A Yawning Gap? – maybe it’s the elitism not the spectacle!

So horse racing has been identified as a boring sport.  We have all seen the UGov poll published this week and, as expected, many people have had much to say in defence of the sport they love – or hate depending on, of course, personal tastes.most boring sport

I would rather watch paint dry than watch Formula 1 racing.  That said, when I was in Singapore on a rainy day a few years ago with nothing to do, and no freshly painted walls to occupy my time, I watched some Grand Prix or other and remember there were a few crashes, some bad visibility and an excited commentator and, guess what, F1 suddenly became exciting – for 30 minutes until the rain in Singapore stopped and the pool seemed a better option.  And that is the point: all sport is exciting when there are exciting things going on, and it’s tedious to the extreme when there isn’t.

Racing might kick itself and say the poll shows the sport we love to be dull more times


Crowds at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse – many of whom own a part of the horses running

than it is exciting, but remember it is still the second largest spectator sport in the country – yes people actually get out of their armchairs and GO RACING!  Football is the most popular of course and this is much to do with the TV coverage and newspaper column inches of course, but it is also because you can buy a £2 football and, at any age, dream of being the next Beckham, or impress your mates with your ball juggling – even if in reality you are an estate agent from Bradford!

Racing does not have that “anyone can do this” affinity.   To become part of the sport the public perception is that you have to be a multi-millionaire, or an Arab prince, or “Lord Monocle of Pass the Port”.  The attempts of the racecourses to attract race-goers has to be applauded.  Even if to the purist, Olly Murs and a best dressed child competition detracts from the racing.  What now needs to happen is the myth of racing being elitist needs to be tackled, and ownership become a possibility.  This is where racing beats football – you are highly unlikely to own a football club but you can own a horse (or part at least).

In Australia around 60% of Aussies own part of a racehorse – albeit the tip of an ear.   In the far-East, albeit fuelled by betting, the crowds are massive and the interest huge – and shared ownership common.  Even in the Arab states where there is no gambling (although despite being a non-gambler I find this reduces the element of jeopardy) a night at Meydan or Jebel Ali is packed to the roof. But racing is seen as an inclusive sport in these places, whereas in the UK it is not.

The rise of syndicates and clubs in the UK and Ireland is a boost much needed to increase this interest.  Many trainers rely increasingly on them to stay in business.  At last many racecourses have increased the owners’ ticket allocation to meet increased shared ownership.  Even the BHA have streamlined the ownership process and made it easier to police the quality and standard of the growing numbers of syndicate bodies – and have a levy system now fit to deliver rewards to the grass roots.

But the very agencies who should be fighting hardest do not.  For all the good changes, the BHA has a policy, as encapsulated in the rules on balloting out, that lower grade horses should be discouraged from running.  Good for the sport? Well it is if we want to keep the riff raff out, but there are many sub-50 rated horses who, when pitted against each other, will make for exciting racing, and low cost ownership options. – as well as swell the levy through betting income.

Great British Racing ; Rod Street and his team – I have yet to see any tangible benefit from their efforts.  Certainly they have the Champions Series but that is Qipco doing all the hard work and making it actually happen.  I remember being at a “do” at Ascot once where GBR were holding a small gathering.  Everyone of those attending it were already owners, and when one young couple approached the cordoned area, they were intercepted by a woman who looked at them like they had stepped in something the dog does and told them “This isn’t for you”!  Well who is it for if not exactly those people?

OB lifestyle

Owner & Breeder magazine – widening the gap? 

Even the superb Owner & Breeder magazine has, in the last few months, dedicated pages of print to “Lifestyle”.  This is a publication which is the gateway to racing yet perpetuates the idea of millionaires and Faberge eggs.  Stop it!

We are quick to turn our nose up at the drunkenness we see at Royal Ascot, and rightly so.  But has anyone stopped to think that these young and, I agree unruly, people are acting like this precisely because they feel like outsiders.  I love to feel special as an owner, but I also resent that racing portrays its participants as champagne swilling, helicopter owning, winter-in-the-Caribbean chinless wonders.  Tell that to the trainers up at 4am, or the breeders knee deep in muck, or the grassroots owners worried if they can pay the mortgage as well as their £100 a month racehorse share.  Aspiration is great but setting unreachable goals and packaging a sport so that it appears that owning a Rolex and driving a Merc are prerequisites will only harm the most exciting sport I know and love.  The only yawning then is not about boredom but the gap between what racing is seen as and what it should be.



