Arc Weekend-winners and losers

With 7 Group Ones and four Group 2’s spread over the Saturday and Sunday, Arc weekend is as good as it gets in Europe. All age groups, all distances all sexes are catered for with championship honours up for grabs. This years results threw up a lot of surprises with plenty of items to debate.

A good weekend for

 1. French trainers- only two races went to overseas trainers with Paco Boy winning for Richard Hannon and Lady Marian for Germany. It probably emphasises that Arc weekend is the ultimate target for many French trained horses whereas it is often coming at the end of a long hard season for Irish and British trained horses who had peaked earlier in the summer

2. Juddmonte. A stellar weekend for Juddmonte stallions with Zamindar’s daughter Zarkava’s win in the Arc reinforcing her superstar status. For good measure Beat Hollow emerged from the doldrums with Proportional putting up a very impressive performance in the Prix Marcel Boussac to give him his first Group One winner. The jam on top was provided when Naaqoos won the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere giving Oasis Dream his first Group One winner.

3. The Aga Khan’s methods. Zarkava represents a triumph for the Aga Khans belief in certain families. It is remarkable that her 10th dam is his grandfathers foundation mare Mumtaz Mahal and her fifth dam is Oaks and Guineas winner Petite Etoile a filly Lester Piggott regards as the best he ever rode. Despite a number of moderate non-entities since Petite Etoile the Aga Khan never loses faith in his families and got his just reward with a great performance from the best filly since Miesque.

4. Dyhim Diamond. The unherealded Dyhim Diamond had a sparkling weekend that emphasised his versatility. Firstly five year old Bannaby won the 20 furlongs Prix de Cadran defeating Yeats and on Sunday Milanais came within a neck of winning the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. Dyhim Diamond was a son of Night Shift who never won above Group 3 level, but previously gave notice of his ability to upgrade his mares with the exploits of Prix Jean Prat winner Turtle Bowl.  Dyhim Diamond stood in France for €2000 at Haras de la Tuilerie, but is now plying his trade in Haras de Ulzama in Spain. This weekends results might see efforts to repatriate him to France.

5. Nayef. Lady Marian’s win in the Prix de l’Opera caps  a fine year for the Shadwell stallion who has emerged as an important sire as earlier highlighted by Tamayuz’s Group 1 double and Spacious runner-up slot in the 1000 Guineas. His fee has been increased to £15000 for next year but that still represents tremendous value.

6. Desert Style.  Paco Boy provided Desert Style with his second Prix de la Foret winner in three years, following in the hoofprints of Caradak. He has always been an inconsistent sire but is well capable of getting a top class performer such as Mandesha and Bachir. At a fee of €12,000 he could no longer be considered cheap but this was a nice reminder of his ability.

Disappointing weekend

1. Coolmore. Amazingly Peintre Celebre’s son Trincot’s victory in the Group 2 Prix Dollar was the only pattern success for a Coolmore stallion at the weekend.

2. Ballydoyle/Aidan O’Brien. Before his horses left Tipperary Aidan O’Brien would have expected at least two Group One wins with hopes of adding another one or two. He left with none after odds-on defeats for Yeats and Mastercraftsman and disappointing runs by Duke of Marmalade and Moonstone. Only Soldier of Fortune performed with credit.  His odds of reaching the record of 26 Group ones in a season lengthened after the weekend.

3. Gallic Farce: The failure of Fleeting Spirit’s stalls to fully open in the Prix de l’Abbaye led to a false start. Unfortunately a number of jockeys didn’t notice the false start flag and Hungarian superstar Overdose ran flat out for the five furlongs ‘winning’ the race in a time just outside the course record.  Had he triumphed it would have been a real fairytale success for an unwanted son of Starborough who cost just £2000

Sires in Form- Mere Coincidence?

There is a popular thread on the betfair breeding forum regarding ‘sires in form’.  Forumites diligently monitor and report upon those sires who are having the most winners in a particular month. Thus far in July Royal Applause has had 18 winners, ahead of Bahamian Bounty and Kheleyf. Every month seems to see different sires go through hot streaks and then revert back to normality. So is there an explanation for these streaks, can they be predicted and can punters profit from them?

Possible Explanations:

1.The most likely explanation for these winning streaks is simply that they are random events. If you toss a coin thousands of times you would expect to regularly get sequences of successive heads or tails. Clusters are to be expected in any random pattern. Sires suddenly producing lots of winners is just a random clustering event that cannot be predicted.

2. Ground Conditions. Many stallions produce offspring with definite going preferences. If we have an unusually wet summer and the ground is heavy then it would be no surprise to see a sire like Efisio sire lots of winners. Similar logic would apply to firm ground stallions. Interestingly if ground conditions were the explanation then we would expect to see fewer such ‘hot streaks’ on the all-weather where ground is not as variable.

3. Linked to trainer form. Many trainers have favourite stallions and will have a disproportionate number of the offspring of those horses in their stables. Aidan O’Briens stable is full of Montjeu’s Galileo’s and Danehill Dancers. When Ballydoyle goes through a purple patch then Montjeu, Galileo and  Danehill Dancer have lots of winners. Michael Stoute trains for Cheveley Park and he would have lots of Pivotals and Mediceans and other trainers also have there favourites usually dictated by budget. When the stable is in form then the sires popular with that trainer would be also expected to have plenty of winners.

