Shalaa-bound duo among the Castlefarm broodmare band
Dubawi, Galileo and Dandy Man also due to cover the Gittinses mares
Shalaa's golden juvenile season in 2015, when he showed he was the fastest two-year-old of his generation with victories in the Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes, brought his young breeders Aisling and Mark Gittins of Castlefarm Stud in County Kildare into the limelight.
Now that Shalaa begins his first season at stud, standing at Haras de Bouquetot, the couple are thrilled to have the opportunity to breed from their star.
“We're delighted to be able to support Shalaa,” said Mark Gittins. “His book is capped and when you look at the quality of mares going to him – Treve, the dam of The Fugue and so on – and the numbers Al Shaqab Racing is sending him, it’s great to be able to support him.”
Aisling added: “We're sending two mares to him - Las Brisas [a Shamardal half-sister to Listed winner Nantyglo from the family of L'Ancresse and Moonstone] and Rakiza [a daughter of Elnadim who is the dam of Listed-placed Exactement] - and we consider ourselves very lucky to get one mare to Shalaa, let alone two.”
The son of Invincible Spirit is the most expensive new stallion in Europe this year and his dam, Ghurra, is due to foal a sister to Shalaa.
“Ghurra is our flagship mare and she is booked in to Dubawi this year. She deserves to have that opportunity,” Mark explained.
A daughter of War Chant, Ghurra won three times and finished third in a US Grade 3 before her move back to Europe for her stud career. She is a half-sister to Middle Park Stakes winner Hayil and to the granddam of Dragon Pulse.
Ghurra is the dam of three winners - Shalaa and the Montjeu brothers Dai Bando and Pearl Castle. She also has a two-year-old filly by High Chaparral.
Castlefarm Stud is also home to Ghurra’s half-sister Alkhawarah, by the Phone Trick stallion Intidab. Rested last year, she goes to Footstepsinthesand this spring.
“Footstepsinthesand is a very good value stallion; he gets consistent results on the track and in the sales ring,” Gittins said.
The stud is trying to use proven sires as much as possible for their mares despite the general lure of the new.
“We're aiming towards proven sires and trying to steer away from using unproven ones on our mares as much as possible,” Gittins said. “You do have to use some because of the commercial reality, but we are very selective about the ones we are going to use.
"We have chosen Belardo and The Last Lion for a couple of our mares. We think they're the most suitable for the mares we have and we are also sending a mare to Pride Of Dubai but we really believe you have to be careful with the ones you choose.”
Lady Springbank, winner of the Group 3 Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas Trial and CL Weld Park Stakes, is due to foal to Galileo.
Her 2016 filly by the Coolmore colossus was sold to Philip Stauffenberg for 300,000gns at Tattersalls in November. Her three-year-old daughter by Sea The Stars, called Dellaguista, won her maiden for William Haggas at Lingfield in December.
The stud has decided on a change of direction away from the Derby winning half-brothers and towards a proven sire with speed for the daughter of Choisir.
“We're sending Lady Springbank to Juddmonte to visit Oasis Dream,” Gittins said. “We think he's good value at the higher level and he is a proven sire, with plenty of Group 1 winners.”
Galileo is still on the agenda for a Castlefarm mare but this time for Shimmering Moment, a daughter of Afleet Alex. A Listed winner in Ireland, she was also placed twice at Grade 3 level in the US.
Besides Ghurra, another daughter of War Chant who is part of the 18-strong broodmare band at the farm is Ballymore Lady. Seven times a winner in the US, she won the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes and was also placed twice in Grade 3 races.
“Ballymore Lady has a lovely yearling and foal by Sea The Stars and this year she will be visiting Exceed And Excel,” Gittins said.
Some of the young mares that have retired to the broodmare band have been raced by the Gittinses, including Lady Springbank and Shimmering Moment. Mark also owned Prix Jean Prat winner Lord Shanakill, so racing is very much part of what he and Aisling do. It also informs their breeding plans.