Interview - Frank Motherway
11 December 2017
With over 40 years of experience of wheeling and dealing in horses from Yellowford Farm near Killeagh, County Cork, behind him, Frank Motherway is looking forward to wrapping up the year’s business this week at Goffs. The Newsletter had a quick chat with the breeder of Bellshill (IRE) and consignor of On The Fringe (IRE) about this week’s draft and how his year has gone.
You have a good number of foals for auction at the Goffs December National Hunt Sale. Are there any that interested parties might take particular note of?
We have 13 headed towards Goffs and I’m happy with them overall. To narrow it down, the first one to come to mind is Lot 135 by Fame And Glory out of Mrs Dempsey (IRE). He’s a standout, a half-brother to African Gold (IRE) who won a nice few races and finished second in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.
Lot 363 is a filly I like and she has a strong page. She is by Presenting and is out of a full sister to Felix Yonger (IRE) who won the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Punchestown a couple of years back along with several other graded races.
There is a colt by Flemensfirth, Lot 393, out of a King’s Theatre (IRE) mare, Brijomi Queen (IRE) who won three times. He looks the part. Another I should mention is by Notnowcato, Lot 416; he is a very easy mover that you wouldn’t walk past too quickly. But, as I said, they are nice bunch and I could say something positive about all of them.
How was trade for you at Tattersalls Ireland last month?
We were pretty happy. We had a similar amount for sale with an average of €32,000. There were some nice horses in there.
How do you assess the general picture of the breeding business for National Hunt horses at the moment?
I suppose you just look at the trade. Average prices at that sale up were up by double figures on the previous so the climate is fairly good at the moment. I have seen it worse, that’s for sure.
The industry seems to have negotiated a tricky patch for now?
Yes. For a good while it was hard to place fillies or to know what to do with them. But, to be fair to those in charge, they responded well. The ITBA bonus scheme for mares gave a lot more options with prize-money increases for a lot more races. More mares’ bumpers appeared as well. It was a good initiative and it is working.
How do you view the challenges to jumps breeding and racing now?
There is always a lot of talk about French-bred horses and the competition they provide to the sires horses we develop in this country. But for me it is not so much the sires, but the quality of the mares in France. The progeny of their best racemares over there fare best on the track. The difference is that in France there is structure for mares over jumps in graded races. We don’t have the same system, but I feel we should look towards it.
So you think we should have a specific, classier programme for National Hunt mares?
Yes, that’s right. On the Flat, in Ireland and elsewhere, there are any number of races set aside for fillies and mares, not just the Oaks and the Guineas. And I would go further and say that in any sport you can think of – athletics, tennis, swimming, you name it – there is always a comparable programme for males and females. But it’s not like that in National Hunt racing.
There is the mares’ hurdle at Cheltenham and a few decent prizes here and there, but there isn’t a substantial programme trainers can target for mares over hurdles and fences. I know that some might say that the best mares can take on the geldings and beat them, however, it isn’t that easy. I remember Dawn Run (IRE) very well but she was built like a gelding and there haven’t been too many like her anyway.
Looking ahead, Frank, how many mares have you on the farm to care for when the cycle starts again next year?
We have 42 mares in foal for next year, all of them National Hunt stock of course. It keeps us busy. They are none in foal to any of the new sires. You can never take things for granted in this game so we keep trying to mix and match the mares to breed the best horses we can.