Wishing Stone follows footsteps of Europe's greats

12:58 AM 17 Mar 2014 NZDT
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Wishing Stone, harness racing Wishing Stone, harness racing
Wishing Stone winning in Europe
Wishing Stone and John Campbell winning at Red Mile
Nigel Soult Photo
Wishing Stone 2010 Kentucky Futurity

It is common practice in France, but standing a stallion at stud while pursuing an active racing career is a rarity in the United States.

So when Deo Volente Farms in Flemington, New Jersey decided to stand their $2.2 million trotting star Wishing Stone at stud while also continuing his track career, it sent a buzz of excitement through the industry.

Keeping stars racing is a proven formula for maintaining the public interest in Europe, and of course Wishing Stone himself has already proven himself highly competitive on both sides of the ditch, even more so considering his European sojourn was conducted when he was just four and five-years-old, a mere baby in European terms.

And the news that he will also be available to European breeders has been warmly received – he has been oversubscribed already in Europe for services for the upcoming season – aware as they are that many of the top sires in Europe have competed successfully as an aged horse there – with Scarlet Knight and SJ’s Photo prime examples.

“Wishing Stone brings to breeders, durability and longevity.   An exceptional colt and aged performer, it is likely his offspring will inherit those qualities,” says Sue Agopian, managing partner at Deo Volente Farms.

Wishing Stone certainly ticks all the boxes as a potential stallion, a world record holder with major wins in four countries, the United States, France, Sweden and Denmark – he also competed in some of the very best races in Europe –where only the elite are invited.

In France they pay down to seventh, and a placing in a group one event is the equivalent of a black type credential, with many going on to successful stud careers simply with the words classique or semi-classique on their CV. It showed they were good enough to race against the very best.

Take Wishing Stone’s seventh placing in the 2011 Prix de France, one of the French Triple Crowns, the absolute jewels in the sparkling European circuit where the royally-bred French, Swedish and Italian elite race

The winner of the Prix de France in 2011 was none other than Ready Cash, the greatest horse of a great generation in France. A dual Prix d’Amerique winner and winner of last year’s Masters du Trot grand final, he retired last month as the richest trotter in history with earnings of 4,282,300 euros (US $5,953,675).  .

Second was Maharajah, the greatest horse that Sweden has produced in decades and the winner of this year’s Prix d’Amerique, while third was Lana Del Rio, a multiple Group One winning Italian millionaire mare, who beat the boys in Italy’s richest race, the Italian Derby.

Fifth was Olga du Bewitz who retired as the twelfth richest horse of all time in France, and the best of her generation with wins in the world championship of saddle racing, the Prix du Cornulier and under harness a win in the Prix de Bretagne and a third placing in the Prix d’Amerique.

These races mean little to American breeders, but mean plenty to those in Europe and again Wishing Stone appeared in this blue ribbon event as a 4YO, which is incredibly young in European terms.

Wishing Stone not only competed against the best trotters in the world on their own turf, he won several of their biggest races.

When he came from an almost impossible position, with a withering sprint to win the Copenhagen Cup, he ran down Quarcio du Chene, a Group One winner (Finlandia-Ajo) and one of Sweden’s best aged performers, with Group Two victories in France, Norway and Sweden.

In the process he also beat the German sensation Brioni , the winner of the Elitloppet and Olympiatravet – the two biggest open Group One races in Sweden, and French star, and popular stallion Oynonnax (who won the Prix d’Amerique) and also another brilliant French horse Rapide Lebel, the greatest gelding of the R generation who was second in the Elitloppet by a whisker and earned 2.5 million euros.

When Wishing Stone won the Group One King Gustav Pokal, he beat Kadet C.D and Raja Mirchi, two of the brightest young stars in Sweden and when he won the Grand Prix de Sud-Ouest in France, he beat Premiere Steed  a multiple Group One winner, who won the prestigious French Prix Rene Balliere and Finland’s prestigious St Michel Ajo.

In the USA he is a world record holder at 6 in 1:51.2f beating Uncle Peter,  Arch Madness and Market Share.

As a 5YO he was winner of the Maxie Lee in 2013 (again over Uncle Peter) and before he left for his two-year-stint in Europe he was a top colt, winning the 2010 Kentucky Futurity in straight heats with a final time of 1:51.2. The same year he won the Matron, the American National and was third in the Hambletonian.

Wishing Stone was also a winner as a 2YO with victories in the International Stallion Stake, the Bluegrass Stakes, and the NYSS at Monticello. 

He has a super pedigree, especially for Europe, being the best son of Conway Hall, who is the brother of four successful stallions in Europe and closely related to several more.

Wishing Stone is out of the super broodmare Meadowbranch Magic, a $330,000 yearling and the granddaughter of $1.1 Million winning Davidia Hanover.

Wishing Stone’s full brother, Make It Happen, nearly a $1 million winner, has become a sought after stallion in Europe after producing two near Swedish  millionaires from his first crop including TravKrterium (Sweden’s top 3YO race)  second place finisher Final Oak.  Wishing Stone is also a sibling of three other $100,000 winners, which is always a great guide to prepotency.

His durability says volumes for his physique and conformation and he is blessed with a perfect gait, which is a necessity for competition in France, where rough gaits lead to disqualifications. He has a wide-striding front action which will remind Swedes of the likes of Maharajah, the winner of this year’s Prix d’Amerique.

With services to stallions in Europe heavily regulated, his popularity already is such that he is over-subscribed for his first season, for which he is in Maryland at SBS for frozen semen collection serving the non-US market.  He is to be distributed through Offspring Management in Sweden, Allevamenti Toniatti sas in Italy, ENS Snapshot in Denmark and Stallions Australasia  for Australia and New Zealand.

“We plan to bring him home to New Jersey at Deo Volente Farms this week to serve the US breeding market,” says Sue Agopian. 

“We will be breeding the mare Yalta Hanover dam of horse of the month Perfect Alliance to Wishing Stone this year.

“He will continue breeding and start jogging and training at the training facility few miles from our farm and will be racing come summer. Breeding is part of his daily life, when we need to serve the US breeders we will bring him to the farm for collection.”

Wishing Stone  will be breeding until June and his immediate racing programme is likely to  be focused on the the U.S looking towards the Cashman Memorial and Breeders Crown. However, the Copenhagen Cup & TVG trot are also on the future agenda.

 “Our strategy is for him to have a global career. With Ron [Burke] as his trainer we have all the confidence that he will have a well rounded global career,” says Sue Agopian. 

There are no plans for how long  Wishing Stone can continue combining a race career and breeding, it is common in Europe for racing stallions to continue until nine and ten if their form holds up, Ready Cash a great example, retiring recently at nine, just as his first progeny were cleaning up group races in France.

 “He will tell us how long to continue breeding and racing him.  He had an exceptional season at age 6 setting world records in the process.. As long as he is able to compete at that lofty level, we will breed and race. He has a phenomenal legacy and we want to make sure it remains that way!”

By David Sanders, for Harnesslink.com

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