No need for fowl play with William Johnstone's Euchen Glen
Ayrshire breeder can dream big with St Simon Stakes winner
Inbreeding provided one notable recent triumph when Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney, whose pedigree features Galileo at close proximity on his sire and dam’s side, took the Vertem Futurity Trophy.
Also adopting such a bold strategy at a more micro level is William Johnstone, whose Euchen Glen claimed his second consecutive Group 3 in the St Simon Stakes at Newbury last Saturday.
Now seven, the all-Scots product is a full-brother to the equally durable handicapper-cum-hurdler Sir Chauvelin. Both trained by Jim Goldie, they were bred from Clive Brittain's very minor winner Jabbara.
"Some people say if you haven’t got a mare that is a certain rating, it’s no use, but I think if you pair it up with something comparable to the way it’s bred itself, you’ll get something better out," says Johnstone. "At least I think that."
Elaborating on the methodology with Euchen Glen, he adds: "Jabbara's father was Kingmambo - his dam was Miesque, by Nureyev - and her dam was Isle De France, by Nureyev again.
"Nureyev and Sadler's Wells are three-quarter brothers so I bred them as close to each other as I could and I used Authorized, who was a grandson of Sadler’s Wells."
It has worked well, with Euchen Glen the winner of more than £364,000 in prize-money so far. Nursed back to health by Ieuan Pritchard of the Rainbow Equine Hospital in Malton, having sustained a tendon injury after winning the 2018 John Smith's Cup, he has also landed an Old Borough Cup and a Cumberland Lodge Stakes since that two-year hiatus.
"Sometimes you get an invitation to go to Hong Kong, Dubai, one of those nice tracks abroad and we’d go there," says Johnstone. "Jim Goldie, who is as good as any trainer in the country, thinks maybe the Melbourne Cup could be a plan for later on next year."
One might wonder whether Johnstone had assimilated his theory through reading the thoroughbred sages from Federico Tesio and Peter Willett to Tony Morris of this parish.
The truth is so much better.
"About 60 years ago I had a small general store shop, I used to meet a lot of people and this gentleman, who was always immaculately dressed, used to come in," he explains. "I’d deliver messages to his house and one day I asked him what he did as a hobby.
"He said he kept bantam cocks and he took me to see these chickens. They were all inbred. He said, 'This one here, that’s its mother, that’s its father, its grandfather, its uncle, it was so mixed up.
"I said, 'I thought if you inbred them like that they’d have three or four legs', but he said, 'That’s absolutely ridiculous; what do you think of the birds?' They were gorgeous, perfect-looking things and they won all the prizes. So I thought why not try doing it with breeding horses?"
Johnstone rose up the pecking order himself, expanding his business into care homes and becoming an Ayrshire institution; his enterprise owns 50 per cent of the local racecourse for a start.
He has owned and bred horses for many years and currently has five broodmares looked after by a daughter and granddaughter at his farm Bellslea, just outside the seaside town of Ayr.
Johnstone's poultry-inspired approach has also worked with his best current mare Fountain Of Honour, whose Australia colt Annandale scored at Bath a fortnight ago and is likely to be geared towards the middle-distance Classics.
"Euchen Glen was my best up until I bred Annandale, I think he could be better," he says.
"He’s bred on similar lines to Enable. The mare's by Sadler's Wells and when I went to Coolmore to say I wanted Australia to cover her, they said, 'That's a bit close', but I said, 'I can do what I like, I’m paying for it', so they said, 'That’s fine Mr Johnstone, you can', and that’s it. She has a lovely filly by him too."
Demonstrably a man who plays by his own rules, Johnstone has a ready sense of humour too. As the two-year-old, he says, is owned between a few members of his family and is trained by Mark Johnston, he opted for Annandale as it is the historic seat of the Johnstone clan. "It can be with or without the 'e'," he explains.
"It's just what I’m trying to do to improve my stock," he says of his breeding rationale. "I've got a Galileo mare in foal to Saxon Warrior, who's out of a Galileo mare. So they were very interested waiting to see how nice that one turns out."
Hopefully that foal will provide another feather in this illuminating owner-breeder's cap.
This article and series is in association with Great British Racing International
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