‘We’re Confident He’ll Justify It’ – Donohoe On Lucky Vega’s Book Of Mares

Few stallions who stand in and around the €15,000 bracket can boast a book of mares quite like Lucky Vega (Ire). The Group 1-winning juvenile has been supported by his owner Yuesheng Zhang from the outset and, judging by the Chinese businessman’s spending at the premier mare sales through BBA Ireland’s Michael Donohoe last year, that backing is set to continue. 

While the majority of the prominent owner’s European-based mares will visit Lucky Vega this year, a number will also be spread out between Frankel (GB), Baaeed (GB), Sea The Stars (Ire), Siyouni (Fr) and Mehmas (Ire), with Donohoe revealing that the ultimate aim is to breed another stallion prospect. 

But the early indication, according to the County Kilkenny native, is that Lucky Vega is worthy of the mammoth support. The leading bloodstock agent and advisor says that he was most impressed by the first foals by the sire down under in Australia and reports the first crop of European-bred foals by the stallion to be catching the imagination of some notable breeders. 

Donohoe said, “We have always been a big believer in Lucky Vega and are happy to support him in a big way. He didn’t show what he was capable of on the track and we know that. 

“Okay, he won his Group 1 but a decision was made pretty early in his three-year-old career for him to go to Australia. In hindsight, there were plenty of races that we could have aimed for and won after Royal Ascot with him.”

Michael Donohoe | Tattersalls

He added, “I think Jessica Harrington would also agree that her horses might not have been firing on all cylinders during the spring of his three-year-old campaign so there are a lot of reasons to believe that we did not see the best of Lucky Vega on the track for all that he won his Group 1. People seem to be amazed about the backing Mr Zhang is giving Lucky Vega but we have no doubt whatsoever in our minds. He is a fabulous-looking horse and the foals are fabulous as well. 

“I was in Australia earlier in the year for the Magic Millions Sale and I was delighted to see for myself what I had been hearing from all of the top judges down there because his foals really were gorgeous. There aren’t as many on the ground here in Ireland yet but the early reports are that they are as good a bunch as you will see so we’re very excited. He’s getting a lovely type.”

One of the major themes to develop from the sale season in 2022 was the strength of Zhang through Donohoe at all of the major sales. All told, the owner spent roughly €20 million upgrading his broodmare band, concentrating on broodmares by Galileo (Ire) in particular. 

Donohoe explained, “There are so many smart mares booked into Lucky Vega this year. Obviously we put in a lot of work at the mare sales last year on behalf of Mr Zhang but, for these young stallions, there aren’t too many nicks. 

“Lope De Vega (Ire) has done quite well himself with the Danehill line but that’s probably the only standout. Mr Zhang bought a lot of Galileo mares last year because Galileo is one of these freakishly-good sires whose mares seem to nick with everything. He’s just very potent as a broodmare sire. So Lucky Vega has covered a lot of nice Galileo mares already and he will cover a lot more again this year.”

He added, “Physically, Lucky Vega matches up well with these Galileo mares as he seems to be putting the strength into his stock with great, big back ends on them. Because he was a quite precocious and fast horse himself, we think he could inject that speed into the Galileo mares. We think that could be a good cross. 

“But we don’t buy mares just for the sake of it either. We put a value on them and, if it goes over that value, we pull up.”

Zhang is expected to support Lucky Vega with over 50 of his own broodmares this year, the majority of which boast mouthwatering pedigrees. Asked to nominate some of the most exciting mares set to visit the young stallion, Donohoe joked, ‘where do I start,’ before putting forward a few of the more recent additions to the team.

“Let’s Misbehave (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}) could be a good mare to include,” he said. “She is a half-sister to High Chaparral (Ire) who we bought for €920,000 at Arqana last year. It’s a tremendous pedigree and she’s already the dam of a high-class War Front filly called Sippinsoda (Fr). She’s a young mare who is the dam of a stakes winner from her first three foals and from a proper deep stallion-producing family. She is in foal to Siyouni and will go to Lucky Vega this year so she is definitely one we are excited about. 

“Lucrece (GB) is a beautiful Pivotal (GB) mare who is the dam of Hello You (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) and a half-sister to Signs Of Blessing (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). She was €710,000 from Arqana last year as well and is a fabulous-looking mare. Hello You was a proper fast two-year-old so Mr Zhang is not just sending those Galileo mares to Lucky Vega. He’s giving him a chance to produce something with precocity as well.”

He added, “Expressionism (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) is a nice mare out of Lady Springbank {Ire}). She’s in foal to him already actually and will go back to him again this year. She actually only cost 200,000gns from Godolphin at Tattersalls in 2021 and is from a good family. It’s a family we know well because Eamonn Riley of BBA Ireland bought Lady Springbank for the Gittins family. 

“Revenue Share (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) is an interesting one as she’s a sister to the dam of Sea Of Class (Ire). Mr Zhang bought a few mares in Japan to visit Lucky Vega and it’s nice because it will be something different. Mr Zhang does a lot of research and follows racing on an international scale and obviously the success that Japan has had and the bloodlines that they are working with interests him greatly. He’s investing in that now so it’s amazing really.”

