Flat breeders should reclaim Golan from the NH ranks…

Golan (IRE), 1998 bay, Spectrum – Highland Gift, by Generous. Winner of his only start at 2yrs; won the 2000 Guineas (G1), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S. (G1), and the Prix Niel (G2); 2nd in the Epsom Derby (G1). Rated 129. Stands at Coolmore’s Grange Stud. His 2011 fee is €2,000.

I read a thought-provoking article recently titled HK Mile winner for NH sire. Penned by John Berry, the article on ThoroughbredInternet laments the fact that modern breeding trends are contributing to stud masters disregarding certain horses as flat sires before their first crop have barely reached maturity. As cases in point, Berry uses the examples of Sulamani, Golan and Intikhab – sires of three of the G1 winners (MASTERY, BEAUTY FLASH and SNOW FAIRY) at the recent Hong Kong International Meeting at Sha Tin.

2,000 Guineas winner GOLAN, who retired to Coolmore Stud at a fee of €20,000 in 2003, found himself standing in Grange Stud under the Coolmore National Hunt banner in 2008 (having just had his first crop 3yr olds in 2007). SULAMANI has already been disregarded by Darley – his first crop just 4yr olds of 2010. Snow Fairy’s sire INTIKHAB has already been spurned by breeders, judging by the market-place, and Berry points out that the only reason he is probably still standing at Derrinstown Stud is “because of the loyalty of his owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum”.

Breeders’ obsession with unproven stallions (or a select few proven sires) and their preoccupation with fashion trends, mean that “too many mares are covered by sires who have little to contribute to the breed; it also means that many useful stallions, who have potential to breed good horses and to maintain some sort of variety among the gene pool, are thrown onto the scrap heap unnecessarily and with unjustifiable haste”.

The mention of keeping variety in the gene pool is a very important point. European breeders, and particluarily those in Britain and Ireland, have become obsessed with the Northern Dancer sire-line. Sulamani (Hernando) of course does descend from the Northern Dancer line, however he stems from the Nijinsky (Northern Dancer) branch – a branch not too prevalent in Europe. Both Golan and Intikhab, while being male-line descendents of Nearco (grand-sire of Northern Dancer), their pedigrees do offer some variety in gene pool for European breeders. Golan (Spectrum) descends from the Red God (Nasrullah) branch of the Nasrullah (Nearco) line, while Intikhab (Red Ransom) hails from the Turn-To (Royal Charger) branch of the Royal Charger (Nearco) line.

Sulamani (IRE), 1999 bay, Hernando – Soul Dream, by Alleged. 6-time G1 winner, incl. Prix du Jockey Club, Juddmonte International, Sheema Classic, and runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Rated 128. Stands at Yorton Farm Stud, England, in 2011 at a fee of £2,500.

“What”, John Berry asks, “has gone wrong with European breeding when stallions such as Sulamani and Golan, both of whom were top-class and thoroughly admirable racehorses and yet who each retired to stud with only moderate support even at the outset, have already been taken out of commission as far as breeding Flat horses is concerned by the time that their first crops are only just reaching maturity?”

Golan represented a great opportunity for European breeders when he retired to stud in 2003 as he was an ideal cross for Northern Dancer-line mares. Indeed, if we wind the clock back to 2007, Golan was the only Classic-winning sire on Coolmore’s Flat roster that did not descend in tail male line from Northern Dancer. That roster, with 26 top-class horses in all, meant that it was a hard task for horses like Golan (who had only a fair start with his first crop 2yr olds the previous season) to attract a good book of mares.

For a Classicaly bred sire whose progeny we would expect to get better as 3yr olds, Golan’s first crop of 2yr olds was not without merit and included REGIME, a subsequent two-time G3 winner, who was 2nd in the Goffs Millions Race to G1 winner MISS BEATRIX, with G3 winner DRUMFIRE third and G1 winner FINSCEAL BEO further down the field. He also had the promising filly ROSE OF PETRA who had been an easy 4 length winner of her maiden for trainer Sir Michael Stoute and owner/breeder Ballymacoll Stud.

