26 February 2018

This year sees the exciting Bullet Train, a Sadler’s Wells brother to the mighty Frankel, join the Irish stallion ranks, standing at the picturesque Woodfield Farm Stud in County Waterford. ITM spoke to the farm’s Gary Norris to learn more about his new dual-purpose recruit, proven resident Curtain Time (IRE) and what makes Woodfield the perfect environment in which to raise top-class stock.

2018 will, no doubt, be very busy for yourself and the team, with exciting new recruit Bullet Train. How has he been received by breeders?

Bullet Train needs no introduction. If you are a racing fan or work in the industry, then you should know of Bullet Train and his brother Frankel. Breeders have flocked to see him and the phone has rung nearly every day since his arrival so it's all positive. This is not surprising, considering he has had 11 new individual winners since he arrived at Christmas. His first crop just turned four and he is already the sire of a two-year-old Listed winner. His yearlings sold for up to $240,000 in 2017.


He is taking on a dual-purpose role. What balance of flat and national hunt breeders have shown interest?

About 50:50.


Bullet Train stood his first four seasons in Kentucky. Bar his obvious appeal on pedigree, what attracted you to him?

Bullet Train has been in our sights since the day he retired. Apart from his wonderful pedigree, his ability to win a Classic trial over eleven furlongs, and then adjust to the role of making a World Champion out of his brother Frankel was exceptional.


Bullet Train is part of the reason you joined the ITM Irish Stallion Trail this year. How did that go for you?

Bullet Train certainly is the reason we took part in the ITM Stallion Trail this year. We knew he had a huge fan base from his racing days and breeders came in large numbers to view him. It was a very good experience and all positive on the booking front as well. We are very happy that a significant number of leading breeders have booked some quality mares into him.


On my visit, I noticed music playing in Bullet Train’s barn. Was this purely a coincidence or do you believe this benefits the horse?

We believe in a happy environment for all our horses. We have four separate stable barns and have a radio in each one. We find that they do listen to the radio; it helps to settle them and it prevents them from listening to activities in the yard in general.


You made a great effort during the Trail, with a fantastic coffee stand and created a wonderful backdrop for photos with the stallions. You’re also very active on Twitter- you must see advertising and an online presence as an essential part of the business?

Yes, I see the online presence as very important and believe it is the way forward, as it has a worldwide audience. Newspaper advertising is becoming more prohibitive due to the costs and most stallion owners have been forced not to advertise because of exorbitant rates.


The farm is certainly scenic, located in the foothills of the Comeragh Mountains and just a stone’s throw to the Copper Coast and Irish Sea, but how does it benefit raising high quality bloodstock?

We find that our horses thrive here on the farm, are healthy and grow good bone. All paddocks are grazed in rotation with our prize-winning flock of sheep, which we believe is key to grassland management.


Curtain Time (IRE) comes from the family of Taipan (IRE) and Ali-Royal (IRE), while previous Woodfield resident Balakheri  (IRE) was bred and race by the Aga Khan. Is pedigree the most important factor for you when choosing a stallion, and what else do you focus on?

Curtain Time (IRE) has a massive stallion’s pedigree- one of the best in the stud book. It is my opinion that a stallion must have a stallion's pedigree to begin with, because that’s where their progeny get their success from. Curtain Time (IRE) has produced some star performers to-date. Conformation and temperament is very important also and I like a stallion to stand at a minimum of 16.1hh. Pinhookers require big, scopey horses, so that’s what one aims to breed.


Does the farm also own mares? Do they all visit your own stallions?

There are 25 broodmares here and they are all home-owned. We don’t believe in legs & shares of broodmares for the sake of building up a band- it’s a bad policy in my estimation. We have never adopted a policy of using one stallion to cover all our mares, but now that we have Bullet Train, we will mainly support him as we believe he will seriously upgrade our mares, given his regal bloodlines.


What is your background? Was it always going to be horse racing and breeding for you?

I was always involved in the farm since I was a child. After finishing my college course, I gained some outside experience in other stud farms and racing yards, before settling down to run the home farm. I prefer the breeding side of the business as I have more control of it.


Who is your favourite graduate of Woodfield Farm?

We have had many favourites throughout the years, but I suppose Bramblehill Duke (IRE) was special to me. I bought him cheaply at Tattersalls Ireland and he won his point-to-point first time out at Lismore in 1996. He was my first investment and went on to win eight races under rules. From then on, I was really hooked. He is 26 now and has had a wonderful life after racing in the care of Amanda Dagwell.


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