Gabrial's enduring talent puts O'Ryan's shrewdness in the spotlight again
Back in 2010 bloodstock agent Bobby O’Ryan visited the DBS - now Goffs UK - Premier Yearling Sale in Doncaster and paid £46,000 for a colt from the debut crop of Yeomanstown Stud’s Dark Angel. Almost eight years to the day, the horse in question - Gabrial - is still going strong, and on Monday recorded the ninth win of his storied 84-race career.
The nine-year-old, who was bred by Brian Kennedy from Meadowlands Stud, has danced just about every dance, having run in 60 black type events including a Lockinge, a St James’s Palace and three Sussex Stakes.
He has won a brace of Listed races and a Lincoln Handicap, and has marked himself down as one of the finest servants in training by amassing an impressive prize-money haul of £824,636.
His win strike-rate may not be exceptional, largely due to frequently being set such tough assignments, but having also placed on no fewer than 28 occasions he has proved nothing if not willing for owner Dr Marwan Koukash, for whom he supplied a landmark 500th winner.
While plenty from his generation have long since retired to stud and begun siring winners of their own, the Richard Fahey-trained Gabrial has continued to ply his trade on the racecourse, with his bank holiday success paying tribute to the talent of his sire and the shrewdness of the man who sourced him.
"He was a smashing yearling," recalled O'Ryan from Doncaster on Tuesday. "The first day I saw him I loved him, I loved his attitude and he was a great walker with a lot of strength about him. He's with an exceptional yard and they've handled him very well. He's won a lot of money and he turns up at all the big gigs. He's just a brilliant horse."
However, having jumped on the Dark Angel bandwagon at the earliest opportunity O'Ryan has been something of a victim of his own success.
Thanks to the exploits of horses like Gabrial and his high-achieving paternal siblings Harry Angel, Battaash and Mecca's Angel the son of Acclamation is now rightly considered one of Europe's flagship stallions, with six elite winners to his name despite starting covering duty at just €10,000.
"The only thing is we can't afford Dark Angels anymore," he added ruefully. "But we'll keep looking until we find the next one."
Gabrial has spent his whole racing life at Musley Bank under the watchful eye of Fahey and his long-serving assistant Robin O'Ryan - cousin of bloodstock agent Bobby.
"He's just a gent to have about the place and has never been a moment's bother," said Robin O'Ryan. "To still be going as a nine-year-old and still running to a good mark is a rare feat.
"At the time no one knew how good Dark Angel was," O'Ryan said when asked to recall Gabrial's early days with the yard. "Although if they did Bobby would've had to pay more for him! He was a big horse as a yearling but he still won at Chester on debut, which was brilliant. He's been a star ever since and has repeatedly done us proud."
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