Henry Cecil- a belated tribute

With the passing of Henry Cecil in June it is worth considering his place in the pantheon of the great trainers. It is also worth looking back on the subsequent impact of his runners in the breeding sheds.  Surprisingly, for such a successful trainer over such a long career, Henry trained very few important stallions.

Ranking as a trainer

As a ten time champion trainer, its obvious that Henry Cecil must take very high rank amongst the list of great trainers.  However for me, there are a few factors that temper my enthusiasm for ranking him anywhere near Vincent O’Brien, who is the benchmark for trainers.

1. Firstly Henry had it easy. He came from a privileged background being a stepson of champion trainer and Royal trainer Cecil Boyd Rochfort and his early marriage to Julie Murless (daughter of another champion trainer and Royal trainer) meant he was quickly seated at racing’s top table.  His starting position would have taken others a decade or more to achieve.

2. Apart from Wolver Hollow’s Eclipse in his first season his early years were underwhelming. A lot of tributes talk about Henry’s instinctive way with horses, however to me if there is nothing significant happening for a number of years it looks less like genius and more of a gradual tweaking of the same old methods used by others. Henry may have had a reputation for working his horses hard at Newmarket but he wasn’t much of an innovator in his methods. Gradual improvements in staff, methods and stock are a road map to training success but they are rooted in the ordinary rather than in genius.

3. Henry largely ignored the rest of the world. Henry may have felt that British racing was the best in the world but in his heyday he spurned many opportunities for his runners overseas. His tally of two US wins (Yashmak  in 1997 and Midday in 2009) is very underwhelming given the relatively easy pickings available in the US for turf horses. His tally of 6 Irish classics is also less than one would expect.  In my view, his Anglo-centric approach didn’t do justice to his horses or his owners by ignoring the opportunities that were available throughout the world.

4. He didn’t succeed with sprinters. I don’t know the reason for this but it is noticeable that he never trained a really top class sprinter and almost all of the big sprints are absent from his cv.

Great Stallions trained by Henry


Very Good Stallions trained

1. Kris (1976 Sharpen Up- Doubly Sure by Reliance).

Kris was a superb miler who should have won the Guineas and won 14 of his 16 races. His first crop yielded the outstanding Cecil trained triple crown winner Oh So Sharp (1982 Kris ex Oh So Fair by Graustark). His second crop yielded Irish 2000 Guineas winner Flash of Steel (1983 Kris ex Spark of Fire by Run the Gauntlet). His final career stats show 75 black type winners from 846 foals, a very creditable 9% and include other Group 1 winners such as Shavian, Rafha and Balisada. However Kris is regarded as a fillies sire and no important sire sons have emerged to continue his male line.

2. Diesis (1980 Sharpen Up- Doubly Sure by Reliance)

A brother to Kris, Diesis was a brilliant two year old who achieved a rare Middle Park, Dewhurst double.  Like his brother he made an immediate impression with an outstanding filly in his first crop-namely Diminuendo (1985 Diesis ex Cacti by Tom Rolfe).  Other Oaks winners followed in Ramruma (1996 Diesis ex Princess of Man by Green God) and Love Divine (1997 Diesis ex La Sky by Law Society). However unlike his brother there was not the same sex bias amongst his offspring who ranged from sprinters such as Keen Hunter (1987 Diesis ex Love’s Reward by Nonoalco) to milers such as Docksider (1995 Diesis ex Pump by Forli) and superb 10 furlong performers in Halling (1991 Diesis ex Dance Machine by Green Dancer) and Elmaamul (1987 Diesis ex Modena by Roberto). His final stud statistics showed 82 black type winners from 1069 foals (8%) and his sire line is just barely hanging on through Muhtathir (a son of Elmaamul and sire of Doctor Dino) and Halling who  has a few sons at stud.

Really Disappointing Stallions Trained by Henry

1. Reference Point (1984 Mill Reef ex Home on the Range by Habitat)

An above average Derby winner who won a Futurity at two and seemed to have the pedigree to succeed at stud.  He was very disappointing and his early death was not lamented by many breeders.

2. Hello Gorgeous (1977 Mr Prospector ex Bonny Jet by Jet Jewel)

As a winner of a Dante and Futurity (aka Racing Post Trophy) and a son of the new American sensation Mr Prospector, Hello Gorgeous proved popular at Coolmore and big money was paid for many of his early offspring. He was a disaster and led to a distrust of sons of Mr Prospector in Europe that took a long time to fade.  His final stats show 10 black type winners from 510 foals (2%).

2. Old Vic (1986 Sadler’s Wells ex Cockade by Derring Do).

From the first crop of Sadler’s Wells, Old Vic was a brilliant winner of the Irish and French Derby’s. Retired to Dalham Hall he was very disappointing as a flat sire before proving to be an exceptional jumps stallion.

Mixed bag

Of Henry’s other Derby winners, Oath (1996 Fairy King ex Sheer Audacity by Troy) and Commander in Chief(1990 Dancing Brave ex Slightly Dangerous by Roberto) found themselves in Japan and failed to make much impact.  Slip Anchor (1982 Shirley Heights ex Sayonara by Birkhahn) did reasonably well, but as a stamina source was never fashionable enough to attract sufficient high quality mares.

National Hunt sires

Henry was associated with many great stayers such as Le Moss (1975 Le Levanstall ex Feemoss by Ballymoss),  Ardross (1976 Run the Gauntlet ex Le Melody by Levmoss) and Buckskin (1973 Yelapa ex Bete A Bon Dieu by Herbager) . He trained a lot of other horses who also made names as national hunt stallions such as Gunner B (1973 Royal Gunner ex Sweet Councillor by Privy Councillor), Moscow Society (Nijinsky ex Afifa by Dewan). In addition to the previously mentioned leading jumps sire Old Vic, he also trained the King George winner King’s Theatre (1991 Sadler’s Wells ex Regal Beauty by Princely Native) who became champion NH sire.


