Forty years after founding Bearstone Stud, Terry Holdcroft has bred and is racing his best racehorse.
Glass Slippers’ recent win in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint added to her victory in September’s Group 1 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, which came just ahead of a gallant effort when she was a neck second in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye, a race she won last year.
Having the last laugh: Glass Slippers is welcomed by her owner Terry Holdcroft (right), after her superb victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
It would have been so different if the filly’s dam, Night Gypsy, had been a young mare. Had that been the case, Glass Slippers would have been sold as a foal or yearling. Instead the four-year-old will race on for another season from Kevin Ryan’s stable before joining Holdcroft’s broodmare band at the Shropshire stud where he also stands the stallions Fountain Of Youth and Washington DC.
Explaining the decision to pursue more racecourse glory, Holdcroft says: “It isn’t very often you breed one as good as that, and we haven’t been able to see her racing very often this year. We went to Goodwood, but it’s not the same with no crowd and no atmosphere, and we went to the States. I want to enjoy her for another year, but at the end of the day I’m running a commercial stud and have to balance the books.
“It’s very risky racing, but it’s very risky breeding. I will spend accordingly on a nomination for a filly of her ability, but there’s no guarantee we will get a correct individual. She might not win another race, but with a bit of luck she might win as much on the racecourse next season as she could earn as a broodmare.”
He says: “She’s certainly the best I’ve bred in terms of prize money won. We’ve bred quite a few decent horses, but none that have won £850,000. We’ve bred Group 1 winners that we’ve sold before they raced, but Glass Slippers is the first that we’ve bred and raced ourselves. It was a stroke of luck that we did.
“Glass Slippers was about six months old when I looked at her dam (who was 18) and thought that might be her last foal and so it proved. We couldn’t get her in foal after that.
“That happens quite a lot – you breed a really good one, but something happens to the mare. Anyway, we kept her daughter and I’m glad we did.”
Of the mating between Dream Ahead and Night Gypsy – a daughter of Bearstone Stud’s very good sire Mind Games – Holdcroft says: “The Warning sire line has worked well with the dam line. Firebreak [another ex-Bearstone sire] was the same sire line. Dream Ahead was in Ireland at the time, and a friend of mine, Craig Bennett (of Merry Fox Stud), uses Gary Hadden to advise on pedigrees – he did some work on a few of our mares and suggested Dream Ahead for a couple of Mind Games mares that we have. He is a big horse and the mares were on the small side and suited a bigger stallion.”
Challenges ahead for stallion masters
Bearstone Stud has regularly been home to as many as four stallions, but is now concentrating on Fountain Of Youth, a son of Oasis Dream and the Duke of Roxburghe’s outstanding racemare Attraction (Efisio), and Washington DC, who is by Zoffany out of How’s She Cuttin’ (Shinko Forest). That mare ran 25 times and was in the money on 14 occasions, while her dam ran 36 times and picked up prizes on 19 occasions.
Washington DC comes from a tough family, and won or placed 17 times during his busy career.
That toughness was transmitted to Washington DC, who went to the racecourse on 32 occasions, becoming Ireland’s top sprinter as a three-year-old and finishing in the top three in 17 races. His fourth dam is Lord Howard De Walden’s Champion 2yo Magic Flute, who became granddam of that owner/breeder’s final top-class horse, Grand Lodge.
Fountain Of Youth’s oldest crop are three-year-olds, while a dozen members of Washington DC’s initial crop will be making their public debut at next week’s Tattersalls December Foal Sale. Bearstone Stud offers seven by the stallion, including a half-brother to Ralph Beckett’s very smart two-year-old Lullaby Moon (Lot 503), a colt out of a half-sister to Glass Slippers (Lot 320) and a half-brother to high-class sprinter Mattmu (Lot 504), the best horse sired by Bearstone’s former resident Indesatchel.
Two of Washington DC’s first crop foals being offered by Bearstone Stud at the Tattersalls December Sales: A bay colt out of Katie Boo (lot 504), who is a half brother to the Group 2 juvenile winner Mattmu, and a good looking bay filly out of Jive (lot 275).
Holdcroft says it was a coincidence that Bearstone’s two sires were trained by Aidan O’Brien for Coolmore Stud partnerships, but there is a link dating back many years. He says: “The first stallion we stood, Puissance (the sire of Mind Games and Rosselli), I bought from Vincent O’Brien.
“I was offered Fountain Of Youth, I looked at him and liked him, and he’s by a very good sire out of a brilliant mare. He has sired winners, and while we would have liked his first two crops to have done better, it is what it is.
“Washington DC proved he was talented, tough and consistent, which is a quality, although I wouldn’t be put off a sire who ran less, but had shown ability.
“We are very pleased with his first foals, and while I would say that, we mean it. They look sharp and are the type we are looking to breed. Who knows how things will be in Newmarket? I’m told the Irish [pinhookers] will be there despite restrictions and the need to isolate, and that will be crucial.
“If you have a nice foal it will sell, but everyone has to be sensible when it comes to reserves, in the same way that stallion masters have to be sensible with covering fees. I send quite a few mares to outside stallions and believe fees have to come down. You only have to look at the median price for a stallion’s offspring to see that in many cases it doesn’t cover the fee.
“Normally we would be in the market for another stallion at this time, but we’re in lockdown, the racing has been affected and the sales are difficult. To be honest, I wouldn’t want a new stallion for next season given the circumstances.”
Speed proved the solution
Holdcroft says: “When I first started breeding I was naïve and was trying to breed mile-and-a-half horses. I quickly realised I was pushing water uphill. A lot of the very big studs and owners had hundreds of mares and established sires, so I turned to sprinters.
“The advice I would give to anyone starting out with Flat stallions is stand sprinters. You know very quickly if they are going to be any good, often after their first foals have raced at two, whereas you can wait another year or two to find out with middle-distance sires.”
Holdcroft’s policy has paid off, yet the speed stallion market is now a crowded place. He says: “If there’s a niche out there for something different I haven’t spotted it, but I wouldn’t change what I’m doing now. It’s a wonderful thing breeding middle-distance horses, and Coolmore leads the way – all credit to them – but for me it was a way of pouring money down the drain.”
A self-made man who opened a car showroom in 1966, Holdcroft now sits astride one of Britain’s largest vehicle retailing groups, offering a number of leading franchises and fleet car sales from locations around the North West of England.
It has been a huge success, but you get the sense that another of Holdcroft’s creations, Bearstone Stud, a one-time cattle farm which he and his wife Margaret transformed, is a business that provides the hopes and dreams that motor vehicles can never offer. So what is the goal in racing and breeding that he most desires?
“To win the July Cup and Haydock’s Sprint Cup,” he says without equivocation. Glass Slippers’s best form has been produced in the autumn, and her three Group/Grade 1 triumphs have all been gained outside of Britain. If she can show her best a little earlier next year a July Cup and Sprint Cup double would gain her greater recognition in her homeland and fulfill her breeder’s dream.”