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Bruce's Blog – April (wk 4) 2008

The exditing three-year-old filly Infallible before her impressive Nell Gwynn Stakes (Gr 3) win.
The exditing three-year-old filly Infallible before her impressive Nell Gwynn Stakes (Gr 3) win.

Last Blog from Cheveley Park
Blog 4- 5/4/2008-25/4/2008

Cheveley Park Stud

Wow, this is really nearly the end. One week to go, and so much is planned over the next seven days to round-off the management skills and knowledge I have acquired here, whilst rounding-up my time here in sunny England. So expect my next piece to introduce you to the emerald green grass of Ireland, but also to touch on my time spent in my last week here with the Cheveley Park yearling team lead by John Marsden, as well as notes on pasture management and planning matings thanks to Chris Richardson and John Marsh.

Forget all of the above if one of our star fillies, Infallible (Pivotal) or Spacious (Nayef), gets up in the 1000 guineas on Sunday the 4th of May at Newmarket racecourse. In that case the next piece will be dedicated to a special filly, a special race and a very special day for Cheveley Park (and me) - their first homebred to secure the classic. It is so exciting to be on the fringe of this marvellous CP achievement. Namely, two fancied runners (3rd and 4th favourites) in the 2008 version of the 3yo fillies' classic, and both planned, born, raised and owned by CP Stud. Respect. But could we all be on the fringe of something even bigger?? Cross fingers, touch wood, kiss frogs.

Craven Meeting- Newmarket- Rowley Mile Racecourse
To familiarise myself with the Rowley Mile racecourse and facilities before Guineas Weekend I made sure I attended the first day of the Craven Meeting(April 16th), which was also happened to be the first bit of racing in Newmarket this season.

I arrived on course to be greeted by a large state-of-the-art grandstand, well maintained gardens, life size bronze statues and a beautiful saddling-up enclosure and parade ring.. and there I was suit, tie, black polished shoes, enclosure tickets provided by Annie Richardson, sharp NZ accent, race book and a big dirty grin that I could just not get rid of for the entirety of the day. I really thought it was heaven, but then it just got better and better.

The racing highlight of the day was the Nell Gwynn Stakes(Gr3) for3yo fillies over 7f, a key lead up to the 1000 guineas to be staged on the same track three and a half weeks later. We (Cheveley Park- come on let me just claim it while I am here, it's only ten weeks were represented by Infallible(Pivotal x Irresistible(Cadeaux Genereaux)) who was making her seasonal debut after winning her maiden impressively at the same course as a 2yo.

The notes in my race book read as follows: Infallible- quality head and eye, average size, correct, tracks perfect, walks behind herself a bit, lovely and loose through the shoulder.

She donned the now famous red silks, with the white sash and 'mare and foal' on the collar, and blue cap of Mr and Mrs Thompson.

I backed her with my heart and she started up close enough to favourite after a late but strong push from the punters. John Gosden trained, Jimmy Fortune ridden, and drawn 3 Infallible jumped out slowly(not to plan) ensuring that Fortune's only real option was to drop her out the back door. Her position seemed increasingly gloomy as the jockeys in the front bunch started dictating terms, and thus a slow race pace ensued.. 3 furlongs out, Infallible looms up, TOF(turn of foot) and she's OFF.. left them standing, buried them, picked them up and dropped them, my lone kiwi accent was bellowing INFALLIBLE- GO GIRL- GO YOU GOOD THING- YOU LITTLE BEAUTY, whilst the punters situated around me jumped up and erupted into Jimmy Fortune praise. The slow pace was evident with the leading bunch filling the minor placings(2nd Kylane was of course by Pivotal's son Kyllachy who also stands at Cheveley Park), which made her effort that much more impressive- she blew them away by 3 and a half lengths.