Henry’s standing as a great trainer is not in doubt and only Michael Stoute has stronger claims to be regarded as the outstanding British trainer of the modern era. A trainers job is to train horses for the racecourse and he has no influence on whether they succeed as stallions. It is of no relevance to Henry’s standing as a trainer that he was not associated with any horses who proved to be great stallions. It is just one of those statistical curiosities. His  success as a trainer of stayers inevitably meant that he was associated with horses who ended up earning their oats as national hunt stallions. Henry’s greatest project, Frankel is now embarking on his stud career and he has every prospect of success, so there could yet be a great stallion associated with the Cecil name.



Camelot- a new legend?

Camelot has delivered Montjeu, his first Guineas winner. His success didn’t look likely until inside the final furlong, but in the end he was probably worth a little bit more than his official margin of a neck.  His success confirms the greatness of both Montjeu and Aidan O’Brien.

Aidan O’Brien

Camelot was Aidan O’Brien’s sixth 2000 Guineas winner, following King of Kings, Rock of Gibraltar, Footstepsinthesand, George Washington and Henrythenavigator. All of them were making their seasonal debuts and to me the ability to get a horse fully fit on the gallops is one of the hallmarks of a top trainer. The ability to learn from past mistakes and the knowledge that comes from training a lot of the members of the same family or offspring of the same sire can give trainers that extra edge. Aidan has trained more Montjeu’s than anybody else and he was quick to acknowledge that he made mistakes in prepping a previous Racing Post Trophy winner St Nicholas Abbey for the Guineas and he clearly didn’t repeat those mistakes with Camelot.

Camelot’s pedigree

Camelot cost 525,000 guineas at the 2010 Tattersalls October sales which made him the highest priced yearling by Montjeu sold that year.  For that sort of money you would expect him to be both handsome and especially well bred. His pedigree is undoubtedly high class although in truth it has lacked a superstar until Camelot, so we can assume he was a very taking physical specimen.


Camelot’s dam Tarfah was unraced at two, won three of her 4 starts including a listed handicap at Ascot as a three year old and then continued the good work by winning the listed Snowdrop stakes and the Group 3 Dahlia stakes in her first two runs at four. She failed to trouble the judge in the Windsor Forest run at York that year when Ascot was being redeveloped and was last seen disappointing in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom in June 2006. She was reported as having burst a blood vessel that day and was not seen again on the track but retired with a very creditable record of 5 wins from 8 starts. Tarfah’s first foal was a filly by Galileo who cost 240,000 Guineas and named Ideal.  Trained by David Wachman, from her seven starts to date she won a 10 furlong maiden at Clonmel but is clearly a long way short of top class.


Tarfah’s dam Fickle was trained by Michael Bell and ran five times as a three year old. She won her maiden at Brighton on her third start and won a listed race on her final start at Newcastle when she got the run of the race and sprung a surprise when winning at 20-1. With the black type secured it was presumably decided to retire her to the paddocks.  At stud Tarfah was by a long way her best offspring with her only other winner being the very modest Sistine who is closely related to Tarfah being by Dubai Destination (a son of Kingmambo).


Camelot’s third dam Fade was unraced but she proved a useful producer, leaving 8 winners from 8 runners including 3 other stakes performers besides Fickle in Faru (by Mtoto) , Birdie (by Alhaarth) and Fading Light (by King’s Best).

One over Parr

Camelot’s fourth dam One Over Parr (by Reform out of Seventh Bride) was very useful .  She won the Cheshire Oaks and the Lancashire Oaks, both Group 3’s and was a full sister to an Epsom Oaks winner in the 1974 winner Polygamy who gave Pat Eddery his first English Classic on the day that I was born ! As for the name One Over Parr history buffs might recall that Henry VIII’s sixth wife was called Catherine Parr hence with a dam of Seventh Bride, the name One Over Parr was very clever.


For those who really, really like to delve into a pedigree (and my thanks to the poster who notified me), Camelots 17th dam is no less than the Hungarian supermare Kincsem! Kincsem retired with a record of 54 wins from 54 starts and was dominant on the continent before crossing the Channel and claiming the Goodwood Cup in 1878. For a detailed account of her racing and broodmare career click here


Tarfah is a daughter of Kingmambo and he has combined very well with daughters of  Montjeu’s sire Sadler’s Wells.  Kingmambo has sired Henrythenavigator, El Condor Pasa and Divine Proportions on this cross and his son King’s Best has produced Workforce out of a Sadler’s Wells mare.


Camelot is an unbeaten Group 1 winner at two and now a Guineas winner at three. The next logical target is the Derby and he is already an odds on shot in most books for the Epsom showpiece.  The assumption is that being by Montjeu he should have no difficulty in staying 12 furlongs and the triple crown is also now being talked about.  However before getting carried away with the hype, it is worth remembering that neither Tarfah nor Fickle were ever asked to race beyond 10 furlongs and as racehorses themselves the sires in the lower half of the pedigree were all sprinters or milers with the exception of Persepolis who won the Prix Lupin over 10 furlongs. The slight concern is that winning a Guineas shows Camelot to be an atypical Montjeu and perhaps he will also not stay as well as the other high class Montjeu colts.  I certainly wouldn’t be rushing to back him at odds on  for the Derby, however for the sake of racing I fervently hope that he goes on to claim the holy grail that is the triple crown, and for which we have been waiting 42 years to find a successor to Nijinsky.

