Hebridean- a Ballydoyle blueblood?

Aidan O’ Brien totally dominated the Guineas weekend at the Curragh. He won three Group 1’s, two Group 3’s and a Listed race. Many racing people would argue that such success is only to be expected given the quality of the horses stabled at Ballydoyle. The argument goes that good horses make good trainers and AP O’Briens success is 95% down to Coolmore firepower and 5% down to Aidan O’Brien not making a mess of them.
A look at the pedigrees of his Group 1 winners seems to back up that theory. Henrythenavigator is a son of Kingmambo out of Sequoyah a Moyglare Stakes winning Sadler’s Wells mare, so it is a tip top pedigree. Henry didnt go to the sales but I’m sure his reserve would have been at least €500,000. Halfway to Heaven is by Pivotal out of the very speedy Cassandra Go who won a Kings Stand. She cost €450000 so again nothing shabby about that pedigree. Duke of Marmalade is from the last crop of Danehill and is out of a Kingmambo mare tracing to Lassie Dear, the family of Wolfhound and Lemon Drop Kid. Again he was never sold but a reserve of at least €400000 would have seemed reasonable.
His Group 3 Greenlands winner Astronomer Royal is the last of the Danzigs so he had rarity value to go with his pedigree and his two year old winner Heart Shaped is a Storm Cat filly who is a half sister to AP Valentine. Based on those pedigrees it would seem fair to argue that any of the top ten trainers in Ireland or Britain could have expected similar glory from such impeccable pedigrees.
But there was one other winner that weekend, a gelding called Hebridean running in the colours of Ann Marie O’Brien. He is by Bach out of Delphinium by Dr Massini and his full pedigree is shown below. He passed through the ring at Tattersalls Ireland on the 3rd November 2006 and was bought back for €15000. Bach was an admirably tough horse trained by Aidan O’Brien who ran 22 times and won a soft Group 2 when winning the Royal Whip but whose best run was probably finishing 3rd in a Breeders Cup Mile to Val Royal. He was sent straight to Coolmore’s NH division where he competes with Hebrideans broodmare sire Dr Massini. Dr Massini was trained by Michael Stoute and after winning his first two starts he was made favourite for the 1996 Irish Derby. Unfortunately for Mick Kinane, he opted to ride him that day and missed out on partnering Zagreb. He won once at 4 and then started showing temperament and refused to race on his next start. At five he was transferred to Aidan O’Brien and he was the subject of a major gamble in the Irish Lincoln. However the money was lost as he practically pulled himself up. His career ended in ignominy when he refused to race at Listowel. Despite his temperament and his lack of group wins he still got a spot at NH stud and has taken his chance well. Delphinium the dam of Hebridean is by a sprinter in Tumble Wind and she was trained by Joe Crowley, Aidan O’ Briens father in law. She only ran at two and she never raced beyond 7 furlongs. She never gave the judge much trouble and in her four races her best finishing position was 6th of 12 at Limerick.

When people talk about overproduction and the need to cull some moderate mares they probably had the likes of Delphinium in mind. I suspect Hebridean was bred in the hope (and not even the expectation) of winning a bumper. It was his breeders family connections that saw him stabled with his betters in Ballydoyle and he must be one of the worst bred horses to ever occupy a stable there.  However as Ryan Price is reputed to have said ‘my horses can’t read pedigrees and I don’t train pedigrees, I train horses’. Hebridean doesn’t seem to know his place as he keeps improving and further success seems likely.

His success illustrates two points. One is the vagaries of breeding and the dangers of being too dogmatic about pedigrees. The second is that Aidan O’ Brien is truly a training genius.  There can be no arguments in this instance about buying  success in the sales ring.  This success is 100% down to Aidan O’Brien and is achieved despite of and not because of Hebridean’s pedigree.

