A classic tale

7 min read
A breakthrough Group 1 victory for Westbury Stud stallion Reliable Man continued a long-running success story for his breeders Sven and Carina Hanson.

The increasing internationalisation of racing and breeding is well illustrated in the case of Reliable Man (GB). The grey son of Dalakhani (Ire) may have been conceived in Ireland and foaled in Britain but he completed the first half of his racing career in France before moving to Australia.

He has stood at stud in Germany, France and New Zealand, all the while remaining predominantly in the ownership of his Swedish breeders, Sven and Carina Hanson.

On the weekend before last, Reliable Man secured the result that the Hansons had longed for when deciding to stand their Classic winner at stud in two hemispheres by siring a Classic winner of his own, the NZ Oaks victrix Sentimental Miss (NZ).

Another satisfying chapter

For Sven Hanson, it was another very satisfying chapter in a story which began in 1976 with the purchase of four yearlings. One of which, a filly by Petingo (GB), he named Fair Salinia (GB), and she would go on to win the Oaks, Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks when trained by Sir Michael Stoute. Among her seven winning offspring was the listed winner On Fair Stage (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells {USA}), the dam of Reliable Man.

“It is a lot of fun nowadays to be able to look back over so many years. There has been so much pleasure." - Breeder Sven Hanson

“I raced in Scandinavia before that but I decided to go international and bought these four yearlings,” Hanson recalls. “Three turned out to be good and one was Fair Salinia, so congratulations to Dick O'Gorman, who was helping me in those days.”

He continues, “It is a lot of fun nowadays to be able to look back over so many years. There has been so much pleasure, and of course a lot of problems along the way, but in the end really it's a life story, and having had [Fair Salinia] on the farm until she died at 29 was wonderful for us. We are a little bit sentimental and we love our horses.”

Fair Salinia was the dam of Reliable Man

The Hansons sold their Normandy-based stud farm Haras du Vieux Pont in 2016 and nowadays board their European broodmare band, most of whom are based in France, with fellow Swede Anna Sundstrom at Haras du Grand Chene.

“We have 10 to 12 mares in Europe and we are sticking to that as it's very dangerous to go up in numbers,” Hanson adds.

NZ career a no brainer

In addition to this group, they have another three mares in New Zealand, bought primarily to support Reliable Man’s Southern Hemisphere stud career. While in France the well-proportioned grey will be best remembered as the winner of the G1 Prix du Jockey Club in 2011, his renaissance came thousands of miles away and almost two years later when beating It’s A Dundeel (NZ) by two and a half lengths in the G1 Queen Elizabeth S. at Randwick.

“The decision to stand him in New Zealand was mainly because his Queen Elizabeth win in Australia was eye-catching." - Sven Hanson

“The decision to stand him in New Zealand was mainly because his Queen Elizabeth win in Australia was eye-catching,” says Hanson. “Lots of people talk about that. It wasn't just a Group 1 but it was the manner of his win.

“We sent him down to Australia without having chosen a trainer, and through our friend and advisor Steve Brem, who recently died, we went to visit various trainers and we decided on Chris Waller. We brought in some partners and we sold 30% of him to three Australians, one of which was Andrew Ramsden.”

Carina and Sven Hanson

Though the Queen Elizabeth would provide the springboard to a good stud berth for Reliable Man, his victory was bittersweet.

“I watched the race on television and Carina was there but I could see before her that he was injured,” Hanson says.

"We agreed a deal and we are very happy now because Westbury have done a very good job and we have a very good relationship with them.” - Sven Hanson

“Because of the timing of his injury it meant that most of the stud farms had already decided about stallions but then suddenly we read in the newspapers that Gerry Harvey, who owns Westbury Stud, had bought Reliable Man for the Southern Hemisphere. That was the first we knew about and a few days later Gerry called and asked if we were happy. I said ‘no’, but we agreed a deal and we are very happy now because Westbury have done a very good job and we have a very good relationship with them.”

Watch: Reliable Man winning the 2013 G1 Queen Elizabeth

Southern Hemisphere standing

Reliable Man joined the Westbury rota, where he stands alongside fellow European-bred Redwood (Ire) (High Chaparral {Ire}), and shuttled initially to Germany’s Gestut Rottgen before being switched last year to stand in France. He is currently at Haras d’Annebault near Deauville. His German sojourn resulted in him being the leading first-season sire of that country in 2017, with Group 3 winners Narella (Ger) and Erasmus (Ger) to his credit, and while Oaks winner Sentimental Miss heads his New Zealand-conceived runners, he has also been represented by Group 2 winner and Group 1-placed Belle Du Nord (NZ) as well as G1 Victoria Derby runner-up Sully (NZ).

“New Zealand is a very good home for him. He was a very positive horse and most of his offspring are like that – they want to work. He breeds them strong and he was always a very well-balanced horse himself, he always grew evenly,” says Hanson.

G1 winner Sentimental Miss

“What Reliable Man needed was a Group 1 winner because his average was high. They are basically doing well on ratings but it's the big winners that make the difference. We want him to be successful because we are proud of him and his grandmother and the whole family. We raced most of the family. But the stallion game is very different and we are not that experienced in it. Carina works hard at that side of it though.”

"It's the big winners that make the difference." - Sven Hanson

One member of the family who did get away was Reliable Man’s half-brother I’m Imposing (GB) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}), who was sold to Coolmore as a yearling and won twice in Britain before also joining Waller, winning the G2 Summer Cup at Randwick eight months after his sibling had run his final race at the track.

Australian support

The Hansons, who race mostly in France, remain patrons of Waller. He trains the Sydney Cup-nominated One Foot In Heaven (Ire), who was fourth in Saturday’s G3 Manion Cup and is a regally-bred son of Galileo (Ire) and the couple’s champion racemare Pride (Fr) (Peintre Celebre {USA}), a Group 1 winner in France, England and Hong Kong.

“I am a great believer in Australia as it's the only place, if you exclude Japan and Hong Kong, in which there is a sound business for racing,” Hanson says.

Sentimental Miss with her connections following first G1 win

Meanwhile, tracking the progeny of their stallion ensures that a watchful eye is kept on racing the world over. Reliable Man has been graced by three books of mares well into three figures in New Zealand and, while the numbers were naturally more reserved in Germany, which has a shrinking pool of mares, the move to Normandy was vindicated when 125 breeders sent mares for cover last year in France.

Reliable Man’s Classic haul could yet increase this year as the Lisa Latta-trained Sentimental Miss is pencilled in for an appearance in the Australian Oaks if sufficient rain falls on Sydney, and his listed-winning juvenile daughter Akribie (Ger) has been nominated for the German 1000 Guineas. The net is cast farther still by the former British-based Master Brewer (Fr), winner of the valuable Criterium de la Vente d’Octobre Arqana during Paris Longchamp’s Arc meeting last October and subsequently sold to Hong Kong for a seven-figure sum. Now trained by Tony Cruz, he has been portentously renamed World Famous.