2018 – Our Biggest Year

NY2018Happy New Year!  And Happy Birthday to all the thoroughbreds out there.  Our foals of 2017 are now yearlings and join an ever increasing band of horses bred by Abacus Bloodstock, who are at various stages of their careers.

Quite apart from the five yearlings however, this year will see the most horses bred by Abacus Bloodstock racing in the UK.  These range from 2 year olds through to our eldest horses aged 5 this year.  Our first homebred racer, the famous Pancake Day is 6 this year but more of him later.

We sold all of the horses who will race as 2 year olds this year, and they include the following:

  • The only colt by Albaasil from his first crop – now owned by Richie Fiddes

    harry 17

    Colt by Mazameer – 2yo for 2018

  • A colt by Mazameer and last foal of Los Organos- now in training with Nikki Evans in Wales
  • A colt by Mawatheeq from a mare related to Golden Horn and in pre-training in the North (trainer yet to be decided)

All colts and all early looking types so we wish them and their new owners all the luck in the world.

Of the 3 year olds, two have raced as 2 yo’s – Elegant Joan (owned by Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club & trained by David Griffiths)

moses on gallop

Tin Fandango – ready to run with Mark Usher and team

and Little Aub (trained by Mark Usher), and will now pursue exciting handicap careers.  Both showed great potential but with a handicap mark they will undoubtedly do well amongst horses of similar capabilities.  Tin Fandango (trained by Mark Usher) has grown into a beautiful looking 3 year old and we should see him on the turf around May.  We have no news of the other 2015 crop yet but we will update the website once we do.

Of the older horses, Roll on Rory (trained by Jason Ward) continues to lead the way from a ratings viewpoint.  He won a smart mile race at Newmarket at the end of the 2017 turf season, and has to be a good prospect off a good mark in 2018.  That is unless he is sold overseas as he nearly was last year – to Hong Kong.

Finally Pancake Day – at six he is the oldest of our bred horses still racing.  Following a successful pre-Christmas campaign in Europe, he ran at Neuss over the New Year period and has shown signs of a growing weakness in his knee.  He has raced over 60 times in a short career and never gives anything but 100%.  He is perfectly sound normally but at the level of professional racing it is likely the weakness will play a vital role.  Owned now by the Berg family in Germany, they have asked us to have him back for his retirement.  We will assess him when he gets back to us, and then, if possible, he will compete in RoR and other non-racing classes as a much loved pet.  We will of course share his exploits in the future.

So with the decorations taken down for another year, we wish all the horses a safe and successful racing year, and to all the owners and trainers we give our thanks for having the faith in owning and  racing our horses.  Good luck to all!

Abacus Review 2017

We have now completed our second year at Lower Linbrook Farm and what a year!


2017’s foals are a lovely bunch

Whenever you move it is of course an upheaval, but when you have nearly 20 horses of various ages to take with you, it can be a real challenge.  Not only that, but it is getting used to the new grazing; the soil conditions, growth rates, weed control and local weather.  Then there is getting the best suppliers to support the operation and building a new team of staff to make it happen.  They are the things you have to hope work out and then there are the things you can control like investing in fencing, new stables and equipment.  So at the end of 2017 we can safely say  we have settled in and that we are now all systems go for the future.

First though, a look back at 2017.  The year started well when Pancake Day once again delivered a win at his favourite track Southwell for new trainer David Griffiths.  Pancake has consistently delivered for his owners and this year was to be the same again.  He was our first winner as breeders and, when he was sold overseas in March he was to go on to be our first winner overseas too.  A real fighter, he will race until April 2018 and hopefully retire sound after about 60 runs in competition – almost 30% of which have earned prize money!  He has won at least once EVERY year he has raced.

Roll on Rory had a slow start to the season.  He must have been a real challenge for trainer Jason Ward and his owners as he went to his races fit and well, only to run into traffic or a few horses in better mood for racing.  His 2016 season resulted in a high mark of 93, but it was not until he dropped to a mark in the 80’s that he made an impression this season.  With a number of placings in some hot races, he finally shone with a very impressive win on the Rowley Mile at the back end of the turf season, beating some top horses and showing he was just playing in his previous races.  All look well for next season when he should be a black-type horse in all honesty.

Our two year olds all found some nice homes as yearlings and so far there have been a few runs from them.  No wins as yet but some very useful educational runs which will see them good for the coming season as 3 year olds.  We were also pleased to see the 2016

harry 17

Mazameer yearling now with Nikki Evans

crop go to some superb trainers and we will look forward to some very exciting appearances as 2 year olds in 2018.  There is a very exciting Mazameer colt with Nikki Evans and it will be interesting to see how the only colt from Albaasil’s first crop does for Richie Fiddes.  It is becoming a real challenge to keep up with all the horses nowadays, it is only six in total but will double next year – thank goodness for the BHA tracking service!

March was a really busy month for us as we had our foals born throughout the month.  Three colts (Mazameer, Telescope and Cityscape) and a filly (Fast Company).  We subsequently purchased another mare with a filly foal by Heeraat making it 5 foals.  All of them are doing well and growing like crazy.  The grazing here is great for growth and with an additional 20 acres recently acquired, we are able to offer turnout all year, although getting a rug on a stroppy weanling can be fun at times!

On a sad note we lost Los Organos this year.  She was not in foal and whilst she was not

lotty and 15 foal

Los Organos – a sad loss this year

an old horse, it became apparent that the recurrence of her back injury from racing would make life too uncomfortable for her.  She was a lovely mare and is sadly missed.

Happier times later this year as we completed the installation of our all-weather arena and gained planning permission for the horse walker (installing in January 18).  We also


Elegant Joan – racing throughout winter & 2018

launched Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club in the autumn and have a number of members looking forward to the first run of Elegant Joan (Assertive x Fangfoss Girls) for the club at Wolverhampton on 27th December.  She ran twice on turf for the owner who leased her originally, but financial issues meant that she has come back to us.  She will eventually retire to stud with us, and so it is important we give her the very best chance of winning in the meantime.  To become a member of the club (just £80!) please visit our website.

More about the future in the new year, but all that remains for me to say is a big thank you to my wife Sarah, who works 7 days a week to make the place work.  Also to the staff, our professional support including Andy the farrier and Jenny the vet and to our suppliers who work with us to give the horses the best feed and care.

To the horses on the track, and those yet to run, we wish you and your connections success and a safe return.  To our clients and members of the Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club we say thank you for choosing us and may you all have a Merry Christmas and a successful, winning 2018.


Cheltenham or bust?

Those of you that follow my tweets (@stumat) will be aware that I have recently been


Top class racing but is Cheltenham the only real test of a horse?

twittering on about jump racing’s pre-occupation with all things Cheltenham.  There is no denying that the Cheltenham Festival, and indeed this weekend’s pre-Christmas meeting, offers a feast of some of the best National Hunt horses in training.  BUT not all – and to pretend this is the case would degrade the hard work of all the yards who have horses running elsewhere in the country, and all the horses who try their hardest to win.

In my comments, I have tried not to down play the importance of Cheltenham to the racing calendar – I am a fan of the place and the spectacle of racing there, but it seems


My Tent Or Yours wins his first race at Cheltenham  – overcoming The New One

the yard stick used by the racing press and pundits is “but will the horse win at Cheltenham?”.  It was not until today that My Tent or Yours won at Cheltenham, despite having been at the top of the game for many years.  So does that mean he wasn’t a successful and highly rated horse until he succeeded today?  Does it mean that Red Rum was not arguably the best chaser over long distances because none of his wins came at Cheltenham?  Does it mean that the many prolific, hard working trainers yet to win on the Cheltenham stage are somehow “also rans”?


Despite never winning at Cheltenham, Red Rum can hardly be seen as a second rate chaser

Importantly, if NH racing allows everything it does to be distilled down into two weeks of racing at one track in Gloucestershire, then the public will not be interested in the less exciting meetings throughout the rest of the year.  Last Saturday, Doncaster races included two Grade 2’s – and yet it was the under card on the day and had one news item


Less known tracks offer racing as exciting and as good a test for a horse.

all  the preceding week included on the Racing Post app.  By contrast, as far back as last Thursday week, pundits were writing daily about the cold snap and the effect it may have on Cheltenham.  What about Ayr, Newcastle or Uttoxeter who did have meetings called off?  Attendances are low at many jump races, particularly mid-week and it does nothing to help when the impression is that the only way to see exciting racing is to go to Cheltenham – this is clearly not the case but is a perception being projected.   Go to Towcester or Wincanton and all you get is racing akin to non-league football?  Really?

Equally importantly is the perception which owners could mistakenly be given.  Many owners, despite being fans of racing, are increasingly coming from syndicates and, thankfully, newer avenues of introduction into racing.  But if they they are repeatedly told their success is measured in having a Cheltenham horse, then their passion for the game will soon be exhausted by a mid-week placing at Fontwell Park.

National Hunt racing is a great sport – heroic, tragic, exciting and enthralling.  Not just at Cheltenham but anywhere that well trained horses compete, supported by dedicated professionals and committed owners.  Don’t let them tell you it’s Cheltenham or nothing!


Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club Launched

Abacus Bloodstock has launched its new racing club, aimed at offering “full” ownership without the expense.  Many clubs offer low rates of membership, but in return members get a tiny percentage of prize money (more like a dividend), if indeed any is offered; a lottery entry into race day ticket draws; and a few extra perks – none of which constitute a true ownership experience.


ABRC’s first horse – Elegant Joan (Treacle) is a daughter of winner Fangfoss Girls

Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club is different however in as much as it GUARANTEES a raceday ticket for all members with a 5% or greater stake, prize money is not a dividend but paid out in direct proportion to the shareholding, and members can choose shares from 1% and upwards in 5% share allotments.  Prices start from £25 per month with 5% costing just £80.  There are no hidden fees and nothing more to pay.

Stuart Matheson, club manager and co-owner of Abacus Bloodstock, says “As breeders we wanted to offer a way for people to enjoy racing without blowing the bank, and to also benefit from being part of the experience from the birth of a foal, into racing and through to retirement and potentially into the breeding sheds. We will predominantly race our fillies through the club, and with the ‘This Filly Can’ scheme currently in place, the potential prize money is excellent.”

Members can enjoy the full raceday experience as well as additional benefits like social events, regular visits to the stud in Staffordshire, updates on all the horses, and of course trainer visits.  The horses will be leased to the club, meaning costs are low as there are no purchase prices to recoup, and options will be offered on horses upon retirement to the stud as broodmares or stallions.

Stuart went on to say, “So whilst members do not physically own the  race horses, we want to offer members the chance to invest in longer term breeding options once the horses have shown their potential.  It’s a bit like ‘try before you buy’, and it also means that by investing in a horse at an early stage, there is the potential to benefit in the longer term and reap the rewards so often denied club members elsewhere.  A fact we believe is fair and innovative in the world of racing clubs.”

The first horse to run in the club colours is the homebred filly Elegant Joan (known as Treacle), a daughter of Assertive and of Abacus Bloodstock mare Fangfoss Girls.  She is half sister to two multiple winners in Pancake Day (a recent winner in Belgium – The Prix


Group winning trainer David Griffiths

Strasbourg) and Roll on Rory who contested the Windsor Castle Stakes as a 2 year old and has gone on to achieve a rating as high as 93.  Both brothers have won in every year they have raced and been in the money places in more than 60% of their races.  With the mare having a 100% strike rate for producing winners, Treacle is poised to add another winner to the family and will race throughout Winter 2017 and through 2018.  She is in training with group winning trainer David Griffiths.


