Monday, March 31, 2014

To Dabirsim, with a few detours

Lovely Dabirsim at Gestüt Karlshof
It's taken almost a week to recover from the latest road trip, which seemed to include most of Europe in just three days.

It was really only supposed to include Chantilly to just south of Frankfurt and back via Normandy but lack of map-reading skills (well, a lack of map for most of the journey) plus a sat nav with an evil sense of humour meant that a number of, er, scenic routes were taken at times. At most times, in fact.

My travelling companions were William Huntingdon and Liam Norris, who have already been mentioned in dispatches in this blog and who were kind enough to include me on their mission to visit several mares which they own in France and Germany, plus two stallions and a number of horses in training.

William and Liam bought a very attractive Dubawi mare named Plebeya at Arqana's December Sale last year with the intention of sending her to Dabirsim, who is standing his first season at Gestüt Karlshof. I'm happy to say that Plebeya appeared on a very long list of mares I was asked to provide for this express purpose, and though I played the smallest of small parts in her purchase, I will naturally be claiming all the credit when she produces her first Classic winner. She now boards, along with her first foal, a colt by Tin Horse, at nearby(ish) Gestüt Westerberg and has been joined there by Liam's nice Hernando mare Villabella.

Plebeya and her Tin Horse colt at 10 days old
Peter Rodde and his wife Aline run Westerberg, a really  relaxed and traditional farm in Ingelheim where the horses all looked very well. Peter's clearly an extremely experienced horseman and when he's not patrolling the grounds, from his vast office he can look out on to an elaborate indoor school built by his wife's grandparents, who set up the stud.

It must be pretty nerve-wracking to send mares off to foal in different countries, putting them in the care of people you don't know very well, but Peter had come highly recommended and I imagine Liam and William feel that their mares are in good hands having now visited the place and seen what a good job they do there.

Villabella had in fact been covered by Dabirsim on the morning of our visit, and if that wasn't a good enough omen, her first foal, now three and named Vallila, had won the Spanish 1,000 Guineas Trial in impressive fashion the day before. Vallila raced in Liam's colours as a two-year-old when trained by Roger Charlton and was a winner in England before being sold at the horses-in-training sale. She now looks to be one of the most exciting fillies in Spain, racing from the stable of Argentinean trainer Oscar Anaya at San Sebastian. Needless to say, her breeder is waiting with bated breath to see what she can do when she lines up in the Spanish 1,000 Guineas equivalent, the Premio Valderas, on April 13.

Peter Rodde at Gestüt Westerberg
As we were driving to Karlshof to see Dabirsim (who is reportedly Germany's busiest stallion this season, with around 130 mares booked in), I received a text from Nicky at Colton Farm to say that my mare Desiree had tested in foal to Schiaparelli, which I took to be another good omen. On the strength of her now two-year-old, Delatite, being a promising looking horse – albeit very much one for bumpers later on in life – Desiree went back to Schiaparelli at Overbury Stud, so I was delighted later in the day to be able to see his full-brother Samum at Karlshof alongside Dabirsim.

Samum, who was champion sire in Germany a few years back, is actually much smaller than Schiaparelli, but there are plenty of similarities, not least their really good temperaments. They are by Monsun out of the Old Vic mare Sacarina, who was a real star for Karlshof, providing not just these two Deutsches Derby winners (Samum and Schiaparelli won 13 Group races between them) but also the Preis der Diana (German Oaks) winner Salve Regina, who is their full-sister.

A castle on the banks of the Rhine
It was on leaving Westerberg that we got into the most trouble. With a long drive ahead back up through Germany, across Belgium to Cambrai in France, we probably could have done without getting lost in the Rhine Valley.

With William snoring in the back seat, Liam and I attempted to navigate our way to the A61 (or was it the E61?). We ended up with a nice ferry trip across the river – twice! – and despite the fact that we should have been on the autobahn hurtling through northern Germany, I remain immensely glad of the meandering detour along the Rhine,  its steep-sided valley interspersed with castles and vineyards along the way. It was stunning, and would have been even more so if viewed from one of the many lovely terraces lining the route with a cold beer in hand.

After William woke up, told us off, bought a map and took charge, we finally made it to our hotel in Cambrai at about 11pm where we had to make do with a liquid supper, which is not usually a hardship in France, and the wine was indeed extremely agreeable. Having called in at Jonathan Pease's yard at Chantilly on our way to Germany to see five horses bought by the Norris/Huntingdon partnership for one of their clients, we toured back through Normandy to see William's mare, foal and yearling at Hubert Honoré's Haras d'Omméel.

Better late than never: map reading with a few refreshments
Another inadvertent deviation from our route ensued once we got near to the stud at Gacé. Let's just say we had Omméel surrounded.

But, as always, going off piste a bit can bring unexpected pleasures and this time it was the sight of two red squirrels on the verge. I can't remember the last time I'd seen a red squirrel but I was so petrified that I'd get shouted at by William if I dared to down the map and take up my camera that the opportunity for a little nature photography sadly passed me by.

Once we eventually found Hubert, he and Claire treated us to a lovely but swift lunch after seeing the horses and then it was lickety-split back to Ouistreham for the ferry to Portsmouth.

The boys did an excellent job of driving almost 3,000 miles in such a short time. I did an average job of map-reading and such a poor job of my sole stint at the wheel that William piped up, 'Ah, we've found your new a hearse driver.' I have a feeling I may not be invited along on the next adventure.

No comments: