A New Look Ringfort Stud? Derek Veitch Announces Mating Plans 

Derek Veitch, famous for producing Group 1-winning sprinter Minzaal (Ire) and high-class runners Threat (Ire), Miss Amulet (Ire), Ubettabelieveit (Ire) and Indigo Lady (Ire), has outlined his intention to dramatically scale back his broodmare band to 15 or less at his Ringfort Stud base in County Offaly this year. 

The move will come as a surprise to many, given the Rhode-based Veitch has just enjoyed his greatest year as a breeder after Minzaal scorched the Haydock turf when landing the G1 Sprint Cup, not least his wife Gay, who is taking a ‘believe it when she sees it’ approach to the decision. 

“He was one of the nicest foals we’ve sold for a long time. He could be a Derby or St Leger type of horse. That’s what he was bred to be and the vibes that I am getting back on him are really good,” – Derek Veitch.

However, Veitch is concentrating on diversifying the Ringfort Stud brand, and explained how his decision has been made in the knowledge that none of his three kids have any desire to continue the famous breeding operation. 

He explained, “This year is slightly different for us because we’ve had a transition of assets over the past four years and it finishes this year in December 2023. I was 65 last weekend and the plan has been to cut back a lot. We started this plan five years ago so, what we will be doing this year will be the same as every other, in that we will foal down a good number of mares and get them back in foal. But, in June or July, things will be very different in that we are going to aim a lot of mares at sales and we will have a big reduction in the size of the farm and try to take things a little bit easier.”

He added, “We have three kids and none of them have any interest in the farm. We have to plan for the next 20 to 25 years without the kids coming in as a support structure on the farm. There’s no point structuring the place so that it stays the same or possibly gets even bigger. We are trying to restructure and get to a point where we’d probably sell the farm to get to a small acreage. We could retire into that and not be what we are for the past 20 years. That’s a big change. We’ve been here 22 years and have done nothing but expand since we got here.”

Many of the Ringfort mares are owned in partnership, meaning they will be offered at public auction, although no concrete plans have been made as to what sales they will be entered up at. While revealing mating plans to TDN Europe ahead of what promises to be another busy breeding season, Veitch explained how he could turn his hand to pinhooking foals or possibly racing horses in the future. 

He said, “I don’t know if you can time a group of mares to be at their best to go to the sales but it’s a necessary evil so that we can get to where we want to go and not still be killing myself working when I’m 75. The plan is to make things more manageable. In a way, that affords us to consolidate and concentrate on quality. It’s also an opportunity to diversify into racing ownership a little bit more and to foal pinhooking rather than just breeding. We could run a slightly different business model and reinvent the Ringfort image. That’s what we’re trying to do this year. It will be more of a surprise to people, even Gay, if I actually do it. They don’t think it’s in my nature.

“They think I need to work to live. The plan is to try and balance the rest and relaxation element of life and emphasise that a lot more than the work end of it, which has been a necessity to get three kids through college and through private school. We had to work hard but we don’t have to do that anymore if we reduce our number. Our partnership mares will go to the sales to be sold and there’s a bunch who can’t be sold because they’re too old or if they have veterinary issues. Then there’s younger mares who are unexposed and are maybe starting to breed this year. They could stay around for the next few years. That’s the plan anyway.”

Asked how he feels stepping off the wheel, Veitch said, “I’d loved to have stepped off it at 21 and lived the high life but you can’t do that. The idea of getting up at half six in the morning having been up all night foaling mares and then working all day, it’s not appealing anymore, the whole novelty of that has worn off. As I said, we don’t need to do it anymore because the kids have got their own jobs.”

The important milestone achieved with Minzaal, who Veitch intends to support with three or four mares during his debut season at Derrinstown Stud, helped fulfil a lifelong ambition for the breeder which Gay believes will help with the decision to scale back on the operation. 

She said, “You have to remember, Derek has to be doing something different otherwise he’s bored. He’s bred his Group 1 winner and he always said that he would breed until he got a Group 1 winner. Now that he has it, I suppose he can turn his hand to something else. He reinvents himself.”

Derek added, “Winning the race was a big thing but, being there on that particular day was unique because, nine times out of ten, it happens to be when we’re sitting at home watching it on the television. It was lovely to be there on the day.”

And they have their daughter to thank for being there. With no intention of making the trip to Haydock for the race, a last-minute plan was hatched to support their superstar graduate, and boy was it worth it. 

Gay explained, “We were just lucky because our daughter lives in Manchester and she phoned to ask us what we were doing at the weekend. Derek was going to Newmarket for the Somerville Sale anyway, and my daughter asked did we know that Manchester was only half an hour away. She told us to get on a flight and come racing. It was pure fluke and was literally organised at the last minute.”

Derek added, “It was a nice fluke. It’s a wee memory that is important about the whole thing and justifies getting up at night, rearing and bringing a foal to auction. It’s an interesting journey and the story continues 50 minutes away from here at Derrinstown Stud. He seems to be popular and he’s going to get plenty of mares so, if he is fertile, he could be a successful sire. He’s had over 300 mare applications but they are limiting him to 175. We have three mares that will visit him.