In 2007, with his first 3yr old crop, Golan had REGIME win the G3 Classic Trial at Sandown and Step Softly place 2nd in the G3 Oh So Sharp S. at Newmarket. In the Southern Hemisphere in 2007 he had KIBBUTZ, winner of the Victoria Derby (G1) and the Hill Smith S. (L) and 2nd in the G2 Moonee Valley Vase. He also had the listed-placed Lady Alberton. Yet 2008 saw Golan take up National Hunt stud duties in Grange Stud for Coolmore.

“One cannot criticize Coolmore for marketing Golan as a National Hunt sire…No, Golan’s change of direction is purely the consequence of modern-day breeding trends’ but, as Beauty Flash has reminded us, the fact is that he is a useful sire of Flat horses, and the fact that he appears not to be appreciated as such should be a matter which concerns us all” (John Berry).

Golan, whose oldest offspring are 6yr olds of 2010, has sired (on the flat) two G1 winners (BEAUTY FLASH and KIBBUTZ), the G1-placed PETUSHKI, G2 winners MY SCOTSGREY and LE BARON, G3 winners REGIME and LADY ALBERTON, the G3-placed Step Softly and Alberton Princess, Listed winners MR CHARLIE, BELLE SYRIENNE, POLAN and GOLD RUN, and the Listed-placed Gofonze and Linder.

Golan, for a very fast 2,000 Guineas winner, who had only found the mighty GALILEO too good for him in the Derby, and who had been placed in the Irish Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe before training on to win the King George at 4yrs, it is dissapointing that breeders did not give him more of a chance at stud. However, what is more dissappointing, and somewhat suprising, is that breeders did not appreciate what his pedigree had to offer.

Golan represented what the late Lord Weinstock and manager Peter Reynolds had strived for at Ballymacoll Stud – a Classic winner “with the appropriate blend of speed, stamina, precocity and class necessary to make their mark in Europe’s most prestigious races” (John Berry). He was a Classic horse with Classic breeding. His 5th dam Country House has proved an invaluable source of class at Ballymacoll. Herself the dam of successful racehorse and sire REFORM, through her daughters, Country House is the ancestress of SOUGHT OUT (winner of the Prix du Cadran, G1), Derby winner NORTH LIGHT, and Prix de Saint Cloud, G1, winner GAMUT (like Golan, is by Spectrum). Other top performers descending from Country House include G1 winners HELLENIC, GREEK DANCE and ISLINGTON, amongst many other GSWs.

In 2008, the year Golan had made the move down to Grange Stud in Cork, his full-brother TARTAN BEARER, winner of the G2 Dante S., finished runner-up in both the Derby and the King George, and was third in the Irish Derby.

Golan comes from an exceptional female family, his sire is a 2,000 Guineas and Champion Stakes winner. His first crop results, while a little dissapointing by Coolmore standards, were still good and included G1 winner Kibbutz. So why, ask yourself, did Flat breeders turn their back on him?

John Berry ventures to answer “…His paternal grandsire Rainbow Quest seems, rightly, or wrongly, to have been categorized as more of an influence in the bottom half of pedigrees, although it has to be said that Golan’s Derby-winning relative North Light [whose broodmare sire incedently is the afore mentioned Rainbow Quest], a son of the esteemed sire of sires Danehill, was almost written off as a sire before his first crop (which includes this year’s St.Leger winner ARCTIC COSMOS) had even hit the track. It could be nothing more sinister than the fact that both Golan and North Light, despite having never raced beyond twelve furlongs, have both been categorized as coming from a staying family, with stamina nowadays being wrongly confused by so many misguided souls with a lack of speed.

The current state of Flat breeding in Europe, and in the world at large, needs a serious overhaul if we are to maintain the Thoroughbred as we know it, for future generations to come. The responsibility lies first and foremost with the mare owners, who must stand up and take charge. Take note of successful breeding operations like that of Ballymacoll Stud for instance, and you will begin to realise that to breed top-class racehorses does not mean you have to follow current fashion trends or frequent the most expensive sires. That is what the masses are doing and I certainly don’t see the masses breeding Group One winners. Be brave sensible enough to give stallions like Golan a chance, or, continue as you are, blindly following the masses and putting your fate in unproven sires…