4. Linked to opportunity. If a sire happens to do well with stayers and there are lots of staying races during a period then it is logical he will do better during that time. Similarly a sire whose two year olds need at least a mile to be seen to best effect won’t get many two year old winners before the Autumn. What appears to be a sire going through a ‘hot streak’ is in fact simply that his offspring are finally getting an opportunity to run at their optimum trips.

5. Trainer perceptions. One Cool Cat had a great start with his two year olds from March-June. Trainers expected his offspring to be precocious and accordingly had them ready to run early in the season. Conversely few trainers had their Sulamani two year olds ready to go early in the season because naturally trainers would have viewed them more as needing time. The trainers perceptions determined the training of the horses. These perceptions meant that One Cool Cats offspring were ready to run and mop up the early season two year old races which are typically somewhat easier to win.

6. Time of Year. It was famously said of the offspring of Ribot that they were better with ‘the sun on their backs’ and it is likely that due to maturation issues some sires have offspring that are better earlier or later in the year. Springtime could see winning streaks for sires who sire precocious two year olds and conversely for sires whose offspring improve with age. The logic here is that the horses would be having their first runs of the new season but they would still be running off ratings achieved when they were too immature to show their full potential.


It is impossible to be definitive as to the reasons why sires seem to undergo sudden hot streaks. I think there is some truth in all of the above explanations. Accordingly I propose a new all-embracing theory that I modestly call Sheahan’s Theory.

6. All of the above-cycles and the handicapper. In statistics it is believed that over time everything regresses to the mean. A typical stallions offspring might win 15% of the races in which they run. If that sire goes through a ‘hot streak’ in which his offspring win 25% of their races in a month, it is still likely that the average at the end of the year or period under review will be close to the long term average.  However within racing there is another factor which quickly ends winning streaks namely the work of the handicapper and of fixed penalties. If a horse wins he will be penalised by the handicapper and will have to improve to win again. If lots of two year olds are winning maidens, next time out they will find themselves competing in higher class conditions or stakes races or alternatively carrying a lot of weight in nurseries. Unless the horse has improved they will not win next time out and indeed they will probably need a few unsuccessful runs before dropped by the handicapper back to a winnable mark.  A random cluster of wins by the offspring of a stallion could be followed by a lull when all of these horses ran next time out under penalties  until the horses were dropped by the handicapper. It is then possible for them all to come good again in a cluster later in the year. These factors would be reinforced by ground/trainer or opportunity issues. For example imagine the offspring of stallion X are best as three year olds with firm ground over trips in excess of 12 furlongs. When they ran early in their three year old days they would probably be competing over 8-10 furlongs. When stepped up in trip we would expect more of them to win and this could be amplified by suitable ground. This period might be their hot winning streak. If it was a wet summer they would be inconvenienced and they would also be running under penalties after the hot streak. We could expect many to struggle to win over their next few runs and the handicapper would drop them again. Come late August the combined effect of the drop by the handicapper and perhaps an improvement in going could see another hot streak. In racing nothing is as random as it seems….





Royal Ascot Reflections

Big Winners:

1.Coolmore/Ballydoyle. It couldn’t have gone any better for Ballydoyle/Coolmore. 6 Winners, 4 Group 1 winners, all colts, all eligible for a place on the stallion roster. Another 5 winners were by Coolmore stallions.The only surprise was their lack of two year old firepower . Maybe this a reflection of a tweaking of the training regime by Aidan O’Brien or maybe this years crop just aren’t precocious. 

2. Jim Bolger.

After Royal Ascot he trains arguably the best three year old filly miler in Europe in Lush Lashes and the best two year filly in Cuis Gaire. Both are daughters of Galileo the stallion he made (see earlier article), which added jam to Coolmores bread. For good measure he trained Finsceal Beo to be third in the Queen Anne and Intense Focus to finish second in the Coventry. And these were his only 4 runners at the Royal Meeting. He may not be well liked but he sure can train horses.

3. Lucky Story. A very impressive Royal Ascot winner in the shape of Art Connoisseur (tipped in my earlier article about Lucky Story) is great exposure for any new sire. The fact that his brother Dr Fong sired the first (Free Agent) and third (Markyg)in the Chesham stakes is an added bonus.

4. Exceed and Excel. Flashmans Papers won the Windsor Castle stakes and Spin Cycle was a close second in the Norfolk Stakes. These results justify some of the big prices paid for his offspring and might have provided some cheer to the Darley boys.

Disappointing Week:

1. Godolphin. One winner from thirteen winners is very disappointing for an operation that often dominated the Royal meeting. The fact that there were such celebrations about Campanologists Group 2 win is in itself indicative of the trough they are now experiencing.

Gone but not forgotten

Danehill. Sire of arguably the best winner of the week in Duke of Marmalade. Multidimensional returned to form by running second in the Hardwicke, Sugar Ray won one of the big handicaps The Duke of Edinburgh stakes and as if to remind us of his sires versatility, old stager Distinction finished second in the marathon Queen Alexandra.

Gone and soon to be forgotten?

Storm Cat? With the fast ground at Royal Ascot you would have expected the Storm Cat line to thrive but only Colony, a son of Statue of Liberty made the winners enclosure and that was after a handicap. Giant’s Causeway was the sire of Intense Focus runner up in the Coventry. However you would have expected a much greater showing from the Storm Cat sireline.




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.