An Enduring Dream For Cheveley Park Stud

Behind the heady commerce of the sales ring, which nowadays often threatens to take centre stage ahead of events on the racecourse, we are all involved in a sport fuelled by dreams. Whether it’s a hobby breeder with one mare hoping to produce a winner anywhere, or Sheikh Mohammed with his ploy to promote his country through worldwide participation in his grand equine passion, we all have a dream.

“We could see our dream,” says Patricia Thompson in her personal message on the homepage of Cheveley Park Stud’s website in reference to the purchase of Newmarket’s oldest stud farm by Thompson and her husband David in 1975. At that time, the historic property had “dwindled” to 270 acres from the vast estate once owned by Harry McCalmont, covering almost 8,000 acres.

Today, Cheveley Park Stud is comprised of nearly 1,000 acres. The operation is run in such a discreet manner that it is easy to overlook its significance, particularly to Britain, where its red, white and blue racing colours almost literally fly the flag for a nation once awash with owner-breeders but now somewhat lacking in that regard.

The stud in the Thompsons’ era has had a canny knack of making stallions, sometimes against the odds. They were advised not to stand their Gimcrack S. winner Music Boy (GB) (Jukebox {GB}) shortly after purchasing the farm but he duly became the leading first-season sire of 1980 and is immortalised in bronze outside the stud office, his likeness a monument to the pursuit of dreams.

While Music Boy was an important trailblazer for a then-fledgling stallion operation, his accomplishments have been dramatically usurped by the horse who can be considered the lynchpin of Cheveley Park Stud, the homebred wonder that is Pivotal (GB) (Polar Falcon).

“He’s really the reason that Cheveley Park Stud is as big and as significant as it is today. We were very lucky that we had three yearlings by Polar Falcon, two of them went to the sales and he was the one we kept. The rest, as they say, is history,” says Chris Richardson, managing director of Cheveley Park Stud for the last 30 years.

On the advice of trainer John Hammond, David Thompson bought Pivotal’s sire Polar Falcon halfway through his racing career and enjoyed Group 1 success in his own colours in the Haydock Sprint Cup before the son of Nureyev retired to stud. Polar Falcon’s first foal born, the bright chestnut son of the Cozzene mare Fearless Revival, not only laid down an important marker on the racecourse but now has his DNA well and truly imprinted throughout his birthplace.

“It’s fantastic to have bred and raced a horse like Pivotal. He gave Mr and Mrs Thompson a first Group 1 win in the Cheveley Park Stud colours when he won the Nunthorpe and what he has achieved at stud has been tremendous,” says Richardson. “He retired at £6,000 and in the second and third year we were having to discount him a bit, but in his heyday he was £85,000 and was in huge demand. We’re very grateful to Sheikh Mohammed, who agreed to buy a 25% interest in the horse and has supported him with good mares and in the sales ring. He has been rewarded with a nice stallion of his own in Farhh (GB), and Siyouni (Fr) seems to be doing extraordinarily well.”

Now 25, Pivotal could easily pass for a horse ten years younger when paraded, a fitting finale as he is brought out of the vast stallion box once inhabited by Isinglass (GB) and shown last of the eight stallions currently in residence at the farm. He is being carefully managed in his twilight years, covering a select number of mares.

Richardson says, “He covered 65 last year. His fertility was phenomenal really, just under 88%, and we’re looking at a similar number this year.”

The leading active broodmare sire in Europe for the first time in 2017, with notable representatives in this sphere such as Rhododendron (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Hydrangea (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Cracksman (GB) (Frankel {GB}) and Precieuse (Ire) (Tamayuz {GB}), Pivotal’s influence is immense and there are traces of him everywhere at his home farm.

He has outlasted his popular first-crop son Kyllachy (GB), a fellow Nunthorpe winner who was retired last year and, at the age of 20, lives in retirement alongside Medicean (GB). Kyllachy has been succeeded by his own Group 1-winning son, Twilight Son (GB), whose first foals are expected imminently, and he is the broodmare sire of Garswood (GB), a Cheveley Park Stud product through and through, with Dutch Art (GB) and Medicean (GB) as his sire and grandsire, and Kyllachy, Pivotal and Polar Falcon rippling through his damsire line. Pivotal can also be found as the broodmare sire of the G1 Darley July Cup winner Mayson (GB), who took up residence at Cheveley Park Stud in 2013.

