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Diamond Boy sparkling with strong support at Kilbarry Lodge Stud

Martin Stevens speaks to Con O'Keeffe about his popular recruit

Con O'Keeffe with the "terrific looking" Diamond Boy
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This article was first published in December 2018

If it seemed surprising that French export Diamond Boy had covered a bumper book of 235 mares in his first season at Kilbarry Lodge Stud in County Waterford this year, recent events have shown the operation and its clients had clearly done their homework.

The 12-year-old, a Listed winner over 14 furlongs at Saint-Cloud for Francois Doumen, was retired to Haras de la Croix Sonnet near Deauville in 2012. His fine jumps pedigree, as a Mansonnien brother to Willie Mullins' multiple Grade 1-winning chaser Golden Silver, was his principal selling point.

Diamond Boy's progeny have been the subject of encouraging reports since they were foals, but they have really begun to make their mark on the track this year.

His best performer, Cat Tiger, won two Grade 3 chases at Auteuil, most recently in the Prix Morgex under David Maxwell – only six days after the jockey had bought his mount in the Arqana sale-ring for €180,000.

The useful Grand Sancy has obliged on his last two starts for Paul Nicholls, including in Listed company at Haydock last month, and is entered in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle on Friday and Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle on Saturday.

There is also Le Precieux, a placed chaser for Gary Moore who scored in a Chelmsford maiden by seven lengths this month; Dont Hesitate, a ten-length Ballinrobe maiden hurdle winner for Mullins in September and a close fourth in a Grade 3 mares' novice hurdle last month; and Valdieu, placed in all five starts in bumpers for Noel Meade.

Grand Sancy: the son of Diamond Boy looks a useful sort for Paul Nicholls

The promising performers are coming thick and fast, with Monsieur Lecoq storming to a seven-length maiden hurdle victory for Jane Williams at Ffos Las on Monday.

Diamond Boy has also enjoyed considerable auction success, besides Cat Tiger, with four youngsters sold for €60,000 or more at this summer's store sales.

Those results have vindicated Kilbarry Lodge Stud owner and point-to-point handler Con O'Keeffe's decision to get back into the stallion business following several fallow years after the roster featured the likes of Classic Cliche, Marienbard and Urban Ocean.

“It wasn't a hard decision to do it all over again – my main interest is breeding, not training,” he says, before explaining how the deal for Diamond Boy was struck.

“I know the people at Haras de la Croix Sonnet well. I've been visiting the stud for 20 years or so, and had almost done a deal for an earlier horse they had called Astarabad.

“When we approached them to buy Diamond Boy, one of the partners in him had just died, so it just happened to be the right time.”

And why was Diamond Boy targeted?

“Reports regarding his stock were very strong – the foals and the horses in the fields were noted for being good lookers,” says O'Keeffe, who founded the stud in 1997 and runs it with significant input from son Thomas, a partner in Newmarket veterinary practice Rossdales. “The early comments from trainers in France were extremely positive.

“Also, at the time, there was probably a gap in the market for that type of stallion – an outcross French-bred jumping sire with size and bone. We have a lot of horses all from very similar bloodlines in Ireland, so I just thought something different might make appeal to breeders.”

While O'Keeffe was positive about Diamond Boy's chances, he admits to being somewhat surprised by just how well he has taken off in Ireland.

“I was confident he'd get a good book of mares, but I'm delighted by, and very appreciative of, the support he got in the end,” he says. “Many of the mare owners who came had been to the stud before, but we attracted some new business too.

“He got a few nice winners at the right time, and the word from breeders and from some important people in the industry was so strong, I think that proved influential.

“But, most importantly, people came to see him and they loved the individual himself. He's just a terrific looking, lovely horse. Good temperament, good size; he's hard to fault.”

Roaring trade in Diamond Boy nominations has led to Kilbarry Lodge Stud expanding its roster for 2019 as it welcomes the well-bred Pillar Coral, who stood his first season at Annshoon Stud this year.

The four-year-old Pillar Coral is an unraced Zamindar half-brother to no fewer than three high-class horses who have sired Grade 1 winners over jumps – Coastal Path, Reefscape and, most notably, the marvellous Martaline.

He hails from the fabulous Juddmonte family whose members include another source of National Hunt top-notchers, Beat Hollow, as well as the blue-chip Flat sires Kingman and Oasis Dream.

“We had approached the owner of the horse before this year and subsequently he approached me about standing him,” says O'Keeffe. “He has the pedigree, size and stature to make him a very good addition to the farm.”

The Con O'Keeffe-trained Kilbarry Lilly scores between the flags at Boulta

Everything appears to be coming up roses for Kilbarry Lodge Stud at the moment, and this month O'Keeffe sent out an impressive homebred winner between the sticks who hails from a family in form.

Kilbarry Lilly scored in a four-year-old fillies' maiden at Boulta from the Colin Bowe-trained Streets Of Fire, with the pair pulling eight lengths clear of the third.

She was bred by Thomas O'Keeffe and is by Classic Cliche out of the Saddlers' Hall mare Tropical Lilly, a €12,500 yearling purchase at the Tattersalls Ireland November National Hunt Sale in 2002. Her half-sister Tropical Lady later won the Group 2 Royal Whip Stakes and a pair of Group 3 contests for Jim Bolger.

Kilbarry Lilly's sister Kilbarry Classic is the dam of Embittered, who was bred from Fame And Glory by Con O'Keeffe and was the impressive winner of a Punchestown bumper for Joseph O'Brien and Gigginstown House Stud on the same day that Kilbarry Lilly had won her point.

Another unexpected pedigree update came this year when Wilamina – a half-sister to Tropical Lilly and Tropical Lady – won the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes on Derby day in June. The dam, Tropical Lake, was the ripe old age of 22 when she was conceived.

“It would be brilliant if someone made a decent offer for Kilbarry Lilly,” reports O'Keeffe, “otherwise we'll most probably go for a mares' bumper under rules in the new year. The Classic Cliches tended to like nice ground.”

Tropical Lilly is taking after her dam in terms of longevity and at the age of 17 she is in foal to, who else, but Diamond Boy.

She was joined by other proficient producers including the dams of Definite Ruby, Doctor Harper, King Of The Picts and Mr Whipped among that book of 235 mares that welcomed the sire to Ireland.

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