Hanson and Riva have faith Classic hero will prove more than just Reliable
Scott Burton meets the team behind the sophomore sire now standing in France
In at least one crucial respect, thoroughbred breeding is no different to every other area of human endeavour: there is no substitute for good timing.
Niccolo Riva had been in touch with Sven and Carina Hanson, principal shareholders in Reliable Man, for nearly two years before the deal was done to bring the 2011 Prix du Jockey Club hero to stand at Haras du Thenney in Normandy.
As last summer turned to autumn in Europe, Reliable Man's first northern hemisphere crop of two-year-olds began to make their mark, just as Riva's European Bloodstock Management announced that the son of Dalakhani would stand in France for the first time in 2018.
Within six weeks of the news breaking, a pair of juveniles bred by his first European station, Gestut Rottgen, had burst onto the scene in spectacular fashion.
Erasmus surged to an eight-length success in Cologne's Group 3 Preis des Winterfavoriten, earning him an official rating of 112, just 1lb below Lagardere runner-up Olmedo as continental Europe's leading two-year-old.
By that stage Rottgen trainer Markus Klug had already unleashed Narella, Reliable Man's first northern hemisphere winner back in July and a Group 3 winner over seven furlongs.
Out of the Listed-winning Monsun mare Naomia, Narella was purchased by Teruya Yoshida and will be trained by Roger Varian at three.
A Derby winner, but not only that...
Reliable Man's own career highlights reel features the Jockey Club and Randwick's Queen Elizabeth Stakes - both at or around a mile and a quarter - and the son of Dalakhani didn't make his racecourse debut until the April of his three-year-old season.
But Hanson is far from surprised at his ability to get juvenile winners over a variety of distances.
"I don’t think a lot of people understand that there is a lot of speed in the family," says Hanson. "Fair Salinia, the granddam, is by Petingo, who was a super sprinter. She never bred a good horse that stayed more than a mile. People think: 'Oh, Fair Salinia, an Oaks winner, Sadler’s Wells, Dalakhani…' but there is a lot of speed."
That versatility is born out by the performances of his three black type performers to date in Australia and New Zealand, where he stands at Westbury Stud.
In Sully and Main Stage, Reliable Man produced the second and fifth in the Victoria Derby, although the last-named earned his Listed stripes at 1m1f.
And Belle Du Nord has a pair of runner-up efforts at Group 1 level in New Zealand over seven furlongs and a mile.
Hanson says: "His best trip was probably 2,000 metres [a mile and a quarter] but in New Zealand they are running over 1,300 and 1,400 metres. For me he can get horses over any distance.
"We have a speedy filly [Senza Fine] who ran very well at two for Pia Brandt in Chantilly. She probably won’t get any more than a mile."
"You have to remember the Jockey Club"
For Riva, it was the horse's physique, as well as racecourse performance, which first attracted his attention when the Hansons brought Reliable Man across to Deauville to be shown during the breeding sales two years ago.
"I saw Reliable Man two years ago in Tourgeville and I met Carina there - we didn’t know each other - and I liked the horse a lot. I told Carina that if she wanted to stand the horse in France one day I would be very happy to do it.
"Last year I sent a mare to Reliable Man and you have to remember the race he ran in the Jockey Club, it was quite amazing."
Memories drift back to the sight of Gerald Mosse's white gloves guiding the grey through the Chantilly traffic but Riva's enthusiasm allows for no such reveries.
He says: "He is a nice horse, fit and well-proportioned but not heavy. He has got good bone. With horses it’s a feeling. You can look at pedigree and conformation but, even when you buy a horse, it’s what you feel and what you see in the horse first of all.
"He's a horse that knows what he wants. I can see him in the box and in the paddock. He doesn’t have character as such but, like my stallion man Olivier says, he's a macho, he is a man."
In for the long haul
It has been a mark of the way the Hansons have campaigned their best racehorses that they prize longevity - think Pride and her son One Foot In Heaven - and Riva is convinced that the team behind Reliable Man are in for the long haul with a relatively conservative number of mares in his already-full book.
Riva says: "He has 120 covers booked and then Carina and Sven will decide along with the syndicate whether we open up for a bit more. The syndicate likes the horse, believes in the horse and wants to preserve him. He is not a commercial horse, there to do one or two shots. That’s what I like about Carina and Sven. They are breeders first of all."
Not that Riva is one to overlook the statistics of Reliable Man's first crop conceived in Germany.
"He had only 50 mares in a year when Dabirsim covered 160 and Maxios 120," says Riva. "If you look at those 50 mares that he covered, none of them had previously produced a two-year-old. But they did with him."
Hanson adds: "About 47 per cent of that crop are already runners at two."
Reliable Man is one of three new additions to the Thenney roster in 2018, with Ivanhowe and De Treville also now on the payroll.
Haras du Thenney recently released a statement confirming that negotiations were ongoing with a potential buyer for the farm but which stressed that neither the stallions nor Riva would be going anywhere.
And it is clear that Hanson has every faith in the move to France.
"It was quite natural that we wanted to bring him to France as this is where he raced," she says. "I immediately felt that Niccolo liked him and I think that's very important. We felt that we might have another 'reliable man' in Niccolo."