This is the first part of a seven series profile on each of the Victorian stallions participating in the TBV 2015 Stallion Nomination Fee Auction to be held on 21 August at Oaklands Junction as part of the Inglis August Thoroughbred Sale. Full details can be found on the TBV website or in the Inglis Catalogue.
Darley’s Victorian general manager Andy Makiv remembers a conversation he had with Godolphin’s trainer John O’Shea more than a year ago.
“He told me that if I had any friends wanting to breed, they should use Medaglia d’Oro,” Makiv said.
“How right John was. Medaglia’s fee was $50,000 in 2014 and those who used him have a huge bonus as he is now double the fee and has a Golden Slipper winner to his name.”
This year Makiv sought out a similar chat with O’Shea, at a time when most of the stable’s yearlings had been through their paces in Godolphin’s Sydney and Melbourne system.
“John said the stallion to watch is Helmet.”
Makiv said O’Shea’s encouraging assessment of a large group of Helmet youngsters in his care is exciting news for Victorian breeders as the imposing chestnut is prepared at Northwood Park, Seymour, for his fourth season at stud.
Helmet, who was bred and raced by Sheikh Mohammed, retired to Northwood Park in 2012 one of the best-credentialled stallions to stand in Victoria for many years.
He had a stellar 2011 on the track—brilliantly winning the second and third legs of Sydney’s famous 2YO Triple Crown, the G1 Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m, Randwick) and the G1 Champagne Stakes (1600m, Randwick), before his sensational post-to-post win in the G1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield as a 3YO.
In his two Sydney Group 1 wins, Helmet showed exceptional raw talent to overcome a playful greenness, but at Caulfield he produced a performance of sustained speed that stamped the win as one of the best in the Caulfield Guineas for some time.
Makiv’s faith in Helmet has been mirrored by the support from breeders. Interestingly, the young stallion covered 115 mares in his first season at $33,000, but once his impressive first foals arrived in 2013, breeders have flocked to him.
In 2013, he covered 155 mares, and in what is supposed to be his “slow” third season, another 151 mares met him at Northwood Park last year.
“He has stamped his foals in his image. They have his size, scope and strength,” Makiv said of the 16.2hh flashy chestnut.
“Helmet an extremely well-bred horse. His combination of sire and dam is arguably greater than any of the other star colts to go to stud in recent years. He is by the right sire (Exceed And Excel) from the right sire line (Danehill), and out of a champion-producing mare who comes from a wonderful international family.
“Accessories has produced three outstanding colts—two Group 1 winners—that are now stallions. It’s a bloodline that will carry any stallion a long way.” (update: 3yo little sister Pearls won impressively on debut at Gosford on 13 August)
Like so many great racehorses and champion sires of recent times, Helmet has a dash of German blood in his dam line—his second dam Anna Matrushka (GB), is by the wonderfully influential Mill Reef out of the German mare Anna Paola.
In addition to their homebreds, the Darley team inspected all the other Helmet yearlings sold in Australia and New Zealand in 2015 and are delighted with the quality of the youngsters.
Helmet’s biggest draft was in Melbourne, where he had 26 colts and fillies sell for an average of $93,192—he had 11 yearlings sell for $100,000 or more, and two colts topped $200,000. Five yearlings sold at the Magic Millions for an average of $102,000.
Buyers were obviously happy with what they took home from the yearling sales with his weanling sales in May and June also providing strong results including a Helmet colt going for $170,000 at the Magic Millions National Weanling Sale.
Helmet is one of the highest-priced stallions at stud in Victoria at $33,000, but that fee is below some of the stallions who have retired in recent times without a comparable race record or pedigree.
It might prove to be a bargain if John O’Shea is on the money.