Friday, 25 November 2016

Visit to Ayr Standardbreds

On Saturday 29th October, Smarty and I called in at leading Scottish Standardbred stud, Ayr Standardbreds on our way home from working at Ayr Racecourse at a Thoroughbred race meeting.  We're not often in the area, but with the racing season now over here in the UK, it was a good opportunity to visit friends and meet the horses they don't bring to the races.

Ayr Standardbreds was founded by Hugh O'Neil Snr, and has continued to flourish with the assistance of Hugh's three sons, Hugh Jnr, Ryan and Tom; Hugh Jnr's wife, Elizabeth; their two sons, Hugh Jnr Jnr and Michael; and Hugh Jnr Jnr's fiancĂ©e, Kareen New.  They have previously stood the stallions: Squirter (Keystone Ore-Atomizer-Meadow Skipper), Magic Happens (Direct Scooter-Ladykin Hanover-Steady Star), Eye On America (Abercrombie-Malacca-Meadow Skipper), House Of Cards (Dragons Lair-Mystical Hanover-Albatross), Daylon Alert Camluck-Ara Newton-Big Towner), His Alibi (Abercrombie-Three Diamonds-Albatross) and most recently, Forafewdollarsmore (The Panderosa-Oh My Dear-Artsplace).  Work commitments with the family business (agricultural equipment) mean that the family are currently without a stallion, however they continue to breed their mares to various stallions around the UK and have recently purchased a new mare at Harrisburg (Diva Aliina, Western Ideal-Female Champs-Cams Card Shark, in foal to Sportswriter).

With the first crop of 'Dollar' foals on the ground, it was as good a time as any to pay a visit and meet the 2016 weanlings who had recently moved into the barn.

This year's crop at Ayr consist of four colts and two fillies, with them stabled in three pairs, facing SHRC Horse of the Month for October, Killarney Howard, in the establishment's training barn.

First up we met the two fillies; a Hasty Hall out of Ayr Queen (Albert Albert), a full sister to top class racehorse Ayr Regal and half sister to another top class racehorse, Ayr Majesty.  Her stablemate was by Forafewdollarsmore out of Ayr Wing (Village Jiffy), a half sister to solid and consistent performer, Makemeamillionayr.  The Queen filly took a bit of a shine to me, and me to her!!
My new friend, the filly out of Ayr Queen
Ayr Queen filly (left) & Ayr Wing filly (right)
Next up we met Michael's favourite, 'Jake', a Forafewdollarsmore colt out of JK Majorette, and another 'Dollar' colt out of Out In The Opan (Artsplace).  It's fair to say, Dollar throws them all shapes and sizes!  Having won the 3YO Grass Derby at Musselburgh, Dollar went on to win the Famous Musselburgh Pace Final and the coveted Crock of Gold Final in 2010 at Tir Prince.  Grass or hard track, he worked his way up from the bottom to the very top.

JK Majorette colt (left) and Out In The Opan colt (right)
Switching places!
Last but not least, we met 'Charlie', Kareen's favourite, a Hasty Hall out of Opan Ayr (The Panderosa), and the final Dollar colt out of Grinfromayrtoayr (Daylon Alert).  Hughie and Kareen arrived just as we were in with this pair, and Kareen showed off her foal-wrangling skills when catching Charlie for a stroke and a scratch.  She told us that she wants to call him Somewhayrnew (Some-where-new, playing on the Ayr prefix/suffix and her surname, New).  This foal belongs to Ryan, who may have other ideas, but I'll be trying my best in the STAGBI office to make sure Kareen's name choice takes precedence (Ryan is a fellow STAGBI director, so may still have the power of veto!).
Grinfromayrtoayr colt
Opan Ayr colt
Michael & Charlie (he is NOT beating him up, which is what he says looks like what's happening!)
Kareen & Charlie
This time of year, for many people, is the most boring time.  With the racing not due to start until May, most horses are turned out for the remainder of this year and people look to other pursuits and hobbies to get their kicks.  Some people enjoy the break from the horses, and who can blame them?!  There's only so much (horse) sh*t you can take!

But for me, and indeed others who breed horses, this can be one of the best times of the year.  Weaning foals is a scary time for the youngsters, but it is also the time when they are at their most impressionable.  I love gaining their trust and teaching them manners.  Before long they will be big enough and strong enough to do serious damage, so it's important to ensure that they are well mannered and respectful.  It's also a time to help them develop their personalities and bring out their character.  I think my dream job would be working with foals and yearlings.

I was previously offered the chance to work with the Rhyds yearlings in their sale preparation a number of years ago, which I unfortunately had to decline due to work commitments.  I was then offered (perhaps jokingly) the chance to assist during the foaling season at Talgrwn, the leading Standardbred AI and foaling centre.  Again, work commitments forced me to decline (although again, the offer may not have been a serious one!).  I would genuinely love the opportunity to do this at some point, if nothing more but to gain experience to help me with my own mares (that said, we've delivered 7 live and healthy foals so far at Crosshill, so I'm getting plenty of hands on experience!).

I wish the clan at Ayr Standardbreds all the best with their young horses as they help them on their journey to become future racehorses.  I have to concentrate on my two colts at home now!!

Over and out,

#Groom & Foal Fan

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