CAMELOT (GB) 2009 c b

(IRE) 1996
Wells (USA) 1981
Dancer (CAN) 1961
(USA) 1954
(USA) 1957
Bridge (USA) 1975
Reason (USA) 1968
(USA) 1969
(FR) 1985
Ville (IRE) 1976
Top (IRE) 1969
Ville (USA) 1968
Cy (FR) 1979
(FR) 1970
Toumignon (IRE) 1971
(USA) 2001
(USA) 1990
Prospector (USA) 1970
A Native (USA) 1961
Digger (USA) 1962
(USA) 1984
(USA) 1977
(USA) 1979
(GB) 1996
(USA) 1986
(USA) 1977
(USA) 1981
(GB) 1988
(FR) 1979
Over Parr (GB) 1972

Stowaway revealed

 Jumps sires are often dead or infirm by the time their merits become apparent.  Stowaway has just turned 17 so given average luck he should be active for another 4 or 5 years (hopefully more).  His merits are now becoming abundantly clear and National Hunt breeders should be placing him near the top of their lists when planning their future matings. Use him before we lose him is my advice.


Stowaway is currently lying in 70th position in the Anglo-Irish jumps list with earnings of around £100,000. He has had 7 winners from 23 runners (30%). In 2009/2010 he finished in 170th position with total earnings of £76,648 and 3 winners from 22 runners (14%). In 2008/2009 he finished in 218th position with total earnings of £57,513 and 5 winners from 21 runners (24%).  “So what?” , would be most people’s response to these figures. However in this case the statistics tell an incomplete story. His winners to runners percentages are not particularly great but they mask the quality of some of the individuals that are now coming through. In addition the mares he initially covered were extremely modest as you would expect from a covering fee of €600.  Also Stowaway did not commence stud duties until 2001 so his oldest progeny have just turned 9.

Shark Hanlon and Stowaway

January 23rd 2011 saw Stowaway record a major double at Leopardstown. Hidden Cyclone (ex Hurricane Debbie by Shahanndeh) was a good winner of a Grade 2 Novice hurdle over 2 1/2 miles.  He was introduced into the betting for the Neptune Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham but his trainer John Joseph aka ‘Shark’ Hanlon feels that in time he will make a top class staying chaser. Shark Hanlon also trained the bumper winner Mart Lane (ex Western Whisper by Supreme Leader) who is also under consideration for Cheltenham.  Mart Lane is a full brother to the best horse sired to date by Stowaway in Western Leader (ex Western Whisper by Supreme Leader) who has won four times including a Grade 2 hurdle, prior to running second at Aintree in the Sefton hurdle.  All of these horses were bred by Ronnie O’Neill who stands Stowaway in Whytemount Stud in Kilkenny and who was the primary supporter in the early years. For good measure Stowaway Pearl (ex Kelly’s Pearl by Miner’s Lamp) won at Thurles on the 10th February and he is also trained by Shark Hanlon who has been key to the rise of Stowaway.

Stowaway race record

Stowaway was first seen on the racecourse as a two year old in October 1996, when he made a winning debut in a mile maiden at Newcastle for trainer Michael Jarvis. The potential he showed that day meant that he was transferred to Godolphin for the rest of his career.  He was beaten on his reappearance at three but then stepped up in class to win the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood over 12 furlongs. He followed up in August by winning the Group 2 Voltigeur Stakes from Derby runner-up Silver Patriarch. The St Leger is the traditional target of Voltigeur winners and it was talked about for Stowaway but he failed to make it to Doncaster and in his absence the classic was won by Silver Patriarch. The Champion Stakes saw him return to action that season. He did respectably, finishing fourth behind Pilsudski over a trip short of his best but still finishing ahead of the likes of Derby winner Benny the Dip and Group 1 winners Revoque and Bijou D’Inde.

 Stowaway spent the winter in Dubai and made a winning reappearance in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba.  However this was before that race attained graded status. Alas this also proved to be  his last racecourse appearance. His career finished with a record of four wins from six runs and he had proven himself to be amongst the best of his generation. However it was also a career that seemed to fall short of its potential. He seemed an ideal candidate for the St Leger but never got the opportunity to compete in that classic. He never got the opportunity to run beyond 12 furlongs and he seemed a likely sort to improve with age but we never really saw that assumption tested. In addition he never raced on ground worse than good, but race reports filed after his maiden indicate that he had a high knee action so he should have been suited by softer ground.

Stowaway’s Pedigree

Sire: Slip Anchor

Stowaway is a son of the runaway 1985 Derby winner Slip Anchor.   Slip Anchor did not follow on from his sire  and grandsire in throwing a Derby winner but he compiled a reasonable record from his time at stud. From 586 foals he had 302 winners(52%) and 28 (5%) stakes winners.  His best offspring included Oaks, Irish Oaks and St Leger winner User Friendly (ex Rostova by Blakeney), Italian Derby winner and Irish Derby runner-up Morshdi (ex Reem Albaraari by Sadler’s Wells), Italian Group 1 winner and Hardwicke Stakes winner Posidonas (ex Tamassos by Dance in Time) and Melbourne Cup runner-up Give the Slip (ex Falafil by Fabulous Dancer).  His best offspring weren’t precocious, stayed well and tended to be durable. The average winning distance of his offspring is a very high at 12.4 furlongs.  Slip Anchor’s stud fee began at £30,000 in 1987 before dropping to £25000 in 1989, £20000 in 1990. He was available at 3-4k throughout the noughties before his retirement from stud duties in 2007.

