These are good times for Ballylinch Stud. Owned by American billionaire John Malone, the stud has assembled a small but select stallion roster. Lope de Vega’s reputation continues to climb and he is joined by some interesting younger prospects. They have secured a top class Arc winner in Waldgeist and they provide two nice Dubawi line stallions in Make Believe and New Bay. They provide some welcome competition in Ireland to the Coolmore and Darley mega-rosters.
Fascinating Rock €7,000 (7,500) (2011 Fastnet Rock ex Miss Polaris by Polar Falcon
Fascinating Rock has his first runners in 2020, so anyone using him this season is taking a gamble. There is no arguing with his ability as a racehorse, as he was high class at four and five winning a Champion Stakes and Tattersalls Gold Cup. Although not precocious, he won a couple of early season Derby trials at three. He was the first son of Fastnet Rock at stud in Europe. He has since been joined at stud by Merchant Navy at Coolmore and Fas in France. Both of these were sprinters but there are some stamina influences in Fascinating Rock including his grandam being by Ela Mana Mou. This might explain how his half brother Quick Jack (by Footstepsinthesand) won a Galway Hurdle. Overall, Fascinating Rock comes from an ordinary female line. He had a yearling median of 12,000 guineas in 2019 so the market is already circumspect about his prospects. I would have expected more of a fee reduction to entice breeders. He was well supported by his breeder Newtown Anner Stud but still ‘only’ had books of 62 and 64 mares in the past two years. I don’t see that number increasing in 2020.
Lope de Vega €100,000 (80,000) (2007 Shamardal ex Lady Vettori by Vettori
Verdict Good Value
Lope de Vega has risen rapidly through the ranks. He stood for €15,000 in his first two seasons before dropping to €12,500 in 2013 and 2014 . He then went to €40,000 in 2015 and his fee has risen every subsequent season. 2019 saw him sire a major classic winner in Phoenix of Spain and there were Group 1’s for Zabeel Prince in France and Santa Ana Lane in Australia. Four stakes winning two year olds also contributed to a good season. The only real disappointment was the failure of juvenile superstar Newspaperofrecord to train on. Lope De Vega has credible percentages with 50 Black Type Winners from 645 foals of racing age in the Northern Hemisphere (8%) and this should improve, as more of his 2016 and 2017 crop win Stakes races. His sales record showed a median of 120,000 guineas for his yearlings last year (they were conceived off a €50,000 cover) and I expect his averages to continue to rise. He may not get the prettiest sales horses but purchasers now presumably realise that handsome is as handsome does. He is a versatile sire who gets two year olds , sprinters, milers and middle distance horses and to me his fee has a bit more to go before he is fully priced.
Make Believe €12,000 (12,000) (2012 Makfi ex Rosie’s Posy by Suave Dancer
Verdict Fairly Priced
Make Believe won both his races at two before annexing the French Guineas and Prix de la Foret at three. He was a son of Guineas winner Makfi, who enjoyed only modest success in Europe. Make Believe comes from a good female line featuring names like Irish Guineas third My Branch and Tante Rose. Make Believe’s had 16, two year old winners from 51 runners out of a total crop size of 89 (a very high percentage of runners to foals). Encouragingly, those winners included Group 3 winners, Rose of Kildare and Ocean Fantasy and Listed winner Tammani. With so many two year old runners, trainers obviously viewed them as early types but I would expect them to improve with age.
Despite the three stakes winners, he didn’t however prove popular at the yearling sales with a 2019 median of 19,500 Guineas (only 10,000 guineas for fillies). There is a great line in Blackadder where mad Captain Rum says ‘opinion is divided on the subject…. all the other captains say it is, I say it isn’t’ 🙂 In the case of Make Believe, I may be in a minority (and hopefully not mad), but I think the market has underestimated him and he is due a reassessment. If you are buying his offspring, there is value to be had…
New Bay €15,000 (15,000) (2012 Dubawi ex Cinnamon Bay by Zamindar
Verdict Overpriced (slightly)
New Bay was high class from 8-12 furlongs. He won the Prix de Jockey Club, was runner up to Make Believe in the French Guineas and was a close third in the Arc to Golden Horn. As a son of Dubawi, improvement would have been expected in his four year old season, but instead he only added a weak Group 3 to his record. We were starting to wonder about stallion sons of Dubawi after relative disappointments such as Makfi, Poets Voice and Worthadd but now Night of Thunder looks like he could be the real deal. New Bay’s dam was a stakes winner and she is from one of the top Juddmonte family’s descending from Bahamian. This brings in names such as Oasis Dream, Zenda (who won the French 1000 Guineas and is the dam of Kingman) and Beat Hollow. New Bay’s yearlings had a median of 28,000 guineas last year but they were conceived off a €20,000 initial fee. He has 72 two year olds running for him this season but although he doesn’t appeal as a two year old sire, he is a very interesting prospect.
In defence of his 2020 fee, New Bay is by a top sire, he is from a high class female line and he demonstrated top class form from a mile to a mile and half. He should suit most of the mares in the Irish population with no Danzig in his pedigree and Sadler’s Wells in the third generation. He may well prove to be a great bargain like Night of Thunder but I thought they might have dropped him to €12,500 in this risky season for breeders.
Waldgeist €17,500 (n/a) (2014 Galileo ex Waldlerche by Monsun
Verdict Overpriced (but only because the market is irrational)
It’s a strange world, when a well bred Arc winner, by the dominant sire of our era, retires at a stud fee less than that of Calyx- a horse who never won a Group 1 and only ran four times. Waldgeist showed top class form over four seasons. He was a Group 1 winner at two, he was just touched off in the Prix de Jockey Club at three, he won a Grand Prix de Saint Cloud at four and a Prix Ganay and Arc at five. He comes from a high class German ‘W’ family. His dam won the Prix Penelope, his grand dam produced St Leger winner Masked Marvel and his third dam produced German Derby winner Waldpark. It’s not Waldgeist’s fault that stamina influences such as Monsun are deemed undesirable, nor that there is suspicion about horses who seemingly improved with age (even if he was a Group 1 winner at two and all horses physically peak at four or five). I think Waldgeist is an attractive package, but I don’t think he will find favour in our speed and precocity obsessed markets. He might be an interesting option for those breeding to race but commercial breeders might need a little convincing at that fee. An interesting comparison might be with Decorated Knight, who also won two Group 1’s at five. Decorated Knight wasn’t quite as good a racehorse as Waldgeist but he comes from a superior female family and stands for just €9,000.