Herbie Dykes Stakes winner On The Rocks with co-trainer Pam Gerard and Ballymore Stables foreman Scotty Magee.
It’s not hard to detect the frustration in Bill Gleeson’s voice when discussing last Saturday’s Gr. 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes win by On The Rocks with the boss of Wellfield Lodge.
While only too happy to accept the accolades as the breeder of the tough grey entire, Gleeson moderates any celebrations when he talks of the hard row that not only On the Rocks sire Alamosa has to hoe, but also where operations such as his belong in the breeding industry.
“He’s a cool little horse and it was great to see him get that win on top of everything else he’s achieved,” Gleeson told The Informant. “I doubt if it will make any difference to Alamosa though, even if he does leave a very good galloper to the right mare.
“It’s just that standing stallions like Alamosa and Road To Rock you’re up against it. On the one hand you want to support your own but in the end you pay the price for that and you’re forced to send your mares that justify it to the stallions that attract buyers.
“Here we have a perfect example of what Alamosa is capable of leaving, and you could hardly get a better example in Road To Rocks case than Beauty Generation, but it’s not reflected in the support they get.”
Alamosa, a transtasman Group One-winning son of O’Reilly, attracted books of 100-plus in his first six years at Wellfield, while Road To Rock, by Encosta de Lago and the winner of two Group One weight-for-age races in Sydney, began with books in the nineties and is now serving around 20 mares per year.
“Last season Alamosa was second only to Savabeel amongst New Zealand sires with four stakes winners of five races and he’s having another good season,” added Gleeson.
“He wasn’t a big horse but he had a lovely length and walk about him, which to his credit Paul recognised.”
“It goes deeper than that though. The breeding landscape has changed so much, it’s micro at the top with not many biscuits for the rest of us. I’m not saying it’s wrong and I’m not negative about how it has happened, but the commercial reality is what it is.
“I don’t see parallels in other parts of the commercial world, but in this one you have no actual control over what you produce, you can’t form a budget.”
To counter such forces, Gleeson and others involved in Wellfield Lodge have competed well at the upper end of the broodmare market. On The Rocks dam Cold Shoulder is a case in point, being half-sister by Volksraad to Melbourne Cup-VRC Derby winner Efficient and Group Two Melbourne winner Guillotine.
Wellfield shared her with Graeme Hunt’s Cambridge Hunt and to earlier services to Zabeel she was responsible for two $400,000-plus yearling results at Karaka. Gleeson had sole use of her in the breeding of On The Rocks, who was knocked down to Paul Moroney Bloodstock for $40,000 at Karaka in 2016.
“He wasn’t a big horse but he had a lovely length and walk about him, which to his credit Paul recognised,” recalls Gleeson. “He came back and looked at him probably five times and full credit to him for buying him.”
The Herbie Dyke Stakes win credited Moroney with the 52nd Group One success by horses he has purchased, while for his brother Mike this was his landmark 50th Group One win as a trainer and a career-first for Ballymore Stables’ Matamata-based trainer Pam Gerard.
Wellfield Lodge didn’t have a large draft at the recent National Yearling Sale and its best result was $190,000 for the Tavistock filly from former class racemare Shez Sinsational, who is now owned by Gleeson and long-time associate Peter Gillespie.
“While you have to support your own stallions it can come at a price, which is why we sent Shez Sinsational to Tavistock and why this year she’s in foal to Savabeel.”
Gleeson does have a shining light in his stallion paddocks in the form of former leading two and three-year-old Vespa, whose first yearlings are on the market this summer. His best result at Karaka was the bay colt in Wellfield’s Book 2 draft from Catfight sold to Matamata trainer Graham Richardson for $40,000.
“The reason we decided to stand Vespa, apart from the horse himself, is the support of his breeder Kevin Hickman. The partnership with Valachi Downs was the clincher, it’s massive what Kevin is doing for studs like ours, for down south and for what he’s building in the Waikato. He’s the shining light for the thoroughbred industry in that respect.
“Vespa has covered decent sized books and some lovely mares amongst them. Bohemian Lily is one that comes to mind as well as others by Galileo, Redoute’s Choice and so on.
“With that quality in his book it sure gives you the confidence to get behind the horse as well.”