O’Brien – Oh Boy!!

Aidan-OBrien-1

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_entrance_web

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

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-OBrien

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-photo-300x225

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:

garswood

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

cityscape

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

20170415_120454

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.

20170417_112730

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

 

20170417_230916_resized

Colt Foal born 17th April Mazameer x Rainbows Destiny

 

 

1LTP

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.

Pancake Day – First out of the stalls

In the first of our look at the Abacus Bloodstock bred runners for 2017, it is only right that we start with our first runner and winner as breeders –  Pancake Day.  Born in February 2012, on Pancake Day, his name was almost assured from that day.  His dam is successful sprinter Fangfoss Girls, who as a double

cropped-finn-solo-lady-cats-029.jpg

Pancake with his dam as a foal

winning 2 year old was her father Monsieur Bond’s first winner.  She was always going to be a good choice to kick off our breeding program and so she has proven to be.

 

Pancake Day is the son of Mullionmileanhour and part of that sire’s first season crop.  He was to go on to copy his dam and deliver his father’s first winning 2 year old – and then to do the same as a three year old, a four year old, and earlier this year he did the same as a five year old!  That in itself is a massive feat and probably unique in the thoroughbred racing world.

DSCF4225

A day old – born on Pancake Day

As a foal, Pancake was a placid type.  He was very friendly and loved a fuss – something which was to prove a massive boost to his career as a racehorse.  Stable staff and trainers like nice horses with manners and indeed Pancake proved so easy to train that it was only when he reached the end of his fourth year that he was gelded – and then only because it made him easier to house next to fillies rather than for any behavioural reasons.

 

cropped-wsd-097_edited-11.jpg

Delivering another win at Southwell in the colours of Abacus Bloodstock owners Stuart & Sarah Matheson

Initially trained in Yorkshire by Jason Ward and running in the colours of our senior partners Stuart & Sarah Matheson, Pancake Day made his debut at Ripon coming last behind subsequent group 2 winner Toocoolforschool.  Not the most promising of starts but as it was to prove, Pancake would go on win his ninth race earler this year – scraping into his 2 year old season by just a few days with a first win at Southwell in December 2014 – and race in the UK a total of 42 times.  24 runs on the all weather have yielded 4 wins, 3 seconds and 3 third places – in the money 14 times in total.  His turf runs totalled 18 and led to one win at Leicester, one third and a further 4 runs in the prize money.  In total Pancake has won over £18000 in the UK and was the punters’ favourite due to his frequent placings and wins – particularly at his favoured track Southwell – returning each way dividends in over half his runs. Having moved to new trainer David Griffiths in November 2016, and winning yet again, he was sold at Doncaster sales in January of 2017 and travelled to Germany to join champion trainer Christian von der Recke, and owned by Mr. & Mrs. Berg.  Within 10 days he was to come third at Dortmund followed by a second place a few weeks later.  Another first for Pancake Day as his sire’s first overseas runner and also the first horse bred by Abacus Bloodstock to do so.

 

Pancake Day continues to be a great favourite with everyone who meets him.  He has proved

pferde_132

Enjoying his new German home

consistent, albeit not at the highest levels, but he has given his owners regular visits to the winners’ enclosure.  He has led the way for us at Abacus Bloodstock, and has remained the genuine, never-say-die racehorse he shows himself to be in all his races.  His tenacity and fight to the line, usually leading from the front, is a pleasure to watch and we are so proud of this little horse, with a massive heart.  Still going strong with 45 races in just three seasons, we await his return to the track after a well deserved rest in the last few months.

 

Good luck to him and to his owners and connections.  We will watch with pride and much love.

 

 

2017 Flat season looking busy for Abacus bred horses

Cheltenham Festival is over, the Grand National field is taking shape, and as the clocks skip an hour in a week it can only mean we are fast approaching Lincoln day and the start of the 2017 flat turf season.

pferde_132

Pancake Day – our first overseas runner

Not that there has been a lack of runners over the winter, with Pancake Day, our first ever winner, continuing to impress in his new home over in Germany with the von de Recke stable.  Another Abacus bred is Diamond Princess who has failed to fire in her 2 year old season and on the all-weather, but will hopefully find her way as she turns 3.  You can’t win them all!

