Flintshire makes an interesting play for America
Flintshire: embarks on his stallion career at Hill 'n' Dale Farm
PICTURE: Jessie Holmes / Equisport Photos Flintshire an interesting play for America
By Nancy Sexton 4:35PM 12 JAN 2017
JOHN SIKURA acted boldly when stretching to just over $6.2 million to secure a 20 per cent share in Curlin with Elevage II during the summer of 2015.
When the share officially came on the market that spring, the horse had a pair of Grade 1 winners to his name but there was plenty of action in the pipeline and, 18 months on, he enters the 2017 season at Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm as one of America's most sought-after sires at $150,000 thanks to a roll-call of seven top-level winners.
It's not too fanciful to think Sikura has landed another coup with the addition of Flintshire – quite a different type to Curlin – to his roster.
An admirably consistent performer for Juddmonte Farms, the son of Dansili won eight races over the course of four seasons with Andre Fabre and then Chad Brown in the US, including five Group or Grade 1s.
It's the kind of toughness that should be embraced by breeders, especially in light of the fact his international profile encompassed victories in the Grand Prix de Paris, Hong Kong Vase and two renewals of the Sword Dancer Stakes in addition to a pair of placed efforts in the Arc and Breeders' Cup Turf. He retired sound as the winner of close to $9.6m.
In November it was announced that, rather than head back to Europe, Flintshire would stand in Kentucky as the property of a partnership deal formed of Hill 'n' Dale, SF Bloodstock, the China Horse Club and Juddmonte Farms.
Turf racing might not have the same appeal as dirt in the States but the combination of such powerful players should ensure he receives the kind of backing to give him every chance.
"I'd been thinking over the last two to three years that I should try to get the right kind of turf horse," says Sikura.
"Flintshire was world-class for years and in many different countries. He's a unique specimen. I heard a deal could be done, so I called Garrett O'Rourke [manager of Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky], discussed it and made a presentation to secure the horse.
"Flintshire was with Chad Brown in New York and I flew up to see him and the deal was done.
"Juddmonte kept a leg to support, which was a further endorsement. That was further allure on the horse. I'd never done business with Juddmonte before – their standard of business is above reproach, it was straightforward and the deal was fair. We were very pleased to do the deal on a world-class horse from a world-class organisation.
"And this is the first horse we've had at Hill 'n' Dale with the China Horse Club. They took a share straight away. They're visionaries. Few investors participate as strongly internationally as they do."
Hill 'n' Dale stood Theatrical, a major turf runner and influence, for the later years of his life, but as a premier Kentucky farm the
operation is naturally predominantly dirt-oriented.
The farm's veteran Stormy Atlantic is capable of throwing high-class turf runners, Stormy Antarctic being a prime example, but Flintshire is their only turf runner on a current roster of 13 stallions, which also includes Maclean's Music, a leading first-crop sire of 2016, Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern and the proven Midnight Lute in addition to Curlin.
But talk to a number of stallion masters in Kentucky and there remains a pride attached to a previous era when the likes of Nureyev, Nijinsky, Caro, Lyphard, Vaguely Noble, Ribot, Riverman and Blushing Groom ruled the roost.
"In the old days, those good European horses who would work here would get sold and come over, and that created worldwide trade in Kentucky," says Sikura.
"I think the more global we are in this business the better when it comes to vending, selling seasons and racing. I've always thought we can be too protective and judgemental on issues. You can find the good in racing jurisdictions all over the world and, by sharing and trading it, the whole breed is elevated."
Sikura expects Flintshire to cover a three-figure book but, in line with the farm's current policy, the horse won't be faced with mammoth numbers.
"The response has been fantastic," he says. "I should think he'll cover in excess of 100 mares, which will give him good representation.
"We're hearing a lot of talk at the moment about some stallions covering a lot of mares in a single book and it being tough in the sale ring as a result. For instance, Curlin's book size is 125. We're betting there's a bit of value in not covering excessive numbers. So when you come to sell one, you're one in four selling on a day, not one in 44.
"With Flintshire, I suspect the majority of his book will be turf mares, and in America that means you're obviously dealing with a smaller pool and an aspect that's maybe not as commercial.
"That's part of the challenge. But we'll support him strongly and of course some of them will be Juddmonte mares. Then a lot of American turf breeders are breed-to- race people. That will give him a real chance."
He adds: "It's best to be open-minded in this business. I suspect some of the aspects of the mare population here, such as the speed element, might end up suiting Flintshire.
Who would have thought Kitten's Joy would work so well with Grand Slam mares? Then look at [last year's Grade 1-winning dirt sprinter] Drefong – he's by a champion turf horse [Gio Ponti]."
Several European-based breeders have also registered interest and Sikura himself has not ruled sending a couple of his progeny to this part of the world.
Dansili's emergence as a sire of sires rests primarily on the exploits of Zoffany (alongside the promising starts made by Bated Breath, Delegator, Requinto and Famous Name) but it is a sire line that has already gained international exposure through the exploits of the New Zealand-based Zacinto, another former Juddmonte colour-bearer who sired the New Zealand 2,000 Guineas winner Ugo Foscolo out of his first crop.
Flintshire is the first son of the Juddmonte stalwart to stand in the US. However, Dansili has long been well represented to an American audience, primarily as a result of Juddmonte's strategy of sending a number of their better runners to race in the US.
Dansili's progeny invariably enjoy fast conditions and unsurprisingly there had been several, such as Price Tag and Proviso, who had excelled for the American arm of the operation before Flintshire emerged.
The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf has also fallen twice to his daughters – Dank in 2013 and Queen's Trust last year – while another daughter, Laughing, won the Diana Stakes and Flower Bowl Invitational.
All of which makes Flintshire, who is out of the Group 2-winning Sadler's Wells mare Dance Routine from Juddmonte's productive Bourbon Girl family, an interesting play for America.
Pedigree 7yo bay horse Dansili-Dance Routine (Sadler’s Wells)
Stands Hill ’n’ Dale Farm, Kentucky
Race record Won eight races and $9,589,910 including Grand Prix de Paris-Gr1, Hong Kong Vase-Gr1, Sword Dancer Stakes-Gr1 (twice), Manhattan Stakes-Gr1, Bowling Green Stakes-Gr2, Prix du Lys-Gr3, 2nd Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-Gr1 (twice), Breeders’ Cup Turf-Gr1 (twice), Coronation Cup-Gr1, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic-Gr1, Hong Kong Vase-Gr1, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud-Gr1, Dubai Sheema Classic-Gr1, 3rd Coronation Cup-Gr1
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