Dark Angel And Doncaster


There has always been a connection between the gleaming grey stallion and the Premier Yearling Sale; in many ways they have risen in tandem with the harvest moons that have waxed and waned since Yeomanstown Stud presented their first-crop son of Acclamation in Doncaster all of 17 Augusts ago.

A homebred, who made 61,000gns to Barry Hills, Dark Angel helped to launch his sire by winning the Middle Park after his Mill Reef success. The intervening years have seen Dark Angel eclipse his ancestors as the sire of 14 Group 1 winners including a Classic heroine.

For an independent stud farm to breed a Group 1 winner and then stand him, building his stallion career into a phenomenal success, is a rare achievement and one that becomes increasingly difficult to replicate with every passing season, and the vanishing access to equine resources. But that won’t stop the O’Callaghans from doing their utmost.

“Good stallions are so hard to come by,” says Robert O’Callaghan. “The fact that we bred him here, and he was off the farm for only 12 months in his life, it’s one of those fairytale stories really. He’s basically irreplaceable. To find one like him again, especially a homebred, is difficult but we’re trying really hard.

“Very few independent hands own them, the bigger stables seem to have them all and it’s getting harder and harder to break into that market and find the right horse. You can’t buy a horse just for the sake of having a new horse. We’ll send them about 30 mares every year so have to believe in the horse ourselves, that he has a good chance of making it and hopefully upgrading your mares.”

Supporting their stallions, whether through their own broodmares or buying their offspring, has been the O’Callaghan way and it propelled Dark Angel’s rise.

This summer yielded another homebred Group 1 winner for the O’Callaghans in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes winner Khaadem, whose career trajectory exemplifies the best qualities inherent in Dark Angel and his progeny – toughness, soundness and courage.

Khaadem’s victory enabled Robert’s parent’s Gay and Annette to be present to witness more success from their breeding programme at Ascot last month, when Sacred Angel was victorious in the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes. Since then she has been fourth in the Group 1 Prix Morny.

Robert, an integral part of the family operation, says: “It was brilliant for them to be there and cheer them home. There’s no better feeling than seeing a horse you bred win a top race. There are a lot more losers than winners, so those good winners keep it all going.”

Sold by Yeomanstown at last year’s Premier Yearling Sale, Sacred Angel’s exploits on the track have added black type and cachet to her full-sister (lot 160), who leaps out from the catalogue for next week’s sale. It’s a destination the grey yearling had decided for herself.

“She’s a lovely filly, slightly smaller than her sister but looks a real two-year-old and we’re very excited about her,” says O’Callaghan. “She was ready early, she just walked out of the field and was ready.

“It was an easy choice for her to go to Donny, regardless of what her sister did, she was that type that was ready to walk into a sales ring. It’ll be exciting to start showing her this weekend.”

Sacred Angel is one of 56 individual Group winners for her now 18-year-old sire, who is unquestionably one of Europe’s best stallions. Dark Angel stands gloriously in the sun but alongside him are stallions at the dawning of their careers – Invincible Army, Shaman and Supremacy.

Invincible Army’s first runners this season have made a solid opening to their sire’s career from fewer opportunities and with a physical make-up which suggests they should progress with maturation. One of his main attributes is transmitting his imposing physicality to his offspring.

“You wouldn’t draw him, he’s that perfect-looking horse; 16.1, big and scopey and all his stock look like him,” says O’Callaghan of the multiple Group winner by Invincible Spirit. “They’re very correct, great movers and with a brilliant attitude.

“He doesn’t have a massive amount of horses to run for him compared to some of his competitors. A lot can happen in the next two months and he has some really nice horses, like James’s Delight, who was an impressive winner of a Newbury novice on his debut last month for Clive Cox. He’s entered in the Champagne Stakes and Mill Reef, and looks exciting.”

Next week Yeomanstown will unveil the first yearlings by Shaman, an impeccably bred son of Shamardal with a very different origin story from Dark Angel, but with all the requisite elements in place to write another bestseller.