 

 

As we go into the season there are 7 horses facing the judge in the UK and Pancake Day, after a deserved rest, will return to the racecourses of Germany.  The highest rated is the full brother of Pancake; Roll on Rory.  Both sons of sprint mare Fangfoss Girls, they are bred with her speed and tenacity coupled with the physical presence of their sire, Mullionmileanhour.  It is a shame for the stallion that he has not been used more and his future in the breeding sheds is under threat.  “Rory” remains in training with Jason Ward and runs for a syndicate of guys including first time owners.  They must feel very lucky to own a 95+ rated horse with a 40% win rate as their first horse – indeed they have invested in other horses so we are proud to have encouraged another new owner into the world of racing.

Over the coming weeks we will be showcasing the 8 to watch, including three very exciting 2 year olds.  Keep an eye out for our in depth focus on the first of them in the next few days.

Meantime catch up with our website : abacus-bloodstock.co.uk

 

Don’t Exceed to Excel

With the breeding season about to start, it is timely to take a look at the growing number of “speed” sires now available to breeders, a large number of which come from two sires of sires;   Exceed and Excel (Danehill – Patrona) and Invincible Spirit (Green Desert – Rafha).

There is no denying that both horses deserve their place as top stallions, and the resulting

exceed_0001_thoroughbred_stallion_in_paddock

Exceed & Excel – standing @ Darley

male progeny in turn also can lay claim to their positions in the world’s breeding barns given their prestigious wins.  The worry however is that the very success that attracts mare owners to sires – multiple top class winners – also threatens to flood the market with bloodlines of ever narrowing diversity.  Invincible Spirit has himself and 12 stallion sons at stud (ref Weatherby’s Stallion Book 2017), whilst Exceed and Excel has 8.  This excludes those standing outside the UK, US and Europe and those who choose not to use the Stallion Book to     advertise..  The same source tells us that 18 sons of Galileo can be visited.

A perfect storm

From a breed perspective this proliferation of horses from the  Northern Dancer line has long been an issue but one which has been counteracted by using mares with no connection to this great sire-line, or with a healthy mix of stallions providing an outcross.

Certainly these opportunities still exist with new stallions only this year including Pearl Secret (Compton Place)  – one of only a few remaining descendants of foundation stallion

pearl-secret-med-1

Pearl Secret – one of few remaining descendants of Byerley Turk

The Byerley Turk.  BUT the issue facing the industry today is the result of a cocktail of circumstances which can only lead to a perfect storm.

  1. Speed v. Stamina – As mentioned by trainer John Gosden before the 2016 St. Leger, the lack of good middle distance horses is threatening the long term future of the breed.  Speed in middle distance is important of course but this has increasingly been bred to produce speed over shorter
    gosden

    John Gosden

    distances, rather than the careful mix of “fast and durable”.  It is for this reason that Dubawi and Galileo, perhaps the only consistent producers of classic distance horses, seem to hold the top spots in the sire lists by prize money and are the go to horses for breeders wishing to produce classic hopefuls.

