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Bruce's Blog – May 2008

Coolmore's Henrythenavigator  being led back to scale after winnning the English 2000 Guineas
Coolmore's Henrythenavigator being led back to scale after winnning the English 2000 Guineas

Bruce makes it to Ireland

Coolmore Stud, Ireland

Ireland as I know it
Part two of my very own three part series and I have arrived in Ireland, sun blazing(it has hardly rained since I have been here) and grass as green as reported and confirmed by the many Irish natives and visitors I have met over my 22 years of life. So the green of the emerald Isle was expected but the sheer lushness of this place is what really blew me away. Each grass blade, each leafy branch, and every blooming flower seems double-thick here; metaphorically this country is as fertile as Danehill was in the breeding shed, its libido always up for productivity. I was lucky enough to take in the country (well Coolmore via Dublin, Athboy and Killarney) with fellow NZer Jo-Anne Clarke who I joined on the first day of her Ireland scenic tour after we both flew into Dublin on the Monday after the great guineas weekend at Newmarket's Rowley Mile. This allowed me to do a few touristy type things like visit all the old castles along the way and of course take happy snaps, that don't look staged, but invariably reveal themselves. We both couldn't help but notice that every spare bit of land around villages, or blocks of houses, always accommodated the odd few mares and foals. Horses really are a part of the Irish landscape and after spending more and more time here I have come to quickly realise that, unlike anywhere I have been before, the horse in Ireland really is a part of the Irish people, their culture, and a large part of their economy also.

Coolmore
Coolmore has been a pretty special place for me in terms of nurturing my love of thoroughbred racing and breeding, so upon arrival it is fair to say I had well formed perceptions of what it would be like, and it is fair to say that my expectations were high as I have always put Coolmore on a pedestal. My passion for thoroughbreds grew when I spent time on my uncle's stud farm, Valley Stud, during my early teens. Uncle John fed me the importance of pedigree knowledge and I devoured every page and text that he put in front of me.

My very first introduction to pedigrees was through the annual glossy Coolmore brochure that John would pick up at the Easter broodmare sale each year (The first one I remember was the 1996 edition with Thunder Gulch winning the Kentucky Derby on the front). The big race pictures, the outstanding proven and potential sires, the people behind the big names, the staff, the poetry, the tales... the Coolmore brochure had it all for me and I really do believe it played a part in my 'catching of the bug'. So as you can imagine I was extremely nervous, yet excited at the same time, to finally be a part of Coolmore, the farm I have championed for so much in the past. Above I spoke about Ireland's lushness, fertility, and of the importance of the horse to the Irish people and to be honest I cannot think of a place or an organisation that reflects these Irish elements in a more beautifully organised fashion than the Coolmore portrayal. Clean, thick pasture isolated by horse-safe post and rail fencing finished in fresh paint, just like the blue and white gates that mark each entry/exit point of every paddock. Beech trees line one side of the lane ways, each of equal distance a part from each other and away from the fence. A thick green box hedge opposes the conforming trees on the other side of the road, all kept at a smart height and healthy width. Functional barns and yards accompany their own set of fields, and each receives a title usually after thoroughbred immortals who have graced Coolmore paddocks or after previous owners of the land which Coolmore now encompass'. Unlike Cheveley Park, the equine flesh which grazes happily here are not all owned privately by Mr John Magnier. Mares fly, float, boat, or 'walk-in' from all over Ireland, Europe and America to stallions at the Coolmore Ireland premises, and for good reason.

Coolmore stallions as we all know, thanks to the fantastic marketing team, are a gathering place for some of the world's best sires and best sire prospects spear-headed by the European champ, Sadler's Wells... an embarrassment of riches really but I will touch on the stallions in a later post, once I have met them all.