To become a member please visit the Abacus Bloodstock Racing Club website, or contact us at racing@abacus-bloodstock.co.uk



A Tale of Two Jockeys – Davy & Frankie

It was the best of times, it is the worst of times – so wrote Dickens and it is this


Frankie – a case of “premature jock-elation”

description we could apply to Frankie Dettori’s journey from elation to despair as the photo finish in York’s Nunthorpe Stakes at York this week.  An easy mistake to make when your mount is flying, you are riding a furious finish, and you are mugged by another horse on the blind side.  No fault – just a mistaken belief he had crossed the line first.   This is a man who is one of the best judges of pace, a man who has almost single-handedly dragged racing into the entertainment business it needs to be in order to survive.  His signature flying dismounts; his constant smile, even on bad days; his ability to entertain and communicate with the public – all things we love to see and racing needs to make it more attractive to a new or more diverted audience.  Many people have no interest in racing, but many of them know Dettori – if only from his spell on A Question of Sport, or a regularly heard name when the “once a year” fashionistas attend Royal Ascot.

Yes he has his faults.  He has freely owned up to being a “disappointment” and a “let down” to his family and to his supporters when he was found guilty of drug use, and served an 18 month ban – uncomplaining, making the best of his time off, still a major figure in racing.  He is human, he admits his faults, he knows what Frankie does reflects on racing and so even in adversity he ensures the sport he loves is not harmed.

Yet the vitriol we saw on social media, the ridicule that he suffered both from mainstream press and from some elements of the public when he suffered a nose length defeat this week was terrible.  He could not have fought harder – he lost to a better horse on the day and mistakenly thought he had won – but elements of the Twitterati went for the jugular and ridiculed him for no reason.   I dread to think the poison he received through private messages from punters who lost their bet on the favourite.  It is a poor show for a man who gives so much joy, who rides better now than ever, and who puts others, and his sport, before himself.


Contrast this then with Davy Russell and the infamous Tramore incident.  Thirty-eight year old Russell is a consummate rider, a great ambassador for jump racing both in Britain and Ireland. and a man for whom many of us have a soft spot since he was seemingly dumped by the O’Learys’ Gigginstown outfit as their retained jockey despite


Davy Russell – “very remorseful” but no punishment

giving them some of their biggest wins to date – and at no cheap physical cost to himself.  He has fought back and is rightly revered by punters and by his fellow professionals.  It is for this very reason that his punching a horse deserves more than a warning, as handed out today by the Irish racing regulator.

Rightly there was a Twitter storm on the day, and once again today.  There was no comment from Russell, the stewards did not see the incident, the Irish Turf Club gave a non-committal response to the effect that they would “look into it”, and many racing figures jumped to his defence with the same lack of evidence used by people who were demanding immediate suspension and worse.  At the time, I voiced my concerns that irrespective of whether the horse was hurt or not, irrespective that many of us have been faced with a recalcitrant horse and have lashed out in defence or temper, the images seen on TV and spread across the internet can do nothing but harm the reputation of racing.

It looked ugly, it looked fairly damning, but it needed investigation and it needed action – not immediate but after due process and proportionate in ultimate punishment, if the evidence was indeed as we saw it.  Davy Russell has obviously said he did indeed punch the horse.  Why else would he be quoted by the ITC today as being “remorseful”?  There is no reason for remorse if you did not do something, and if you did then maybe you should make a statement to that effect instead of hiding behind your mates.  One has to ask if he is remorseful for the act or for doing it on TV and being found out.

I am not a wild-eyed animal rights activist.  I am a breeder of horses, a lover of racing and an admirer of those who choose to climb on an animal running as fast as a car – and then jumping a number of 5 foot fences in the case of Davy Russell’s career.  I work daily with these animals from the day they are born and through to when they, hopefully, retire.  I understand they can be thorough-going bastards if they want to be, but I also know that punching them is not the way to change that behaviour or that wrapping them in cotton wool and ignoring it will teach them either.   Firm but fair, tough love.

