“It is often observed that the current sky-high quality of Japanese racing owes a huge debt to the efforts made by the Yoshida family to upgrade the country’s stallion ranks with imports through the final decades of the 20th century. The high-point of this influx was the arrival in Japan in advance of the 1991 breeding season of America’s 1989 Horse of the Year Sunday Silence (Halo). However, that is only half the story: the current quality of the Japanese Thoroughbred is the result not only of the upgrading of the sires’ ranks, but also of the parallel bolstering of the country’s broodmare bands. It is worth noting that Sunday Silence had the assistance of European Group 1 winner Wind In Her Hair (Ire) (Alzao) when he produced his best son Deep Impact (Jpn); and that the outstanding start which Deep Impact made to his stud career came with the help of European Group 1 winners Donna Blini (GB) (Bertolini) and Marbye (Ire) (Marju), dams of his first stars Gentildonna (Jpn) and Marcellina (Jpn), respectively. And so it continues: Deep Impact’s current star filly, recent G1 Japanese Oaks heroine Sinhalite (Jpn), is a daughter of 2005 GI Del Mar Oaks heroine Singhalese (GB) (Singspiel).
This story is mirrored in Europe. We hail the dominance of Coolmore Stud and its racing division under Aidan O’Brien’s command at Ballydoyle, rightly recognising that a cornerstone of its strength has been its nucleus of past and present Coolmore stallions headed by Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer), Danehill (Danzig) and Galileo (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells). However, Coolmore’s current dominance is not based solely on its supreme stallions’ roster; it also owes plenty to its stellar broodmare band.
When Coolmore first began to emerge as a major international player, its focus was almost entirely on stallions. Operating in partnership with Robert Sangster, John Magnier produced a master-plan which involved his father-in-law Vincent O’Brien selecting high-class colts from the leading North American yearling sales, training them in Ballydoyle to win major races, and then turning a profit thanks to their consequent value as stallions.
Even from the outset, though, Vincent O’Brien kept as close an eye on the yearlings’ dams as on their sires. The dividends of his concentration on sons of Northern Dancer are famous, but it is worth remembering that the colts whom he selected almost invariably came from elite families. Most notably, the two Northern Dancer colts with whom Vincent O’Brien won the Derby–Nijinsky and The Minstrel–were very closely related: The Minstrel’s dam was a half-sister to Nijinsky. Those two had both won the G1 Dewhurst Stakes as juveniles, while of the other four Northern Dancer colts whom O’Brien trained to win the Dewhurst, two–Try My Best and El Gran Senor–were full-brothers.
The emergence of a nucleus of Arab investors at the top level of the bloodstock market moved the goalposts for the Coolmore team. As the 20th century drew towards its close, it became ever harder to buy potential stallions, either as yearlings or as proven racehorses (from which latter group Danehill was recruited). Consequently, an ability to breed one’s own champions became vital for any operation hoping to compete against the massive financial resources of the Arab-owned teams. The fact that Coolmore unearthed some world-class stallions has proved crucial, but the development of its broodmare band has been similarly important.
Bloodstock history would have been very different if the Sangster-bred and -raced Sadler’s Wells had been sent to stud in Kentucky at the end of the 1984 racing season, during which Vincent O’Brien saddled him to win the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas and the G1 Eclipse Stakes. Instead, his superior contemporary El Gran Senor headed across the Atlantic, allowing Sadler’s Wells to stay in Ireland and change the course of bloodstock history. A similarly crucial decision was the purchase of Danehill (in conjunction with Arrowfield) from Prince Khalid Abdullah in 1989. He, too, went on to exceed even the highest expectations held on his behalf. One of the consequences of the reigns of these two horses atop the Coolmore sires’ roster was that Coolmore found itself owning many good broodmares by each stallion, in addition to the ones which it had collected by other sires. Hence, it has happened that in recent years Aidan O’Brien has handled a mighty flow of high-class Coolmore-sired horses whose dams he had previously trained.
We could be here all day reciting the names of good Aidan O’Brien-trained fillies who have gone on to breed sons and daughters who have excelled for the same stable. Top of the list, perhaps, could be the dual Group 1 winners Lillie Langtry (Ire) (Danehill Dancer) and Rumplestiltskin (Ire) (Danehill), and Group 2 winner You’resothrilling (Storm Cat), a full-sister to the O’Brien-trained six-time Group 1 winner Giant’s Causeway. Between them, these three matrons have to date bred seven individual pattern winners, all by Galileo and all trained by Aidan O’Brien. This distinguished septet includes the Classic winners Minding (Ire), Marvellous (Ire) and Gleneagles (Ire), as well as the 2014 G1 Yorkshire Oaks victrix Tapestry (Ire). Going back a bit farther, another Coolmore home-bred who has made a massive contribution to Ballydoyle’s roll of honour as both racehorse and broodmare has been Imagine (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells). Winner of the Oaks and Irish 1000 Guineas in 2001, she has subsequently produced the Group 1 performers Horatio Nelson (Ire) (Danehill), Red Rock Canyon (Ire) (Rock Of Gibraltar) and Viscount Nelson (Giant’s Causeway).
Another former top Aidan O’Brien-trained filly to have made a massive contribution to Ballydoyle as a broodmare has been 2008 Irish Oaks winner Moonstone (GB) (Dalakhani), who has bred four stakes performers including this year’s Derby runner-up US Army Ranger (Ire) (Galileo). She was bought as a yearling at Tattersalls’ 2006 December Yearling Sale by Demi O’Byrne on Coolmore’s behalf for 700,000 gns, while another high-class filly whom the team bought as a yearling was Group 3 winner Chintz (Ire) (Danehill Dancer) who cost €250,000 at Arqana in 2007. Chintz was trained for Coolmore by David Wachman, but Aidan O’Brien has handled a couple of her Galileo colts, including current star The Gurkha (Ire).
This overview barely scratches the surface of the in-house results achieved by Coolmore’s broodmare band. It does, though, give a solid indication that, as the old adage has always told us, sending the best to the best can indeed allow one to hope for the best.”
Extracts from Thoroughbred Daily News / John Berry