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Yulong's spring of promise

9 min read
With two young stallions in Grunt (NZ) and Alabama Express, a broodmare band bolstered by a host of high-profile acquisitions and a couple of serious prospects on the racetrack, the Spring of 2020 shapes as one of considerable promise for Yulong.

While the green and white colours have been a fixture in Australian racing for over six years, the Yulong project, spearheaded by the vision of chairman Yuesheng Zhang, is only just starting to take shape, with the ambitious acquisition of bloodstock matched by investment in staff and facilities.

The strategy around stallions has taken big steps in the past 12 months with Grunt, the dual Group 1-winning son of O'Reilly (NZ), standing his first season in Victoria last spring, and two excellent stallion prospects, G1 CF Orr S. winner Alabama Express and G1 Blue Diamond S. winner Tagaloa (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}), secured in a spending spree through February this year.

A son of the legendary Redoute's Choice, Alabama Express debuts at $27,500 (inc GST) and began his stallion career earlier this week in what was another milestone for Yulong Chief Operating Officer Sam Fairgray and his team.

Alabama Express

"He's taken to it like a natural, he's going really well. He covered a few mares yesterday and covered one this morning," Fairgray told TDN AusNZ.

"At the moment he's got 135 mares, so he's going along really well. I think he’ll end up covering around the 150 mark.

"He'll have every opportunity with getting some really nice mares to him. It’s good that Mr Zhang wants to do that and help support them with those nice mares."

"He'll have every opportunity with getting some really nice mares to him." - Sam Fairgray

Tagaloa is also from a hugely desirable sireline, being by Lord Kanaloa (Jpn), who has only had 12 yearlings sell through Australian sales rings in the past three years. Being the only Australian Group 1 winner by the Shadai Stallion Station-based sire, he is an excellent recruit for an international operation such as Yulong.

However, Tagaloa's time in Yulong's new stallion barn will have to wait as his trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young plot further racetrack success through this spring. The smart colt returned with a close-up third in the G3 Vain S. at Caulfield last week and is second favourite for the G1 Caulfield Guineas next month.


Grunts on the ground

The 2020 season is a milestone for Grunt as well, with his first foals arriving in recent weeks, much to the delight of Fairgray, who is seeing exactly what he wants in his progeny.

"He's thrown his quality into them which is great. Most of them are nice, attractive foals with plenty of size and substance about them. They all have good heads and so forth, and from what we’ve seen so far, you’d be really happy," he said.

Fairgray feels based on the relatively small sample size so far, there should be no hesitation in breeders returning to Grunt again this year.

"I think going on the types of foals he's thrown, you’d get mares returning," he said. "He's going to be well supported again this year. He's got around 140 mares, which is good for a second-season stallion. Both of them are going to serve nice books and Grunt's fertility last year was fantastic.

"Hopefully, Alabama's can be as good, it just makes the job so much easier."

Top class broodmares a boost

Looking to support its emerging and future stallions, Yulong has built its broodmare band both through local and international investment in recent years.

With two young stallions to support and another one likely to join next year, it was the leading buyer at both the Inglis Australian Broodmare Sale and Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale in 2020, buying 26 mares or race fillies in total, and spending over $11.2 million.

In uncertain times, Zhang has not wavered in his desire to build his Australian business and give his stallion acquisitions every chance of success.

"If you believe in your stallions, you have to support them," Fairgray said. "We think they are two very nice horses that will become successful stallions and we are happy to support them.

"If you believe in your stallions, you have to support them." - Sam Fairgray

"We are getting a nice broodmare band together. Mr Zhang's aim is to keep building and building the bloodstock portfolio, so he seems to be doing that and there are some really nice mares among the ones we bought and they are in foal to nice stallions as well."

Million-dollar mares

Chief among that selection is Viddora (I Am Invincible), the winner of both the G1 Moir S. and the G1 Winterbottom S. who was purchased in foal to Lope De Vega (Ire) for $2.55 million at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

On an overseas cover to Ballyinch Stud's Lope De Vega, she is due to foal in the next week, after which point a decision will be made on her next destination.

"She's due around the 10th of this month. At this stage, we will wait and see what she does foaling-wise and then decide where we go from there," Fairgray said.

Viddora was purchased in foal to Lope De Vega (Ire) for $2.55 million

Being free of Danehill (USA) blood, she has a host of options in Australia, with Fairgray indicating she may be headed north to the Hunter Valley.

"It’s probably more a chance we go external with her but it will depend on what type of foal she has," he said.

The other seven-figure purchase for Yulong on the Gold Coast was G1 Australian Oaks winner Unforgotten (Fastnet Rock), who cost $2.75 million. She is already in the Hunter Valley for her first season.

"She's going to go to I Am Invincible. We thought we’d get her in foal and then bring her home. That's the plan and she's up in the Hunter now and ready to go, so hopefully, she will get bred in the next week or 10 days," Fairgray said.

