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Shrewd broodmare buy gives Llety Farms a first Royal Ascot winner

Martin Stevens speaks to David Hodge, the man behind Soldier's Call

David Hodge: had a hand in two previous Windsor Castle Stakes runners-up
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After several near misses, Welsh stud Llety Farms bred its first Royal Ascot winner last week – and did so from a stakes-winning mare it raised and sold and miraculously managed to reclaim as a broodmare prospect for just $15,000.

The operation, run by David Hodge, had a hand in two previous Windsor Castle Stakes runners-up – Fratellino and Union Rose, both thwarted by Wesley Ward runners in Strike The Tiger and Hootenanny – before finally fielding a winner of the race when Soldier's Call, sold for 85,000gns as a yearling to Joe Foley on behalf of Clipper Logistics, stormed to victory on Saturday.

Soldier's Call is by Showcasing out of Dijarvo, a daughter of the late Coventry Stakes winner Iceman sold by Llety Farms as a yearling for £3,000 before she won a five-furlong Listed race at Maisons-Laffitte at two and later raced in the US.

Hodge takes up the tale. "Barry Minty, who had Hollybush Farm near Badminton, had the dam and she was boarded with us," he says.

Soldier's Call: son of Showcasing storms to victory in the Windsor Castle Stakes

"As we were involved with Dijarvo we followed her throughout her career and had seen they had started running her over a longer trip in America.

"But if you look back through the family they're all five-furlong horses – very powerful, 15-hand precocious types. Her great granddam, Abeer, was Khalid Abdullah's first stakes winner when she won the Queen Mary Stakes."

So when Dijarvo came back on the market, at the Keeneland January Sale of 2014, Hodge was ready to pounce.

"Chad Schumer had been shadowing her once she dropped into claimers in America and had advised me to wait until she went to the sales," he says.

Schumer – along with his agency's European representative Nancy Sexton, a columnist for the Racing Post – bought the stakes-winning mare for just $15,000.

"I never expected to pay that. I thought we'd have to go a fair bit higher," admits Hodge.

Dijarvo duly returned home to the picture-postcard Towy Valley in the winter of 2014 and her first date was with Llety Farm's own stallion Stimulation, the Challenge Stakes winner best known for siring Cesarewitch and Sagaro Stakes heroine Sweet Selection as well as Union Rose.

Sweet Selection, incidentally, is in foal to Highland Reel with Hodge having bought into the high-class mare, who was bred by his neighbour Alun Douch.

Dijarvo's three-year-old filly by Stimulation, named Saria, was retained and finished placed for the dam's original handler Carroll.

Soldier's Call is Dijarvo's second foal and had Hodge "walking around like the Cheshire Cat" over the weekend. His trainer Archie Watson now has a rightly ambitious programme that could include the Breeders' Cup mapped out for him.

Dijarvo also has a yearling filly by Canford Cliffs and a colt foal by The Last Lion.

A poignant postscript to the joyous chapter in the history of Llety Farms is that the foal will be Dijarvo's last produce, as she died ten days after giving birth.

"She colicked," says Hodge. "We got her straight to the surgery but they couldn't do anything. It's sad as she was such a lovely little mare, built like a tank. But the colt by The Last Lion is an absolute belter. He's on a foster mare now and is happy as anything."

Some consolation for the stud is that it can continue breeding from Dijarvo's relatives as besides the Canford Cliffs yearling filly, it also has a Sayif yearling half-sister to Dijarvo, having acquired their dam Thicket from Minty.

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E.W. Terms