Bruce's Blog – June 2008

The 'Duke" takes out the Gr 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup.
The 'Duke" takes out the Gr 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Second Blog from Coolmore Blog 6
Irish Guineas Weekend, Gilltown Stud, and Bawnbrack Farm.

I have always loved the saying that goes along the lines of 'time when lost track of, is being made the most of'. When I went to type the date for this blog and couldn't for the life of me work it out, I realised that I had definitely lost track of time here at Coolmore, whilst having the time of my life. Whilst I may not have been able to comprehend the date, what I could have told you was that it is three days until the Epsom Derby, the Royal Ascot meeting starts in just under two weeks, and that The Irish 2000 and 1000 Guineas were run two weekends ago, with myself being lucky enough to attend the fillies version.

Irish 1000 Guineas Day
Oh, and what a day it was. All Coolmore staff have the choice of either attending the Saturday (2000 guineas) or the Sunday (1000 guineas) of the Guineas weekend. I decided that the Sunday was my cup of tea given that:
a) There were two Group1 races on the card - The 1000 guineas and theTattersalls Gold Cup.
b) The field for the 1000 guineas had a very different make-up to that of the Newmarket version which I attended, whereas the field for the Irish 2000 guineas was dominated by the same duo of horses that I got to see in the English 2000 guineas (namely Henrythenavigator and New Approach).
Still the decision was a tough one, but in the aftermath of a fantastic weekend, I am sure I got it right. The whole day started with a bus trip. Close to twenty of us boarded the Coolmore bus at 11am, destination The Curragh. Three of us Kiwi, and the rest of Irish, French, or Australian origin. The anticipation on the bus was building. Most of us were sorting out our tips for the day, while other lads battled with self-inflicted/victory-inflicted hangovers, courtesy of Munster's Heineken Cup victory the night before over Toulouse. Spirits were very high though, and the racing banter continued throughout the two hour journey to The Curragh. Left off the highway, left off the roundabout and our bus now drove carefully through the car park searching for the closest possible park. I just wanted off though, and as soon as the bus came to a halt I did the Harry Holt (the bolt), through the gates and up onto the rise near the pre-race parade ring... and there it was, the wide open spaces of a most magnificent racecourse. The racetrack itself is wide, it stretches as far as the eye can see, and it is every inch immaculate. An old, wooden grandstand accompanies the track, but it does not speak of seeing better days, rather it sings of its own unique history, its majesty, its role in identifying and defining champions of the turf. Sir Ivor, Nijinsky, The Minstrel, Alleged, El Gran Senor, Sadlers Wells, Caerleon, Storm Bird and the list just goes on, have all been defined by the racing public that stood where I stand today in the grandstand of the grandest racecourse, The Curragh.

The first race is a betting nightmare for me. No less than thirty runners take their place in a 6-furlong handicap for horses three years and over. I lose ten euro, but I don't feel it at all. Thirty horses have just been running fiercely towards me as I stand on the rail near the winning post. You can feel the hoof beats, louder and stronger as they get nearer, excitement building to crescendo as the wall of horses hits the finishing line. There is no sport like the Sport of Kings.

The Tattersall's Gold Cup (2,100m): A two-horse race on paper and so it proved. We(Coolmore) were starting our last start Gr1 winner Duke of Marmalade (The Duke) (Danehill), while Mr Jim Bolger started his double 1000guineas winner of last season in Finsceal Beo (Mr Greeley).

The race pace was set at a cracking tempo by Red Rock Canyon (Rock of Gibraltor), but in the straight The Duke soon took over with Finsceal Beo chasing gamely, but The Duke just had too much class for them and drew away to win nicely. His stallion box at Coolmore is now booked, you would say, having won two group1's after having the screws removed from a front leg that he broke as a yearling. Importantly, he is from a from the fantastic sire producing family of AP Indy, Summer Squall etc, the Lassie Dear damline, being out of the Kingmambo mare Love Me True.

The Irish 1000 Guineas(1600m): The thirteen fillies in the event were all turned out immaculately, a real credit to their trainers and their grooms. The filly that really took my eye in the parade ring was number 5 - Mad About You (Indian Ridge):
Comments: Strongly made, great quarters, but with enough leg under her. Very well put together, and oozes quality and femininity.

Halfway to Heaven (Pivotal - how good is he??) the eventual winner of the race, was so very tough in victory, and how appropriate the victor. By Cheveley Park's leading sire Pivotal and owned by Messrs Magnier, Tabor and Smith of Coolmore. She held on resolutely after she hit the front pretty early on the run home and challenges were being thrown down by half a dozen fillies on her outside. Unlike her French 1000 guineas third where she was entitled to finish much further back after making the pace, Halfway was this time given some cover during the race and allowed to finish on, and on she did to meritorious victory in the Irish 1000 guineas. Tuscan Evening (Oasis Dream) was second but later relegated to fourth after causing interference to the fourth across the line Carribean Sunset (Danehill Dancer) who was promoted to third. Mad About You was promoted to second in the enquiry, with 1 length covering the four fillies at the winning post.

Halfway to Heaven's pedigree is very interesting, and one has to doubt her ability to get anything over a mile. By a Kingstand (5f at Royal Ascot - won by Miss Andretti, Choisir etc) winner in Pivotal (and she inherited the grit and sheer determination of her sire), and out of a Kingstand winner in Cassandra Go (Indian Ridge). Cassandra Go is also a half sister to the dam of Ascot group winning 2yo, classic winning 3yo miler, and now successful stallion Verglas (Highest Honor). I think it is definitely fair to say that Halfway's credentials definitely place her closer than halfway to thoroughbred heaven.

