Stanley right to highlight perils of need for speed

The Last Lion: Middle Park Stakes winner to stand at Kildangan Stud

PICTURE: Martin Lynch ( Stanley right to highlight perils of need for speed
By Lee Mottershead 3:29PM 21 NOV 2016

ALTHOUGH our readers are an intelligent band who regularly send in both insightful and amusing correspondence, it is a rare thing that one of the published letters produces within me a silent cheer of complete agreement. Seven days ago that happened.

Newmarket stud farm manager Peter Stanley, motivated to write following the sale of smart stallion Champs Elysees from Banstead Manor to Coolmore, penned a plea to fellow members of the breeding industry.

Stanley pointed out Champs Elysees had sired 17 Stakes performers this year, while Mount Nelson, another now heading to Ireland, is the sixth leading sire by percentage of stakes winners to foals.

He argued neither stallion, both of whom scored at Group 1 level over middle-distances, had been sufficiently well supported by British breeders and that resulted in them being exported to stand as dual-purpose sires.

Outlining the severity of the situation, Stanley said: "We should be under no illusion this underlines the grave crisis in our breeding industry and the future of the breed itself.

"As commercial breeders we are all guilty of following this terrible need for speed the market dictates, but it will come at a terrible price in the long term.

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"Those of us who enjoy the splendour of Royal Ascot must understand that in years to come we will be watching a bunch of jumpers competing not just in the Queen Alexandra, but also in the mile and a half races as well."

Stanley is spot-on, as he was when bemoaning the increasingly fashionable decision to retire perfectly sound and healthy two-year-olds to stud.

In deciding that Middle Park Stakes first and third, The Last Lion and Mehmas, should next year become stallions, Godolphin and Al Shaqab were taking heed of the market's demand for precocity.

Yet that demand is horribly short-sighted and lamentable, as was the depressing decision to prematurely curtail the career of two extremely talented colts who would have had further plentiful options at three thanks to the creation of the Commonwealth Cup and its lead-in events.

There is much wrong with the bloodstock industry, the current obsession with early speed being one obvious example of its ill health. Indeed, that fixation is particularly ironic given, of all Flat racing's divisions, two-year-old competition is probably of least interest to the sport's fans.

We should therefore be encouraged that the BHA and European Pattern Committee are looking seriously at ways to improve the programme for stayers, partly in the hope racehorse owners might be less inclined to sell talented young prospects to Australia.

However, it is worth noting it is not simply the huge value of the Melbourne Cup that triggers their interest in our horses. It is largely because Australia no longer breeds its own middle-distance or staying horses, having abandoned that ambition in favour of chasing victory in the world's richest race for two-year-olds, the Golden Slipper.

It is no wonder the Slipper is known as the race that makes stallions in the southern hemisphere. Stanley was also right to highlight the sheer perversity of The Last Lion, a horse whose potential on the track will never get the chance to be realised, being advertised at a covering fee just €3,000 less than dual Derby winner Harzand. It highlights how very wrong things have become.

It is true, however, a large number of breeders are struggling, with the market's middle-to-lower tiers proving extremely difficult for many owners of mares.

For that reason, they understandably place safe bets when choosing where to send them. A significant degree of culpability must therefore rest with some of the major stallion farms, which are not only satisfying the dangerous and damaging craze for speed, but also feeding and encouraging it.

Those responsible for the racing programme will do what they can but, in itself, that may not be enough. In order to protect the breed and the nature of the sport as we know and love it, there needs to be self-regulation from within the bloodstock industry, particularly its upper echelons.

If that does not happen, as Stanley so eloquently made clear, we will all come to regret the serious mistakes currently being made.

    Read More at Racing Post Bloodstock

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