Unforgotten was purchased for $2.75 million

Express plans

While those two mares are both likely to go outside the Yulong stallions, the vast majority of the other purchases will go to either Grunt or Alabama Express.

Another Dollar (NZ) (Ocean Park {NZ}), the G3 Premier's Cup winner and G1 Queensland Oaks placegetter who cost Yulong $700,000, will head to Alabama Express in her first year, as will stakes-placed Storytime (NZ) (Savabeel), who cost $575,000 at the Gold Coast and is in foal to I Am Invincible.

The Redoute's Choice-Zabeel (NZ) cross was also a decisive factor in sending Glitzabeel (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}), the dam of G1 Schweppes Oaks winner Princess Jenni (NZ) (High Chaparral {Ire}), who was purchased for $400,000, to Alabama Express.

The success of the mixture of the bloodlines of Redoute's Choice and Hussonet (USA), something Fairgray has plenty of experience with from his time at Arrowfield, is the driving force behind the decision to send Listed-winning mare Blue Morpho (Hussonet {USA}), a $450,000 Gold Coast buy, to Alabama Express as well.

Gallery: Some of Yulong's recent broodmare purchases

From a pedigree perspective, Evening Slippers (Snitzel) appeals as one of Yulong's best acquisitions, having cost $550,000 at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale. She is the full sister to Group 1 winner Sweet Idea (Snitzel) and Arrowfield stallion and Group 2 winner Showtime and was a $1.8 million yearling.

"She was served by Grunt this morning," Fairgray said. "Being by Snitzel and Grunt being by O'Reilly, that O'Reilly-Redoute's Choice cross has worked really well. I think we will get a lovely foal out of that mating," he said.

Hungry for more success

From a racing perspective, as well as its interest in Tagaloa, Yulong expects to have several leading contenders through the spring, headed by 3-year-old filly Hungry Heart (Frankel {GB}), who resumes for trainer Chris Waller in the G2 Darley Furious S. on Saturday at Randwick.

"From all reports she has come back a lot stronger and mentally more mature and so forth. We are really looking forward to the spring with her because what she did as a 2-year-old was probably unexpected. It will be great to see her get out to a mile this prep," he said.

"Hopefully, she might be able to pick up a big one for us through the spring."

Hungry Heart (white cap)

Hungry Heart, who won the G2 Sweet Embrace S. and was fifth in the G1 Golden Slipper S. in a three-start 2-year-old campaign, is nominated for a host of Group 1 features in the spring, including the G1 Golden Rose S. as well as both the G1 Caulfield Guineas and G1 Thousand Guineas, while the G1 Flight S. is another race likely to be on her radar.

She is out of the imported Pivotal (GB) mare Harlech (GB), who is another high-profile member of the Yulong band who will visit Alabama Express this year.

"After Hungry Heart, she has had two Snitzels so we’d follow up with Alabama Express off the back of them," he said.

Fairgray was very happy with another Yulong-owned and Waller-trained Frankel (GB) 3-year-old, Yangtze Rapids, who was close-up in a strong maiden at Warwick Farm on Wednesday.

"That was good to see. We have a couple of younger horses that we just hope can step the right way. They might be more autumn horses, but they are in the early throes of it," he said.

"We’ve got a few 2-year-olds coming through, nothing that looks like it will be really early. They are a nice group that we should get a nice couple of horses out of."

Realising a grand vision

Having built its team further with the appointment of the well-respected former Cambridge Stud General Manager Marcus Corban into a special project role, working alongside Fairgray and Bloodstock Manager Luke Wilkinson, Yulong is taking big steps.

Zhang's vision for state-of-the-art breeding facilities in Victoria are also taking shape under Fairgray's eye.

"The new stallion complex is just about completed. We are just doing all the roads and so forth on the farm," Fairgray said.

"We are stepping through the build. We haven't gone too quickly and we’ve let it evolve over the last three years. Mr Zhang still wants to keep building and add more stallions to the roster and so forth, so the next three years is going to be a really exciting time."

Yulong's 2020 Mating Plans

Evening Slippers (Snitzel)Grunt (NZ)---The full sister to Group 1 winner Sweet Idea & Arrowfield stallion Showtime
Blue Morpho (Hussonet {USA})Alabama ExpressNot A Single Doubt--Listed winner
Glitzabeel (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ})Alabama Express-Turn Me Loose (NZ) (filly)Power (GB) (filly)The dam of G1 Schweppes Oaks winner Princess Jenni
Storytime (NZ) (Savabeel)Alabama ExpressI Am Invincible--Group 2 placed, a half-sister to three stakes winners
Another Dollar (NZ) (Ocean Park {NZ})Alabama Express---G3 Premier's Cup winner and G1 Queensland Oaks placegetter
Unforgotten (Fastnet Rock)TBC---G1 Australian Oaks winner
Viddora (I Am Invincible)TBCLope De Vega (Ire)--G1 Moir S. & G1 Winterbottom S. winner