'He's had three $1m-plus yearlings sell, so there's great belief behind him'
Ashford Stud's Charlie O’Connor gives Kitty Trice the lowdown on exciting roster
History is everywhere at Ashford Stud, from the headcollar worn by the exceptional Sadler's Wells to photo galleries of other brilliant stallions past and present at the operation's pristine reception.
The American branch of Coolmore's global business has plenty of prompts as to what the future could hold too, with four exciting new prospects in Corniche, Early Voting, Golden Pal and Jack Christopher.
The Wesley Ward-trained Golden Pal was dealt an unfortunate hand on his final start in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint just down the road at Keeneland, with difficulties in the starting stall, but he joins the fold as a winner of that Grade 1 contest from the previous year and will prove a popular option for breeders standing at $30,000 alongside his sire Uncle Mo.
Jack Christopher has three top-level prizes on his CV, winning five of his six starts, and has been handed an introductory fee of $45,000 - with fellow new lads Corniche and Early Voting at $30,000 and $25,000 respectively.
There is also the smaller matter of two Triple Crown winners on the roster in Justify and American Pharoah.
In 2018 Justify became the first since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby having not raced as a two-year-old, and retired to Coolmore unbeaten after six starts. His first runners have seen him responsible for four individual Group or Graded scorers from ten stakes performers overall.
These include the unbeaten Group 2 Balanchine Stakes winner Statuette, a sizeable daughter of brilliant miler Immortal Verse and an exciting prospect for Classic honours in 2023.
A trio of Group or Grade 3 winners back up their sire's prospects, as does a Grade 1-placed performer in Champagne Stakes runner-up Verifying.
So what do the powerfully built chestnut's team in Kentucky think of the start Justify has made to his stud career?
Ashford's director of sales Charlie O’Connor says: "The American market likes horses with plenty of size and strength. Justify, American Pharoah and Uncle Mo are all examples of this.
"Plenty of those by Justify came to hand early and he had Group or Graded winners in June, July and August. He's had three million dollar-plus yearlings sell this autumn, so there's great belief behind him.
"He's covered sizeable books of high quality mares every year, which has given him every chance of success.
"One of those mares was 4,700,000gns purchase Immortal Verse, who produced the unbeaten Statuette, long considered by Aidan O’Brien to be the best juvenile filly in Ballydoyle.
"Most recently he had the winner and third in the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes and an impressive winner at Del Mar on Saturday in Justique who, according to trainer John Shirreffs, will likely be aimed at the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks."
The Scat Daddy theme stands strong at the Versailles-based stud 11 years after the much-missed sire's death, and it is another first-season resident in Mendelssohn who is bidding to carry on the red-hot Scat Daddy line.
A popular and often vocal character on the track whose wins included the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Group 2 UAE Derby - by 18 and a half lengths - it is not hard to see why the glossy bay cost MV Magnier a cool $3 million from Keeneland in 2016.
His first crop of two-year-olds have been making waves, headed by Grade 2 Jessamine Stakes winner Delight and six-length maiden scorer and stakes-placed Miracle.
O'Connor says: "Like Justify, Mendelssohn has been extremely popular with breeders since day one. Trainers like them too and are expecting them to be better again as three-year-olds."
Another star of the show is American Pharoah, whose Triple Crown triumph in 2015 bridged a 37-year gap to Affirmed.
The son of Pioneerof The Nile was, importantly, a Grade 1 winner at two, in addition to his three-year-old exploits, and he is now handing down his ability to offspring who excel on both dirt and turf.
O’Connor says: "As well as being super talented, American Pharoah was a thoroughly sound and genuine racehorse, and these are traits he's passing on to his progeny.
"He gets top class two-year-olds, three-year-olds and older horses over a variety of distances on both dirt and turf."
The most heralded and, at $150,000, priciest Coolmore kid on the block is Uncle Mo, sire of 11 individual top-level winners from 46 Group victors.
He added to his impressive record when Mo Donegal struck in the Belmont Stakes this year, while his reputation as a sire of sires continues to grow, not least very close to home.
O'Connor says: "Uncle Mo’s sons are going extremely well at stud. Our own Mo Town has had several first-crop two-year-old stakes winners, including an impressive stakes winner recently at Keeneland for Brad Cox."
Tiz The Law was another exciting addition to the Ashford roster as the winner of the Champagne Stakes at two and the Belmont, Travers Stakes and Florida Derby at three, and connections are naturally excited about the son of Constitution.
"Tiz The Law didn’t just win the Champagne, he destroyed his rivals and so it continued for the majority of his racing career," says O'Connor. "His weanlings are an impressive bunch and sold well in November, he’s a horse we’re very excited about."
The mighty Gun Runner's sensational start to his stallion career at fellow Kentucky stud Three Chimneys has been one of the major talking points over the last two years, and in Early Voting, Ashford has secured a son of the sire sensation.
The first-crop Three Chimneys-bred colt took down Epicenter in a thrilling finish to the Preakness Stakes in May, and O'Connor says: "Early Voting is a big, very good-looking horse and his sire Gun Runner has been a revelation. He’s showing here at Ashford and the breeders love him."
Corniche, meanwhile, was a dual Grade 1 winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and American Pharoah Stakes in 2021.
Bred by Bart Evans and Stonehaven Steadings and a seven-figure yearling when selling to Speedway Stables from De Meric Sales at Ocala, he is out of Najran's dual Grade 2 winner and Grade 1-placed Wasted Tears.
O'Connor says: "Corniche is by another leading sire in Quality Road, whose son City Of Light is off to a bright start at stud.
"Corniche is out of a very good racemare, he sold for $1.5 million at OBS April and was an unbeaten dual Grade 1 winner in his juvenile year, so he has a lot going for him."