“We enjoy the continuity,” Richardson says. “We’ve done Medicean, Dutch Art and Garswood, and now we have Pivotal, Kyllachy and Twilight Son. We’re very excited to have Twilight Son–he was a very talented racehorse and he had a strong book of mares last year. We have our first foal due by him on 18 January.”

Garswood, who has his first runners this season, temporarily escaped the stud’s clutches when sold as a foal to Richard Knight for 19,000gns. After he raced with promise for David and Emma Armstrong at two, the Thompsons bought back into him with a future stallion career in mind and their faith was rewarded when he went on to win the G2 Lennox S. and, finally, the G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest.

Richardson says candidly, “Part of the policy every year is to promote a stallion’s stock and Garswood was a particularly nice foal so we took him to the sales but then ended up buying him back in partnership with David and Emma Armstrong, who also bred and raced Mayson.

“You never really know which stallion is going to make it but we’ve been fortunate over the years to be able to make stallions and I’m pretty confident having looked at his individuals that they look the part.”

One year ahead of Garswood on the runner-front is Intello (Ger), who returns this year having stood his first two seasons in Newmarket, followed by another two at Haras du Quesnay. The Wertheimer-bred son of Galileo (Ire) represented something of a break from tradition at Cheveley Park Stud.

“We felt it was important to try to expand the portfolio of stallions,” Richardson explains. “Since the Thompsons bought the stud in 1975, the emphasis has always been on speed and it has been precocity-orientated. That has worked really well and we feel that we’ve been copied to an extent by quite a lot of the industry because they’ve seen how successful that has been. What I liked about Intello is that he had plenty of speed and the most wonderful pedigree. Andre Fabre said that he was just good at everything. I think that sums him up really and he was unlucky not to win the French Guineas. He then won the French Derby and he ran a blinder to be third in the Arc.”

Of Intello’s retirement initially to England, he adds, “The Wertheimer brothers were looking for a different angle and a different adventure to allow a horse of his quality the opportunity to stand in Britain and France. We agreed a two-year switch and started him off, and we’re obviously delighted to see his 2-year-olds show a great deal of ability.”

One of those was the stud’s homebred Regal Reality (GB), who won his only start in impressive fashion at Yarmouth and is a son of the dual Group 3 winner Regal Realm (GB) (Medicean {GB}), while another winning debutant, the Fabrice Chappet-trained Intellogent (Ire), was a €320,000 Arqana August yearling and looks to have a bright future for owner Fiona Carmichael.

The newest recruit to the roster of eight Group 1 winners has many parallels with Intello. Ulysses (Ire) is also a son of Galileo raced by a major owner-breeder, and in partnering with his breeder, Maria Niarchos, Richardson is renewing old acquaintances.

He says, “Ulysses is the highest-rated older horse retiring to stud this year and he’s a horse that we firmly believe in. I was fortunate enough to work for Maria Niarchos’s father when I managed their farm in Kentucky back in the early 1980s so our association goes back a long way. I know their families of old and I know the strength and depth of these pedigrees and how they keep coming up. The Niarchos commitment, which is likely to be around 12 mares, if not more, is the most that they have ever sent to any of their first-season stallions and we hugely value and respect that and want to echo it.”

Cheveley Park Stud is in fact more than echoing that commitment as it will send Ulysses 20 mares this season, including the Group 1 winners Hooray (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), Echelon (GB) (Danehill) and her daughter Integral (GB) (Dalakhani {Ire}), as well as Troarn (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), a stakes-placed sister to Almanzor (Fr) who was a recent purchase at €600,000, and four daughters of Pivotal.

“David and Patricia Thompson have been keen to acquire some new families and we also bought the dam of [G2 Champagne S. winner] Seahenge. So we are supporting him with some really well-bred mares, as is the Niarchos family,” Richardson adds.

