In the third and final part of Martin Stevens’ interview with John O’Connor, the stud’s managing director talks in depth about the broodmares who have been pivotal in making Ballylinch one of the world’s leading nurseries
1987 bay mare by Fairy King ex Ridge The Times (Riva Ridge)
Bred by Tony Tarry by sending the winning Riva Ridge mare Ridge The Times to Sadler’s Wells’ full-brother Fairy King in his first season at stud, Pharaoh’s Delight was a bargain Ir14,000gns purchase by Jack Doyle on behalf of Kuwaiti owners Al Deera Bloodstock and their retained trainer Peter Hudson.
Pharaoh’s Delight did not run like a cheapie, though, and rubbed shoulders with the best of the early ’90s sprinting scene. At two she won the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot, Princess Margaret Stakes and Phoenix Stakes and ran second to the blue blooded Chimes Of Freedom in the Cheveley Park Stakes.
She failed to appreciate a step up to a mile for a Classic campaign and did better when dropped back to shorter distances for the rest of her three-year-old season, running third to the exceptional Dayjur in three Group 1s – the Nunthorpe, Haydock Sprint Cup and Prix de l’Abbaye. After cutting little ice for Dermot Weld at four she was retired from racing and found herself on O’Connor’s radar.
“Pharaoh’s Delight was bought as a filly coming out of training,” he says. “I had a lot of admiration for her as a racemare, and I could remember my own mother seeing her win at Royal Ascot and saying what a beautiful filly she was, so it was interesting when she became available for us to buy a little later on.
“Not long after she came to the stud we bought a share in Machiavellian after he had his first good crop of two-year-olds, so we sent her to him and the result was Pharmacist, who won the Rochestown Stakes and went on to become a very successful broodmare for us.
“Luckily we were able to build a family around Pharaoh’s Delight. It’s lovely if you can do that, as you get to know the qualities and traits of the various family members.”
Pharaoh’s Delight produced seven winners in total, headed by Pharmacist – who was the dam of Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Red Rocks and Stakes winners Blue Coral, Galvaun and Medicinal. Jubilation, an Acclamation filly out of Pharmacist’s 2013 daughter Fairy Dancer bred and owned by Ballylinch Stud, finished second in the Prix de Cabourg for Eoghan O’Neill in 2020.
Pharaoh’s Delight has also left her mark at Ballylinch Stud through Dookus, her 2005 daughter by Linamix. She is the dam of Prix Thomas Bryon winner US Law and last year’s Chesham Stakes second March Law, both by former Ballylinch-based sire Lawman, and Rose of Lancaster Stakes scorer Frankuus.
An interesting footnote to Pharaoh’s Delight history is that she was remarkably long-lived, bowing out at the age of 28 in 2015.
“It’s an extensive farm and we have the space, so after the mares have retired from breeding we let them live out their days as long as they’re happy and healthy,” says O’Connor. “I think it’s only fair to look after those horses who looked after us so well.”
1984 bay mare by Taufan ex Bodelle (Falcon)
Ingabelle is held in such high regard by Ballylinch that she has a race named in her honour held at Leopardstown on Irish Champions’ Weekend and sponsored by the operation.
The Taufan mare earned such a high accolade by producing eight winners, including Moyglare Stud Stakes heroine Priory Belle and Premio Lydia Tesio scorer Eva’s Request, as well as several other daughters who have distinguished themselves at paddocks.
She had been bred, owned and trained by Tom Lacy in County Offaly and was a popular winner of the Phoenix Sprint Stakes carrying her first foal by Burslem on her racing swansong.
“I bought her after she’d already had a few foals for Tom,” recalls O’Connor. “I remembered her racing – she had a bit of a blue-collar pedigree but she was a really tough racemare and from a hardy family.
“She’d been entered in a sale but withdrawn so I rang Tom, who I’d met earlier when he brought Ingabelle’s dam Bodelle to Baroda Stud to be covered by Bob Back in his first season. I went down and did the deal for Ingabelle in Tom’s kitchen. He was a very fair man to deal with, and I know he followed her progress with great interest afterwards.
“When I bought her she was in foal to Bluebird and the foal she was carrying turned out to be Wild Bluebell, who won the Concorde Stakes. Ingabelle became a very important mare for us, as she bred us our first homebred Group 1 winner in Priory Belle and then later Eva’s Request, by our own stallion Soviet Star.”
Priory Belle also excelled in her second career for Ballylinch, as the dam of Italian Listed winner Kiltubber, who in turn produced the high-class trio Anam Allta, Fox Hunt and Opinion for the stud.