Getting back to earth after that didn't happen, and cloud 9 became cloud 10 in the penultimate race on the card. Cheveley Park turn it on again, their only other runner for the day, Virtual(Pivotal x Virtuous(Exit to Nowhere) thus a ¾ brother to CP resident 2nd season sire Iceman, a 3yo bay colt comes out and stamps his own guineas ambitions with a dominant front running performance in the 3yo maiden over 7f again. My notes on Virtual were as follows: Relaxed demeanour, correct, good bone, very athletic, balanced, masculine- more so than Iceman.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The prize money of every race on the card was raced for by blue bloods and no doubt I would have witnessed colts on this day that make their way to NZ for stallion careers in the future. Guineas Weekend is going to be superb, cannot wait.

Tattersall's- Craven Breeze Up sale
CPS stud manager Andrew Snell and stud groom Dale Clements have been wonderful to me here in England. Their flexibility has enabled me to absorb so much in my 10 weeks here, with my requests always being answered with Andrew's typically warm "yeah, go ahead mate, no problem". One such request was a couple of afternoons off to catch up with Jason Singh, marketing manager for Tattersall's, a contact kindly provided by Susan Archer.

Jason, born in Malaysia, developed one of the first thoroughbred internet sites when he was based in Australia some ten years ago... talk about ground breaking. Jason now steers the marketing department of the most prestigious thoroughbred auctioneering company in the world, Tattersall's. With my management/marketing degree in tow I set off to meet Jason, and to grill him with 1000 question so that I could take away as much as possible from the time he had set aside for me.

Our first meeting was over lunch, and Simon Thompson of Thompson and Barnes was also there fortunately for me. Simon does all the advertising for Tattersall's and The National Stud, as well as other clients, along with running probably the most up to date world thoroughbred racing and breeding website/database in www.thoroughbredinternet.com. Their insights into British racing and breeding, auctions, future market places, contemporary marketing practices, innovative marketing ideas etc were fantastic, and I left lunch fully contented. My second afternoon off was spent kindly being given a tour of the Tattersall's sales grounds by Jason, along with the magnificent history of the place a few days before selling began in the record-breaking Craven breeze-up sale.

It was fantastic to catch a sale at this world renowned venue. I was there, along with Sheikh Mohammed, John Ferguson, Michael Tabor, Charlie Gordon-Watson, Luca Cumani, Sir Michael Stoute... and the list just goes on. I have seen pictures of these immortals, read their stories, browsed their websites, the whole bang shoot, and now Sheikh Mohammed stands next to me in the outside parade ring, not as tall as I had envisaged, but boy I am just as honoured. One day soon your highness, I quietly thought to myself, I hope we are standing in a similar position at Karaka's outside parade ring casting our eyes over potential stars of the track.

Overall, to be honest I think the sale lacked the 'theatre' and energy of the auctions I have been involved in/witnessed around Australasia, but the big priced lots still brought that unique hush in the auditorium, along with anxious and excited whispers. Thankfully I was not required to fulfil my usual role of bid-spotter on this particular occasion, as I very much doubt that I would have been able to hold my tongue whilst trying to indicate a bid to the auctioneer with just my flailing limbs.

I would have yelled, bellowed and caused all kinds of shock, mayhem and perhaps disgust amongst the racing fraternity gathered. At the end of the day however the lack of theatre didn't affect the great success of the Craven breeze-up sale for vendors and Tattersall's alike. Top price came 5 lots from the end, 540,000 guineas for a Mr Greeley(whose progeny were very well received throughout the sale) filly.

Stallion Unit and Serving Barn
The stallion team: Left to Right- Dale Clements(Stud Groom), John, Ricky and Pau
The stallion team: Left to Right- Dale Clements(Stud Groom), John, Ricky and Pau

This is a high pressure piece for me. I have been in the bad books with the stallion boys for some time after previous blog posts talking up stallions from Shadwell, to Darley, and Juddmonte. I have been receiving the cold shoulder from head stallion man John Rice and his trusty sidekicks Ricky and Paul(Shaggy- after his resemblance to the hippy character from Scooby-Doo), along with the odd snarky comment. To keep the Irishman(Johnny), Scotsman(Ricky) and the Englishman(Paul)(yeah you all know the joke about the...) off my back I have been promising this piece for some time, but it was always going to feature somewhere along the line as the stallions stabled here at Cheveley Park breed success, and thus they are paramount to the stud's success.

