Meon Valley Stud's 2019 mating plans anything but black and white
James Thomas speaks to the farm's Mark Weinfeld
With a broodmare band of Classically-bred blue-bloods, planning the matings for the Meon Valley Stud mares requires skill, patience and no small amount of research.
"I start working on the matings around August, doing various bits of research, and then after the sales I usually tear it up and start all over again!" jokes stud manager Mark Weinfeld when asked about the annual challenge of compiling the Meon Valley mating plans.
"I like to try to see most of the stallions every year so I have their image fresh in my mind. I consider the physical pairing of the stallion and the mare and the trips the two competed. I like to look at nicks as well.
"When you look back through a stallion's pedigree and find certain crosses have worked with different branches of your mare's pedigree you can be hopeful it's not just a one-hit wonder. There are many different elements that go into the melting pot before reaching the final decision."
Dash To The Front
16 b Diktat - Millennium Dash (Nashwan)
2019 covering sire: Dubawi
From the family of 1,000 Guineas winner One In A Million, Dash To The Front has produced four runners with a Racing Post Rating of 100 or higher, most notably dual Group 1 winner Speedy Boarding and the progressive Elwazir. She is currently in foal to Iffraaj.
"She produced quite a useful horse by Dubawi before [Next Stage] but unfortunately he got injured," says Weinfeld. "He was a cracking-looking individual so we thought we'd try the mating again. Dubawi is a phenomenal sire; he and Galileo are head and shoulders above everything else at the moment.
"Since Next Stage was born Speedy Boarding came out and won two Group 1s and Dash To The Front also produced Elwazir, who could be a very good horse this year."
Dash To The Top
17 b Montjeu - Millennium Dash (Nashwan)
2019 covering sire: Muhaarar
A half-sister to Dash To The Front, the Listed winner and Yorkshire Oaks runner-up Dash To The Top has produced two stakes performers in the Group 3-placed Dynasty and the Listed third Very Dashing, and is also the dam of impressive maiden winner Anapurna, a three-year-old daughter of Frankel.
"I think Muhaarar is a smashing-looking horse, he really takes the eye when you see him," says Weinfeld. "It would be very disappointing if he didn't turn out to be a good stallion. He was a great racehorse and has great presence. I think he's been reasonably priced to start off with too.
"We've used him all the way through and we have a two-year-old filly by him out of Izzi Top named Bizzi Lizzi, who's in training with John Gosden. She's very strong and I'm hopeful she'll make a nice two-year-old, she looks great we're absolutely delighted with her so far."
8 b Dubawi - Match Point (Unfuwain)
2019 covering sire: Cracksman
A steadily progressive performer on the track who landed a Listed race over 1m6f at four, Deuce Again could be represented by her first runner this year in the shape of her Oasis Dream colt, who Meon Valley retained at a cost of 70,000gns at last year's Book 1.
"I think Cracksman is a really good-looking horse and the way he won at Ascot on his final start re-confirmed my enthusiasm, and confidence, in him," says Weinfeld.
Hippy Hippy Shake
10 b Danehill Dancer - Hyperspectra (Rainbow Quest)
2019 covering sire: Roaring Lion
A Listed-winning daughter of Danehill Dancer who proved best at around 1m2f, Hippy Hippy Shake, who is in foal to Nathaniel, was represented by her first runner last year when the Kingman filly Twist 'N' Shake ran a highly encouraging third on debut in a Newmarket novice stakes for Luca Cumani.
"Given what Roaring Lion achieved on the track, I felt we had to use him," enthuses Weinfeld. "He's also a bit of an outcross, you've got to go back quite a few generations to find any Northern Dancer.
"Looking at Roaring Lion, I felt he probably wants a mare with a bit of substance and a reasonable-sized back-end, which Hippy Hippy Shake has got. She's a real tough-looking mare, so physically and trip-wise I thought it may be a very good match.
"We think we have quite a useful filly by Kingman out of her called Twist 'N' Shake. Luca Cumani trained her and he thought quite a lot of her. She is with John Gosden this year."
7 b Danehill Dancer - Zee Zee Top (Zafonic)
2019 covering sire: Frankel
An exciting young mare who descends from the stud's foundation producer Reprocolor, Jazzi Top landed the 2015 Group 2 Prix de la Nonette for John Gosden and missed out on Group 1 laurels when going down by just a head to Covert Love in the Prix de l'Opera later that same year.
"She's from the Danehill line, so when you throw a horse from the Galileo line in there it's a fairly obvious cross to breed on," says Weinfeld of the mating that will result in a foal inbred 3x3 to Danehill. "She's quite a light, delicate mare and he's quite a substantial horse so I think he'll suit her physically, I think she's the perfect size for him.
