The secret is out about National Stud newcomer Spill The Beans
James Thomas chats to Billy Jackson-Stops about the son of Snitzel
Australians have long held the secret to producing speedy and precocious stock, and now domestic breeders can avail themselves of the genes that have powered a record-breaking rise in the southern hemisphere, as the National Stud in Newmarket has welcomed Spill The Beans, the first son of the mighty Snitzel to stand in Europe.
Not only is he the first son of Snitzel to stand in Europe, but he is also the first horse to stand under the Atlas Stallions banner, the brainchild of 28-year-old Billy Jackson-Stops. The Englishman cut his teeth in the industry working for the likes of James Delahooke and Hascombe and Valiant Studs, as well as stints as assistant to Olly Stevens and Ralph Beckett before an eye-opening spell with Godolphin Australia.
"I took a lot from being in Australia," says Jackson-Stops. "Principally it was learning about their way of training, racing and placing horses. As my interest grew in the Australian breeding I got to spend more time in the Hunter Valley looking at their sires, and the idea for Atlas Stallions came off the back of two years spent working as assistant trainer to Godolphin in Australia.
"I felt with Australia having bred commercially for so long, and Europe still being a few years behind them in that regard, that there was space to try something different in the stallion market here."
Step forward Spill The Beans. The imposing five-year-old was an undefeated two-year-old who went on to land a trio of Group races at three, including the Group 2 QTC Cup over six and a half furlongs, for trainer Gerald Ryan and owner Arrowfield Stud.
"Spill The Beans became a very simple choice," says Jackson-Stops when asked how tough it was to home in on a reverse shuttle prospect.
"He was unbeaten as a juvenile and won multiple stakes races at three, including the Group 2 QTC Cup. He's by Snitzel and from the family of Australia’s Horse of The Year Bounding Away, so his pedigree backed up his race record. To successfully reverse shuttle, a stallion must also be physically very correct, which Spill The Beans is. He bears a great resemblance to his sire as well."
Spill The Beans may be the first son of Snitzel to stand in Europe, but breeders here ought to be well aware of what a potent source of winners the son of Redoute's Choice is, having recently smashed records left, right and centre in his native land.
Snitzel was crowned champion sire by both prize-money and winners during the 2016-17 Australian season, making him the third generation in his line to claim the title after his own sire Redoute's Choice and Danehill. But that feat alone barely scratches the surface when it comes to illustrating the level of dominance Snitzel has exerted over the Australian breed in recent times.
"The idea was always to get a son of Snitzel," says Jackson-Stops of the sire who has now supplied 12 Group 1 winners and 14 A$1 million-plus yearlings and counting.
"His rise in Australia has been meteoric and he not only claimed all three major Australian sires' premierships [general, three- and two-year-old] last year but also led them by winners, stakes winners and stakes wins.
"He also equalled Danehill’s record of 26 stakes winners in a season and beat the record for individual two-year-old winners too. Snitzel has really put himself in the headlines internationally, so it made sense to look for a stallion by him who had the good looks, race record and pedigree to suit commercial breeders up here."
Spill The Beans, who will stand at just £6,000, not only brings with him a cast-iron pedigree and an enviable race record, but he has already been given the seal of approval from breeders in Australia having stood two seasons at the upwardly mobile Aquis Farm.
"Australian breeders threw their support behind the horse early on," says Jackson-Stops. "In his first year at stud  he was the most popular first-season sire in the country, covering over 200 mares. And in his second season over 70 per cent of breeders sent the same mare back to Spill The Beans because they liked their foal so much.
"I went to see his foals for myself in November and that confirmed to me Spill The Beans has all the attributes to be a success in the northern hemisphere.
"Since arriving at the National Stud, Spill The Beans has already attracted a lot of support from owner-breeders, commercial breeders and agents," he continues. "Mark Dixon, who bred and owned the Oaks winner Talent, was one of the first to book a nomination. Matt Coleman, one of the best agents around, came to see the horse in the flesh and has booked in one of his own mares, so the right people are already supporting him."
Not only has Spill The Beans gained the backing of those who have been to see him since he arrived in Newmarket, with his poster-boy looks catching the eye of several notable judges, but Justin Fung of Aquis Farm ventured to the Tattersalls December Sale to acquire a number of mares with whom to support the horse.
"The connection with Aquis came through Johnny McKeever," explains Jackson-Stops. "I asked Charlie Budgett, who worked for Johnny, to buy a horse for myself and Newgate Farm's Henry Field at last year’s February Sale. Johnny approached me in Australia to thank me for using them and we’ve been friends ever since.
"He's been incredibly supportive and he and James Ferguson brokered the deal with Aquis to get Spill The Beans up here. It was great to have Justin Fung up here in December buying mares to send to Spill The Beans too."
Spill The Beans brings an international edge to the line-up at the National Stud, which has undergone something of a renaissance of late thanks to the addition of eyecatching newcomers Aclaim and Time Test, who will join the current incumbents Gregorian and Marcel.
"I wanted Spill The Beans to stand at the best place possible, so we approached Philip Mitchell from the National Stud and he was very receptive to the idea," says Jackson-Stops. "They've been unbelievably helpful, and with the likes of Amy Taylor and Tim Lane on the ground, as well as the Duke of Roxburghe taking the helm, the stud is on a steep trajectory to success."
With model good looks, an in-vogue pedigree and a top-drawer race record, not to mention the backing of some of the biggest names around, it's no secret that Spill The Beans rates one of the most exciting new prospects.
Read our in-depth guide to this year's intake of stallion talent here