The lure of a first foal

6 min read
Sledmere Stud is looking to a combination of young mares and proven stallions when it presents its draft of 15 at the upcoming Inglis Australian Easter Sale.

While the first crops of freshman stallions are always eagerly anticipated at major sales like the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, the first foals from quality pedigree mares also draw plenty of curiosity from buyers.

Sledmere Stud's draft of 15 for this year's Easter Sale contains seven yearlings who are the first foals from well-performed and/or well-related mares.

Royston Murphy, who runs Sledmere with his wife Catriona, has been anticipating this Easter sale ever since the crop of yearlings hit the ground 18 months ago, knowing that they had the right combination to present to the market.

"I know a lot people say it, but I honestly think it’s the best group of horses I've taken to a sale in a long, long time, if not ever," he told TDN AusNZ.

Royston and Catriona Murphy

"This draft has got the quality and the pedigree. For us as a smaller type of stud building up over the last few years, with the help of good loyal clients, the pedigrees are right up there, and nice young mares up there with all the right sort of proven sires, which makes a big difference."

"This draft has got the quality and the pedigree." - Royston Murphy

With the help of some key clients, Sledmere has upgraded its broodmare band significantly, with the progeny of many of those mares featuring for the first time at Easter this year.

"You hear a lot of people talk about first foals and their size and the like, but we are quite lucky. These are mares for different clients whether it be China Horse Club or Rifa Mustang or a few others that are building their broodmare bands. These are quality mares, who have to start somewhere and they have all come together for this sale," he said.

"I think with proven sires, for those mares, you can be confident that you are going to get the right sort of horse. We are lucky enough that those first foals can hold their own against any of the other ones we have. We are very happy with the size and scope of them."

Royston and Catriona have been very happy with the size and scope of their foals

The key for success is turning the curiosity of the market into a depth of prospective buyers, willing to get on board with a first foal from a mare.

"Most of us are optimists, and we give them every chance." - Royston Murphy

"People always take an interest in what the mare has done. I think if you've got any horse with the right family behind, all you have to do is match the physical type to it and if you can do that, the market will speak pretty loud for those types of horses," he said.

"Every year we see how the first-season sires sell quite well, and it happens with mares with their first foals. Everyone has a high expectation of good horses and whether it be a stallion or a mare starting off. They haven't done anything wrong, and most of us are optimists, and we give them every chance," he said.

Vancouver filly a gem

One of those mares is the Group 1 winner Precious Gem (Econsul {NZ}), who China Horse Club paid $825,000 for shortly after she won the G1 Robert Sangster S.

She visited Vancouver in her first season and the resultant filly is catalogued as Lot 189 at the Easter sale.

"She's quite a nice style of filly. The Vancouvers to me are horses that take a little more time with the Medaglia d'Oro (USA) in there. She's really thrived in her prep. She is just one of those progressive types out of a very good mare and she's come together at the right time for the sale," Murphy said.

"A little bit of extra time for her, in terms of waiting for Easter has really helped her."

Lot 189 Vancouver x Precious Gem

That filly is the only one of Sledmere's 15 headed to Sydney who is by a first-season sire, while there is only one by a second-season sire, in Lot 84, a Dissident colt out of an older mare who has already produced the Group 3 winner and stallion Stryker (Fastnet Rock).

Murphy's highlight of the seven out of first-season mares is Lot 63, a filly by Pierro.

"The Pierro out of Irish Sea (Fastnet Rock), to me she's got the family behind her, she's all quality. You’d never think she's a first foal. She's the best Pierro I've had anything to do with," he said.

"You’d never think she's a first foal." - Royston Murphy

Irish Sea is a sister to stakes-winners Ennis Hill and Lake Geneva out of Group 2 winning juvenile Hips Don’t Lie (NZ) (Stravinsky {USA}).

Watch: Lot 63 Pierro x Irish Sea filly

Of the others from first season mares, Lot 129 is by Medaglia D'Oro (USA) out of the Group 3 winner Miss Steele (Statue of Liberty) and boasts the same steely grey looks as her mother and Lot 224 is a Written Tycoon filly from River Pebbles (Al Maher), the sister of speedy pair Kulgrinda and River Pebbles.

There are also fillies by Exceed And Excel (Lot 310), Sebring (Lot 414) and Snitzel (166).

Snitzel colt from the top shelf

Sledmere has three Snitzels in the draft in total, with Murphy particularly excited about Lot 158 out of Ocean of Tears (NZ) (Minardi {USA}).

"I've got three Snitzels there, the filly is lovely, but the two colts are really top class Snitzels, especially the Oceans Of Tears. I've said it already, but he's the best Snitzel I've laid a hand on or had anything to do with. He's all quality with the family behind him," he said.

Watch: Lot 158 Snitzel x Ocean Of Tears (NZ) colt

That colt is from the same family as Lot 63, the Pierro filly. Ocean of Tears is a half-sister to Hips Don’t Lie and has already produced a stakes winner in No More Tears (Darci Brahma {NZ}).

"Snitzel is a stallion that when we get into the best races in Sydney at this time of year, he just keeps stepping up. He's a quality stallion and it’s the time of year, every year you see how he stretches ahead," Murphy said.

"He's all quality with the family behind him." - Royston Murphy

Champion Sire for the past two years, Snitzel's greatest threat for a hat-trick of titles will come from I Am Invincible, who has had 25 stakes winner this year.

The Yarraman Park stallion is also represented in Sledmere's draft, with Lot 371, a filly out of Ballet Society {NZ}) (Stravinsky {USA}), who is a close relation to recent 2-year-old stakes winner Steal My Kisses (I Am Invincible).

"When you have these proven sires, you see how they perform in the major races. It’s nice to lead with those type of stallions," Murphy said.

"It’s important when you are dealing with these pedigree mares that you send them to the best stallions you can and give them every opportunity, especially with the young mares to get them going at the start of their career," he said.

Lot 371 I Am Invincible x Ballet Society (NZ)