HEBRIDEAN (IRE) 2005 g b

(IRE) 1997
(USA) 1980
(CAN) 1967
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Page (USA) 1959
(USA) 1969
Table (USA) 1954
Gleam (USA) 1964
(USA) 1976
(USA) 1952
(GB) 1940
(USA) 1942
(USA) 1961
(FR) 1947
(FR) 1954
(IRE) 2001
Massini (IRE) 1993
Wells (USA) 1981
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Bridge (USA) 1975
Laser (GB) 1983
(GB) 1976
Lamp (USA) 1967
(IRE) 1985
Wind (USA) 1964
Wind (USA) 1956
Stages (USA) 1953
(GB) 1977
Lad (IRE) 1964
(GB) 1958



Jim Bolger’s favourite sires- 3 out 4 ain’t bad

Jim Bolger is an opinionated man, often described as straight talking or as “not afraid of controversy”. As a trainer he has never found favour with Coolmore Inc, which is surprising as they owe him a great deal. Bolger deserves all the credit for moulding their greatest human asset in Aidan O’ Brien and their greatest current commercial asset in Galileo.

Bolger & Galileo/Galileo without Bolger:

Galileo’s fee is listed as private. WIthout the Bolger influence I think it would be around the same level as Peintre Celebre at 25k. That’s a difference of around 150k per mare which should entitle him to a few horses that APOB can’t accommodate.Then again I suppose Magnier has enough on his plate trying to keep Wachman’s yard full…

 Bolger’s success with Galileo is remarkable. He is trainer and sometimes owner or breeder of New Approach, Teofilo, Lush Lashes, Galatee, Heliostatic, Prima Luce and Cuis Gaire. He is the breeder of Soldier of Fortune. That is 8 of Galileo’s 20 Group Winners.If you take out the Bolger contingent you lose all his good two year olds and his 2 best middle distance colts making Galileo’s record look like that of a sire of stayers (first 3 in a St Leger, Allegretto, Mahler,Purple Moon). It was Teofilo and New Approach that pushed his fee to private, 2 year olds are what makes him so much more commercial. Its also easy to knock his other Group 1 winners, as Nightime won an Irish Guineas in bottomless ground, Cima de Triomphe’s win in the Italian Derby barely registered with anyone and Red Rocks win in the Breeders Cup was a once off.  Bolger saw Galileo as a star (geddit) and backed his judgement accordingly. Why he is so much more successful than any other breeder or trainer of Galileo’s is something that I can’t explain.

Galileo is not the first stallion he has made:- Remember Ahonoora?

Bolger can also take much of the credit for the Ahonoora success story. Back when neither stallion or trainer were that fashionable, he produced Park Appeal to win the Cheveley Park and Moyglare and gave Ahonoora the perfect start. And in a nice tie in with the Galileo story, she was sold onto Sheikh Mohammed just like New Approach and Teofilo. But of course he didn’t stop there and he trained other quality offspring including Park Express, Noora Abu, Topanoora (remember the Hardwicke anyone?) and Project Manager. In another twist Ahonoora ended up at Coolmore but alas died when still only 14. It was fitting that Ahonoora is the broodmare sire of New Approach.

Not Always Right- The Nordico disaster

Alas when people of conviction get it wrong,they often find it hard to admit they were wrong. I think this happened to Jim Bolger with Nordico. Nordico was a son of Northern Dancer from the family of Stephan’s Odyssey. Jim’s yard was full of them for about 4 years. He managed to win races with many of them but none of them were top class. Nordico ended up in Cyprus which seems about right.

Fillies by Mr Greeley

2 fillies Saoirse Abu and Finsceal Beo, 5 Group ones between them and counting. No wonder Jim is keen on them at the sales

Others to Mention

Jim is currently training quite a few by Lil’s Boy a Danzig horse he used to train. Early signs aren’t promising. In the past he also trained a lot by Project Manager (a son of Ahonoora mentioned earlier) and Erin’s Isle a son of Busted who he trained before he was sold to America.  Neither were successful but at least Erin’s Isle left him Affianced the dam of Soldier of Fortune and Heliostatic.



Eurovision Sire Contest :)

It’s Eurovision week. All of the countries in Europe (and Israel which hasn’t realised it is in Asia) are sending forth various puppets, freaks, he-males, she-males and the occassional singer to battle for national pride.  I’ll use it as an excuse to review the best sires standing in each country and then see who gets my douze points.