Dam: On Credit

On Credit, the dam of Stowaway showed high class form in France. She won as a juvenile, won twice over 10 furlongs at three and was twice runner-up in editions of the 11 furlong Group 3 Prix Fille de L’Air. She is also a half sister to Falafil (by Fabulous Dancer) the dam of the previously mentioned Give the Slip (by Slip Anchor). At stud she is also the dam of Credit-A-Plenty (by Generous) who was runner up in the Group 3 Park Hill Stakes.  Stowaway’s grand-dam Noble Tiara was twice a winner( over 10 and 12 furlongs) from nine starts she made as a three year old. This was her only season to race but aside from winning she placed fourth in both the Prix de Flore (Gr3) and Prix de Royallieu (Gr3). On Credit was a daughter of French Guineas winner, No Pass No Sale a son of Northfields. Slip Anchor worked well with Northfields and from only 7 horses bred on this cross they included Slicious (ex Precious Jade) winner of a Group 1 Premio Roma and Anchorite (ex Elysian) who was a high class two year old.

The secret of Success

Stowaway’s success has taken people by surprise.  At the time of his arrival at Whytemount Stud in 2001, it had been three years since he had set foot on a racecourse. Understandably there weren’t big queues of breeders to use this forgotten horse. His initial crop sizes numbered 30 with many of these mares being provided by the horses new owner, Ronnie O’Neill.  Following some success he secured 120 mares in 2009 and this rose to 200 mares in 2010 at a heady €1000 service fee. His fee for 2011 is listed as private, but even if the fee is trebled or quadrupled it may still represent value.

Understanding his success may be easier than we think.  It is well to remember what a high class racehorse he was and it is certainly likely that we never saw the best of him.  Physically he is a big good looking bay. His sire is a potent influence for stamina and the Mill Reef line is responsible for plenty of high profile National Hunt sires.  He has covered mostly moderate mares and made the most of his opportunities.  There is no secret to his success apart from his own abilities.

Nicks and the future

Stowaway seems to throw winners to all sorts of lines.  An unfamiliar name that occurs a lot amongst his offspring as broodmare sire is Shahanndeh (Assert ex Shademah by Thatch) who was a half brother to Sharastani who previously stood at Whytemount Stud and was the sire of many of his earlier mates.  Apart from Presenting the Irish national hunt stallion scene is dominated by sons of Sadler’s Wells. Given the success enjoyed on the flat by crossing Sadlers Well’s and Shirley Heights line mares it seems natural that many of these mares will be tried with Stowaway. His first 3 figure sized crop are now yearlings so it will take a few years to make an impact on the track. In the meantime, breeders should take advantage of his availability and I am confident that he will be highly placed on the sires table throughout the mid to late years of this decade.


Anchor (GB) 1982
Heights (GB) 1975
Reef (USA) 1968
Bend (USA) 1960
Mill (USA) 1962
(GB) 1969
(GB) 1962
Cross (GB) 1952
(GER) 1965
(GER) 1945
(GER) 1930
(FR) 1936
(GER) 1954
(GER) 1939
(GER) 1947
Credit (FR) 1988
Pass No Sale (IRE) 1982
(USA) 1968
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Hut (USA) 1952
Disgrace (IRE) 1976
(FR) 1966
Grace (FR) 1970
Tiara (USA) 1981
Noble (GB) 1965
(GB) 1957
Lassie (GB) 1956
(IRE) 1975
(USA) 1970
(IRE) 1968

M J Kinane-worth remembering

Mick Kinane announced his retirement at the start of December. His decision to retire after his annus mirabilis with Sea the Stars is indicative of a jockey who had a perfect sense of timing. Many of the glowing tributes described him as the ‘best flat jockey that Ireland ever produced’. I’m not convinced he was demonstrably better than Pat Eddery, Kieran Fallon or Johnny Murtagh but he was certainly as good as any other Irish jockey.  In particular he was outstanding around Leopardstown and Ascot. I sometimes had reservations about his riding in France and the US, but it is a testament to his greatness that he tended to be judged against a benchmark of perfection.  Naturally over such a lengthy career he rode many future stallions (far too many to properly consider) but it is worth recalling some of the more notable names from such a storied career.

 The Liam Browne years

Initially Kinane rode for Michael  Kauntze and Liam Browne. The only star from that time was the cheaply bred and purchased Dara Monarch (1979 Realm x Sardara by Alcide)who won an Irish 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes for Liam Browne.  At stud his only offspring of significance was the Lockinge winner Broken Hearted.

The Dermot Weld Years 1983-1997

From there he moved across the Curragh to Rosewell House and Dermot Weld where he stayed from late 1983-1997. Although it was a successful partnership that led to a number of Irish championships, in terms of influential stallions it was disappointing. The most important was Theatrical (1982 Nureyev x Tree of Knowledge by Sassafras). but he achieved his major successes after leaving Ireland. Ironically Kinane chose not to ride Theatrical’s son Zagreb (1993 Theatrical x Sophonosibe by Wollow) for Weld in the 1996 Irish Derby favouring Michael Stoute’s Dr Massini who trailed in 7th.  Indeed the Irish Derby was an unlucky race for Kinane who was also touched off on Weld’s Definite Article (1992 Indian Ridge x Summer Fashion by Moorestyle) by Winged Love in 1995. Thus far Definite Article’s main achievement has been to sire the outstanding stayer Vinnie Roe who won an incredible 4 Irish St Legers.

