A supremely good result for scarcely used Sandmason
Lacken Stud celebrates breeding Summerville Boy from its own sire
In an age when the most popular stallions cover in excess of 250 mares each season, Tuesday's Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle delivered a salutary reminder that book size isn't everything.
Summerville Boy – the winner, in spite of some late jumping mistakes that would have stopped a lesser horse in his tracks – is one of only 23 runners under rules by the 21-year-old Sandmason.
Bred by the late Lord Howard de Walden's Plantation Stud, Sandmason hails from the family of the owner's Derby hero Slip Anchor. The son of Grand Lodge was trained by Sir Henry Cecil to win the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and after a spell racing in Australia took up stud duty in New Zealand, where he left two minor winners.
He moved to Ballintry Stud in County Meath in 2006, but met with little demand, and two years later found his way to Paul Rothwell's Lacken Stud in County Wexford, where he enjoyed an upturn in fortunes and covered 41 mares. That resurgence didn't last long, as in 2009 he covered 24 mares, in 2010 only 16, and in 2011 – the year Summerville Boy was conceived – just the 37.
In recent years Sandmason has seen barely any action at all. Weatherbys statistics report he served four mares in 2015, none in 2016 and one last year.
In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that Lacken Stud had to throw its own support behind the stallion, and Rothwell is indeed the proud breeder of Summerville Boy. He is none the richer for having stood the stallion, perhaps, but at least he has the reassurance that his judgement of horses has been proved correct.
“He just didn't get the numbers so never stood a chance,” Rothwell reflected. “He covered around 50 mares in one of his early years here but they were hard times for the industry and a lot of those would never have seen a racecourse.”
Naturally, after Summerville Boy's exploits and Black Op – another by Sandmason bred by Rothwell (and owned by Roger Brookhouse, one of the few who have believed in the sire) – appearing to hold a decent chance in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle on Wednesday, there might be a little more action in the Lacken Stud breeding shed in the coming weeks.
“There's been a good few phone calls and it's still early days in the covering season,” Rothwell said. “Summerville Boy did everything he could not to win but was impressive in the end and the connections of Black Op appear pretty bullish, so he could end up being quite popular.”
One of the mares covered by Sandmason already this season is Suny House, a daughter of Carroll House who is the dam of Summerville Boy. She was not in foal after being covered last year, but has a yearling colt by Snow Sky and a two-year-old colt by El Salvador on the ground.
Summerville Boy is one of only two runners under rules for the dam, although Rothwell says the mare “had a couple of nice horses who worked well at home but didn't get to the track”.
The horse was sold to Richard Downes for €4,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland August National Hunt Sale in 2015 and was trained to win between the flags at Killarney by Sam Curling, who then sold him to Brookhouse for £130,000 at the Goffs UK Spring Sale last year.
Rothwell was in high spirits after Summerville Boy's victory but, with the meagre funds generated by his association with his sale in mind, had some cautionary words on the state of National Hunt sales.
“There's a problem with trade,” he said. “Below the top prices there just isn't the same amount of purchasers and there's a lot of small farms like ours that have gone. That has a knock-on effect to these smaller stallions – they're not getting a fair crack.”
But for now, concerns about the market are on ice as Rothwell celebrates a first Cheltenham Festival winner bred on the farm since Smooth Escort took the National Hunt Chase in 1991.
And although it was business as usual for the breeder at Lacken Stud yesterday, it is off to Prestbury Park later this week to cheer on cousin Ivy Rothwell's homebred Road To Respect in the Gold Cup.
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