Belardo: Dewhurst Stakes winner was bred by Ballylinch StudPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Ballylinch bought by US businessman Malone
BALLYLINCH STUD, one of the most successful independently owned studs in Ireland, has been bought by prominent US businessman John Malone and his wife Leslie as a going concern with all staff retained including John O'Connor, who will continue in his role as managing director.
It is only the second time Ballylinch has been sold in the past century, with the McCalmont family having established it in 1914 and the late Dr Tim Mahony - whose family own Killeen Group Holdings - having purchased it in 1987.
The operation on the Mount Juliet estate in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, hit a rich vein of form this year. Among its achievements it bred Dewhurst Stakes winner Belardo, a son of Lope De Vega, who stands at the stud and has made an excellent first impression with his debut two-year-old crop.
Killeen Group said in a statement the sale "follows a strategic decision to exit the bloodstock industry in Ireland".
It added: "The Killeen Group believes the timing was right for this sale, given the rapidly improving climate, the positive outlook for the bloodstock industry in Europe and Ballylinch's significant recent successes, all of which have combined to deliver an environment that sees the stud trading strongly."
Malone, the new steward of Ballylinch, bought Bridlewood Farm in Florida last year and has dug deep in his investment in blue-chip bloodstock. Just last month Bridlewood Farm paid a staggering $3 million - a North American record for a foal - for a Tapit filly at the Keeneland November Sale.
"We are delighted to become involved with Ballylinch and John O'Connor and his staff," said Malone.
"We were attracted to Ballylinch by its strong reputation, built over many years. Leslie and I look forward to continuing the development of Ballylinch into a premier European farm."
O'Connor, who joined the farm in 1988, said yesterday the change of ownership has been "a seamless transition" and that he expected "no change in the practical running of the stud".
It will be business as usual for the stallion roster, with Beat Hollow, Dream Ahead, Intense Focus, Lawman and Lope De Vega to stand at the stud in 2015. Ballylinch will also continue to house its permanent boarding mares.
"I'm sure there will be synergy between Ballylinch and Bridlewood, as although they will act as independent studs there will be close co-operation," O'Connor said. "It is Mr Malone's intention to enhance and build on what is already here, by investing in European bloodstock.
"It is an exciting phase in Ballylinch Stud's history. It's fair to say we have been on an upward trend and are at a point where the broodmare and stallion roster are better than ever before, so it is an opportune time for someone to invest in us."
O'Connor also paid tribute to the Mahony family. "They have been wonderful employers and custodians of the stud," he said. "When Dr Mahony bought the farm it had no stock, so it had to be built from scratch. Under the family's stewardship it reached a very high level and it has been a pleasure to work for them.
"I'm delighted to say that Dr Mahony's daughter Jenny Howes will be retaining some stock and they will continue to be boarded at Ballylinch, so there will be some continuity, which is a pleasure for everyone involved."
Ballylinch Stud is set to take part in the inaugural Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Stallion Trail on January 23-24.