Roots Run Deep For Magnolia Springs

By Kelsey Riley

When Magnolia Springs (Ire) (Shamardal) ran away with a Newbury conditions race on debut on Friday, she marked the start of an exciting new chapter for three operations that have been intertwined for generations. Bred by the Rogers family’s Airlie Stud, the 2-year-old filly is out of a mare purchased nine years ago from Ballymacoll Stud, whose owner Lord Weinstock was fast friends with Airlie founder Tim Rogers. Magnolia Springs is trained by Eve Johnson Houghton whose father, former trainer Fulke Johnson Houghton, trained former Airlie sire Habitat. The late Rogers also had horses trained by the elder Johnson Houghton.

The story also bears some timely significance, with Ballymacoll set to begin its dispersal in nine days’ time at Tattersalls. Airlie purchased Magnolia Springs’s dam, Rainbow City (Ire) (Rainbow Quest), for 85,000gns at Tattersalls December in 2008. Tim Rogers’s son Anthony currently runs Airlie with his mother Sonia, and he said, “It’s interesting buying off Ballymacoll because dad was great friends with Lord Weinstock, he worked a lot with him. Also, Eve Johnson-Houghton, who trains the filly, her dad, Fulke trained Habitat, who my dad stood here on the farm.”

Eight years old at the time of her sale, Rainbow City is a two-time winning daughter of the French stakes winner Greektown (Ela-Mana-Mou {Ire}), and a half-sister to three stakes winners including G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud victor Gamut (Ire) (Spectrum {Ire}). Since that time two of Rainbow City’s other sisters have proven quite good producers, with Grecian Bride (Ire) (Groom Dancer) having produced stakes winners Saddler’s Rock (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells), Tarfasha (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) and Alexina (GB) (Barathea {Ire}) and two other stakes-placed horses, and Danse Grecque (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells) the dam of G1 EP Taylor S. winner Tannery (Ire) (Dylan Thomas {Ire}). It is also the family of Derby winner North Light (Ire) (Danehill), Guineas and King George winner Golan (Ire) (Spectrum {Ire}) and the Derby, King George and Prince of Wales’s second Tartan Bearer (Ire) (Spectrum {Ire}). Click here for the pedigree.

It wasn’t such a smooth start for Rainbow City and Airlie, however.

“She hasn’t been an easy mare,” Rogers said. “We sent her to Verglas, [and the resulting foal] was useless, then she was barren to Dubawi, which is rather annoying. Then she had a Rock Of Gibraltar, Mythical City, who was actually decent and won a few races for Mark Johnston. She had a Dalakhani that wasn’t much good-she’s been hard. Shamardal was the best mating she’s had, and it’s a wonderful pedigree, it really is. We’ve been struggling with this mare for eight years and suddenly it pops up literally a week before [Ballymacoll is] dispersing.”

Magnolia Springs was bought back by Airlie for €105,000 at Goffs Orby last year.

“She was a nice, big filly, but a bit backwards and no one wants backwards fillies anymore,” Rogers said. “But we really liked her here. She had a borderline scope, and as far as I can work out we’ve had five or six very good horses that have all had borderline scopes.”

Rogers’s decision to send Magnolia Springs to Eve Johnson Houghton marked the rekindling of the family ties, as she is the first horse Airlie has had with the younger Johnson Houghton.

“It’s great for Eve as well, she’s a bloody good trainer,” he said. “She’s had a great year and she always loved this filly but she didn’t want to go over the top about it. The way she did it, it’s very exciting.”

Airlie sold Rainbow City’s Dawn Approach (Ire) filly at last year’s Goffs November Foal Sale for €30,000, and her current War Command filly is entered for the same sale this year, though Rogers said a decision has not been made on whether she will make the trip to the Kildare paddocks. Rainbow City is back in foal to Excelebration (Ire).

“She’s 17 so we’ll see how we go with her,” Rogers said of Rainbow City. “She’s in foal to Excelebration and I hope we get a filly rather than a colt.”

Regardless of what is to come, Airlie certainly has something to look forward to with Magnolia Springs.

“I spoke to Eve this morning, and she came out of the race really well,” Rogers said. “She looks like she’s had a race, which you would expect for a big leggy filly. She’s 50-50 whether to run again or whether to just put her away. Over the next two weeks she’ll see how she comes out of the race and we’ll make a decision.”

“But she’s a big, leggy filly who is yet to fill into her frame,” Rogers added. “Unless she comes out bouncing in a couple weeks I have a feeling we might just wait until next year. But if she is well and bouncing and seems to be enjoying it, if Eve says she’s in great form, that’s up to her; I’m not going to step on her feet.”

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