John O’Connor announced as new Chairman of the European Breeders’ Fund

Wed 26 Apr 2023

John O’Connor of Ballylinch Stud succeeds Philip Freedman as Chair of the European Breeders’ Fund

John O’Connor is the new Chairman of the European Breeders’ Fund. In the EBF’s 40th year of operation O’Connor takes over from Philip Freedman who served two terms as Chairman. Ballylinch Studs’ O’Connor has previously been Chairman of the Irish EBF and the ITBA.

The British and Irish EBF have recently announced record spends on prize money in 2023 with both funds committing over €2,000,000 each with the focus on the two year old programme and fillies’ races. The Irish EBF Ballyhane 2yo stakes at Naas in August will pay out over €200,000 and the British EBF 2yo finals at Goodwood and York are both worth £100,000; the Criterium FEE is worth €130,000 at Deauville in August. The FEE (French EBF) will support prize money with over €1,000,000 in 2023.

O’Connor said:

“I am delighted to take on the Chairmanship of the EBF in its’ 40th year. The EBF plays a significant role in supporting the racing industry at many levels. Due to the calibre of stallions that now stand in Europe and through the commitment of stallion farms large and small, the EBF contributes more to prize money than ever at a time when it is of crucial importance with costs rising rapidly for all participants in racing. I will aim to continue and build on the excellent work of my predecessor Philip Freedman and I look forward to working with Kerry Murphy and the team”.

Nolan targeting €75,000 Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Series Final riches at Punchestown with Sandor Clegane

Mon 24 Apr 2023

Sandor Clegane looks a key player in a red-hot field of 13 horses that have been declared for the €75,000 Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Series Final at Punchestown on Wednesday.

A €20,000 purchase at what is now the Goffs Arkle Sale, in 2020, Paul Nolan’s talented performer split Three Card Brag and Nucky Johnson, who both line up in Wednesday’s final, in one of the 16 qualifying races, the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle at Galway in October. That race illustrated the high quality of individual available at relatively cheaper prices as the series, now in its fifth year, was designed to create opportunities for horses bought for €45,000/€30,000 or less at store sales in Ireland and the UK, thereby giving owners and trainers an opportunity to claim some of the €395,000 in prize money on offer throughout the series. To enter the €75,000 final at the Punchestown Festival, EBF eligible horses must have run in one of the 16 qualifiers and have not won a graded or listed race.

Sandor Clegane followed his debut effort over hurdles with a 12-length triumph in another qualifier, this time at Punchestown, and those two efforts have yielded €15,600 alone. The six-year-old son of Fame And Glory has finished third in two Grade 1 contests in his only two outings since that Punchestown victory, most recently coming home just one and a quarter lengths behind winner Stay Away Fay in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at Cheltenham, making him the highest rated horse of the baker’s dozen on 141.
Little wonder the Nolans are such fans of the series, as articulated by James Nolan, brother of Paul as well as assistant trainer. “It’s a great idea,” said James of the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Series. “It’s not everyone’s yard is full of very expensive horses so it’s a great incentive to have chances in races. I see even the point-to-point lads like Denis Murphy and Colin Bowe and those guys, if a horse is under a certain price, they would say, ‘And he’s eligible now for an auction maiden,’ and when they win an auction maiden it doesn’t seem to affect the money they can go on and make either because everyone knows that a good horse can cost small money and big money. If a horse was going five grand more, you’re not going to stop if you really want it and have the client to pay but it’s a definite incentive to buy at that bracket and obviously the prize money is brilliant as well.”

Peter Fahey is on the cusp of a remarkable three-in-a-row, having won the last two finals with Surprise Package and Ambitious Fellow. He is represented by Rocco Bay, triumphant in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle at Limerick last May. Pale Blue Dot represents Denis Hogan, who saddled Funky Dady to win the 2020 final. Terence O’Brien has a tilt at the riches on offer with Ik’s Man, who has been consistent throughout the series and most recently chased home the talented Demandrivingdouvan in Wexford at the end of March. 

“The series is a great opportunity for horses that were bought at the sales under the €30,000 or €45,000 mark,” declares O’Brien. “It gives us a chance to be competitive in maiden hurdles all year. The final is another cherry on top if you can qualify for it, to give owners an opportunity to land at the festival on a big day. We’ve won a few of the races before and were placed a good few times. The prize money is very good and it’s a brilliant series for the small trainer to be honest with you. Ik’s Man has had three runs in the series and been placed in a couple. We’ll head to Punchestown. We’ve a good few owners involved in him and I’m sure they’ll all be delighted for a day out. If he just improves another little bit, he’ll hopefully be in the shake-up again.”