I have read comments by “horsemen” that it does not hurt a horse to punch it.  Tell that to the head shy horse that has been beaten around the nose and skull.  I have heard that Davy is a great ambassador for the sport and this is out of character – well fine but that if anything means he needs to be dealt with even more severely in order to dissuade those who look up to him that such behaviour is acceptable, or that being a “good guy” will place you above the rules set for others.  But of course, those rules, if they existed in the first place, no longer apply – a precedent is now set.  Worryingly, I had an interaction with a conditional jockey who said he agreed Russell “should have got off with a warning”.  When challenged, he said he knew it was wrong but “everyone makes mistakes.  Yes he was wrong but move on.”  So does that conditional jockey now think he can do the same?  Worse still, does he think he will have a career in racing when the public see this poor response from the industry and decide it is a sport they can no longer follow?

Frankie Dettori was found guilty of drug use – a charge he admitted – and because his reputation invariably meant he brought racing into disrepute, he served a suspension probably higher than average.  He has come back and more than made amends over and over.  Davy Russell punched a horse on live TV, he makes no public statement and admits nothing, he has made the pages of newspapers who long ago stopped printing racing stories and none of this warrants so much as a few days’ suspension?  Cruel? – even if the horse did not suffer it is indeed that.  Disrepute? – you bet!  We don’t want a lynching, we and the wider public just need to see justice and to send a message to others inside and outside racing.  We tell the public that racehorses are looked after better than any other animal.  If we allow even these pampered horses to be punched by professionals,  then what message does that send to the kid with a scraggy pony, or a petulant rider with an equally petulant sports horse?

So whilst the horse appears to have suffered no lasting damage, the same I fear cannot be said for the sport.  We do not help ourselves.  We laugh at heroes and support villains.  We do not understand that even if the horse is not hurt, the sport is.


Abacus expands and invests

It has been a busy Summer so far at our headquarters in Staffordshire.  Since moving into Lower Linbrook in December 2015, the team has been working hard to improve the already excellent facilities.  Initially we had just over 10 acres but in 2016 acquired a 20170723_150907further 5 acres and have just secured another 20 acres of adjoining quality grazing land – bringing our total acreage to just under thirty-five.  Much of this made up of high quality grass, previously used for haylage and the grazing of cattle.  All the fields are surrounded by either thick hedges, or by secure fencing – a combination of post and rail and purpose made stud mesh fencing.  We are favourite customers of the local fencing contractor!

With the increased land, we have now been able to invest in further facilities without having to sacrifice pasture to do so.  In the last week we have just completed the installation of a new all-weather exercise arena, built by Midland Horse Arenas and with a Combi-ride surface suitable for our requirements.  This will allow us to pre-train youngsters, provide on-going and respite training for older horses, increase our sales preparation facilities and develop new skills for retired racehorses.20170721_140717_resized_1

Another innovation has been the installation of 4 large stables in our pole barn to allow the mares and foals to be accommodated after birth and away from the main foaling area.  Our two foaling boxes are each 20 feet by 16 feet and in the main yard, allowing easy access and room to work.

The farm is bristling with the latest CCTV system both for security, and to allow the team to monitor the mares and foals – with cameras covering the foaling boxes, the nursery stables, the yearling barn, main yard, front and rear gates and most of the paddocks.  On a wet day you do not even have to leave the house!

We have an isolation area for horses on restricted grazing, as well as an all weather turn-out with a small shelter for when the weather is nasty.

In the coming weeks we will be installing a 5 horse walker supplied by Monarch to complete the facilities and allow us even more scope for horse preparation, and on-going care.

In order to breed the best horses, you need the best facilities.  We have already seen the benefits of investment simply through the condition and welfare of the horses – if they could smile they would be beaming all day.  We are now able to offer the very best for our own and client horses making Abacus Bloodstock the source of breeding you can count on!


O’Brien – Oh Boy!!


Aiden O’Brien – Master of Ballydoyle

As I write, Aiden O’Brien has seven entries in the Epsom Derby this coming weekend.  SIX of those entries are sired by the currently unassailable Galileo, a stallion seemingly on track to beat even his sire Saddlers Wells’ stud record.  The only Ballydoyle runner not by him is Wings of Eagles – by Pour Moi who’s grandfather was Saddlers Wells.  You see the connection?