Flash of Steel (1983 Kris x Spark of Fire by Run the Gauntlet) won the 1986 Irish Guineas for Weld and Kinane but like many sons of Kris was disappointing at stud.  Big Shuffle (1984 Super Concorde x Raise Your Skirts by Elevation) won a Cork and Orrery in 1987 and he is still a popular and successful stallion in Germany where he proved a reliable source of speed. In 1992 Brief Truce (1989 Irish River x Falafel by Northern Dancer) got a superb ride from Kinane to win a St James Palace at 25-1 defeating Rodrigo de Triano and Arazi ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hUplXewoDM ) but he was disappointing as a sire.   1990 saw Weld and Kinane secure an historic Belmont Victory with Go and Go (1987 Be my Guest x Irish Edition by Alleged) winning by 8 lengths. Again that son of Be My Guest made no impact as a sire. Twilight Agenda (1986 Devil’s Bag x Grenzen by Grenfall) was another Moyglare Stud horse who seemed to prosper once he was transferred to the US, but he also failed to make an impact at stud. Vintage Crop’s (1987 Rousillon x Overplay by Bustino) historic Melbourne Cup win is of no relevance as he was of course a gelding.  An interesting and unexpected successful stallion from that period was Unusual Heat (1990 Nureyev x Rossard by Glacial) who never won above listed class, finished last in the Irish 2000 Guineas but who has risen from obscurity to become an important sire in California.

Outside Rides

Mick acquired a reputation as the big race king or ‘super-sub’. He certainly compiled a very impressive record for outside stables. He rode Carroll House (1985 Lord Gayle x Tuna by Silver Shark) to win the 1989 Arc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lpiwr6H7134&feature=related and Phoenix Champion Stakes. Like so many horses at the time he was sold to Japan but was eventually returned to Ireland as a National Hunt stallion.  The next year he rode Tirol (1987 Thatching x Alpine Niece by Great Nephew) to win the 2000 Guineas for Richard Hannon. He retired to Coolmore alongside his sire where he did sire the occasional top horse such as Tarascon and Miss Tahiti, but he never threatened to be the saviour of the Forli line. Mick got to ride Commander in Chief (1990 Dancing Brave x Slightly Dangerous by Roberto) to Derby success when Pat Eddery wrongly chose Tenby. Commander in Chief was also sold  to Japan where he failed to make a significant impact.

Mick rode Belmez (1987 El Gran Senor x Grace Note by Top Ville) and King’s Theatre (1991 Sadler’s Wells x Regal Beauty by Princely Native) to win the King George for Henry Cecil. Belmez proved a very disappointing sire prior to his premature death. King’s Theatre is now marketed as a dual purpose sire and to be fair he is a very good jumps sire.

The Aidan O’Brien Years 1999-2003

The biggest and most pressurised job in Europe saw Kinane rise to the challenge admirably. The list of top class horses is very long and almost all of them got their chance at Coolmore. In terms of sires the outstanding name is Galileo the dual Derby winner from 2001 followed by Giant’s Causway who was a star of the 2000 season. 

Rock of Gibraltar (1999 Danehill x by Offshore Boom by Be My Guest) is proving an average sire given his opportunities, and Kinane wasn’t at his finest when riding him in the Breeders Cup Mile.  2002 saw Ballydoyle house the Rock, along with High Chaparral (1999 Sadler’s Wells x Kasora by Darshaan) and Hawk Wing (1999 Woodman x La Lorgnette by Val De L’Orne). Mick made a rare error of judgement in choosing to ride Hawk Wing over High Chapparal in the Derby that year. In terms of stud careers Hawk Wing has been a disaster and High Chapparal (who at one point looked destined for a career as a National Hunt sire), has staged a spirited revival and is compiling a creditable record here and in Australia.

Fasliyev (1997 Nureyev x Mr P’s Princess by Mr Prospector) was an unbeaten two year old in 1999 who had a sensational first crop but was unable to build on it.

Minardi (1998 Boundary x Yarn by Mr Prospector) was another good two year old but a disappointing sire.   Johannesburg (1999 Hennessy x Myth by Ogygian) was a remarkable two year old in 2001 and his success in the Breeders Cup Juvenile was a breakthrough dirt success for Ballydoyle. As a sire he made a lot of money for Ashford Stud before his recent move to Japan, but to my mind he was overpriced and the occasional top horse hid a lot of dross.

Mozart (1998 Danehill x Victoria Cross by Spectacular Bid) was an outstanding sprinter and on the evidence of his sole crop that featured Dandy Man and Amadeus Wolf his premature death was unfortunate for Coolmore.

Stravinsky (1996 Nureyev x Fire the Groom by Blushing Groom) was another oustanding sprinter and although eventually sold by Coolmore to Japan he left behind a creditable record here and in the Southern hemisphere.

The John Oxx years 2004-2009

Only two horses are likely to have an impact as stallions, obviously Sea The Stars has everything going for him and its easy to forget that Azamour ( 2001 Night Shift x Asmara by Lear Fan) was also a Group 1 winner over a mile, 10 furlongs and 12 furlongs. There were some promising individuals amongst Azamour’s first crop of two year olds and his progeny are likely to progress.

Five best stallions ridden by Kinane

1. Montjeu (1996 Sadler’s Wells x Floripedes by Top Ville)

Already a dual Derby winner by the time Kinane took over the ride. Kinane rode him to 4 Group 1 wins. The most impressive was his imperious victory in the King George. He bacame Mick’s second Arc winner but in my opinion it wasn’t Mick’s best ride as he was in a pocket and on testing ground Montjeu did very well to make up the ground on the heroic El Condor Pasa. Happily Mick subsequently earned the distinction of being co-breeder of Montjeu’s Derby winning son Authorized.