Seahenge’s dam, Fools In Love (Not For Love), a million-dollar addition to the broodmare band from Keeneland last November, is representative of the increased spending by the Thompsons, not just in the broodmare sector, but throughout all divisions of the market last year. The G1 Darley Prix Morny winner Unfortunately (Ire) (Society Rock {Ire}) was a notable in-training purchase and is an enticing future stallion prospect and, for the first time, Richardson was active at the breeze-up sales on the Thompsons’ behalf, as well as buying yearlings and foals.

“Quite often breeders sell their foals and those who buy them do even better with them as yearlings so I think it was quite a positive for the industry to have the Thompsons there buying foals and supporting at that level, and all being well we will be doing the same this year. They always like to buy a few fillies and I’m sure that will continue.”

But, as the covering season looms, the focus is very much on the stallions. The likely speed influences such as the dual Group 1-winning sprinter Lethal Force (Ire) will ensure that to a certain extent it’s business as usual at Cheveley Park Stud, but in its recruitment of two sons of the champion sire, Richardson hopes that breeders will not desert stallions with Classic potential. In no case is this more prominent than in Ulysses, the son of a Derby winner and an Oaks winner.

He says, “Ulysses was a hugely talented horse. From my personal point of view I feel it’s a shame that there are fewer and fewer owner-breeders now. There’s a huge amount of work being done behind the scenes through the BHA to improve the prize-money for the middle-distance races. I hope that the industry will look favourably upon the decision that we have made to stand particularly Ulysses and Intello here to give breeders the choice. We appreciate that the commercial market is running the market but we have to be so careful that we don’t seriously affect the future of the thoroughbred. Mr and Mrs Thompson are passionate about racing and their horses. They are investing hugely and I hope that people will feel that this is something that they want to be part of. The Thompsons want Cheveley Park Stud to be at the top end and standing the best stallions. We are in different times but it is important that the future of the breed is safeguarded and that it’s not all about speed and precocity. A return, to a degree, of horses being bred for the Derby and for the Oaks, would be for the welfare of the industry.”

With 137 horses in training in 2018 spread across 16 different trainers and more than 140 broodmares, the numbers alone speak volumes about David and Patricia Thompson’s commitment to British racing and breeding over almost half a century. A homebred winner of an Epsom Classic in their famously patriotic racing silks would be a result richly deserved by the couple and applauded by many. The dream is still alive.


Cheveley Park Stud mares visiting Ulysses:

Arabian Beauty (Ire) (Shamardal), €270,000 purchase, half-sister to Rio De La Plata
Ardent (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), dam of LW and G3P Eternally (GB)
Echelon (GB) (Danehill), G1W and dam of G1W Integral (GB)
Entity (GB) (Shamardal), winning daughter of Echelon, half-sister to Integral
Fools In Love (Not For Love), $1 million purchase, stakes-winning dam of G2W Seahenge
Heaven Sent (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), G3W and G1P, dam of two stakes horses
Hooray (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), G1W and champion 2YO filly
Ice Palace (GB) (Polar Falcon), SW and dam of SW Queen Of Ice (GB)
Infallible (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), G3W and G1P, dam of G2W Mutakayyef (GB)
Integral (GB) (Dalakhani {Ire}), G1W
Mesa Fresca (Sky Mesa), $2 million purchase, dam of GIW Harmonize
My Hope (Afleet Alex), $525,000 purchase, half-sister to three stakes winners
On Her Toes (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), dual LW and G3P
Queen Of Ice (GB) (Selkirk), LW from immediate family of G2W/G1P Spacious (GB)
Regal Realm (GB) (Median {GB}), dual G3W
Rock Choir (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), stakes-placed sister to G1W Chorist (GB)
Rythmique (Ire) (Casamento {Ire}), €180,000 purchase, G3P from family of Vintage Tipple (Ire)
Sacre Caroline (Blame), 300,000gns purchase, winning half-sister to Lady Eli
Troarn (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), €600,000 purchase, stakes-placed sister to Almanzor (Fr)
Zuhoor Baynoona (Ire) (Elnadim), 560,000gns purchase, stakes-winning half-sister to G2W Royal Youmzain (Fr)