Three Card Brag tops the weights with 11-12 and although claiming Sandor Clegane’s scalp earlier in the season, was behind Paul Nolan’s charge at Cheltenham, albeit while still running a fantastic race to be fifth. “It’s a great pot and a great initiative and I love to support it wherever I can,” said trainer Gordon Elliott recently. “It would be nice to win the final at some point. I haven’t done so yet but we’ve had some nice horses come through the series like Gevrey, who was third in the final a few years ago and he was second in the Irish National a couple of weeks ago so it’s a great series.”

Nessa Joyce, Irish EBF Manager, said: “The Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Series has gone from strength to strength in a short period of time, thanks to the support of the many trainers and owners who make it a key target each year. This season 70 different trainers campaigned 119 EBF eligible store-bought horses in 16 qualifying races, with an average auction price of just over €14,000, so there is great anticipation to see who will win the €75,000 final next week. The Irish EBF board would like to thank all the connections for supporting the series and special thanks goes to our sponsorship partners Connolly’s RED MILLS for their continuing generous support.”

Gareth Connolly, CEO Connolly’s RED MILLS, added: “We are proud to sponsor the RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Series for the fifth season and are looking forward to the €75,000 Final at Punchestown next week. This series has provided a platform for horses in the that middle segment of the market to compete for good prize money, with each of the qualifying races worth €20,000, thus supporting the owners and trainer who take part in the series.
“The series has contributed greatly to the stimulation of the middle market, and the stats show how it has promoted healthy competition, fostering growth within the industry. As a company dedicated to the wellbeing and nutrition of horses, we recognise the importance of investing in events like this and to promote the industry that supports our business all year round. We want to thank the team at the Irish EBF and Punchestown for being such great partners and thank also all the trainers and owners who have run horses in the series since it was launched in 2019.”

Quick Fire Q&A With Eve Johnson Houghton

Wed 19 Apr 2023

We caught up with STREETS OF GOLD (IRE) trainer Eve Johnson Houghton to find out how the British EBF £100,000 Final winner is preparing for his Guineas tilt and Eve’s thoughts on our series ahead of the first 2023 qualifier today at Beverley.

When looking at the race programme, did you specifically target the British EBF 2yo Series finals for STREETS OF GOLD?

Yes, and No is the honest answer!  It was a good new initiative, so we had looked to get him qualified in one of the EBF Restricted races.  He ran in two of those and qualified for the series and then when he won the Nursery Handicap at York we steered away from the EBF final a bit but as it turned out, it was just really well placed in the calendar for him and over the right distance for the time of year and was on a track he knew.

What was it about the series that you liked?

As I’ve said, the colt’s final sits in the right place in the programme and it has excellent prizemoney.

STREETS OF GOLD was a very reasonably priced yearling purchase from Tattersalls Ireland at £27,000.  He ran in 2 EBF Restricted race qualifiers before progressing to Sky Bet Nursery Handicap at York; do think the new restricted races were a good way of progressing a reasonably priced horse, away from open novice and maidens?

The Restricted races are the successor to the old median auction and auction races and I wish there were more of them, especially at this early part of the season.  Your owners can go out and buy their £10K or £20K yearling and start them off on a more level playing field than having to go in to an open Maiden or Novice and potentially have to take on something that might have cost £500K!

How has STREETS OF GOLD come on over the winter?

He has done really well over the winter.  In some ways it is hard to tell as he is so relaxed at home, much like he is on the racecourse but he has worked very well with the horses I gallop him with.

Will he have a prep race – if so where?

Most likely the Greenham.

Is one of the Guineas more likely than the other (GB vs IRE)?

We will probably give Newmarket at go and then see how he is…

The British EBF 2yo Series is designed to give a valuable end of season target to horses by sires at the more commercially priced end of the market.  It is hoped that the finals, being run in the Autumn for £100,000 would encourage owners to re-invest in yearlings. Do you think it fulfils its remit? 

Getting good prizemoney from anywhere is good.  It certainly encouraged our owners to go back to the sales so I would say it fulfils its remit!

Is there anything you would improve about the series?

No: the best thing is that it is not an early closing race; there are plenty of opportunities to qualify [well over 100] and then decide if the final is right for your horse. 

Having had success in the first year, would you target the EBF 2yo Series again? Do you have a horse/ horses in mind for it at this early stage of the season?

It’s always hard to know at this point in the year as you don’t know a horse’s trip but we will definitely be looking at getting some qualified and see how they progress.