Repetitio, taking advantage of the hefty weight-for-age allowance for three-year-olds in all-aged handicaps, won at Cheltenham in a 0-140, then on Saturday at Fairyhouse, Wolf Prince on second jumps start for Gavin Cromwell, won by 14 lengths from a big field. He’s yet another Pour Moi maiden on the Flat, acquired for 35,000gns from the Amy Murphy yard.
I believe the pattern is set. Like most of the others, Wolf Prince needed a run, in his case a debut third. Maybe Waterproof will follow his example. While I’m on the subject of jumping, Sod’s Law, sold for 30k to Luke Comer at the Horses in Training sale, runs over two miles, three furlongs at Naas today, his debut over jumps. He’s the first Lawyers Choice to try hurdling. We are all hoping he’ll come home safe at the same time wondering why he’s not in the opening two-miler. [Stop press: turns out you need to have run three times to be eligible for the opener!]