Bred by the Wertheimer brothers, he hails from an outstanding family whose accomplishments would take up most of this page were they to be discussed in detail – it is the family descended from Kentucky broodmare of the year Fall Aspen. Its most noteworthy member, with the greatest impact on breeding, is Dubai Millennium.

Shaman won on his debut at Chantilly in the July of his two-year-old season and twice earned black type as a juvenile, in the Prix des Chenes and Prix Francois Boutin, ending the season with success at Deauville. At three, he was a top-class miler and finished runner-up in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Prix Jacques le Marois, winning the Group 3 Prix la Force and Listed Prix Omnium.

Kept in training at four, he won the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt and was third to Sottsass in the Prix Ganay. Trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias, he won or was placed in 11 of his 16 starts. Shaman demonstrated tenacity, soundness, precocity and durability during his racing career – all coveted attributes in a racehorse and sire. In common with the other Yeomanstown stallions, he is in possession of a handsome outlook.

“We’re always trying to buy the best ones, we’re very particular when we buy a stallion,” says O’Callaghan.

“Looks are important, you need a good-looking horse to produce a good-looking horse. Shaman is a beautiful looking horse, 16.2, strong, very correct and that’s what he’s producing. I think he’ll go down very well at the sales.”

A Doncaster debut awaits for Shaman; it marks the next phase in his stallion career and another turn in the evolution of Yeomanstown Stud.

Yeomanstown Stud, Lots To Note – Doncaster Premier Yearling Sale 2023

It’s a given that Yeomanstown’s consignment at the Premier Yearling Sale is high on purchasers’ lists, with the farm an established source of success.

There are a total of 13 yearlings from the Yeomanstown draft for this year’s sale, consisting of homebreds and pinhooks. Naturally, the farm’s own stallions are strongly represented and three from Shaman’s first crop have been chosen to showcase him.

Robert O’Callaghan says: “We’ve two nice colts and a really nice filly by Shaman going to Doncaster. We have a colt out of Bear Cheek (317), who was a Group 3-winning two-year-old for Ger Lyons. He’s a beautiful colt, big, strong and a great mover, and he looks like he’ll be a real two-year-old. He’s all there. 

“The filly (407) is the first foal out of a nice Dark Angel mare that my brother Guy bred. She’s a full-sister to three Listed performers including San Andreas, who’s a real tough horse, winning good races year on year. This Shaman filly is very elegant and a great mover.”

Sacred Angel’s full-sister is guaranteed to be one of the biggest draws in Doncaster, but she is far from the only eyecatching Dark Angel yearling amid the Yeomanstown draft, which includes a full-brother to another Group-winning juvenile from a family that has excelled when crossed with Dark Angel.

O’Callaghan says: “Capulet Monteque has worked very well with him, producing Rockfel winner Juliet Capulet, and Juliette Fair as well as Strike Red, who won the Scurry Handicap on Irish Oaks weekend.

“Mangoustine and Lethal Force are from that family as well, and Dark Angel has worked particularly well with that family. There’s a lovely full-brother (338) going to Donny, very like Strike Red, he’s a very nice, strong bay with a great walk.”

There is more to come from Invincible Army and there is a trio of good-looking youngsters from Yeomanstown, including an exciting filly and a half-brother (223) to Dragon Leader, who won the Goffs UK Harry Beeby Premier Yearling Stakes at York on Thursday.

“We’ve a nice filly (238) out of Todegica, who is a sister to Group 3 winner Tomyris, by Invincible Spirit, so the cross made a lot of sense,” says O’Callaghan. “It’s the family of Rule Of Law and it produces good horses all the time. She’s a very classy filly who is a great mover and now a half-sister to two winners as Angel Of Antrim won at Kempton on Wednesday.”

Robert O’Callaghan in conversation with Aisling Crowe – Racing Post 24th August 2023