The Welcome
Coolmore's area manager Tom Lynch and human resource manager Deirdre Coffey have been fantastic in settling me in to the Coolmore way of life. Deirdre has made sure that I am all kitted out for work (including my soon to arrive Coolmore jacket with my name embroided on it.. you beauty) and that I have transport in the form of my very own pink and grey ladies bike to get around on for my 10 week stint (last in last served which is plenty fair enough).. Ha-ha... I will have to count on my masculinity to dismiss any misleading rumours J. Tom has been brilliant. Straight forward is how I would describe Tom in the answering of my barrage of questions and in guiding me with practical horsemanship tips and suggestions. According to Tom I have big shoes to fill in living-up to the high levels of horsemanship displayed by previous scholarship winners and New Zealanders in general. This I thought was a great compliment to those who have gone before me and a testament to the great horsemanship of New Zealanders in general. Great pride was felt on my part with just a hint of panic... I after all don't want to let the team down. Anyway, I know that I will be given every opportunity to excel and gain knowledge as Tom has been very proactive in getting all his ambitious/passionate staff members a wide variety of experience(the nurturing of Coolmore staff members that I have heard so much about has been prevalent in my first two weeks here).

So far I have visited Castle Hyde Stud near Cork(where the Coolmore empire began for Mr John Magnier), and the Fethard equine vet hospital (state of the art veterinary surgery and laboratory which services Coolmore mainly) where we were given a talk by John Egan on disease prevention, and then given a tour of the incredible facility by Niall O'Riardon. All that on top of seeing the likes of Rock Of Gibraltar, Holy Roman Emperor, Aussie Rules, High Chaparral, One Cool Cat, Westerner, Ad Valorem, Oratorio, Dylan Thomas, Excellent Art, Hawk Wing and Peintre Celebre in the breeding barn.

Tid bits and bats from around the place

1. Coolmore float driver Michael, who incidentally started working for Coolmore in 1981, which he confirms is the same year that Sadler's Wells was born, has never seen the grass brown off at Coolmore. I found that unbelievable, and further he could not recall any major flooding or other natural disasters which speaks volumes for the moderate climate here which the horses clearly enjoy.

2. When I pushed stallion manager Michael Phelan to name the Danehill son at Coolmore that he felt most resembles his father conformationally he went with Danehill Dancer. Not surprising then, I suppose, that he has gone the closest to emulating his father's achievements in terms of his progeny's worldwide success.

3. It is amazing to see the love that people here have for Coolmore. Float driver TJ tells me that he is forever getting waved at by countless numbers of people in small and large towns' en-route to wherever be his designated destination. Evidence of the Irish peoples love of the horse once again.

Quick English Guineas weekend wrap-up

2000 Guineas- Won fittingly by Coolmore's very own Henrythenavigator. He made up great ground on New Approach who led the whole race on his own terms bar the winning post. Very much looking forward to the rematch in this weekend's Irish 2000 guineas at The Curragh.On Type- I really thought the 3rd placed colt, Stubbs Art(Hawk Wing-Rich Dancer(Halling)), was a magnificent individual. My comments where- Carries himself beautifully, great frame, has scope, big walk, and so so athletic. Calm and professional in nature. Though he was comprehensively beaten by the other two colts, I am sure he can pick up a nice race somewhere.

1000 Guineas- Real heart in mouth stuff. Tough little Natagora lead the field up to the 2f pole and the two Cheveley runners tracking each other just behind the race leader looked ominous and very ready to strike... and strike they did but Natagora was sooo tough and game, and she deservedly held on from Spacious, with Infallible 4th.

On Type- Spacious was the one I backed in the end even though Infallible looked fab I just felt she was not coping with the big crowd etc as well as Spacious, who was loping around the parade ring. My comments on Spacious were- Big scopey filly with a walk to match, great bone, tracks through straight, laid back, deep girth, and lovely flat shoulder to really let her extend her forearm. She is a very smart filly and I expect her to win some very nice races in the near future.

The weekend was fantastic and I felt extremely proud to be a part of the Cheveley Park team on course. I know look forward to being a part of the Coolmore team at Irelands very own Guineas weekend this coming Saturday and Sunday, where Henry and Kitty represent the stud that started all my dreams some 10 years ago.

Correction

My history bit, in collaboration with Roger from Cheveley Park Stud, where I explained the naming of Danehill in blog 3 was incorrect. The true story is as follows:
The village of Danehill is in Sussex, nearby the home of Grant Pritchard-Gordon. Mr Pritchard-Gordon was at one time the Racing Manager of Khaled Abdullah, and it was he who named Danehill after the local village. Danehill is more properly described as the Den – hill, which apparently means the 'hill on which there is a pig-sty' !!!
Thank-you to Mr John Richardson for taking the time to inform me of the accurate meaning of the name Danehill, and how he came to be christened. You have saved me much future embarrassment.

All the best,
Bruce