My notes on Halfway To Heaven: Very athletic, lovely loose walk, and near black in colour. Laid back and very easy going in nature.
So I arrived as part of team Coolmore and we left with the red ribbon prize in both of the Gr1 features, not to mention two other races on the eight race card. On the way home we were very kindly treated to a three course meal at the aptly named Horse and Jockey, where celebratory beverages were also easy to come by. Coolmore put on the day of life time... the bus, the tickets, the food and drink, the entertainment, and the big race thrills... for that I hope in my work I show Coolmore the deepest gratitude.

Bawnbrack Farm
In the first part of my stay here I worked in Bawnbrack Farm, a walk-in unit on the outskirts of the main epicentre of Coolmore. Considering Coolmore covers over 2000 mares per season at their Fethard base alone, you can understand why they need to offer clients a service like Bawnbrack Farm. Bawnbrack basically caters for clients situated geographically close enough to Coolmore to ensure the boarding of their mares on the main farm would not make any economic sense. Thus Bawnbrack deals with mares owned by 'locals', who transport the mare in when she is coming into season. Bawnbrack will then keep the mare from palpation, swabbing (for any sexually transmitted diseases which is required 'clean' before she can visit any Coolmore stallion) through cover/service, ovulation, and casliking if required. The mare can then be collected by her owner who usually gets their own vet to test for a positive pregnancy at around the 16 day mark. Thus the mare stays with us at Bawnbrack for usually between 3 days to a week.

The system works wonderfully for the owners in that:

They do not have the hassle of getting vets out to look at their one or two mares every couple of days.
They know that the mare will be swabbed and certified clean to the standards that Coolmore require, thus not having to worry about all the paper work themselves.
They don't have to transport their mare for cover at times that may not suit their jobs/lifestyle. ie. 6.30am serves if they live 2 hours away, or lunch time serves when they may be at work.
Overall they realise their mare (and young foal) are in the best hands, and in the safest horse environment possible at a very important part of the season.

The system works well too for Coolmore in that:
Their vets are palpating a majority of the mares for a particular stallion, thus allowing them to shift mares around(in the covering timetable) for busy stallions to ensure they serve the majority of the mares at the best possible time in order to get them in foal.
All identification, swabbing and certificates of cleanliness are up to the standard Coolmore requires.
The mare arrives at the covering shed with Coolmore personnel who know the system in place, and ensure its efficiency- so important when the covering barn performs over 3000 mare services every season.
As these walk-in units are situated away from the main farm the risk of disease's etc being brought in and spread by outside horses is negated.

These 'walk-in' units are the real hustle bustle part of the farm and there are another two units like Bawnbrack situated around the periphery of the farm. To highlight the 'hustle bustle' Dean Puaha, a fellow kiwi (Palmerston North) running Bawnbrack, tells me that at the height of the season Bawnbrack will walk-in around 160 mares for covering to Coolmore's elite band of 15 stallions. That's over five mares a day. Dean, however, takes it all in his stride in that natural kiwi way, but he seems to have more of 'that way' than others, which not only relaxes the horses, but more significantly the staff too.

It was brilliant starting out at Bawnbrack. Not only did I get to see most of the 'pin-up' boys in my first few weeks here, but I also settled in so quickly, given that I had a fellow kiwi to reminisce with, to contemplate with, to discuss similarities and differences with, and most of all to be challenged by. I learned a lot from Deano in a very short amount of time.

Gilltown Stud
Picturesque Gilltown Stud Farm
Picturesque Gilltown Stud Farm

As I mentioned in my first Coolmore blog, there really is an ethos here to grow talent from within. Show an interest, a bit of passion, and guess what - you're in. The guineas day reflected this ethos, and a couple of days later, without even enough time to let the whole guineas sensation set in I was off to The Aga Kahn's Gilltown Stud, thanks again to Tom Lynch. It really was the most picturesque of stud farms. Grand old majestic trees line the lane way that, given the age of the tree's , must have weaved this same path for close to a century. Stone cobble bridges hopped each small water trickled creek which sometimes flowed into spinning water wheels, or mini man made waterfalls. The stables were all cobble stone with black tiled roofs. Great big oak wooden doors which where fit for castles and its accompanying kings and queens, open and close buildings here.

Yet today, these doors opened for me, along with a Sadlers Wells mare, to visit the superb Arc winner Dalakhani (Darshaan - see what they are doing here - the fabulous Sadlers/Darshaan cross (see High Chapparal etc) but in reverse), who has made an exciting start to his stud career. The ghostly grey was everything you would expect in an athlete of his calibre. His walk was elastic, his feet barely touched the ground, he floated across the dance floor to court 'my' Sadlers mare. Horses this good know it and show it. Dalakhani stands over a lot of ground and has a terrific length of reign, with his slightly dished face adding a nice bit of elegance to his athleticism. He for me is the epitomy of the classic thoroughbred.

He covers, then stands outside for me to snap away and I try to capture him in a still frame. I fail miserably... a horse like this is done no justice motionless.

Anyway, I have so much more to tell. I am now working in the stallion unit so look forward to a stallions edition in the next issue of my blog. Also Tom has planned a bus trip for us to the one and only Ballydoyle... what a treat.

Keep well everybody,