'She looks as exciting a mare as we've had' - Whitsbury Manor Stud mating plans
The Hampshire stud's Ed Harper talks through the broodmare band and stallions
Proven class and exciting potential are the orders of the day at Whitsbury Manor Stud, whose director Ed Harper has plenty of reasons for optimism ahead of the forthcoming breeding season.
The operation's stalwart Showcasing enjoyed a sensational year in 2020, with Mohaather's impressive victory in the Sussex Stakes among the highlights, along with Alkumait showing an equally potent turn of foot to win the Mill Reef Stakes.
Havana Grey's first foals sold especially well last term, while Due Diligence covered his best book of mares. Add in Adaay, who got off to a promising start with his first crop of juveniles, plus the latest addition to the stallion ranks in Sergei Prokofiev, a Group-winning son of Scat Daddy, and you have an exciting mix.
Sergei Prokofiev is set to receive a high-quality book of mares from Whitsbury Manor, befitting a three-time stakes winning son of Scat Daddy who also placed in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Harper explains: "The country's been crying out for a fast son of Scat Daddy and he was the one I was plumping everything on, so to get the one I wanted was fantastic.
"We were lucky that the National Stud allowed us to show him off during the Tattersalls Mares Sale, and a lot of people were able to go and see him. He was never going to be a bad-looking horse after making $1.1 million as a yearling, but he's one you don't forget given his presence and bone."
Sergei Prokofiev, who is out of the placed Tapit mare Orchard Beach, has proven a particularly easy stallion to send mares to given he is free of the dominant European bloodlines.
Harper continues: "Our mating plans usually take me weeks but I could almost do it with my eyes closed with Sergei as he could literally cover almost every one of our mares.
"Because we focus on speed we're heavily dominated by Danzig and Green Desert blood - which we love and it has worked well for us, although it has presented us with a few quandaries. Sergei solves that and our clients have found the same."
Among the 20 or so mares being sent to the five-year-old are Satsuma - the dam of Cornwallis Stakes winner Good Vibes and a Havana Grey colt who sold for 130,000gns to Paca Paca Farm at Tattersalls - Charline Royale, a Group 3-winning sprinter and half-sister to the Group 1-placed Big Time Baby, and My Lea, a dual Group 3-winning daughter of Dandy Man.
"We're going to stick to the speed-to-speed formula that's worked well and I believe will work well for him," says Harper. "We've got a lot of fast two-year-old winning mares that we want to keep the speed with but ideally add a bit more size in."
Showcasing, a 14-year-old son of Oasis Dream, has consistently proven his worth among the leading European sires over the last few years and in 2020 was responsible for two of the most exciting horses in training in Mohaather and Alkumait.
Mohaather may have retired to Shadwell's Nunnery Stud but Alkumait remains in training with Marcus Tregoning, and he looked a Group 1 prospect following his Mill Reef triumph. Another high-quality book of mares are set to visit his sire.
Harper says: "To come up with arguably the most exciting horse in training last year is almost beyond what we could have hoped for. Mohaather really stole the summer and in any other year we'd have kept Showcasing's fee the same or increased it."
Showcasing's dance card includes Placeinmyheart, the stakes-winning dam of Queen Mary heroine Heartache, Sacre Coeur, the producer of Group 2 scorer Stepper Point and the Listed-winning Lady In France, and Penny Royale, the dam of stakes scorer Sweet Gardenia.
On fixing Showcasing's 2021 fee at £45,000, Harper explains: "Times are tough and I spoke candidly to commercial breeders who'd been finding it tougher than most people, and I really felt we needed to make a gesture.
"It's gone down very well and he'll cover another book of around 150-160 this season. We'll send him a selection of the best mares we can find him."
Flying Five Stakes hero Havana Grey maintained excellent momentum with his first three books and his first crop of foals were well received at last year's sales, with two of his colts selling for 130,000gns and €135,000.
The six-year-old son of Havana Gold will again cover a book brimful of quality and quantity, with Aquarius - a winning half-sister to Havana Gold's Group 3 winner Tabdeed - an eyecatching purchase by the team.
Harper says: "We regularly buy mares to suit a new stallion - I bought some mares to go to Sergei - and with Showcasing we have to buy him new mares as that's what he deserves.
"Usually a third-season sire would receive mares from ours in the system, but we've never had a horse who's produced such a consistent type of foal. His first two books were strong on quality and numbers - covering 131 in his second season - and we want to keep the momentum going."
Also included in the grey's book are Frequent, a half-sister to Showcasing, and Harlequin Twist, a daughter of Acclamation whose Showcasing yearling colt sold for 310,000gns to White Birch Farm and Demi O'Byrne at Book 2 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale last year.
Due Diligence and Adaay
Due Diligence may go slightly under the radar but Harper insists the son of War Front can again step up to the mark, having produced the classy Group 3-winning pair Good Vibes and Streamline in his second career so far.
The ten-year-old completes the five-strong stallion roster alongside Adaay, a son of Kodiac whose first crop of juveniles showed plenty of promise last term.
On the home support for Due Diligence and Adaay, Harper says: "We'll be sending nine or ten each to those two chaps. I think Due Diligence is particularly good value this year [at £6,000] - he upgraded his mares so well in his first season and then we struggled to get a good book for his second and third seasons.
"People are perhaps judging him on a quiet year in 2020 but, for me, he's shown he's as good as upgrading his mares as Showcasing was in his first season. He's got his strongest book of mares in foal and arguably this year is value to use him.
"We're sending him the dam of Diligent Harry, who won first time out for Clive Cox this month. Clive is very excited about him and he's from the Due Diligence-Compton Place cross that has worked so well. We're also sending a nice Exceed And Excel mare called Roxie Lot amongst nine or ten."
The Whitsbury team have lined up a stellar cast of outside stallions for several of their mares, with Kingman, Frankel and Kodiac among them.
Suelita has produced three black-type performers from four offspring to have made the track, including Alkumait, and is set for a date with Kingman, while Heartwarming, a winning and stakes-placed half-sister to Flying Childers Stakes winner Heartache, will visit Frankel.
"Suelita looks as exciting a mare as we've had and every time we step her up in covering she seems to do the business," says Harper. "We considered sending her back to Showcasing but as she wasn't covered last year, as she was late foaling the Frankel who sold for 550,000gns [at Tattersalls], we thought we'd send her to Kingman and then go back to Showcasing.
"We usually consider only speed stallions but if you're ever going to make an exception, then Frankel's the one. For me he's the best racehorse to ever grace the track so if we can mix Heartwarming's speed with his class then we'll have something formidable."
Hand On My Heart, a winning Iffraaj half-sister to Heartache, is booked to Kodiac, while Athas An Bhean, a winning daughter of Royal Applause, will visit Bungle Inthejungle.