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Monday, 17 December, 2018

'There's nothing like the thrill of seeing your graduates win good races'

The leading consignor tells us about life in the breeze-up market

John Cullinan: "There are so many other qualities in a horse other than their ability to make 22 and half seconds"
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How and when did you become involved in selling breezers? Like most people, we started off with the odd unsold yearling and I used to have one or two with Willie Browne - he, of course, is the pathfinder in our industry. We started doing an extra couple ourselves and gradually built it up over the years.

It's a numbers game now. It takes a lot of professionalism and hard work, and there's a lot of risk. I teamed up with Roger Marley a good few years ago and we've increased our activity every year.

What has been your best pinhooking achievement and what attracted you to him as a yearling? Commander Han was among our better pinhooks. We gave €62,000 for him as a yearling and got 400,000gns for him. He's turned out to be a promising horse. His sire, Siyouni, jumped out at us and he was a big, strong individual.

Stephen Hillen and Kevin Ryan bought him and they're two damn good judges. If you look at their track record for buying breezers, they're at the top of the table on our website for producing winners from the breeze-ups. It's always a compliment when they buy your horse.

Church Farm and Horse Park Studs offers a Kingman colt at Arqana. What can you tell us about him? And are there any others from your draft at Arqana we should be looking out for? We like the Kingman colt (lot 23) a lot. He's a nice, well-bred, quality horse and one for July onwards. Kingman is one of the higher-profile sires of his generation and I'm sure there'll be a lot of expectation for him.

We've got a Siyouni colt (35) out of Sea Life that goes very well too. He's always been smart and we've always liked him. He seems a natural, like most of the Siyounis. They tend to know their job and that's good news for us. We've also brought a Wootton Bassett colt (153) that's very sharp, very quick and ready to run.

The Kingman colt to be offered as Lot 23 is "one for July onwards"

You have enjoyed great success with the offspring of Kodiac at this year’s sales. What is it that sets his progeny apart? We've been involved with Kodiac from the very start. They're naturally tough, they want to race and don't take much galloping. They know their job and all you have to do is point them.

He's a world record-breaking sire having come up from the lower end of the stud-fee scale. There's not many stallions that do that and when they do, it tends to mean that they're above average and I think he's proved that now.

You couldn't have enough of them, but they're getting expensive!

Which Church Farm and Horse Park graduates are you most looking forward to seeing race this season and why? There's a Kodiac colt out of Folegandros Island that we sold at the Tattersalls Craven Sale that's now with Richard Hannon. He was a very nice horse with a lovely temperament.

Richard Hughes bought a Gale Force Ten from us at the Tattersalls Ireland Ascot Sale and I understand he's been given the burden of being called Top Breeze! He's a horse we're hopeful for though.

Pam Sly has a nice one from us last year called Barford. She came back again this year and bought an Alhebayeb off us at Doncaster and a Dandy Man at Ascot. We're hopeful both will make decent two-year-olds.

Cullinan describes the Siyouni colt out of Sea Life (35) as "a natural"

What aspect of your job do you most enjoy? And least enjoy? There's nothing like the thrill of seeing one of your graduates winning good races. That's what it's all about, we need to be producing racehorses for end-users.

Injuries would be the single biggest disappointment. People have this misconception that breezing is hard on horses. The reality is that we do a lot of work on the conditioning of them and we resist galloping them until very late in their preparations.

We've had injuries and they tend to be freak accidents in the paddocks or stables and things like that. It's very rare they happen on the gallops but given the numbers we've got, injuries do happen.

The other disappointing thing is when they don't do what you expect them to do in their breeze. Horses won't suddenly get fast at the sales, but when they don't do what's expected of them, that can be frustrating.

Best day in the business? I got a great kick out of selling Music Show, who was my first Group 1 winner. She was unlucky in both Guineas but won the Falmouth Stakes. She was bought by a great friend of mine, Gill Richardson, for very little money - so I didn't get anything out of it - but it was fantastic to produce a Group 1 winner.

Next to that was Royal Ascot in 2014 when Eddie Lynam had the three winners - Anthem Alexander, Slade Power and Sole Power - all of which came through our hands here.

The best day in the sale ring was Arqana last year when we sold Rastrelli for €550,000 among others.

Which sire with their first two-year-olds has impressed you most with their early runners? At the moment Bungle Inthejungle seems to have got off to a flyer and he wouldn't have been on everyone's radar and fair dues to him. Kingman - I'm a little bit biased because I've one to sell - is the one I'm looking forward to most in the second half of the season. I'm also looking forward to Slade Power, again though I'm biased because I've two Dark Angel half-brothers to him and other members of the family on the farm.

What do you think is the secret to successfully pinhooking a breezer? Good luck! It's a hugely competitive sector and there are some fantastic operators in it. 

We've got to buy the right type of horse, bring them home, break them, educate them, stay injury free, keep them healthy, hopefully get them to breeze well, show a good attitude and a good action, not to make any noise and breeze quickly.

You've to tick so many boxes and then pass the vet when you get back to the yard. It's very demanding and you need a hell of a lot of luck, and if a lot goes your way, you'll get a good price on the day.

The Wootton Bassett colt (153) that's "very sharp, very quick and ready to run"

What, if any, emphasis do you place on timing when you’re preparing breeze-up horses? Timing is a fact of life now. It's important to a lot of people but it's not the be-all and end-all and is only one part of a very complex jigsaw. There are so many other qualities in a horse other than their ability to make 22 and half seconds. 

It's got quite sophisticated with timing and measuring stride lengths, and people who buy breezers are probably more informed than any other sector in the industry. They know what they want and we have to try and provide that.

Thankfully there's a broad spread of opinions among the buyers for breeze-up horses, otherwise we'd be going down the American route where speed is everything. And if you go down that route, the carnage in producing horses like that would be unsustainable.

The current talk on the breeze-up circuit is how demand is struggling to keep up with supply. How do you interpret the health of the breeze-up market at present? It's tough going and I don't think anyone would say any different. I don't think it's specifically a breeze-up issue. There's a lot going on in the world and Britain particularly. Trainers are reporting that orders are scarce and there's uncertainty in the financial markets, which tends not to help bloodstock investments. 

We think there's fantastic value out there and some of the shrewder judges have been filling their boots, but, unfortunately, not everyone's in that position.

The trading difficulties at the sales have been exacerbated by additional numbers, which we feel has been counter-productive. A lot of those are unsold yearlings from the autumn but too many of those entered the breeze-up sector. When there's a lack of demand colliding with oversupply, it doesn't take a genius to work out how hard it's going to be.

Favourite breeze-up sale to attend and why? Brendan Holland of Grove Stud was asked the same question recently in one of your publications and he said Goresbridge because it's the end of the season, there's a good relaxed atmosphere and good Guinness, and I think I'd go along with that!


If you enjoyed this, you should also read:

'We always thought Siyouni's qualities would suit Australian racing well'

Going Cleere: the jockey using science and soft hands to produce future stars

Stormin' Norman applying a jumping man's eye to the art of the breeze-ups

I got a great kick out of selling Music Show, who was my first Group 1 winner

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