2. Galileo (1998 Sadler’s Wells x Urban Sea by Miswaki).

Mick rode him in 7 of his 8 races comfortably winning the Derby, Irish Derby and King George on him. There was some criticism of his ride in the Irish Champion Stakes when Godolphin and Fantastic Light defeated him by a head. His career finished disappointingly in the Breeders Cup when Ballydoyle seemed to ignore the stats involving the offspring of Sadler’s Wells running on the dirt.

3. Monsun (1990 Konigsstuhl x Mosella by Surumu)

Mick only rode him once but it was Group 1 win in the 1993 Aral Pokal. Ironically the second horse George Augustus was trained by his subsequent employer John Oxx and the third home shrewd idea was trained by one of his first bosses Michael Kauntze. I doubt if anyone present that day realised that they were viewing a horse destined to become the greatest sire Germany has produced.

4. Giant’s Causeway (1997 Storm Cat  x Mariah’s Storm by Rahy).

Mick rode him in 12 of his 13 starts winning 5 group 1’s on the ‘Iron Horse’ (George Duffield rode him in the Eclipse).  Many of these successes were hard fought and it is worth rewatching his ride in the Juddmonte International ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDPyQA-WWGo ) . Less pleasant viewing for Mick would be his ride in the Irish Guineas where Bachir stole a march on him and some would argue that dropping his whip near the finish of the Breeder’s Cup Classic affected the result (Tiznow won by a neck). Although Giant’s Causeway can sometimes divide opinions amongst breeders, he keeps churning out stakes horses and he is always capable of producing a top notcher particularly on turf or synthetics.

5. Theatrical (1982 Nureyev x Tree of Knowledge by Sassafras).

Mick was jocked off Theatrical to allow Lester Pigott the ride at Epsom. Back in Ireland Mick had won a  Derby Trial on Theatrical and rode a good race when second to Law Society in the 1985 Irish Derby. Theatrical subsequently improved slightly when transferred to Bill Mott.  Theatrical became a fine stallion who was somewhat underrated and at stud on the wrong continent.

Five most disappointing stallions ridden by Kinane (relative to opportunities).

1. Hawk Wing (1999 Woodman x La Lorgnette by Val De L’Orne)

The horse who seemed to have everything, brilliant speed and enough stamina to finish second in a good Derby.  Mick rode him to win Group 1’s at 2 (National Stakes), 3 (a soft Eclipse) and 4 (the Lockinge). His performance in the Lockinge had Timeform struggling to find a better performance in recent decades http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiXbsSCdGLs . Hawk Wing would have won a 2000 Guineas if Mick Kinane had ridden him but he was suspended at the time and regardless he might have chosen to ride Johannesburg in the Kentucky Derby that same day. In a prelude of things to come as far as Ballydoyle were concerned Jamie Spencer took over and got the horse beaten whilst in a further portent Johnny Murtagh did a fine job on Rock of Gibraltar. A terrible stallion (like most sons of Woodman) and now banished to Korea.

2. Entrepreneur (1994 Sadler’s Wells x Exclusive Order by Exclusive Native)

A Guineas winner who retired to Coolmore. He did sire Vintage Tipple who won an Irish Oaks but the fact that he is now in Russia says it all.

3. King of Kings (1995 Sadler’s Wells x Zummerudd by Habitat).  Another Guineas winner by Sadler’s Wells who retired to Coolmore. Did ok in his Southern Hemisphere stint but now in Switzerland.

4. One Cool Cat (2001 Storm Cat x Tacha by Mr Prospector).

Mick rode him to win the National Stakes and Phoenix Stakes at two during his last season at Ballydoyle. His oldest progeny are still not even four and he has had a lot of two year old winners in the last season so it might seem very unreasonable to make a decision on him as yet, but he has been very disappointing with nothing of note to date.

5. Fasliyev (1997 Nureyev x Mr P’s Princess by Mr Prospector).

Mick rode him to win the Phoenix Stakes and Prix Morny as part of an unbeaten juvenile campaign. He is on this list because he misled a lot of people (including me) into thinking that he was about to become a major force in Europe after a scintillating first crop of two year olds. His stud fee rocketed but everything since then was a disappointment and he is now in Japan.


In a career of such longevity and such success it is only possible for me to provide a very potted history. The story will still need to be updated as Mick rode plenty of stallions about whom we will have to wait to make a full assessment. However at the end of his riding career we can safely state that Mick was a truly great jockey and I suspect that Mick is one of those people that sometimes aren’t fully appreciated until they are gone (that was certainly the case in Ballydoyle when they replaced him with Jamie Spencer 🙂

Farewell M.V.O’Brien

Vincent O’Brien was my hero.  In the post war decades, he showed that Irish people didn’t have to emigrate to succeed on the world stage. In an Ireland that seemed to lack ambition, Vincent always strived for perfection- and usually attained it. He was more than just an incredible trainer he was the ultimate pedigree analyst. It is said that as a toddler he used to sit on his father’s knee and recite the names and pedigrees of all the horses in his fathers yard.  He probably still knew those pedigrees on the day he died.  With respect to the likes of Aidan O’Brien or Michael Stoute or Henry Cecil who are all great trainers of racehorses -they are just trainers.  For much of his career Vincent was overseeing a process that selected yearlings, trained them as well as they could be trained and then stood them or sold them on. In business jargon it was a vertically integrated production line and Vincent had to deal with all this additional responsibility. As the list below shows he made some great stallions.

