IN OUR September issue in 2015 Colm Santry featured as the guest for Movers and Shakers. That was a few months after the Vinery Stud Stakes-Gr.1 win of Fenway (High Chaparral), a filly he purchased on behalf of friends Greg and Jenny White, Colm’s third Gr.1 winning purchase ahead of Sacred Choice and Costa Viva. It was also about the time Winx’s 33 run winning streak was in the very low single figures, her dam Vegas Showgirl having been purchased by Colm on behalf of breeder John Camilleri several years before at the Magic Millions.
The four subsequent years have seen great change, both for Coolmore’s nominations and sales manager and for the thoroughbred industry at large. We caught up with Colm after Coolmore’s annual Stallion Parade where not one, but two winners of the American Triple Crown were on show.
Q: The opportunity to stand an American Triple Crown winner had never been possible until two years ago, and now Coolmore will offer two to the market this spring. How well received have American Pharoah (Pioneerof The Nile) and Justify (Scat Daddy) been and what do you expect the market will make of their first crops?
A: “Justify and American Pharoah were truly brilliant horses, both raced on dirt, importantly they handled all types of going, both won Gr.1 races on fast and heavy tracks and both have been very well received by leading Australian breeders. The feedback we have from breeders with first crop yearlings by American Pharoah heading to next year’s sales is excellent.
“His weanlings sold very well here and topped the first crop sires on average. He’s already proven he can get turf gallopers with seven of his nine winners to date having won on turf, including his son Maven who won the Prix du Bois-Gr.3 at Deauville, Another Miracle who won a turf Stakes race at Saratoga while Monarch of Egypt is a winner who finished second in the Phoenix Stakes-Gr.1 at the Curragh. From the feedback we are getting from Europe and America I expect him to sire a Gr.1 winner leading up to the Breeders’ Cup meet in November.
“Justify is expected to follow suit as he is by the mainly turf sire Scat Daddy. The Magnier family has made the decision to support Justify to the hilt in both hemispheres and when you look at the mares in his first Australian crop I’d wager there hasn’t been a stronger book of mares to any first season sire. I’d say his first crop book will be superior to any crop Fastnet Rock has ever covered. Some of the mares booked to him and purchased at sales this year include Maastricht (Dam of Loving Gaby) a $2.25m buy, Srikandi, $2m, Global Glamour, $1.55m, Invincible Star, $1.45m, Savvy Coup, $1m, Eckstein, $750,000, Atlantic Jewel, Tulip, Formality, Lake Geneva, Hips Don’t Lie, Estelle Collection, dam of Lankan Rupee, Ennis Hill, Legless Veuve, Paprena and Princess Posh. Importantly, they also both make appeal as having outcross pedigrees which could become very important for Australian breeders now and in the future.”
Q: I understand a mare close to your heart, the multiple stakes winner Eckstein (I Am Invincible), will be among his first book.
A: “My wife’s family owned Eckstein and they are not breeders, so she went to auction. Tom Magnier and the team at Coolmore were impressed both by her race record and physique and as she met our standards for Justify so we stepped in and purchased her at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale. Subsequently they agreed to my wife Nikki’s request to buy back
in for a small share. While it is paramount that she gets in foal to Justify, she’ll also race on while she can with Chris Waller with a Gr.1 at Flemington over the carnival a target for her.
Q: There has been a long-held bias in this country against American bloodlines and their, in general, dirt-track achievements. Do you think that prejudice might play against American Pharoah and Justify?
A: “I don’t think it will. The knock usually comes from farms who don’t stand shuttle stallions. These are two exceptional horses and history shows that bias
is unfounded. Consider that in recent years the American bred sires here in Australia like Danehill, More Than Ready, Dehere, Royal Academy, Hussonet, Stravinsky, Success Express, Red Ransom, Fairy King, Anabaa, Shamardal, Elusive Quality, Distorted Humour, Medaglia d’Oro and Grand Lodge, to name a few, have all successfully stood here and all left Gr.1 classic winners and our best racehorses and sires of today. “Danehill is an excellent example of a pure American dirt pedigree who worked in Australia, being a son of Danzig out of a His Majesty mare out of a Buckpasser mare. Dirt horses like Kentucky Derby winners Northern Dancer and Sunday Silence, along with Danzig and Mr. Prospector have been amazing influences world-wide on turf especially in Australia. Where would turf racing in Australia be without these four great American dirt horses?
“Our farm in Ireland and Ballydoyle was built on the back of American bloodlines with Be My Guest our first Champion Sire in 1982, followed by Caerleon, Sadlers Wells and Danehill.
“Looking at last season’s General Sires’ Table seven of the 10 leading sires were either by American stallions or were grandsons of American stallions with an eighth, Street Cry, born in Ireland. He raced in the US on dirt and also won the Dubai World Cup.
The broodmare table paints a similar picture, with eight of 10 carrying American blood close up. And since Danzero (Danehill) won in 1994 11 Golden Slipper winners have been sired by American stallions, with a high proportion of the remainder by sons or grandsons of Danehill. Where would our industry be without their input and influence?”
Q: Coolmore will also stand the 2000 Guineas and Racing Post Trophy winner Saxon Warrior this spring. A son of Deep Impact, who is getting excellent results in Australasia from limited representation, out of a Champion Two Year-Old daughter of Galileo, I can’t think of a better credentialed stallion to come from Europe in recent years. What are your expectations for him in time?
A: “He too is an outstanding addition to the stallion roster. Anyone who saw Frankel’s performance in winning the 2000 Guineas won’t ever forget it, yet Saxon Warrior won the same race in faster time. Saxon Warrior was a brilliant miler and English Guineas winner who was an unbeaten Gr.1 winner at two, comes from a very fast female line, his dam being a European Champion 2YO by Galileo, and his grandam by Danehill was a stakes winner at 1000m as a juvenile. He’s also an ideal cross for Danehill line mares.
“His entry into the Australian market is a perfect example of the globalisation of our industry and John Magnier’s vision over the years. He’s by the most successful Japanese stallion of our time who is a son of Sunday Silence, an American bred Kentucky Derby winner who shaped the breeding industry in Japan. Saxon Warrior’s dam is a daughter of Galileo, Europe’s greatest ever stallion, and her dam is by Danehill the most successful stallion to stand in Australia. A very well bred prospect!”
Q: And we won’t leave Mendelssohn out of the discussion, he was certainly versatile, being equally adept on turf as on dirt.
A: “Another horse by Scat Daddy we are very excited about. A Gr.1 winner at two on turf who went on to smash the track record at Meydan winning the UAE Derby-Gr.2 by 18 lengths. You know his sire Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) died at just 11 but he still managed to sire more than 30 Gr.1 winners, many of them on turf. In that short space of time he became a leading sire in North America, South America and Europe, had a Gr.1 winner in Japan and recently had a Gr.3 winner in Australia from no more than a handful of runners when the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott trained Con Te Partiro won the Dark Jewel Classic at Scone.
Q: It’s 25 or so years since you started “shuttling” to the southern hemisphere before calling it home, what are the biggest changes you have seen in the market over that time?
A: “Undoubtedly it has to be the rise of the shuttle stallion and the way they have influenced the thoroughbred landscape in Australasia. When I first travelled with Al Hareb to Baramul Stud in 1990 there were just six stallions on the plane. That would peak at more than 60 annually and their influence has been shaping the thoroughbred here ever since. Danehill and Last Tycoon were on that plane and both were champion sires. Danehill speaks for himself and let’s not forget Last Tycoon sired five Gr.1-winning three year-olds in his first crop.
“There’s no question they upgraded the local product the benefits of which flowed through to the sale ring. Since the time I arrived the Easter yearling average has increased around sixfold, which has afforded breeders the opportunity to buy into the world’s best bloodlines in international markets with the expectation of getting a return on their investment back home. It now makes financial sense for Australian breeders to buy into the very best families out of Tattersalls, Deauville or Keeneland to upgrade their stock.
“And the shuttlers have played a significant role in raising the standard of racing in Australia to the point where there is a clear correlation of form with the international powerhouses. Choisir made everyone take notice of our sprinters and he was by Danehill Dancer, while those that followed included Scenic Blast (Scenic, sire of 13 Gr.1 winners in Australia), Takeover Target (Celtic Swing) and Exceed And Excel (Danehill) to name a few. Of course Winx is by a shuttle stallion (Street Cry), while Black Caviar has Royal Academy as her paternal grandsire. And it’s not just the sprinters, So You Think by High Chaparral won five Gr.1s in the northern hemisphere, proving we can produce a serious middle distance horse.”
Q: As we talk the global economy is under pressure thanks to everything from trade wars to democratic uprisings. Should the storm hits how well insulated do you think the Australasian industry is?
A: “Australian racing is on the best footing it has probably ever been on with record levels of prize money, government support and brilliant management. Australia Racing is also deeply entrenched in the Australian way of life, so I think the core elements are there for sustained growth. Australia is in an enviable position with the ability to shuttle the best sires from Europe and America each season to go with our good local stallions means our market and breeding industry is a real melting pot.
“The breeding world is watching these stallions and overseas investors are comfortable buying from our market place given our pedigrees are now more on an equal footing with the northern hemisphere. Overseas investors also recognise just how attractive financially it is to race and breed here and they also like the fact that, unlike other countries, our breeders are prepared to sell their best horses so the buyer knows they have a chance of buying a Golden Slipper or Caulfield Guineas or Cox Plate winner out of one of the major sales.
“What we do need to do is continue to import the best bloodlines we can and continue to strengthen and improve the breed. Keep introducing the best. A look at the sires’ table will show that we have lost a number of our elite stallions in quick succession recently and that there really isn’t a next wave of sufficient numbers to take their place yet. Good sires like Street Cry, Encosta de Lago, Flying Spur, Northern Meteor, Commands, O’Reilly and High Chaparral were a big loss to our industry. Yes, there are some good young proven stallions, but it’s unlikely there will be enough of them proven at the time the others leave the scene to fill the void they leave. We have just lost proven sires Redoute’s Choice, Sebring and Hinchinbrook. Leading sires Lonhro, Exceed and Excel, More Than Ready, Choisir and Fastnet Rock are getting on in age. I think there was a short period where reliance on the shuttle stallion softened which has led to the gap in the market for proven sires we will have over the coming years.
“Hopefully shuttle horses like Justify, American Pharoah, Churchill, Saxon Warrior and others of this calibre will close this gap, along with high-class domestic prospects like Pierro, So You Think, Rubick, Vancouver and Pride of Dubai which we are all proud to stand at Coolmore.”
Q: Colm, this is the question and answer you provided back in 2015 to close off the article. Do you have any advice for a young person wanting to start out in the industry?
A: “I’d encourage anyone to learn as much as you can about horses and horsemanship and pedigrees at an early stage. Really, that’s the most important step. Just being around horses, you’re learning about them without even knowing. We never stop learning about horses and often I think the more we know, the less we know. While living in Sydney I did a marketing course in 1998 and a communications course in 1999 at Sydney University and I believe they really helped me.
“I’ve had a wonderful life so far in this industry, from having lunch with a Prime Minister to meeting The Queen at Cambridge Stud in New Zealand and having the pleasure of showing Taiona and foal to her. I have met many people from all different walks of life and it has been a great career. It really is an amazing industry to be involved in, long may it last.” n