I often help out in the serving barn for the night covers (8pm onwards), again to gain insight into the successful practices implemented by CP management. When you consider that daily the serving barn generates no less than around 250,000 pounds of revenue from service fees alone, you soon realise the importance of safe systems and great staff(the boys will enjoy that). I would describe the Cheveley Park serving barn as structured, well co-ordinated, and overall quite relaxed really. You get some real characters through this area of the farm with many visitors from all over Britain.

One of my favourite visitors so far would have to be Willie Carson(the Queen's jockey), his wife and their numerous Jack Russell type dogs who all travel the 300 mile journey in the front of the horse box. As you can imagine, on arrival, the dogs are ready for the toilet stop and are 'let loose' to relieve themselves, mark new territory, explore, and occasionally bark and nip at unsuspecting stallion men(as Ricky found out, ha-ha). Mr Carson is a great character, with loads of fabulous stories of races, horses, and people of yester year, and what a great treat it was to listen in on some of his colourful past.

Visitors travel from far and wide to use the services of the Cheveley Park Stallions. The Stud's focus on breeding speed is clearly evident within their roster, as is their confidence in their own home-bred stallions, and the trust they hold in the Nureyev sire line(a stallion that Chris Richardson personally looked after at stud in America).

This strategy/stance has clearly been justified given CP's high standing position amongst Europe's leading breeders. Below is a quick description on each stallion as I have come to know them over the last 9 weeks.

PIVOTAL (Polar Falcon)- 85,000 pounds-Oozes class, power and masculinity. He's good and he knows it. Leaves foals with real substance, great quarters and you know a Piv when you come across one- he is dominant. He ticks my every box.
Bruce with Cheveley's Champion Stallion Pivotal.  (Note the stallion handler's off-set knees!)
Bruce with Cheveley's Champion Stallion Pivotal. (Note the stallion handler's off-set knees!)

MEDICEAN (Machiavellian)- 30,000 pounds- Stands over ground, athletic and comes with a great length of rein. Very kind in nature, with a much publicised great temperament for racing. A real character, whose progeny's good success can only be escalated over the next few years after covering a fantastic couple of quality books over the last two seasons.

KYLLACHY (Pivotal)- 12,000 pounds- named after a famous grouse hunting spot(moor??) in Scotland. He is built like a bull, powerful, and his superb turn of foot saw him capture the Gr1 Nunthorpe over 5f, just like dad. Leaves natural running and early maturing stock which has seen him find great favour with breeders.

DUTCH ART (Medicean)-10,000 pounds- A first season sire whose dominant race track performance at 2(2xGR1) and 3 yrs(2nd in the July Cup) saw him retire at 4yrs to an outstanding first book of quality mares. One word- Athlete. Temperamentally takes after dad, Dutchie is a real dude, relaxed and professional in the breeding shed.

ICEMAN (Polar Falcon)- 5,000 pounds- 2nd season sire whose first crop foals are exceptional, they really are. Real 2yo types(like himself), natural muscle with a real touch of his quality, all of them. Expect them to come early and plan to have a yearling from his 2nd crop come sales time- you will be sitting very pretty, and also quite smug.

WHERE OR WHEN (Danehill Dancer)-6,000 pounds- two crops of racing age(only just) and he has already left a dual stakes winner. Outstanding racehorse but needs that flag bearer before the commercial boat sails.

CARNIVAL DANCER (Sadler's Wells)-4,000 pounds- In a similar position to Where or When. Leaves a racehorse but needs that flag bearer to make breeders take note. So much character which I got to experience firsthand when looking after him for a day whilst in the stallion yard. We had a ball... he ate(he loves his food) and I groomed diamonds onto his hind quarter- very smart.

Conclusion
Cheveley Park, set in the heart of the thoroughbred, your land and facilities are immaculate, your people astute and good fun. Thanks for having me, for giving me knowledge and skills for life and hopefully a rewarding career. Mostly, however, I have received from you very itchy feet, itchy to the bone. Never have I felt more motivated, never have I thought so big, and with Coolmore and Taylor Made still to come, I really just hope this momentum is sustained.
Speak to you next from Ireland,
Keep well all.
Bruce