A reminder of a dozen great stallions he trained (in order)

1. Sadler’s Wells (1981 Norther Dancer-Fairy Bridge by Bold Reason). The greatest European stallion of the past century. 73 Group one winners to date,14 times champion sire and his legacy now secure with his sons Montjeu and Galileo. In South Africa Fort Wood was champion sire and in the US El Prado and now his grandson Medaglio D’oro ensure his legacy throughout the globe. During Sadler’s Wells racing career in the early eighties many well bred horses were being wrapped in cotton wool, lest they lose some value. Not so Sadler’s Wells who was campaigned extensively at three and maintained his form throughout at distances from a mile to a mile and a half. He retired as winner of an Irish 2000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes. He was second in a memorable edition of the French Derby in which he separated Darshaan and Rainbow Quest. For all his talent he was overshadowed in Ballydoyle by his paternal half brother El Gran Senor.  Nobody overshadowed him at stud.  Vincent also trained his dam Fairy Bridge and almost all her offspring. Such knowledge of families developed over a lifetime was invaluable.

2. Nijinsky (1967 Northern Dancer-Flaming Page by Bull Page). The last triple crown winner and unbeaten in his first 11 starts.  A superb sire with three Derby winners (Golden Fleece, Sharastani and Lammtarra) along with a Kentucky Derby winner in Ferdinand to his credit.  He sired 155 stakes winners from 862 foals (18%). Vincent trained many of his best offspring including King’s Lake, Caerleon, Golden Fleece and Royal Academy. He also famously paid 13.1 million for Seattle Dancer, who although he could never realistically justify that price did win the Derrinstown and Gallinule Stakes. Nijinsky was reasonably successful as a sire of sires with Caerleon being his best sire son, followed by Royal Academy and Green Dancer. 

3. Storm Bird (1978 Norther Dancer-South Ocean by New Providence). A champion two year old who defeated To-Agori Mou in the Dewhurst. He  owes his elevated place on the list to the stud exploits of Storm Cat. Storm Bird sired many better racehorses than Storm Cat including Summer Squall and the fillies Balanchine and Indian Skimmer. His place in pedigrees is secure through Storm Cat and his sons. He also was an important broodmare sire counting Thunder Gulch and current hot sire Birdstone amongst the offspring of his daughters.

4. Caerleon (1980 Nijinsky-Forseer by Buckpasser).  An exceptionally good looking colt Vincent reportedly regarded him as a perfect physical specimen. He wasn’t a bad racehorse either becoming Vincent’s only winner of the French Derby and winning a Benson and Hedges Gold Cup as well. He was twice champion sire and sired the outstanding dual derby winner Generous, Arc winner Marienbard, Oaks winner Lady Carla, 1000 Guineas winner Cape Verdi, St Leger winner Moonax amongst 128 (13%) stakes winners. His sons have been mostly unsuccessful to date as sires but he is doing well as a broodmare sire with the likes of Mutafaweq, Patavellian,Dimitrova and Avonbridge.

 5. Roberto (1969 Hail to Reason-Bramalea by Nashua). It has taken breeders a long time to appreciate the worth of Roberto in a pedigree.  As a racehorse he is often overlooked and often credited as merely the horse who produced a freak performance to defeat Brigadier Gerard. He was also a gutsy Derby winner and narrowly defeated in the 2000 Guineas. At four he won a Coronation Cup impressively and Michael Kauntze (who was assistant to Vincent O’Brien at the time), thought he had as much talent as Nijinsky, but just didn’t always display it. As a sire he got many decent performers including Sookera, Slightly Dangerous, Silver Hawk and Lear Fan but he is much more important as a sire of sires and as a broodmare sire. His best stallion sons include Kris S, Dynamformer, Red Ransom and the Japanese based Brian’s time who all sired horses better than themselves. As a broodmare sire he is responsible for Slightly Dangerous multitude of talented offspring (Warning, Commander in Chief,Deploy, Dushyantor) and Sookera has become ancestress of the Hasili tribe. There can be a nasty streak running through his offspring.

 6. Alleged (1974- Hoist the Flag-Princess Pout by Prince John). A dual winner of the Prix de l’Arc his record would have been better had he been at stud in Europe. He sired a pair of Irish Derby winners in Sir Harry Lewis and Law Society, a dual classic winner in Midway Lady, a St Leger winner in Shantou, an Irish Leger winner in Leading Counsel and a Breeders Cup turf winner in Miss Alleged. He was also a top broodmare sire with classic winners Dr Devious, Dream Well, Go and Go, Sulamani, Suave Dancer, Brian Boru, Eswarah amongst a host of top flight winners. His legacy is also strong in National Hunt breeding where he has leading sire Fleminsfirth, following on from Montelimar and others. Like Roberto  many of his offspring are known for their less than pleasant temperaments.

7. Sir Ivor (1965 Sir Gaylord-Attica by Mr.Trouble). A brilliant winner of a top class Guineas, he followed up by displaying an electrifying turn of foot in the Derby. He was campaigned relentlessly turning out 13 times over two seasons and like others he maintained his form throughout. However it was testament to Vincent’s skill that he maintained his form throughout. In Sir Ivor’s case he managed to follow on a second place behind Vaguely Noble in the Arc with wins in the Champion Stakes and Arc. He became primarily renowned as a sire of fillies leaving the likes of Arc winner Ivanjica,Lady Capulet (who Vincent trained to win a classic on her debut and is dam of El Prado) and Godetia and Cloonlara (both trained by VIncent). Of his colts the best was Bates Motel. He makes the list by virtue of the moderate runner Sir Tristram who has had a huge influence on Australian/New Zealand breeding and his daughters who have given us such stallions as El Prado, Green Desert, Alzao, and Bluebird.