Another important offspring of Ingabelle, who died in 2007 aged 23, was Danielli, a placed daughter of Danehill foaled in 2003. She is the dam of ill-fated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner and Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Chriselliam as well as Falmouth Stakes runner-up Very Special and Grade 1-winning hurdler Mengli Khan.
1994 grey mare by Marignan ex Makarova (Nijinsky)
O’Connor spent a year in France as a vet and still feels a strong connection with the country. His understanding of French racing and pedigrees has provided the basis for several Ballylinch acquisitions.
“Sean Doyle arranged for me to work a year with the leading vets in Normandy at the time, Dr Jean Plainfossé and his son Bruno,” he says. “They were the vets for many of the big studs, including the Aga Khan’s at Bonneval and the Rothschild family’s at Meautry.
“When I was there Top Ville was at Bonneval and Kenmare was standing his first season at Meautry, so I was exposed to plenty of good French breeders. It’s a country I’ve always felt an affinity with; I have a smattering of the language and have kept up my contacts there. It’s something that’s worked in our favour a few times.”
The French connection probably helped O’Connor see past Deauville Listed winner Majinskaya’s diminutive physique and less heralded sire when she was presented for sale as a breeding prospect at Tattersalls in December 1997.
“I suppose you could say she was a very small filly, but beautifully made,” he says. “I remember chatting with friends at the sales and several thought she was too small to be any good.
“She was also by a stallion not familiar to most people in Marignan, but I’d seen him run in the Irish Derby and remembered he was a lovely looking horse. She also had a very strong pedigree, coming from the top Wertheimer family of Midget and Mige, so I bought her and she obviously did very well for us.”
Majinskaya, who cost 190,000gns, produced eight winners headed by the stud’s own filly Modeeroch, a multiple Listed winner and Group 2 runner-up. The mare, who died in 2009, was also dam of the Group 1-placed two-year-olds Danaskaya, Champion Filly of that age in Ireland, and Chinese Whisper.
Danaskaya in turn clicked with Lope De Vega in his debut season at Ballylinch to produce the Champion Two-Year-Old and Lockinge Stakes winner Belardo, having earlier been represented by Book 1 joint top lot and Listed winner Berling.
“We’re developing a good family around Majinskaya, and for Danaskaya to breed Belardo worked very well for us as it ensured Lope De Vega got off to a lightning start as a sire. It’s very satisfying when the broodmare band is influential in the development of the stallion roster.”
1993 bay mare by Nicholas ex Shapely Test (Elocutionist)
Another in this list who came without a ritzy pedigree and was originally a bargain yearling purchase, Lidanna – a Nicholas half-sister to Czechoslovakian 1,000 Guineas winner Shapely Star – had cost a mere 13,000gns from Tattersalls and went into training with David Hanley on the Curragh.
She proved to be blisteringly quick, beating Catch The Blues by three lengths to win the Greenlands Stakes at three and striking in the Ballyogan Stakes at five.
“We bought her as a filly out of training at the December sales in Tattersalls in 1998 (cost 125,000gns), and she was another fast, tough sprinter,” says O’Connor.
Lidanna and her daughters have done a remarkably good job of helping to promote Ballylinch stallions down the years. Lidanski, her 2003 filly by Soviet Star, ran second in the Sweet Mimosa Stakes and went on to produce Ballylinch’s homebred Prix de l’Abbaye winner Wizz Kid after being mated with Whipper in his second season at the stud. Lidanski also produced Maisons-Laffitte Listed winner Mustaheel to Lawman.
Lidanna, who died in 2015, herself also produced City of York Stakes winner Yaa Wayl to Whipper, while Capall An Ibre, her 2005 filly by Traditionally, won two races and became dam of Listed-placed Cailin Mor to Lope De Vega.
“I think we’ll manage to build a successful family around Lidanna, including through Wizz Kid who is still on the farm,” says O’Connor.
Wizz Kid has produced one winner, the Frankel gelding Formula One, and she has a three-year-old filly by Dark Angel named Young Angel and a two-year-old filly by Siyouni to go to war with. She was covered by Lope De Vega last year.
1997 bay mare by Turtle Island ex Tochar Ban (Assert)
Uncharted Haven held obvious breeding appeal as a dual Grade 2 winner for Bobby Frankel in the US, but to see why she was of particular interest to O’Connor you need to dig deep into her pedigree.
