'A standout foal would be the Dubawi half-sister to Waldgeist'
Industry figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Newsells Park Stud's general manager Julian Dollar tells us about how he is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Europe-wide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus
How is life ticking over for you at the moment, how has life changed due to Covid-19 and lockdown?
I can only repeat what so many in the breeding industry have already said, which is that life has changed very little. We’ve had a very busy season at Newsells Park and no one tends to go very far afield during the season anyway, so in that respect not much has changed.
On the stud, the guys have worked exceptionally hard and been great about dealing with all the protocols required for dealing with the virus. Luckily in this industry we already have some discipline in trying to keep viruses at bay.
From a purely personal point of view, I’m spending a lot more time with my children than I originally planned, because they are normally at boarding school. I think that’s been quite tough on them and they’re now desperate to go back to school!
Can you give us a taste of some of the well-bred foals you've been welcoming this season?
Standout foals for us would be a Dubawi half-sister to Waldgeist, who is very powerful and impressive and a Galileo filly out of Aljazzi - as a first foal, she's very encouraging.
Birdwood, a half-sister to Enable, had a very strong colt foal by Shamardal and I like the Kingman filly out of Secret Sense - who's a Shamardal half-sister to Japan and Secret Gesture.
Another foal we like is the Siyouni colt out of Giant’s Play. Tragically we lost this Group 2-winning daughter of Playful Act as she haemorrhaged soon after foaling.
As far as the year’s first-season sires are concerned, I have been very impressed with the Zoustar foals. Just don’t tell David Redvers!
Are you or your clients covering any fewer mares this year because of an expected downturn in the market?
No, we’ve all ploughed on with mating plans that were made in the autumn. As breeders, we’re optimistic by nature - we have to be. Hopefully markets will have recovered a good deal by October 2022 when the bulk of these mating would be offered for sale as yearlings.
There are always a few tweaks and changes to mating plans during the season, but those are the sorts of changes made every year with some stallions that are struggling or mares that cannot be bred for one reason or another.
What's your view on online sales, if they had to happen in Europe this year?
An online sale is better than no sale at all. I think everyone would prefer a sale where you could look at the yearlings physically on site (particularly for yearlings), but if that can’t happen an online sale would be the next best thing.
Inglis demonstrated earlier this year it can work if there is enough support behind it and we are certainly planning on a great deal more visits by agents and prospective owners to view the stock at Newsells Park Stud in the weeks leading up to the sales, in another nod to the way the Aussies do things.
The North American Jockey Club livened up lockdown by announcing the 140-mare stallion cap - would you welcome a similar move in Europe?
I really didn’t want to answer this question because I'm conflicted about it. Part of me believes that the market should ultimately decide how many mares a stallion covers, but there is another part of me that bemoans the loss of diversity in the pedigree pool.
Hand on heart, I don’t believe that massive books for a relatively small number of stallions is the right thing for the breed in the long term.
What's your best guess on what will happen to the market this year, and how long it will take to recover?
I’m not known for my optimism, but I’d like to think I’m a realist rather than a pessimist. I think everyone accepts that the markets are going to be affected, but exactly how and to what extent, only time will tell.
Somewhere between 20 per cent at best and 50 per cent at its worst would be my guess, but the sooner racing is back up and running and life returns to some sort of normality, the better. I can certainly see Newsells Park Stud having a few more in training next year, but we’ve got some lovely yearlings, so it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Do you think there will be any positives to come out of the crisis eventually?
There’s bound to be some positives. For a start, I doubt people’s gardens have ever looked better!
From the industry’s point of view, I think everyone does pull together in a crisis and if people are a little more empathetic and kind to each other, so much the better. Online bidding was bound to come eventually and speeding up the process is to be welcomed.
If yearling prices take a knock, stallion fees are bound to follow. We already know that stud fees are more linked to sales prices than success on the track.
However, high yearling prices and strong stallion fees are a sign of a strong market, while most of the studs that stand stallions are the biggest contributors to the industry, so I don’t see falling yearling prices or falling stallion fees as necessarily a good thing, I just wouldn’t want to see the former without the latter!
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through quarantine?
A film I particularly enjoyed recently was Never Look Away, which is a German film and a bit off the radar but very powerful. I remembered it anyway, which is usually a good sign!
Otherwise, I'm a big fan of historical novels and fiction and I’ve enjoyed Bernard Cornwall’s The Last Kingdom series over the years. There are now four seasons of that on Netflix.
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
I confess that the loss of the first couple of weeks racing didn’t really impact me. We were so busy on the stud and not many Newsells-breds tend to be running in March (except those running at Cheltenham I hear Oliver St Lawrence shouting!).
However, watching the French and German racing recently, I can’t wait for us to get up and going again. We desperately need it both for the industry and ourselves in general. We all need things to look forward to in life and there’s been too little of that recently.
Now with racing (hopefully) about to return, we can get excited again. This year there are too many nice horses that we have had the privilege of breeding and raising here at the stud to mention them all.
Japan and Mogul are two obvious ones, but others from the Classic generation include Starcat, by Lope de Vega and co-bred with Qatar Racing, and Waldkonig, by Kingman and co-bred with Gestut Ammerland like his half-brother, Waldgeist.
Papa Power, by Nathaniel, is another exciting Newsells Park Stud-bred and looked impressive in his last couple of starts, and we were lucky enough to foal Without Parole on behalf of breeders John and Tanya Gunther. Like them, I think he can bounce back to the sort of form when he won the St James’s Palace Stakes in 2018.
For Nathaniel, as well as the aforementioned Papa Power, I’m obviously looking forward to seeing Enable strut her stuff again. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if she could win a third Arc? Albeit I know we were the party poopers last October with Waldgeist! I’m also looking forward to seeing Floating Artist, who I heard encouraging whispers about only today.
Equiano always has his share of blistering sprinters and I’m looking forward to seeing Dakota Gold out again this season and also seeing what Sunday Sovereign might be capable of this year. Equilateral gave notice of what he is really capable of in Dubai over the winter and of course The Tin Man continues to fly the flag for his sire. He looked pretty full of himself in a recent tweet from James Fanshawe at the ripe old age of eight!
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