8. Fairy King (1982 Norther Dancer-Fairy Bridge by Bold Reason).  Sadler’s Wells brother was injured on his only run and gained a place at stud by virtue of his pedigree.  He became a rags to riches success story and died aged 17 when he was starting to enjoy the best of patronage. In his time he manged to sire a Derby winner in Oath, classic winners in Turtle Island and Victory Note along with two exceptional horses in Helissio and Falbrav. His European runners have disappointed as sires of sires but in Australia he has left behind champion sire Encasto de Lago.

9. El Gran Senor (1981 Norther Dancer-Sex Appeal by Buckpasser. Probably the greatest miler that Vincent ever trained. He won the Guineas in devastating fashion. He was a full brother to Try My Best who similarly had been a champion two year old winning the Dewhurst. Try My Best was allegedly  nobbled  prior to finishing last in the Guineas.  The 1984 Derby was meant to be a coronation and in the bloodstock bubble of the time he was being valued at upto $60 million dollars, or someone estimated it to be 12 times his weight in gold.  In a race laced with ironies he was beaten by his paternal half brother Secreto trained by Vincents son David, after looking all over the winner for Pat Eddery.  Lester Piggott allegedly whispered in Vincent’s ear after the race “do you miss me” and many criticised Eddery for his ride. El Gran senors value slumped to $40 million. You couldn’t make it up. He ran once more in the Irish Derby before being retired to stand alongside his sire at E.P Taylors stud in Maryland. Nobody mentioned his parrot mouth. He was a top class sire and could have been a great sire but for fertility problems. His first crop included Racing Post trophy winner Al Hareb and Saratogan who was a close third in the Dewhurst for Vincent. El Gran Senor’s best offspring included 5 time Group 1 winner Rodrigo de Triano, King George winner Belmez and Breeders Cup sprint winner Lit de Justice. He is also sire of Toussaud who apart from being a Grade 1 winner is the dam of 4 Grade 1 winners including Chester House and Empire Maker. His stud record showed a highly respectable 55 stakes winners (14%).

 10.Be My Guest (1974 Northern Dancer-What A Treat by Tudor Minstrel). In 1977 Vincent had an embarrassment of three year old riches at his disposal with The Minstrel, Alleged, Artaius, Godswalk, Lady Capulet and others. Be My Guest was well behind the Minstrel in the Derby but won the Desmond Stakes and the Waterford Crystal mile. His pedigree was sufficient to ensure him a place at newly formed Coolmore. It was said that so ‘no mare could pass by Coolmore without being offered a deal to Be My Guest’ but it certainly paid off. In his first crop he sired Assert who won the Irish and French Derby’s for David O’Brien and On the House who won the 1000 Guineas. He ended up Champion sire in 1982 and predictably his fee soared. He never quite followed through on that initial promise although he was always capable of siring a top horse such as King George winner Pentire, Derby runner up Most Welcome and Dermot Weld’s Belmont winner Go and Go. However he has not produced a major sire son and his legacy might be as a broodmare sire as he is broodmare sire of Rock of Gibraltar and Manduro amongst others.

11. Woodman (1982 Mr Prospector- Playmate by Buckpasser). Vincent trained a few sons of Mr Prospector but he never seemed totally committed to that stallion. That said he paid $3 million for Woodman who was ranked champion Irish two year old in 1984 but who but who was affected by the virus that troubled the stable in 1985.  He was retired to Ashford where he became one of those stallions that seemed to either sire superstars or duds with little in-between. He had an incredible first crop of 45 foals that included three champions in Mujtahid, Hector Protector and Hansel. He never consistently hit those heights afterwards but sired outstanding performers in Bosra Sham (a brother to Hector), Timber Country and Hawk Wing. His sons have been disappointing at stud but he is now compiling a very respectable record as a broodmare sire.

12. El Prado (1989 Sadler’s Wells-Lady Capulet by Sir Ivor). When he retired to stud if anyone had told me that El Prado would become champion sire in the US, I would have laughed at the idea. He was a Group 1 winner of the National Stakes but it was a very weak renewal of the race and he was subsequently well beaten in a sales race. He also won the Beresford stakes but failed to train on and was well beaten in his three runs at three. It must have been a pleasure for Vincent to train him as he knew the family so well, having trained his sire, his dam and his damsire to win classics and his half brother Entitled to be placed in two classics . He was retired to stud in the US and as we now know Sadler’s Wells couldn’t sire a claiming winner on dirt which makes El Prado’s success all the more surprising. And there has been plenty of success headed by Medaglia D’Oro, backed up by the likes of Borrego, Kitten’s Joy and Artie Schiller. The future of the line is also looking promising with many of his better sons at an early stage in their careers and Medaglia D’oro sire of Rachel Alexandra. He may have been an unlikely success but such surprises keep the world of breeding from getting too predictable.

Gems of wisdom in relation to breeding from Vincent.

1. Vincent once said in an interview that you can’t train a horse to stay. You can teach them to settle but pedigree dictates whether they stay or not.

2. Ignore the experts. There was a bias against chestnuts, a bias against having four white socks and a bias against small horses. Vincent still paid $200,000 for The Minstrel and ended up with a champion worth $9 million.

 What did he ever get wrong? Very little but he did let Nureyev slip through his hands at the sales. There was also a time when Ballydoyle was host to a lot of Forli’s and although they enjoyed success on the track (especially with Thatch) no significant stallion emerged. Vincent also  was very partial to the first crop of Golden Fleece, but like then stable jockey Cash Asmussen, they proved disappointing. However such things are mere trifles. Vincent O’Brien has utterly changed the history of the thoroughbred. His legacy is the Irish bloodstock industry and the thousands of jobs which it supports. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis

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