‘He’s Everything Clive Cox Said He’d Be’: Caturra Takes To The Ropes

The winds of change have blown through Overbury Stud in the last year. Gone is the stalwart of the British National Hunt ranks, Kaya Tara (GB), who died in retirement in December at the age of 28. Last summer the Gloucestershire farm had welcomed the horse that many will hope could be his replacement, Golden Horn (GB), bought from Anthony Oppenheimer by Jayne McGivern as his burgeoning National Hunt statistics caught many an eye. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, in came Caturra (Ire) last autumn, the first son of Mehmas (Ire) to stand in Britain and, judging by early demand, a welcome addition to the more commercial end of the stallion ranks in the UK.

“The response has been tremendous,” says Overbury Stud’s Simon Sweeting, who may well be giving serious consideration to installing a revolving door on the covering barn. “He has got some super mares. His owner, Saeed bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, has really got behind him and he’s bought some lovely mares, especially for him. And obviously he is determined that he succeeds, like we all are. But we’ve got some tremendous support from people that I would consider to be really good breeders. Nick Bradley is sending at least six mares, Fiona Denniff is supporting him, Whatton Manor Stud, Richard Kent, Paul Shanahan has a share in him. Byerley Stud and Houghton Bloodstock are also sending a lot. Good, sensible breeders who produce winners have got behind him, so hopefully that’s going to give him a chance.”

The saying goes that if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and for the team at Overbury, it was well worth taking a chance on Caturra so soon after the early success of Ardad (Ire), who was Britain’s leading first-season sire in 2021, and whose stand-out son, the treble Group 1 winner Perfect Power (Ire), has recently joined Darley’s team of stallions at Dalham Hall Stud. 

It is easy to join the dots: Ardad, Caturra, and Perfect Power were all bred by Tally-Ho Stud, where Ardad’s sire Kodiac (GB) has stood with distinction for years, and which is also home to Mehmas. Furthermore, both Ardad and Caturra won the G2 Flying Childers S. Ironically, this was also the race that was seemingly at the mercy of Cotai Glory (GB) when he jinked and unseated George Baker. Seven years later, Cotai Glory, who also stands at Tally-Ho Stud, edged out Ardad to be the leading freshman sire of Europe.

“It’s extraordinary how Tally-Ho keep producing horses like this, but they do. And we’re very lucky to be the beneficiaries further down the line,” admits Sweeting. 

This week scientists at University College Dublin and PlusVital have published research which has identified genes associated with stress in the racehorse, and it serves as a timely reminder as to the importance of that magical ingredient in a horse’s make-up which is every but as important as ability: temperament. This is a trait which has often been spoken about in regard to Mehmas himself, who was famously so laidback as an early juvenile in his days with breeze-up pinhooker Roger Marley that he barely paid the son of Acclamation (GB) any attention–until he started galloping.

Caturra hails from the second crop of Mehmas and, according to his former trainer Clive Cox, and now to Sweeting, he appears to have adopted a similar no-nonsense approach to life. 

“He’s absolutely brilliant. He really is just a very straightforward horse,” Sweeting says. “He enjoys the routine. He’s very relaxed about the way that we do things with him, seeing a lot of the other horses like mares and foals in the same yard as him, and the other stallions. He’s quite happy and relaxed out in the paddock, and he’s taken to the covering tremendously. He’s everything, in fact, that Clive Cox said he would be. He does what you want, as he did when he was in training.”

He continues, “He’s getting more than his fair share of mares in foal. It’s obviously the slower part of the season, so he is not under pressure. But he’s getting them in foal with great regularity. So we are really pleased with the early results. He’s very virile, and he’s got a great libido.”

Sweeting adds, “Temperament is obviously such an important thing because, I keep saying it to people: if the trainers like them, then you’ve got half a chance. But if the trainers don’t like them, if they haven’t got a good attitude, they can very quickly turn against them and then you are sunk before you even start.”

Caturra is out of the Sleeping Indian (GB) mare Shoshoni Wind (GB), a decent handicapper over five and six furlongs, with three wins to her name and a runner-up finish in the Listed Empress S. at Newmarket. Though he has predominantly speed influences close up in his pedigree, the four-year-old’s third dam, Pat Or Else (GB) (Alzao), is a half-sister to the St Leger and Gold Cup winner Classic Cliche (Ire) (Salse) and to Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Vermeille victrix My Emma (GB) (Marju {Ire}). With around 115 mares currently booked to him, Caturra clearly will be given a good chance to try to emulate the start made by his own sire in Ireland, and by his fellow Overbury resident, Ardad, whose popularity continues with 145 mares booked in to date. 

“We did wonder when we started him how Caturra would impact on Ardad or vice versa,” Sweeting says. “But actually they’re in two different brackets. One is proven and one is not. And they are two very different things for breeders to pick out and reasons for them to use either one. 

“Caturra at the moment is a good level below [Ardad] in price, although a very similar type of horse at the start. But Ardad, he just feels very established now, and particularly having another stakes winner at the weekend, he just feels like he’s done it and people can rely on him. You know you’re going to get a good-looking horse, you know you’ve got the potential of a racehorse, and you know that people are going to like them at the sales. Whereas Caturra, you’re paying a lot less money, but of course he has to prove himself, so they are in two different places in the market.”

While the two young sprint stallions are clearly going to be kept busy this covering season, busier still will be the Derby and Arc winner Golden Horn. He is listed as having covered 152 mares in his final year at Darley, and his book will be just as full this time around, with the Cheltenham Festival winner Concertista (Fr) (Nathaniel {Ire}) among a line-up of smart jumping mares to be paying him a visit.

“He is going to be busier than all of the others,” Sweeting notes. “We’re lucky. We’ve got a great covering team. We’ve got a good system and it works pretty well. It is a busy time of year but I am certainly not going to complain about that. When you’ve got three or four horseboxes there, three times a day, it’s a good sign.”

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