Ireland/ Irlande.- Selection Montjeu

 Possible representatives: Montjeu, Galileo. Very hard to choose between these two as leaving aside the Coolmore hype both are undoubtedly very good stallions. Galileo is the more expensive and Montjeu’s offspring have a reputation as being a bit temperamental. Montjeu has had one more crop to represent him but I think overall that Galileo has had the better quality of mares.  It’s easy to forget just how good Montjeu’s first crop actually was siring the first 2 home in the Epsom and Irish Derby’s with 4 different colts. Authorised’s win last year made it two of out three possible Epsom Derby’s and he has plenty of contenders from Ballydoyle again this year which could lead to an incredible 3 from 4 Epsom Derby’s. Lest you think I’m just being biased given the name of this blog well I’ll rely on the stats on Coolmores website which give the relative percentage of stakes winners to runners which is 9% to 7.4% in favour of Montjeu. Accordingly I nominate Montjeu as the Irish selection

United Kingdom /le Royaume Uni.- Selection Pivotal

Possible representatives: Pivotal & Dansili. Not a lot between them and the future is very bright for both as they are now well established at the top tier of stallions and will enjoy the best of mares. Pivotal is having a great season highlighted by Falco’s impressive win in the French Guineas, but Dansili could match it with Famous Name due to run in the Irish Guineas on Saturday. Dansili has sired an Arc winner something that Pivotal will never do but my preference is for Pivotal as I think he overcome greater obstacles in reaching the top of the tree.

France/ La France- Selection Sinndar

Possible representatives: Sinndar, Anabaa & Muhtathir. Without Linamix there is a real dearth of quality stallions in France. Anabaa is the most expensive stallion in France, he spent time in Kentucky and has been a consistently good sire but to me he was never outstanding. Muhtathir has sired Doctor Dino and Satwa Queen both group 1 winners from smallish crops of lesser mares. Sinndar was unloved by Irish breeders but for me they have missed out on the chance to use one of the few stallions around capable of siring a superstar which he did with Shawanda and he came within inches of getting an Arc winner with Youmzain. For me Muhtathir is the best value of the three but value doesn’t come into these rankings and Sinndar gets the nod.

Germany/Allemagne-Selection Monsun

No contest here. An outstanding stallion with incredible percentages. It should be very interesting to see how he gets on with the bluebloods he has started to attract in the past couple of years. Also we should see a lot more of his progeny running in Ireland and the UK. Fairly priced at 150k the only quibble you might have is the lack of precocity of his runners.

Italy/l’Italie- Selection Martino Alonso

Not a very competitive national contest. The only contenders were Blu Air Force who did well with his first crop, Munir who produced a few stakes horses from minimal opportunities and a few horses who had failed elsewhere. Martino Alonso was the victor purely on the basis of one very tough and versatile horse in Ramonti which doesn’t say much for the opposition.

Czech Republic/la République tchèque- Selection Relaxed Gesture

I did a quick search to see who was standing there and was surprised to see a few familiar names such as Rainbows for Life, Dandoun and Capri. I selected Relaxed Gesture as the best prospect as he is a Group one winner by Indian Ridge from a nice Moyglare family and I would have thought he was worthy of a place at stud at somewhere more upmarket.

Greece/la Grèce- Selection Lujain

Interesting to see that Lujain ended up here. Never sired anything better than Group 3 from his stint at Dalhalm and unlikely that anybody even noticed he left.

Hungary/la Hongrie: Selection Overseas Transfer

Hungary was the home of Kinscem who was unbeaten in her 54 races and one of the greatest racemares of the 19th century. Alas the country is not currently the repository of much in the way of quality bloodstock. I found two stallions listed for the country Satin Stone a Mr Prospector half brother to our Greek entry Lujain and Overseas Transfer an Mtoto half brother to Rock of Gibraltar. Tough decision -Eenie meenie miney moe

 Russian Federation/ La Russie- Selection Massi Seraf

I never heard of Massi Seraf before but he is by Deputy Minister out of Miss Alleged which is an interesting pedigree. In recent years the only Russian sire of note is Leo Castelli the sire of Indian Charlie who spent a few years there before being repatriated to the States.