"She went to Pivotal first-time-out and we got a smashing colt, who's now a yearling. Of course we had hoped for a Pivotal filly, so typically we got a colt."
16 b Galileo - Milligram (Mill Reef)
2019 covering sire: Lope De Vega
A winning daughter of Galileo and the top-class miler Milligram who descends from One In A Million, Millistar has produced four winners and looks set for an upgraded cover in 2019 as she visits Ballylinch Stud's upwardly mobile Lope De Vega.
"I'm a big fan of Lope De Vega and have really liked the horse since I saw his first crop of yearlings in Deauville. I decided to use him on the strength of those," says Weinfeld. "He's a big, muscular horse so we've been sending him our lighter, more delicate mares and that seems to work quite well.
"We sold a lovely colt by him at Book 1, he was bought by Newspaperofrecord's owners Klaravich Stables [for 160,000gns] to go to Chad Brown. Millistar is from the One In A Million family and the fillies tend to be delicate, feminine types so putting that bit of substance into the mating can really make a difference."
9 b Montjeu - Zee Zee Top (Zafonic)
2019 covering sire: Invincible Spirit
Having never raced herself and with her first runner, Hendrix, showing minor promise at Lingfield recently, Monzza still rates as something of an unknown quantity. However, the early evidence suggests she could well develop into an important producer for Meon Valley, as her Invincible Spirit colt fetched 900,000gns from Shadwell at Book 1 last year.
"The colt we sold last year sold so well and was such a lovely-looking individual that we thought we'd go back there," Weinfeld says of the Irish National Stud linchpin.
"It's always a bit risky going back to the same sire. If you've had a horse sell really well and it isn't much use, repeating the mating can be a mistake so I don't often do it. But in this case Invincible Spirit seemed to suit the mare perfectly, and he's not cheap so you need to send a mare who's going to justify the covering fee. If we got a filly next time we'd gladly keep her."
9 b Medicean - Hyabella (Shirley Heights)
2019 covering sire: Camelot
A daughter of Medicean from the Reprocolor family, the unraced Queen Arabella opened her account at stud last year when her first foal, the Excelebration colt Garden Oasis, scored at Haydock for Sir Michael Stoute.
"We've been a big supporter of Camelot from the start," says Weinfeld. "He's a smashing-looking horse and he's really starting to come good now having had three top-flight winners last year. Funnily enough we've always had more luck with Montjeu than we did with Galileo - I'm not really sure why."
10 b Shirocco - Spectral Star (Unfuwain)
2019 covering sire: Frankel
A mare with a serious amount of talent, having finished runner-up in both the English and Irish Oaks, Shirocco Star has got her second career off to a promising start, with her first foal, Starcaster, having got off the mark last year shortly before her third foal, a colt by Dubawi, fetched 1,100,000gns from Stroud Coleman Bloodstock during Book 1.
"We've got a very nice colt out of her called Telecaster with Hughie Morrison. He's by New Approach so we're sticking with the Galileo line by going to Frankel. Telecaster is an outstanding-looking horse with a great big stride, he hasn't run yet but Hughie seems very enthusiastic.
"Frankel is doing phenomenally well at stud. There were mutterings when he retired that he'd never produce anything as good as himself, but he's certainly producing a lot of good horses - he's a proper sire."
7 b Shamardal - Dash To The Front (Diktat)
2019 covering sire: Kingman
Arguably the most exciting young recruit to Meon Valley's illustrious broodmare band in recent years, the Prix Jean Romanet and Prix de l'Opera heroine Speedy Boarding is by Shamardal, who boasts a burgeoning reputation as a broodmare sire. His daughters have already clicked well with stallions from the Green Desert sire line, notably in the cases of Awtaad (by Cape Cross) and Pretty Pollyanna (Oasis Dream), making the hugely exciting Kingman an ideal option for her third cover.
"Kingman has got off to a good start at stud," says Weinfeld. "I thought he was a fantastic racehorse, he was very tough and there's no such thing as an easy Group 1, so if you can win four you've got to be very good.
"I thought this mating would really suit Speedy Boarding in terms of trip, and she's quite a big mare and he's not too big, so physically I thought it made a lot of sense too.
"She's got a Dubawi colt to go to the sales later this year and is in foal to Frankel."
Star names rested…
Two of Meon Valley's biggest names are due to be rested from breeding duty in 2019.
Izzi Top, winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes and the Prix Jean Romanet during her own racing days, has already produced three smart winners from as many runners in the shape of Dreamfield, Prince Eiji and Willie John, but will be given a break after delivering an Intello foal.
Her dam, Zee Zee Top, who also produced Jazzi Top, will also take a year off once she produces a foal by Muhaarar.
"They're both due to foal quite late [around April 10] and many people don't like to buy May foals, so resting them this year and getting a nice early cover the following season is our preferred option," explains Weinfeld.