They say the secret to becoming an overnight success is the culmination of years of hard work. In the case of this emerging owner-breeder, who enjoyed a breakthrough Classic success with Magical Lagoon (Ire) (Galileo) in the Irish Oaks last year and flexed his muscles at most of the major yearling and mare sales in Europe last term, the seeds had been planted over a decade ago. 

Donohoe explained, “Mr Zhang has been observing and doing his research for over 10 years now and didn’t just rush into it without having his homework done like others in his position might have done. 

“He has taken his time and built up a strong team here in Ireland and Australia. He has a really good, young and dynamic team in Australia, headed by Sam Fairgray, and all of his family are involved as well. It’s something that he has been building up to for a long time. This whole project has been years in the making. I’ve learned a lot from Mr Zhang-he’s a genius.”

As well as sending a strong book of his own mares to the Irish National Stud resident, Zhang is reported to have a strong understanding of the bigger picture by Donohoe, who revealed that the owner plans on investing in a number of foals by the stallion this year. 

On other notable mares set to visit Lucky Vega, Donohoe said, “It’s Magic (Ire) is a Galileo half-sister to Mukhadram (GB) who we gave €490,000 for at Arqana in 2021. It’s a deep family. “High Heels (Ire) is another very nice Galileo mare being a stakes-placed daughter of Charlotte Bronte (Danehill Dancer {Ire}). This family is a real fillies-producing family. Recover Me (Fr) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) is another nice stakes-placed mare from a stakes-producing French family that includes So Unique (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}), who is also in Mr Zhang’s broodmare band. 

“Mrs Frankel (Ire) (Frankel {Ire}) is quite an interesting one as well because Mr Zhang is a big believer in Frankel as a broodmare sire. Mrs Frankel is from the family of Gregorian (Ire) and is a sister to Hidden Dimples (Ire) in France. There is a lot of speed in the family.”

He added, “Ligne D’Amour (Ire) is worth a mention being a Galileo daughter of Rosdhu Queen (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). She has a gorgeous Lucky Vega filly foal at foot and will go back to him this year. 

“Atone (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) is a nice mare we bought in foal to Frankel from Juddmonte. She’s a sister to Midday (GB) and has a cracking page. She should be a nice mare for Lucky Vega. Lights On Me (GB) (Kyllachy {GB}), who is the dam of Light Infantry (Fr) (Fast Company {Ire}), is another. It’s just a very exciting time for the stallion and we’re confident that he will justify all of the support.”

Donohoe told TDN Europe last week that Zhang was expanding his string of horses in training in Britain, with Karl Burke set to train 20 two-year-olds for the owner, who is keen not to keep all of his eggs in the one basket with number one trainer Jessica Harrington. 

That approach is somewhat mirrored to the broodmare band with Zhang set to support a number of proven and up-and-coming stallions to go with Lucky Vega. 

Donohoe said, “Mr Zhang is a big fan of Baaeed and is going to send mares to him this year. Lady Hayes (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), who was second in the G2 Lancashire Oaks, Shomooly (Frankel) and Aspiring (Ire) (Galileo), a sister to Danedream (Ger) (Lomitas {GB}), will go to Baaeed. 

“He will send three to Frankel. Bocca Baciata (Ire) (Big Bad Bob {Ire}), who won the G2 Kilboy Estate S. for Jessica Harrington, is going to him. As I mentioned before, Mr Zhang has been a massive fan of Frankel from the beginning. He sent a lot of mares to him and bought a lot of mares in foal to him in Australia as well. He’s had a big role to play in the initial success Frankel has enjoyed in Australia. 

“The plan is to send German 1,000 Guineas winner Txope (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}), who we bought at Arqana last year for €1.2 million, to Frankel. French Dressing (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) is another nice mare going to Frankel and is actually in England already. She is the dam of Mohaafeth (Ire) (Frankel) so the plan is to go back to him.”

He added, “Rasmiya (Ire) (Galileo) will go to Siyouni (Fr). She is a sister to Above Average (Ire) (High Chaparral). We’ll also send Zerziyna (Fr), a Fastnet Rock mare who we bought at Arqana, to Sea The Stars (Ire). She’s a daughter of Zarkava (Ire) and is a gorgeous-looking mare. 

“We also plan on sending mares to Mehmas. He has had to do it the hard way and his results speak for itself. He’s a proper stallion and his progeny know where the winning line is-they really try to win. Bay Of Islands (Fr) (Dubawi {Ire}) will go to Mehmas. She’s the dam of a stakes winner called Bahrani Star (Ger) (Sea The Stars {Ire}). 

“Maria Montessori (Ire) (Galileo), a daughter of Lesson In Humility (Ire) (Mujadil), is from a speedy family and will go to him as well. Slaney East (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}), a nice mare we bought in foal to Mehmas from Jim Bolger, will go back to him along with Eaves (Ire) (Galileo).”


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