  2. Sales Demand – Top lots seem to continue to come from the ranks of classic producing sires but for breeders without £100K to spend on a covering, the market offers lower priced stallions with some credentials as winning progeny producers.  In turn, the rising cost of training a racehorse coupled with proportionately lower prize money in mid to low range races (class 4 and below being the largest proportion of UK races), means that purchasers want precocity – which for the reasons above invariably means sprinters.
  3. Reduction in owner breeder numbers – The rising costs of breeding and training means many breeders can no longer afford to do both.  Historically breeders have had more time to play with and of course more patience in getting their mares’ progeny to deliver winners even if it takes longer for them to achieve that.  After all the long game is the success of the mare, not just her racing offspring.    This is not the case when the mix and type of ownership is changing. Shared owners, particularly success hungry, value for money, quick return on investment syndicate or  racing club members want to see success in the fairly short term of the syndicate.  This is generally a year or two of racing and then straight to the sales ring.  As such the type of horse has to be precocious, race often, win and have a residual value at the end of its 3 year old season if it is lucky.  That means as a stud owner breeding that type of horse if you want to make even a small profit – and where better to go to than a proven stallion at a cheap fee.
  4. Mediocre Pattern winners – There are a record number of pattern races in 2017 in the UK.  Many of these are little more than handicaps made up to look better than they really are.  Trainer Tom Dascombe said that it is harder to win a 0 – 100 handicap than some Group 3 races, and as a result a stallion which would have historically not made the grade is now able to stand as a Group winner.  Add this to being a close relation to a proven sire of sires and we have a market flooded by stallions which have no business being at stud, but offer the market a chance of success “by association”.  A prime example being two horses currently standing in Britain – one of which a full brother to Frankel which failed miserably in his ONE racecourse appearance, and the other, whilst a beautifully put together specimen, covered over 100 mares in his first season despite winning only a maiden and a listed sprint before retiring at 2! – both yet again from the Northern Dancer sire-line, but neither of whom would have been considered as stallion prospects 10, or even 5 years ago.  Indeed at the recent TBA stallion parade at Tattersalls, only 1 of the stallions on show had achieved a Group 1 win!
  5. Shuttlers – The world is an ever smaller place and with the major studs having global interests, it is increasingly common to see stallions from the Southern Hemisphere standing in Europe.  Certainly the Exceed & Excel group of stallions has therefore got double the exposure that other stallions had in the past.  As such, his sons are able to spread the dynasty far quicker and wider than preceding dynasties such as Saddlers Wells and even Northern Dancer.

Storing problems for the future

I feel certain that some readers will be upset by some of the comments, but the situation is in a way no one person’s fault.  Indeed anyone in business has to make the most of market demand and return on investment.  Whilst the issue may not be immediately apparent however, it certainly will become so in the next few years when we are left with a choice of stallions all of whom are inter-related.  Not only will this lead us to seeing the type of races common in Australia and elsewhere with 5 furlongs to a mile being a majority of races and anything over 10 furlongs seen as a marathon, but it will invariably damage the thoroughbred as a breed.  In-breeding is not something I personally steer entirely clear of, but I do make selections based on what is best for the pedigree of the offspring, not what will sell.  Although a major consideration has to be a return on investment, it should not be the primary concern.  But as the choice of stallion narrows, so will the resulting next generation of sires and mares and the healthy if diminishing sprinkling of outcross pedigrees we see today will be a thing of the past.  Not only that, but the racehorse will become a lesser animal.  A clone of its predecessors and the result of a poorer gene pool.  As breeders, as owners, as race-goers and as animal lovers we all need to look at where we are now and look also at the evidence.  Class is in the proven stallions producing horses that train on and run at classic distances.  Champion trainers win titles not at a 5 furlong seller at Southwell but at York or Ascot or Epsom, running horses with classic bloodlines, owned invariably by owners with time to let them progress.

I love breeding fast horses – indeed our best mare is an out and out sprinter producing sprinters.  But they also train on to 7 furlongs and then further.  We have also put her to Telescope and await the foal any day. Why you may ask?  Because we do want speed and precocity most certainly, but also because the heady mix of Danehill and Galileo lines was

horse_telescope-big

Galileo’s son – Telescope

the best for the mare and the best for the foal – and hopefully will add some endurance to the speed.  We could have gone to Dark Angel or Outstrip, or any other guaranteed sprint maker,  and probably made a killing in a few years, but we live in hope that quality will shine through and someone will see the value in our approach and enjoy running a horse bred on its merits as an athlete and potential winner, not on its potential selling price.  After all its easy to see the cost of everything, not so easy to see the value.

