Gold Phoenix Breeder: ‘We’re All Delighted – It’s A Good Advert For Irish Racing’

In becoming the latest Grade I-winning import for trainer Phil D’Amato at Santa Anita on Sunday, Gold Phoenix (Ire) (Belardo {Ire}) advertised the quality Ireland has to offer the international buyers, according to the horse’s breeder Jim Ryan of Milltown Stud. 

Gold Phoenix stormed to Frank E Kilroe Mile S. glory for D’Amato, who has done similarly-well with Irish-breds Rhea Moon (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) and Going Global (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) in recent times.

It was the gelding’s debut victory at Dundalk for Kieran Cotter in 2021 that caught the attention of his current connections, for which Gold Phoenix has gone from strength to strength, culminating with that $250,000 race success at Santa Anita.

Ryan said, “We’re all delighted. It’s great to see a horse that you bred go on and do well. He has a very nice full-brother yearling here, too, and he’s very like Gold Phoenix. The mare [Magnifica (Mizzen Mast)] is in foal to Lucky Vega (Ire), which is great, because it’s the same cross so we look forward to that. She is due to foal in the next few weeks.”

Gold Phoenix, who Ryan bred and raced in partnership with the late Dr Kai Chah Tan, owner of Dragon Pulse (Ire), failed to sell at the Goffs Sportsman’s Sale in 2019. Having picked up the mare almost 10 years ago at Keeneland for $70,000, Ryan was convinced her Belardo [who now stands at Bearstone Stud] yearling was better than the market gave him credit for and decided to place him in training, a decision that has been handsomely rewarded. 

Ryan recalled, “Time goes by quickly–I bought the mare at Keeneland nearly 10 years ago now and she has worked out to be lucky for us. I liked Mizzen Mast and she was a good-looking mare by him. She was also a winner and her own brother won the Hong Kong Derby. It’s a great Juddmonte family and, with a Juddmonte family, anything can happen at any time. It’s just a case of changing the matings up and sometimes that works. In this case, obviously it did.”

He added, “Gold Phoenix was always a very good-looking horse. He always looked like he would make a good racehorse and that’s why we went back to Belardo again. We don’t normally do that but, because Gold Phoenix was so nice, we did. 

“He was a lovely foal and a lovely yearling, very light on his feet and a great walker, but that’s the way sales go-it’s just fashion. We’d belief in him. If they are not making enough and we have faith in them, we don’t mind bringing them home and putting a saddle on them. We are always prepared to do that.”

As well as signaling out D’Amato for high praise, Ryan pointed out that the victory advertised yet again Dundalk racecourse, and more importantly Irish racing as a whole, as being a proper nursery ground for future top-notchers. 

He said, “It’s extraordinary how well Phil D’Amato has done with his European-bred horses and it’s a great advert for Dundalk racecourse. For horses that can come out of there and run well all over the world, I think it’s a great advertisement for the track and the people who are running it. “There will be more buyers for owners in Ireland now that people know that this sort of success can happen. It’s a good advert for Irish racing.

“It was also Belardo’s first Grade I winner, so you’d have to be delighted about that as well. Belardo is a lovely horse and represents more success for Ballylinch Stud and John O’Connor who bred him.”

After Mr Tan passed away, Ryan was bolstered by the support of long-time friend John Kirkland, who enjoyed notable success with homebreds Ocean Quest (Ire) (Sioux Nation) and Ocean Vision  (Ire) (US Navy Flag) last year. In fact, Ocean Quest landed the first maiden of the year at the Curragh for Jessica Harrinton last term while Ocean Vision became Tim Donworth’s first listed winner in France. Both horses spearhead what is said to be a promising string of about a half-dozen horses that Kirkland has in training in France and Ireland this year. 

Ryan said, “We bred Gold Phoenix on behalf of Dr Tan, which is Mighty Universe, and raced him in partnership with him. Sadly, Dr Tan passed away a year-and-a-half ago, and that was a very sad time for us. It was a shame that he wasn’t alive to see what Gold Phoenix achieved. He had a lot of success, including with Dragon Pulse, and a lot of horses he bred here in Ireland went on and enjoyed success in Singapore for him. He was a great man and went way before his time.” 

He added, “John Kirkland owns Ocean Quest and Ocean Vision in partnership with me. He’s been a big supporter of us over the past two years and is a great partner to have. John has been a friend for over 25 years and, when Dr Tan passed away, he decided to take up the mantle. 

“We have a half-dozen horses to look forward to this year and we’d be hoping that Ocean Quest could make up into a nice three-year-old. She may even be a Commonwealth Cup type but she will start off in the Guineas Trial at Leopardstown first to see if she gets the seven furlongs. We’ll play it by ear. 

“Ocean Vision was third in Doha over a mile last week. That was his first time over a mile and he stayed really well. John is enjoying it and has had great success already.

“Matilda Picotte (Ire (Sioux Nation) was also bred here. It’s funny, Ocean Quest and Matilda Picotte shared the same paddock when they were younger and, when they ran in the Ballyhane S. last year, they were drawn either side of the track and raced for different trainers but just a short-head separated them in the finish. It was quite extraordinary.”

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