Quality over quantity for Derby Sale returnee Manister House Stud
Luke Barry's operation sold One For Arthur and Wicklow Brave in 2012
Luke Barry of Manister House Stud in Croom, County Limerick, surely felt a surge of pride when the catalogue for the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale, that takes place in Fairyhouse this week, dropped through his letterbox. Not only were two of the cover stars consigned at the 2012 renewal by the family stud that he manages, but each went on to etch their name into the annals of racing history.
The valiant One For Arthur fended off Cause Of Causes in this year's Grand National to become the first Scottish-trained winner of the race since Rubstic in 1979 after Patrick Redmond went to €34,000 to secure the son of Milan from the Manister House draft.
He had five starts in point-to-points at four for handler Liam Kenny, before breaking his duck at Lingstown in 2013, when among the beaten horses was subsequent RSA Chase winner Blaklion, who was also fourth when One For Arthur landed the Aintree showpiece.
Equally impressive has been last year's Irish St Leger winner and fellow Manister House graduate Wicklow Brave, who joined an exclusive club of horses that have won top-flight contests on the Flat and over jumps when seeing off My Tent Or Yours in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in April.
Harold Kirk and Willie Mullins had the winning bid of €43,000 for the son of Beat Hollow.
"I was lucky enough to sell One For Arthur for the Power family, who are friends of ours," says Barry. "They bought him and reared him just down the road from us in Bruff, and I was lucky enough to be asked to prep and consign him. I was just a very small cog in that wheel.
"Wicklow Brave was a horse that caught our eye with the help of Bobby O'Ryan at the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale, and Beat Hollow was a stallion who made a lot of sense at the time.
"The horse stood out as one that would work well given a bit of time. We turned him out and brought him along with some homebred stores of our own. He was just a very straightforward horse. Good horses speak for themselves, and they were both good-looking individuals."
Wicklow Brave had been in the headlines before his Curragh victory last year, and his highlight reel includes winning the 2015 County Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
"He's been a good horse for a while now," continued Barry. "He won three bumpers in a row for Willie Mullins and they've always liked him. He's been a horse for all seasons, and what a magic horse for everyone to be involved with - especially his present connections."
What makes the Manister House graduates' achievements all the more remarkable is that the stud offered just three stores at the 2012 Derby Sale - and Barry gives some indication as to why the pair proved so popular.
"They were both very nice individuals who were very much liked at the sales. They had all the right people on them when they walked into the ring," he said.
"One For Arthur was a tall horse and definitely looked like he would take a bit of time, while Wicklow Brave was the opposite and looked quite sharp."
So much of the intertwined worlds of breeding and selling might seem like a numbers game, but when it comes to the store market Barry is plainly a believer in quality over quantity.
"They were from a very limited offering of stores down through the years. We concentrate a bit more on the Flat but we seem to be very lucky and have managed to sell some good horses - that's what it's all about."
Given the stud's location a good horse or two is a must-have to avoid feelings of envy towards its near neighbours.
"It's an area rich with good stud farms," Barry pointed out. "We're surrounded by very successful farms like Croom House, Ballyphilip, Rathmore and Islanmore - we're all within a three-mile radius of each other.
"We have between 15 and 20 mares at any given time, with one or two or those for National Hunt purposes. We also board some mares for clients. On the Flat, we're 50-50 between homebreds and pinhooks, while our National Hunt stock work on a similar ratio just to smaller numbers."
The Manister House name may have been absent from the Derby Sale catalogue since One For Arthur and Wicklow Brave went through the ring, but the wait is now over for buyers wishing to return to the well from which those stars emerged.
The first Derby Sale offering from Manister House Stud since 2012 is a Flemensfirth gelding (Lot 288) out of Aktress, a sister to the aforementioned Whiteoak and half-sister to the Galway Hurdle second Kinnescash, which makes the three-year-old a half-brother to Chelsea Flyer, a progressive novice hurdler in the ranks of Emma Lavelle. The stud also offers a Jeremy gelding (325) out of Bisoguet, a placed daughter of Adonis Juvenile Hurdle winner and Champion Hurdle third Bilboa.
"They are two very nice horses and we like both of them a lot. We'll let the judges make their minds up but everyone should come and have a look at them," says Barry.
"We just hope they can stand up against the rest, though we feel they can. To be fair, the Derby Sale is a catalogue full of nice horses and the competition is bound to be strong.
"We'd pinch ourselves if one of these could make the catalogue cover in a few years. Who knows, we're just selling the dream!"
The competition Barry refers to consists of 458 other lots of future National Hunt talent catalogued for the two-day part one of the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale, which takes place at the Fairyhouse Sales complex on Wednesday and Thursday, with a further 180 lots due to be offered during part two on Friday.
The sale commences at 10.30am each day.