Abacus bred horse in first sale of 2017

Abacus Bloodstock bred Pancake Day (Mullionmileanhour x Fangfoss Girls) featured in the first day of sales at the recent Goffs UK Doncaster HIT sale.  The 5 year old was the first foal of multiple two year old winning mare Fangfoss Girls and

wsd-097_edited-1

Pancake delivers another win @ Southwell

sired by the debut sire Mullionmileanhour.  Pancake Day was the stallion’s first 2 year old winner and has gone on to be the first winner for him at 3, 4 and 5 following a win at his favourite track Southwell on 10th January.

He was sold to German owners Anja & Phillipp Berg at a bargain price and will be trained

cropped-finn-solo-lady-cats-029.jpg

Pancake Day as a foal with mum Fangfoss Girls

by Christian von der Recke.  Christian has been champion trainer in Germany on both the flat and over jumps on many occasions.  Pancake could not be in better hands as he delivers another first for his sire, his dam and for us at Abacus Bloodstock in becoming the first to race overseas.

Pancake Day was raced by Stuart Matheson, director of Abacus Bloodstock,  initially and then was purchased by Trojan Racing partnership.  He has delivered wins every year and his place scores are consistently high.  And to say he is tough is an understatement with him running 42 times with 5 wins (12%), seven 2nds or 3rds (17%) and a massive 45% times in the money!  He was trained first by Jason Ward and then by David Griffiths.  Winning over £18k, the amount is more a reflection of the poor prize money available rather than his success on the racecourse.  A new career in Germany will hopefully see better returns in this respect.  We sincerely wish his new connections the very best of luck as he runs his first race at Dortmund on 4th February.  Keep up with his exploits on our website.

His full brother Roll on Rory, now a four year old, has been an even better performer and is yet another trailblazer for connections: first stakes horse, highest rated and best wins to runs ratio (36%).  He has also been placed 3 times and been in the money in 72% of his runs.  Despite being a full brother, Rory has performed best on turf and is the current holder of Mussleburgh’s Royal Scots Cup.  More on him when he starts his 2017 turf campaign…….

New Year – New Blog

Welcome abacus-logo

Hello and welcome along to our blog & news site.  We hope you will keep up to date with all our developments at Abacus Bloodstock, as well as enjoy our take on the world of horse racing, breeding and life in general – although when you have horses that kind of IS your life!

2017 so far

lower-linbrook-oak

Linbrook Oak

The year has started with continued work on the farm.  We moved into Lower Linbrook Farm in December 2015 and have been developing it into a top stud facility since.  At least the horses are used to tractors and diggers – so the yearlings have gone off to their training fairly bomb proof at least.

New additions include a new 4 stable block to accommodate the mares and foals once they are moved out of the foaling boxes.  We have also invested in stud fencing and re-fenced and ditched the hedge borders around the property, as well as installed improved drainage.  Next phase will be a walker and all-weather area for backing and sales preparation – all work and meantime lots of moving piles of mud from one place to another.

Horses

In the last few months we have sent yearlings (now 2 year olds)  to new owners with trainers including Kevin Frost and Mark Usher. One of them is the half sister to our two

dscf5369

Assertive x Fangfoss Girls filly – half sister to prolific winning brothers.

most prolific produce Pancake Day and Roll on Rory.  Very exciting times!  Good luck to all connections and thanks for choosing Abacus Bloodstock.

We have also had lots of demand for our 2016 foals and all but one has been purchased already.  They are currently growing well  in their new homes – including the first and only colt foal for Ritchie Fiddes’ stallion Albaasil and a stunning colt by Mawatheeq who will go to Iain Jardine in 2018.

Foals due soon

We have 4 foals due this year – all in March – and these are really exciting prospects.  Sires include new boy Telescope, Irish super stallion Fast Company (now with Darley), Mazameer and UAE record holder Cityscape.

 Of course we will keep you up to date with developments.