Add this to the fact that the four classics to be run in the UK and Ireland thus far in 2017 have ALL been won by O’Brien trained horses, all sired by Galileo!  And all owned by the various partners who also have interests in the seat of this great breeding empire; Coolmore, in Ireland.  It makes sense that when you have access to the best sire in the world, of course you are going to exploit that advantage.  But do not forget that you also need the trainer to get

churchill horse

Churchill ( Galileo)  – a double classic winner for Team Ballydoyle

the horses into the frame.  And boy have they found him in Aiden O’Brien.

No relation to the great Vincent O’Brien who previously oversaw the many successes of the team in the 70’s and 80’s, Aiden has delivered more success than any other trainer currently in business anywhere in the world.  From his training base at Ballydoyle he has consistently won the best races in both the UK and Ireland, but also around the world.

In so doing he has been able to show Galileo, and his sire sons, can produce horses capable of winning over sprint distances as well as marathons.  That makes him not only


Galileo – undisputed champion sire

key to the racing interests of his employers, but also to the continued success of their Coolmore operation throughout the world.

Some say that the grip on the Group races which O’Brien enjoys is unhealthy for racing; that the almost certainty that an O’Brien horse will win every Irish group race (to the extent that a number of races attract an exclusive Ballydoyle field!), and that he looks set, even at this early stage of the UK flat season, to be champion trainer for 2017.

However, it is hardly the fault of O’Brien that there is no Irish trainer other than perhaps Dermot Weld, who can compete at the highest levels on the flat.  Even David Wachman, related to O’Brien through marriage and supplied with a string of horses from Coolmore, gave up his licence last year.  It is more likely a reflection on the issues facing racing in Ireland as a whole not the fault of Team Ballydoyle.  Particularly given the number of trainers from over the water who have given up in the last year alone.  Indeed it is this team which is in all likelihood keeping much of Irish racing in business and of importance to the racing world.  Without this awareness it would not take long for Irish flat racing to suffer the same death throes we are seeing in the increasingly troubled, and less high profile Italian racing scene.  Happily Irish jumps are in a better state but this is seeing a crystallisation with major studs and owners polarising with only a small band of trainers.


Frankel in full flight

In Britain, there are of course trainers and owners who can compete with – and indeed beat- the Ballydoyle / Coolmore steam-roller.  But even these compete with horses who have pedigrees dripping with Galileo and his sons – Frankel, Galileo’s most successful son, being the next most “popular” sire of the 2017 Derby entries!

For me there are a number of trainers who epitomise the characteristics of what a trainer should be.  Yes winners are a good measure, but there is also the ability to talk to


Joseph – a chip off the old block – and with the same quality of humility

the public, to develop a story to follow, to combine passion whilst speaking with humility and professionalism.  And when Aiden O’Brien speaks he does so with all this and more.  He is a real ambassador for Irish, and increasingly International racing.  Never slow to deflect the glory onto his owners, or jockeys or staff he is quietly spoken and avoids any suggestion that his input has had anything to do with it.  Ballydoyle are THE team to beat, from the breeding sheds of Coolmore to the raceday successes – many ridden by the best jockey in the world, Ryan Moore.  Indeed as with the Coolmore stud line, O’Brien himself has bred another successful trainer in his son Joseph – at 24 a Group winning jockey and trainer with the same brand of humility and determination seen in his father.

BUT – as readers may recall from my article back in February, breeders increasingly face a narrowing choice of stallion pedigrees to choose from.  Danehill (Coolmore again) and coolmorehis sire line are cornering the market in sprinters, whilst as mentioned above Galileo and his sire line are competing at the classic distances.  This is where the concern should be focused, not at a trainer who has a gift – albeit with the best bred horses – to deliver winner after winner at the highest level.  As already stated, it makes sense for Coolmore to exploit the successes of Galileo’s offspring but we must not end up with even less choice for breeders, and a gene pool which will inevitably become so shallow that it will jeopardise the future of the thoroughbred racehorse.  Non-Galileo sires are out there and should be used too.   Their success as sires will come with numbers, as they have with Galileo for he too has had his failures on the racecourse, but he has the numbers, and the trainer, to outweigh these.


