Diamond Harry clears the last en route to victory in the Challow HurdlePICTURE:Mark Cranham
Diamond Harry a shining light for Sir HarryLewis
OF the 12 Grade 1 jump races held during the Festive period, a total of ten fell to Irish and French-bred horses. As British stallion masters and breeders are well aware, this domination is nothing new - of the top ten active jumps stallions in the current leading jumps sires' list, only two, Kayf Tara and Overbury, are based in the UK.
But with the current weakness of the pound against the euro as well as the end of stallion tax exemption in Ireland, there is now a glimmer of hope that the gap between Britain and Ireland will perhaps start to close.
Bill Bromley of Wood Farm Stud in Shropshire is one British stallion master in a positionto take advantage. Among the five stallions he will stand this season is St. Leger winner Lucarno and Sir Harry Lewis, a son of Alleged who recently revisited the spotlight thanks to impressive Challow Hurdle winner Diamond Harry.
TheNick Williams-trained six-year-old, who was bred by Mrs. A. L. Wood out of the winning Strong Gale hurdler Swift Conveyance, has yet to be tested in five starts, and unsurprisingly is now a short-priced favourite for the Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Diamond Harry was conceived when Sir Harry Lewis stood for just £1,000, a figure which was adjusted to £1,500 following the successes of Mighty Man, Burntoakboy and Diamant Noir.
This season promises to be a vintage one as he is also the sire of Carole's Legacy, who has been beaten only once in five starts, and the Wood Farm-homebred Sir Harry Ormesher, a promising novice chaser with Alan King.
"David Minton, who was then with the BBA, purchased Sir Harry Lewis from the US for Colin Smith of Crandon Park Stud in 1995 as a replacement for Ardross," says Bromley. "Colin stood him for several seasons with Ellie Robeson at SouthcourtStud before he came to us in 1999. We stood him for Colin until we bought him ourselves in 2003."
As a son of Alleged, who was then represented by jumps sires such as Brush Aside and Montelimar, Sir Harry Lewis' appeal as a dual-purpose stallion was obvious. In addition, he had been a top-class performer for Barry Hills, taking the 1987 Irish Derby and running fourth in the Epsom equivalent.
Following a stint in the US, Sir Harry Lewis was retired to Walmac Farm in Kentucky where he stood for four seasons at $3,500 before transferring to Sugar Maple Farm in New York. Among the progeny he left behind was Prom Knight, dam of 2002 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi.
"In 2003, Colin had a few offers for him to go back to the US. But by that time we knew what he was capable of so we bought him," says Bromley. "Since then he has done all the right things.
"We've never had anyproblem filling him and we have people who send mares back to him year after year. In fact in 2003 he covered over 100 mares, partly my new horse at that time, Zindabad, had fertility issues, and he received some of his."
Although Sir Harry Lewis has played a big part in promoting Wood Farm Stud, there are no plans to increase his fee, as Bromley explains:
"We wouldn't go any higher now than £1,500 and over the last three seasons we've limited him to 50 mares.
"I think he is one of those rare stallions who can improve a mare, and he stamps his stock which I think is very important for a stallion to do. They're usually very correct, good looking horses with a good front leg."
Despite the success of Sir Harry Lewis and the stud's respect among British jumps breeders, there is still a disappointment from Bromley that Ireland continues to attract the volume of support and many of the better mares.
"There are breeders who still go to Ireland and it's a shame because Britain does have good, recognised jumps stallions," he says. "The Irish stallions sire a lot of the big winners but they have a sheer weight of numbers behind them. The winners we get from our stallions are produced from much smaller numbers.
"We're proving a point - our stallions are good enough. We can't force the breeders to come but we're here if they want to use us, and we're finding that more Irish breeders are contacting us this year, in particular for Lucarno."
As a Classic winner owning a strong female family from the Roberto line, Lucarno has the potential to be a vital cog in the future of WoodFarm Stud. On the other hand, Sir Harry Lewis has just turned 25-years-old and although described as still ‘hale and hearty and raring to go,' Bromley knows that he will not be around forever.
"He has been our flagship stallion and his ratio of winners to runners is very good," says Bromley. "But I have been telling people for some time that if you don't use him now, it might be too late - most jumps stallions are already dead by the time you realise how good they are!"