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Lope De Vega scaling new heights

6 min read

Written by Emma Berry

In Europe of late it’s nigh on impossible to miss the name Lope De Vega (Ire) in racing and sales results. Lope De Vega’s dual-hemisphere days may have been cut short but the legacy of his four seasons in the Hunter Valley is underscored by the fact that he is responsible for two of the 12 runners in The Everest.

The former shuttle stallion is currently represented by his largest crop of two-year-olds, including the recent Group winners Phoenix Of Spain (Ire) and Antonia De Vega (Ire). At France’s premier yearling sale, Arqana August, his nine yearlings on offer sold for an average of €300,566 (approximately A$480,000), including the €900,000 (A$1.4 million) second-top lot of the sale.

Now 11, the dual French Classic winner made the best possible start at stud in the northern hemisphere, becoming the champion first-season sire of 2014, emulating both his sire Shamardal and grandsire Giant’s Causeway in this accomplishment. Just before he sealed the title, it appeared fleetingly that Lope De Vega would feature as part of the Patinack Farm Dispersal. The fact that the former Nathan Tinkler-owned operation did not possess him outright meant that he was swiftly removed from the list at Magic Millions and Ireland’s Ballylinch Stud, where Lope De Vega has stood his entire European career, moved in association with the stallion’s breeder Gestüt Ammerland to secure the southern hemisphere rights.

Now 11, the dual French Classic winner made the best possible start at stud in the northern hemisphere, becoming the champion first-season sire of 2014.

“When Patinack Farm started to wind down, an offer came in to buy the southern hemisphere rights,” recalls John O’Connor, Managing Director of Ballylinch Stud. “We felt it was the right thing to do as we had anticipated the progress he was making up here and we became less enthused about shuttling him.”

Lope De Vega’s dual-hemisphere days may have been cut short but the legacy of his four seasons in the Hunter Valley is underscored by the fact that he is responsible for two of the 12 runners in The Everest. Vega Magic, who races for his breeders Wally and George Daly, lines up for a second time after starting favourite and finishing second in the inaugural running of the world’s richest race, and he will be joined by another son of the stallion’s first Australian crop in the treble Group 1 winner Santa Ana Lane.

He is responsible for two of the 12 runners in the Everest, Vega Magic and Santa Ana Lane.

Everest contendor Santa Ana Lane winning the Group 1 Darley Goodwood

These two star sprinters are backed up by locally-bred Group winners Spanish Reef (Aus) and French Fern (Aus), we well as the successful imports Endless Drama (Ire) and Divine Unicorn (GB).

Though no longer visiting Australia, Lope De Vega’s services will still be available during the southern hemisphere season for select breeders. O’Connor says, “We think he’s done very well in both hemispheres. Bar one mare, this is the first year we’ve offered coverings to southern hemisphere time and it will only be limited numbers. The mares need to be good and we’ll probably only cover 12 to 15.”

"This is the first year we've offered coverings to southern hemisphere time and it will only be limited numbers." - John O'Connor, managing director of Ballylinch Stud

Lope De Vega has already shown an affinity with Danehill, his first-crop champion son Belardo (Ire) being out of Ballylinch’s own Danaskaya (Ire), while another to have been bred at his home stud, the treble Group 2 winner and Group 1 runner-up Very Special (Ire), is a daughter of Danielli (Ire), making her a half-sister to the top-flight winner Chriselliam (Ire) (Iffraaj {GB}).

Furthermore, Lope De Vega’s GI Natalma S. winner Capla Temptress (Ire) is out of a mare by Danehill’s son Dansili (GB) and a similar pattern is found in Santa Ana Lane, a son of the Fastnet Rock (Aus) mare Fast Fleet (Aus).

Lope De Vega's G! Natalma S. winner Capla Temptress (IRE) is out of a mare by Danehill's son Dansili (GB) and a similar pattern is found in Santa Ana Lane.

“He definitely works very well with Danehill and there seems to be an emerging pattern with Galileo (Ire),” says O’Connor. “But he’s such a good sire I’m sure that more successful crosses will emerge. He seems to work with a variety of different mares.”

"He seems to work well with a variety of mares." -John O'Connor

Ballylinch Stud, through its strategic partnerships with other independent breeders, has become a significant player in the European stallion market outside the large-scale operations. The farm’s staunch support of its stallions has been particularly rewarded in the case of Lope De Vega and several of its key families feature in Lope De Vega’s best runners. Most recently this is true of unbeaten juvenile and G3 Prestige S. winner Antonia De Vega—another out of a Danehill-line mare—who was bred by Jenny Howse, the daughter of the stud’s former owner Dr Tim Mahony.

Ballylinch Stud

“Antonia De Vega was particularly pleasing for us. I bought her third dam Caerlina through John McCormack in America and we’ve developed the family since then and have a number of daughters,” O’Connor says.

A highly promising start and consistent progress subsequently has ensured that Lope De Vega’s stud career has not been held hostage by a dip in support often suffered, unjustly, by other stallions. It’s a situation that could reasonably point to greater things to come.

“He’s still young,” says O’Connor. “Belardo came from his first crop and to get a European champion two-year-old in his first crop was a very lucky thing for the horse, but equally he backed it up with four other Group winners in that crop.

“This crop of three-year-olds is his smallest crop but from his two-year-olds on, both the number of mares and the quality of mares have been steadily rising. All things being equal we anticipate that he’ll continue to climb the ranks.”

Watch: Lope De Vega