Farm Ireland

Saturday 22 October 2016

Success breeds success for our thoroughbreds

Ireland is punching way above its size by producing over 40pc of Europe's thoroughbred racing stock

Siobhan English

Published 13/04/2016 | 02:30

Chosen Dream (on left) has won eight point-topoints and was also successful on his Irish chasing debut at Downpatrick last month.
Chosen Dream (on left) has won eight point-topoints and was also successful on his Irish chasing debut at Downpatrick last month.
Well Chosen, a son of Sadler's Wells, is the sire of 11 winners from 11 runners in the last six weeks.

Time and time again Irish breeders emerge on top when it comes to producing top-class winners on the track. The recent results at Cheltenham reinforced this, with 50pc of the winners over the four-day Festival bred here and 18 of the 28 winners sired by Irish-based stallions.

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Despite Ireland's small size, it currently stands as the largest producer of thoroughbreds in Europe, breeding some 40pc of the total crop.

We are also the fourth largest breeder of thoroughbred foals in the world (7.34pc) behind the USA (24.19pc), Australia (15.44pc) and Argentina (8.51pc).

From a broodmare figure of 12,909 in 2007, a total of 12,633 thoroughbred foals were born in Ireland. Over the following five years numbers continued to drop, eventually levelling out in 2012 with 7,546.

Since 2012, however, numbers of foals born here has been slowly rising once again, with numbers of 7,757 in 2013.

This increased to 7,999 the following year, and figures continued to rise last year with 8,205 foals born in Ireland.

Of the foals born in 2014, some 56pc were bred for the Flat, with 30pc bred for National Hunt, and 13pc for dual purpose.

Since the removal of the tax exemption in 2006 the numbers of stallions here has dropped almost 50pc to 216.

Many experts believe that this rise in numbers of foals once again is leading to overproduction, but it is clear to see that owners of well-bred mares who are patient, and who choose their stallions wisely, will almost certainly get the desired return in the sales' ring.

With the 2016 breeding season now underway, many of the world's leading breeders are busy making plans for their stock, but so too are hundreds of small-time breeders who, while often opting for the less-expensive sires, will also be hoping for a decent result at the end of the day.

One such National Hunt breeder who has already seen his affordable breeding programme pay off nicely is Co Laois farmer Joe Lalor. In 2008 he sent his Mandalus mare Peoples Dream to Well Chosen, who stands for a modest fee of €2,500. The result was a gelding who failed to sell as a three-year-old, but who has since reaped many rewards for his connections.

"When we couldn't sell him as a three-year-old (he was led out unsold at €4,800) we offered the stallion's owner Tom Meagher of Kedrah House Stud a share in him," commented Mr Lalor. A keen hunting enthusiast, he is a brother of Laois Hunt joint-master David Lalor.


Later named Chosen Dream, the gelding was sent racing and finished an impressive second on his point-to-point debut in April 2012 under Brendan Walsh for trainer John Berry.

Two weeks later his owners sent him to Brightwells UK where he was snapped up by Jeremy Hitchins for 41,000stg (€51,000). A training career on the track beckoned with Jonjo O'Neill, but he failed to shine with him and he was subsequently sent to the Doncaster Sales in August 2013.

"I always felt he needed more time so I was disappointed to see him sold again, and for such a small price of 3,800stg (€4,700)," Mr Lalor commented, adding that the new purchaser had indeed found a true bargain.

That new owner later turned out to be 89-year-old Peggy Hagan, who had entrusted Lyle Andrew to make the purchase on her behalf.

It certainly proved to be a wise one, with Chosen Dream now a winner of eight point-to-points and a winner on his Irish chasing debut on the track at Downpatrick just three weeks ago. Trained by Graham McKeever the bay missed out on Cheltenham, much to the disappointment of his devoted owner, but is likely to head to Punchestown for a hunter chase later this month.

Chosen Dream is among a growing number of progeny of Well Chosen to have won between the flags this year, with the son of Sadler's Wells impressively the sire of 11 winners from 11 runners in the past six weeks. These also include hurdlers Goulane Davina and Navanman, and bumper winners She's a Star and Grays Choice.

"At €2,500 he is affordable to everyone. The interest in him has really taken off this year with so many winners between here and the UK and his book is filling up fast.

"And it is interesting to note all of the winners are the first for their respective dams," commented Tom Meagher.

A major supporter of show jumping through his many sport horse stallions, the veterinary surgeon is also keen to cater for the small-time breeder through Rule Of Law, who is now in his fourth season here in Ireland.

By the late sire Kingmambo, Rule Of Law won the St Leger in 2004 and later retired to stud in Japan where he sired no fewer than 50 winners before coming to Ireland in 2012. He is proving popular with National Hunt breeders, who this year can avail of a special stud fee of €1,000 for the first 100 mares.

As a full-time mixed farmer and small-time breeder, Joe Lalor knows the value of good bloodlines and is fortunate to have retained some of the family of Chosen Dream for his own breeding herd.

"His dam Peoples Dream bred about six foals for me and several others were winners, including Nor People (Norwich) and Brooks Dream (Alderbrook). The mare is dead now but we do have one of her daughters, Clonbeale Vacation, breeding here."

Also by Alderbrook she is a winner of five point-to-points and was placed on the track before retiring through injury in 2013. She has now retired to the breeding shed and has produced a two-year-old by Robin de Pres and is in foal to him again this year.

"Katie Walsh bought a three-year-old by Well Chosen out of a mare from the same family at Tattersalls last autumn but we still have several others here, including Chosen Dream's half-brother by City Honours who will possibly run later this year.

"In my opinion Well Chosen is as good as any of the more well-known National Hunt sires in Ireland, but at an affordable price," said Mr Lalor.

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