Turkey- Selection Sri Pekan

 There is a good range of stallions available in Turkey including familiar names such as Common Grounds (who I thought was dead), Distant Relative(who I thought was dead), Sea Hero the 1993 Kentucky Derby winner, Danehill’s brother Eagle Eyed, and Manila (who I thought was dead) who beat Dancing Brave in the Breeders Cup turf. Divine Light the sire of Natagora is also a new arrival. Sri Pekan never hit the heights when at Coolmore but was well capable of siring a stakes horse such as Alayan, Tropical Lady and Whilly. 

And the voting

Douze PointsPivotal, ok he won’t sire you a middle distance colt, but he will do everything else and his fillies stay quite well. To me he is still good value at £85k and Sheikh Mohammed made a smart move by buying a big chunk of him. He is the Habitat of our times and his record is only going to improve. Terry Wogan would be delighted….

Dix PointsMontjeu. Lost a few points for temperament issues but apart from that he is the real deal and keeps delivering group winners over 10 furlongs plus and dont forget both his Epsom Derby winners were Group one winners at 2

Huit Points- Monsun. His stakes winner statistics are easily the best of any stallion around but I still can’t get away from the impression given by the careers of Manduro, Shirocco and now Getaway that you need to wait until they are 4 or 5 before you get a real racehorse. 

Six Points- Sinndar- A fair bit behind the stallions listed above but he is a good sire of racehorses even if the commercial market don’t appreciate him.

Deux Points- Sri Pekan- Free of Northern Dancer and capable of getting a group performer.

Une Point- Martino Alonso. DId I mention he sired Ramonti?

Null Points-Relaxed Gesture, Lujain, Massi Seraf, Overseas Transfer


The King is retired,long live the King….

My first blog entry has to be about Sadler’s Wells.  I regard him as an old friend. I started following horse racing in 1987, and Sadler’s first 2 year olds arrived on the track in 1988. We got off to a good start when I backed Kyra who was his first winner in Ireland (and the first for Classic Thoroughbreds Plc). He indirectly thought me some valuable lessons. I remember a dispute that I had with the cashier after Prince of Dance had dead-heated with Scenic.  I argued that I was entitled to half the odds and he said I was entitled to half my stake at full odds and that it made no difference. I won the argument but still only got settled for half my stake:)
I remember the early Coolmore ads hyping him up and talking about how he fulfilled the five requirements of ‘Hancocks Law’. With 6 Group 1 winners in his first crop he never needed the services of the hype machine again.

I thought I knew everything about him and he proved me wrong on every point. I ‘knew’ there was a curse on him and he would never sire an Epsom Derby winner after all those placed horses. Then along came Galileo followed by High Chapparal. He would never have a proper sire son (El Prado or Fort Wood didn’t count as they were out foreign and In the Wings was as close as he came). Then along came Galileo and Montjeu.

Eventually there was only one truth, that he would never sire a sprinter. Last year Liscanna won the Ballyogan Stakes over 6 furlongs at Leopardstown. It’s a good thing I wasn’t laying on betfair that day.

 My selection of highlights from his career are as follows:

Irish Derby 2002 1,2,3,4 with High Chaparral, Sholokov, Ballingarry, Nysaean

Irish Derby 1999 1,2,3 with Montjeu, Daliapour and Tchaikovsky

Oaks 2001 1,2,3 with Imagine, Flight of Fancy and Relish the Thought

Champion hurdles 1998,1999 1,2 Istabraq and Theatreworld.

His consistency and longevity are the makings of his legend. The 14 sires championships, the hundreds of Group winners and now his record as broodmare sire make him a phenomenon.

I’ll finish by assessing him as a sire of sires

Genuine Superstars: Montjeu, Galileo

Foreign superstar: Fort Wood

Gobsmacked that he succeeded: El Prado

Top Class: In the Wings

Respectable and a bit unlucky: Barathea

Great Dual Purpose Sires: King’s Theatre, Poliglote

Great Jumps Sires: Old Vic, Accordion

Good Jumps Sires: Oscar, Kayf Tara

Disappointing Jumps Sire: Saddler’s Hall

Just needed to move 20k miles to succeed: Scenic

Flops: King of Kings, Entrepreneur

Too early to write off but….: High Chaparral, Beat Hollow

Abject Failures who ultimately Triumphed: Old Vic