A Visit to the Irish National Stud

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Tuesday, August 24, 2021

I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Ireland and was really looking forward to being able to enjoy the horse mecca that the country is. Unfortunately, COVID restrictions are still quite strict in Ireland and the only race meets that matched with my itinerary at the many tracks around the country were "behind closed doors," so I was unable to attend any live racing. 

However, there is one fixture of the Irish racehorse industry that was open and that is the Irish National Stud. The stud is a unique establishment and one I've never seen before having traveled to many of the top horse racing areas across the United States. First, it is a working breeding farm that houses and boards outside mares as well as foals them out. They stand eight active breeding stallions and are home to living legends like top steeplechaser BEEF OR SALMON. 

What makes the stud even more unique is that for a nominal fee (around 10 euro each), guests are able to walk the entire grounds. You can visit the stallions in their paddocks and meet the mares and their foals, many of which will happily stand at the fence for a good ear and rear scratching from horse crazy little kids (and adults like myself...). I think this is absolutely fantastic. It fosters the love of horses, which in turns fosters the love of racing and it exposes the young horses to a wide variety of noises and people, which is great desensitization. I know of no other facility where this is allowed. 

The stud is a celebration of equestrian art and Ireland's natural beauty all wrapped into one. Visitors are able to walk the barn aisles of the mare and foal barns, visit the Sun Chariot Yard, step inside the stallion stalls and much more. There's even a view box for the breeding shed.

The Stallions

The stallions that stand at the stud are allowed to spend nearly all of the time outside in the summer. While they are separated in their individual paddocks with alleys similar to what you would see in Kentucky, they simply enjoy being horses. One of them, PALAVICINI, even has three cows keeping him company in his paddock! 

INVINCIBLE SPIRIT is the top stallion at the stud with a fee of 80,000 euro. He is by GREEN DESERT and out of RAHFA. Owned by Prince A A Faisal, bred by Neward Stud LTD and trained by John Dunlop. He has sired 20 individual Group 1 winners. He is also the sire of top sires KINGMAN, CABLE BAY, LAWMAN, I AM INVINCIBLE, and NATIONAL DEFENSE. His average at the Tattersalls Sale Book 1 was 293,000gns. 

PHOENIX OF SPAIN stands for 12,500 euros and his first crop was born in 2021. He is a Group 1 winning two-year-old and Guineas-winning three-year-old. He is by LOPE DE VEGA who also produced LUCKY VEGA (G1), AUNT PEARL (G1), GYTRASH (G1) and CADILLAC (G2). He is out of LUCKY CLIO. Owned by Tony Wechsler and Ann Plummer, bred by Cherry Faeste and trained by Charles Hills. 

FREE EAGLE stands for 8,000 euros. He is by HIGH CHAPARRAL and out of POLISHED GEM. He is bred and owned by Moyglare Stud Farm and was trained by Dermot Weld. His top progeny include KHALIFA SAT, G1 Epsom Derby 2nd and winner of the Cocked Hat Stakes L. He covered 100 mares in 2020 and has two-year-old debut winners in HICKORY for James Fanshawe and SOARING SKY for Jessica Harrington, as well as ARATUS for trainer Clive Cox.

DECORATED KNIGHT stands for 7500 euros and has his first two-year-olds racing in 2021. The chestnut stallion is by GALILEO and out of PEARLING, who is a sister to GIANT'S CAUSEWAY. He is owned by and bred by Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar. He was trained by Roger Varian and Roger Charlton.

NATIONAL DEFENSE stands for 5000 euros and has his first two-year-olds racing in 2021. He is by INVINCIBLE SPIRIT and out of ANGEL FALLS. He is owned by Sun Bloodstock SARL and was bred by Ecurie Des Monceux and Meridian Bloodstock. He was trained by MME C Head-Maarek. His two-year-olds are in training with some the top trainers in Europe including Wesley Ward, Joseph O'Brien (has 4 actually), George Scott Racing, Sarah Dawson, William Muir and Time Easterby. 

EQUIANO stands for 3000 euros and is by ACCLAMATION and out of ENTENTE CORDIALE. He is owned by J. Acheson and was bred by Ecurie Skymarc Farm. He was trained by Barry Hills. He is a Dual G1 Royal Ascot winner with a Timeform rating of 127. He is the sire of 29 stakes horses including Breeders Cup G1 winner BELVOIR BAY. He is the sire of three time G1 winner THE TIN MAN and G2 winner MEDICINE JACK. In 2020, he had multiple stakes winning horses including G3 winner DAKOTA GOLD, G1 winner EQUILATERAL, G1 winner GUSTAVOS WESTON and 10 two-year-old winners, one of those being G3 winner APOLLO ONE. 

ELUSIVE PIMPERNEL stands for 2500 euros and is by ELUSIVE QUALITY and out of CARA FANTASY. He is owned by Windflower Overseas Holdings Inc and was bred by them as well. He was trained by John Dunlop. His black-type progeny include G2 winner COEUR SUBLIME, G3 winner SOVIET PIMPERNEL, G2 winner JUNGLE JUNCTION and G2 winner WEESEEKHIMHERE.

DRAGON PULSE stands for 2000 euros and is by KYLLACHY and out of POETICAL. He is owned by Tan Kai Chah and was bred by J F Tuthill and Mrs. A W F Whitehead. He was trained by Jessica Harrington and Mikel Delzangles. He boasts 41% winners to runners lifetime. Progeny WEALTH OF LOVE is a dual stakes winner and ALMA HERA is stakes placed.

PALAVICINI stands for 1000 euro and is by GIANT'S CAUSEWAY and out of CARA FANTASY. CARA FANTASY is from the family of BIG BAD BOB and SNOW FAIRY. He was bred by Windflower Overseas Holdings Inc. and trained by John Dunlop. He is a half-brother to ELUSIVE PIMPERNEL. He won the G3 Strensall Stakes and placed in G3 races multiple times with a rating of 113.

The Irish Racehorse Experience

Another fun aspect of the Irish National Stud is the Irish Racehorse Experience. This is a hands-on, interactive experience where guests can "create their own racehorse" for an additional 5 euro per person. And there's nobody better to tell you about it than an Irishman:

The Irish Racehorse Experience at the Irish National Stud & Gardens from Irish National Stud on Vimeo.

The Gardens

Last but not least is the gardens. They are the reason that many visit the Irish National Stud outside of the horses themselves and for good reason, as they are amazing. The main garden is the Japanese Garden. It is incredibly unique with two paths - the Easy Path or the Path of Life. The Path of Life is certainly NOT the easy one, but is quite fun. You climb rocks, go through caves and then follow the rock path through a stream until you reach the tea house and the red bridge. There are Bonsai trees, orchids, Japanese Maples and more. 

The other garden is the St. Fiachara's Garden. This one takes you past ancient monastic cells made completely of rock. You'll go down the path to the pond with waterfalls and through ancient rock gates. While it's not as fancy as the Japanese Garden, it pays tribute to the natural beauty of Ireland as a whole.


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