Finalising the Future – Breeding Plans Confirmed

With all the foals now born, attention now turns to where the mares go next for the next generation.  It’s an exciting time as we study form books, stud books and sales statistics to decide the best mix for our mares.

So 2017 for foals to be born in 2018 it is about reading the future; how will the current


Albaasil (Dansili) – a return visit for Littlemoor Lass

crop of the chosen stallion affect the future crops? Who is going to be the “hot” sales prospect in 2 or 3 years time? How does the stallions “book” look (how many mares and of what quality are visiting him)?  And finally, and most importantly what is best for the mares and the foals?  Decision to foaling is 11 months – decision to sales can be 36 months or more.  Get those crystal balls out!

For Abacus Bloodstock our decisions are based firstly on best pedigree mix in the hope that if you breed the best mix, the rest will fall into place.  So our plans for this year are as follows:


Fangfoss Girls to visit Garswood

Multiple winner Fangfoss Girls, daughter of Monsieur Bond and dam to two multiple winners from her first two crops will visit Garswood.  Seven year old Garswood stands at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket and won Gr1. Maurice de Gheest and the Gr2. Lennox Stakes. His trainer Richard Fahey states “He is definitely the fastest horse I’ve ever trained”.  He is a son of multiple group winner Dutch Art and a perfect outcross for the Danehill/ Northern Dancer line.  Without doubt we will get a sprinter with speed stamped in all four branches of the prospective foal’s pedigree.

The beautiful Littlemoor Lass, an unraced daughter of Motivator and steeped in classy racing blood, will visit Dansili’s son Albaasil.  This will be her second visit to the stallion, having produced a colt foal by him in 2016.  Albaasil stands in Yorkshire with our good friend Ritchie Fiddes and has consistently produced good stock – the first of which will race in 2018.  The previous foal was genetically tested as a “C:C long” meaning a sprinter miler type, so we hope that we will see the same again this time.

Makindi, daughter of Makbul and dam of three foals so far will visit Cityscape again this


Multi-Group winning Cityscape

year; the son of Selkirk, formerly trained by Roger Charlton holds the track record at Meydan and is a multiple group winner.  Indi  gave birth to a colt by him earlier in April and we are so impressed by him it was a no-brainer to go back to him.  Makindi will be 18 next year and so this may be her last foal for us as we like to give the horses a retirement before they hit their 20’s.  As ever that plan is open to change but we feel certain that the foal for next year will provide us with a fantastic future racehorse with a quality pedigree.

We will update you all with the pregnancy results in the next few weeks.

New Beginnings at Lower Linbrook

April is perhaps the most exciting time of the year for us all in the bloodstock and racing industry.  Not only are we seeing the start of the turf season here in Europe and


Littlemoor Lass with her 2017 filly by Fast Company – born 12th April

therefore the appearance of the youngsters we have bred in previous years -including the 2 year olds, but we are also at the culmination of the breeding cycle with new foals being born, and the mares visiting their next stallion.


All the work of researching pedigrees, choosing the best match for the mares, seeing all the theory actually become flesh and blood reality – whether as healthy foals here at the stud, or the

equine athletes we hoped they would be as they step foot for the first time on a racecourse – is happening right now here at Lower Linbrook Farm and across the industry.  So for that “aah how cute” moment here are our new arrivals.


Another colt foal – this time a son for Makindi by record breaker Cityscape born 17th April – 2 in one day!



Colt Foal born 17th April Mazameer x Rainbows Destiny




Fangfoss Girls has a colt by first season sire Telescope – born 8th April

And the job never stops as we are now finalising our plans for coverings this year, for the 2018 crop.  Once again this has been based on scouring pedigrees and stallion books as well as looking at the commercial and racing value of prospective sires.  So one set of sleepless nights ends and another one starts as we try to fit in the stallion visits before the middle of May to ensure reasonably early and therefore commercially attractive foals.

But as with everything we do, it is done with a sense of excitement and that we are writing another chapter in the history of the racing thoroughbred.  Good luck to all the owners of our horses this season – we will be following with great interest.