“Rocana (GB) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), the dam of Youth Spirit (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), who won the Chester Vase will visit Minzaal. She is the dam of a nice Australia (GB) colt who is in training with James Ferguson as well. I’d say that Australia horse is a dark one for this year and we’re looking forward to seeing him run. I’d say he’s a Group horse. He was one of the nicest foals we’ve sold for a long time. He could be a Derby or St Leger type of horse. That’s what he was bred to be and the vibes that I am getting back on him are really good.”

He continued, “The other mares booked in to Minzaal are Shenoya (Fr) (Zoffany {Ire}) and Aunt Bee (Ire) (Australia {GB}). Shenoya is a young mare and her first foal was by Gleneagles (Ire) and we sold her to Cathy Grassick and she is gone into training with Joseph O’Brien. The second foal was by Ghaiyyath (Ire) and we sold her to Tally-Ho Stud for €130,000. We liked her a lot. She could be an Oaks filly. Aunt Bee is a stakes-placed mare and in foal to Bated Breath (GB). That will be her first foal. We’ve a mare in partnership with Corduff Stud, Boo Boo Bear (Ire) (Almutawakel I {GB}), and she will go to him as well.”

Along with Minzaal, Ringfort will support a nice blend of up-and-coming and proven stallions, with Baaeed, Sea The Stars, Ghaiyyath and Mehmas featuring on the list. 

Veitch said, “Coolminx (Ire) (One Cool Cat) will go to Baaeed (GB). She has a very nice Cracksman (GB) called Madly Truly (Ire), who I sold to Brendan Holland of Grove Stud for 95,000gns, but she subsequently sold to Joseph O’Brien and Justin Casse at Book 1 for 410,000gns. She’s won her maiden at Naas and is well-regarded. She’s a big filly and is very much a three-year-old. David Redvers bought the two-year-old by Profitable (Ire) for 65,000gns and she’s one who could rock and roll in early June. She was bought to be a fast, precocious two-year-old and that’s what she is. Coolminx is the dam of Fearby (Ire) (Havana Gold {Ire}), a nice horse we bred.

We haven’t made any plan for the dam of Minzaal, Pardoven (Ire) (Clodovil {Ire}), who is in foal to Mehmas {Ire}). She is not due until April so we are going to see how she foals down. If everything is okay, we’ll consider something for her rather than resting her for the year. There’s a very nice mare called Daring Diva (GB) (Dansili {GB}), who has a big page. We sold the Violence filly out of her for €190,000 to Niall Brennan, who is a very good breeze-up man, so she could be a lovely breeze-up filly. He will do well with her. Daring Diva is the dam of Brooch (Empire Maker), who is the dam of Mandaloun (Into Mischief), the new Juddmonte stallion. It’s a classy pedigree and Violence is an exciting stallion in America. We haven’t organised who she will visit yet.” 

He added, “Woven Lace (GB) (Hard Spun) is in foal to Ghaiyyath and is almost ready to foal. She’s going to Camelot. Like A Charm (Fr) (Charm Spirit {Ire}) is in foal to Zarak (Fr) and will go to Mehmas. La Australiana (Australia), the dam of the Kitten’s Joy colt we sold to WH Bloodstock for 130,000gns last year, is in foal to Starman (GB) and is going to Kodiac (GB). We’ve a breeding right in Kodiac. 

African Moonlight is also worth a mention. She is the dam of Anmaat (Ire) (Awtaad {Ire}), a good horse for Owen Burrows last year, and her yearling filly by Kodiac was bought by John Dance for 300,000gns. She’s a nice filly and we’re looking forward to her. That mare is in foal to Palace Pier and will go to Sea The Stars (Ire). There’s another mare in foal to Violence, who we bought in America, and her name is Air Cavalry (Air Force Blue). She’s going to see Earthlight (Ire). I think that will be a good covering for her.

Indigo Lady (GB) (Sir Percy {GB}) has been very lucky for us in partnership with our friend Paul Hancock. She produced Indie Angel (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), a winner at Royal Ascot. Indigo Lady is in foal to Dark Angel so she is carrying a full brother or sister to Indie Angel. She’s going to Ghaiyyath this year.”

Not only is Ringfort’s faith in Ghaiyyath notable, but the fact that the majority of the mares breeding on the farm were sourced for relatively small fees is another trend to emerge. The best example of that is Flare Of Firelight (Birdstone), the dam of Threat, who Veitch picked up for just 9,000gns in 2014 before selling privately to Juddmonte for a great deal more. Veitch may be winding down his operation this year, but he is not afraid to share some of the advice that has helped him grow his empire. 

He explained, “A workable number is ten mares. There’s always two or three barren mares and you might only get four or five foals. Of those foals, you’d be lucky to get one or two that would ring a bell at the sales so, to make it pay, year on year, you need that sort of number. If you go below that number, it’s never practical. You’d do better out of it by just buying the foals that you want at the sales. 

He added, “For me, it’s never about the produce record of the dam at the time, but more about where she is. If she’s in a good hotel and has been well-covered, then something will happen. I wouldn’t buy a filly unless she has a very good third and fourth dam. It has to have great depth. But I would rather buy the 54-rated or the unraced filly out of a nice mare who was rated 100 plus or had minor black-type. That’s the sort of thing that turns me on when I open the page.”

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