Shantou’s hot spell pays off for Burgage Stud

Death Duty: is by the Burgage Stud resident Shantou

PICTURE: Patrick McCann ( Shantou's hot spell puts Burgage back on the map
By Nancy Sexton 12:12PM 5 JAN 2017

THE instances of sire lines developed by the same operation working in harmony is not uncommon. It stands to reason that studs, if lucky enough to be in possession of two or more successful stallions, will experiment with crossing the lines in question when the opportunity arises, and in doing so are likely to be armed with a strong knowledge of progeny traits, making the likelihood of success that much stronger.

It's a strategy that has unsurprisingly benefitted many of racing's larger outfits. For Marcel Boussac, the idea of relying on crossing the blood of his own stallions, in particular Asterus, Pharis, Tourbillon and his son Djebel, yielded champions Esmeralda, Ardan, Palencia, Priam, Caracalla, Arbar, Djeddah and Coronation among others.

Numerous examples relate to today's age. Juddmonte stallions Dansili and Distant View have struck up an excellent relationship (six stakes winners from 11 runners) as have Cheveley Park Stud's Dutch Art and Pivotal mares (six stakes winners from 28 runners).

Bearstone Stud's Firebreak sired Group 1 winner Hearts Of Fire and Listed winner Electric Feel out of daughters of another Bearstone stallion in Mind Games.

Over jumps, Hidden Cyclone is the best of five winners by Stowaway out of mares by Shahanndeh, both past residents of Ronnie O'Neill's Whytemount Stud.

Such a fruitful relationship has also formed between Bob Back, King's Theatre and Shantou. While Shantou stands at Burgage Stud in County Carlow, which for many years was the home of Bob Back, both have strong associations with Ballylinch Stud, which stood King's Theatre and also for a time Bob Back.

Jump racing over the Christmas period served up notable results for a host of stallions, not least Walk In The Park and Voix Du Nord, both of whom enjoyed Grade 1 doubles. In the case of Shantou, it consolidated a strong December for the son of Alleged which had begun with Airlie Beach's success in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on December 4. Another 13 winners followed during the month, among them Death Duty, successful in the Navan Novice Hurdle.

That hot run continued on to New Year's Day when Shantou was represented by three additional winners led by Shantou Flyer, who scored in the Grade 3 handicap chase at Cheltenham on his first start for Rebecca Curtis. Successful in last year's Florida Pearl Novice Chase, he is one of a growing number of talented Shantous out of mares by Bob Back. Others include Briar Hill, while another three on the cross – The Storyteller, Lake Takapurna and Shantou Bob – struck on December 26 and 27.

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Circumstances dictate that Shantou will have had more than an average opportunity with Bob Back mares. Yet the figures – 15 winners from 23 runners – still paints the partnership in a positive light.

Circumstances will have also dictated that the partnership between King's Theatre and Bob Back has had plenty of opportunity. In turn, it has flourished, producing the likes of Bobs Worth, Carrigmorna Rock (a half-brother to Shantou Flyer), Blood Crazed Tiger and Lyrical Theatre.

Such success also pays further credit to Bob Back's talent as a broodmare sire. His daughters have bred the winners of the Grand National (Many Clouds) and Cheltenham Gold Cup (Synchronised) and were also responsible for the first two home in the 2013 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham (Briar Hill and Regal Encore). In the past two months alone, others have featured as the dams of significant winners such as Special Tiara, Many Clouds, Blood Crazed Tiger, Regal Encore and Three Swallowsnick.

"All along, we heard from trainers that the progeny of both Bob Back and Shantou were tough, honest and willing," says Victor Connolly of Burgage Stud who bred Briar Hill. "If you mix those attributes together, it's bound to give you a better chance.

"We had a stack of Bob Back mares and they went to Shantou. And a lot of people who'd previously had success with Bob Back then supported Shantou, and often by sending his daughters.

"Both were similar in that they were slow burners at stud. They had to do it the difficult way in that they had winners, which pleased trainers, and it built from there."

By the time Ballylinch and Burgage joined forces to bring Shantou to Ireland for the 2005 season, Bob Back was 24 years old. The son of Roberto was retired from stud duty in 2007 and lived until he was 30.

"He was good for a lot of people," says Ballylinch Stud's managing director John O'Connor, who was influential in securing Bob Back on behalf of a syndicate to stand at Baroda Stud upon his retirement in 1988. Bob Back later followed O'Connor to Ballylinch when the executors of the late Sean Doyle, who had owned Baroda, decided to sell the stud.

"He sired more good horses in his 20s, including a Gold Cup winner [Bobs Worth], than a lot of sires do in a lifetime," he adds. "And now he is a very good broodmare sire."

In Shantou, Burgage gained a Classic winner who was already proven at stud. Bred and raced by Sheikh Mohammed, Shantou had been trained by John Gosden to win the 1996 St Leger and began his stud career in Italy, where he sired Prix Vermeille heroine Sweet Stream in his first crop. The Grade 2-winning hurdler De Valira came out of his second.

"He never covered more than 40 mares in a season in Italy," says Connolly, "and from that he got Sweet Stream and five Group 1 horses overall. So we weren't dealing with a horse who was unproven. He had the class to sire a Group 1 winner and that gave us the confidence to support him."

Out of Shantou's first Burgage crop came Prix la Barka winner Ballynagour, who went down by only a head to Silviniaco Conti in the 2015 Betfred Bowl, while his second included Grade 1-winning hurdler Morning Assembly.

Briar Hill is the headline act of his fourth but particularly eyecatching is the fact that Airlie Beach, Shantou Flyer and Shantou Village are all products of his 2010 crop, which numbers just 33 foals. During that period, he has also had plenty of opportunity with Bob Back mares, having covered at least two of them in every season since 2006.

"Shantou was bought as a replacement for Bob Back and maybe they complement each other physically; Shantou is a compact horse with good bone while Bob Back was slightly taller," says O'Connor. "I think both are also an influence for toughness. I always thought that at Cheltenham, where they need to come up that hill, that the Bob Backs tended to come into their own."

Like Bob Back before him, Shantou is becoming a real stalwart of Burgage. As that 33-strong crop of 2010 illustrates, it hasn't always been easy-going but greater exposure has deservedly come his way and last year, at the age of 23, he covered 120 mares. With Airlie Beach, Death Duty and Shantou Flyer among his current representatives, it looks well justified.

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