“I was especially keen to buy her because she was descended from an original Ballylinch family developed by the McCalmonts, the one hailing from Mesopotamia,” he says. “I thought it would be interesting to bring it back to the farm, where it had developed most strongly.”
Mesopotamia was a Champion Two-Year-Old by Zarathustra out of Major Victor McCalmont’s Irish Oaks winner Agar’s Plough. She is the ancestress of numerous Group/Grade 1 winners including African Story, Alkaased, Cherokee Rose, Halling, Kameko, Kingsbarns, Mastery, Mukhadram and Rip Van Winkle.
Uncharted Haven did her bit to uphold family honour with High Heeled, her 2005 daughter by High Chaparral, winning the St Simon Stakes and running third in the Oaks and Coronation Cup. Even more strikingly, her first foal, the 2003-foaled Rainbow Quest mare Faraday Light, was sold to Ballylinch client Joan Keaney Dempsey, who bred from her the Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Just The Judge.
Uncharted Haven is the dam of five winners in total, including Ballylinch Stud’s own Cairn Rouge Stakes scorer Bella Estrella, a 2014-foaled full-sister to High Heeled who ranks as one of the most exciting young mares on the farm. Her first produce is a yearling Lope De Vega colt and she was covered by the same sire again last year.
Uncharted Haven is also still in production. She has a yearling colt by Make Believe and was covered by Fascinating Rock in 2020.
1988 bay mare by Caerleon ex Dinalina (Top Ville)
Caerlina finished second in the Prix Marcel Boussac at two and won the Prix de Diane and took third in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches at three, before owner Kaichi Nitta bred the first few foals from her, including the Irish 1,000 Guineas third La Nuit Rose.
Ballylinch Stud bought her for $700,000 when she came up for sale as an 11-year-old in foal to A.P. Indy at the 1999 Keeneland January Sale and brought her back to Ireland two years later.
“We purchased her as a middle-aged mare through John McCormack, and at the time she was the most expensive mare we’d bought,” says O’Connor. “But she’s done very well for us, mainly through her Machiavellian daughter Macheera who produced Al Wukair, a son of our own stallion Dream Ahead who won the Prix Jacques le Marois and is now a stallion in France.
“Another of Macheera’s daughters, the Listed-placed Duke Of Marmalade mare Witches Brew, was retained by Tim Mahony’s daughter Jenny Howes, who boards her stock with us and she’s gone on to be a good broodmare, producing the Prestige Stakes and Princess Royal Stakes winner Antonia De Vega.”
Casimia, the three-year-old Siyouni half-sister to Al Wukair and Witches Brew, trained by Robert Collet, finished an encouraging fourth in the Ballylinch silks in a Deauville maiden in December.
Her granddam Caerlina died in 2016, leaving nine winners for Ballylinch and her previous owners combined.
“This is a flourishing family and I think there are good things to come out of it,” says O’Connor.
2002 bay/brown mare by Theatrical ex Chain Fern by Blushing Groom
Green Room is not owned by Ballylinch Stud, but her later offspring’s success on the track and their sky-high sales prices pay handsome tribute to the operation’s nurture of young stock and quality of land.
The Juddmonte-bred Theatrical half-sister to US Grade 1 winner Spanish Fern, from the further family of Classic-winning mother and son Al Bahathri and Haafhd, was once – and quite remarkably – a 20,000gns broodmare purchase as an unraced three-year-old. Resold a year later in foal to Speightstown at Keeneland for $240,000, she is now owned by Vimal and Gillian Khosla.
The Speightstown foal turned out to be Prix Jean Prat victor Lord Shanakill, the first of three Group 1 winners for the mare with Fillies’ Mile scorer Together Forever and Oaks heroine Forever Together, both by Galileo, following.
Ballylinch sold Together Forever and Forever Together as yearlings for €680,000 and €900,000 respectively, while others out of the mare have sold for €3.2 million, €3m and €1,1m. The last yearling offered out of the mare, who has just turned 18, was a Sea The Stars filly bought back by the Khoslas at Goffs last year when bidding for her stalled at €775,000.
“We have a relatively small number of permanent boarders,” says O’Connor. “Gillian and Vimal came to us a few years ago with a few mares to board with us, and they’ve had a great run with them.
“Green Room is of course an exceptional mare; breeding three Group 1 winners is a rare thing. She’s still here, and the Khoslas have a couple of daughters to continue the line with, so there should be more to come from this family.
“I must say, the Khoslas have been wonderful people to work with. They love their horses and they understand there are good days and bad days, and take them equally well. That says a lot for them as a couple.”
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