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'Comply Or Die's win came as no surprise, but I didn't back him' GRASS ROOTS.

Byline: By Rachel Pagones, AmyBennett and Nancy Sexton

Amy Bennett talks to Martin Dibbs, the County Westmeath breeder responsible for four winners this week, including Grand National winner Comply Or Die and Ballyvoge, who gave Tony Dobbin the final victory of his career yesterday

TWO stories have dominated racing in the last few days - Comply Or Die's Grand National triumph and the retirement of Tony Dobbin. The link between the two is the County Westmeath breeder Martin Dibbs, responsible for both Comply Or Die and Ballyvoge, the horse upon whom Dobbin bowed out on in winning fashion yesterday.

Adding further success to the story was a double recorded on Sunday by two more graduates of his Mullingar nursery, with The Sliotar landing the odds in a novice hurdle at Southwell, and Brotenstown following up just half an hour later in a mares' hurdle at Limerick.

Brotenstown's victory was especially sweet as the six-year-old Presenting mare is the first horse Dibbs has had in training, in spite of a lifelong involvement with horses.

While he was on hand to watch Brotenstown carry his colours to victory for the first time, Dibbs watched Comply Or Die's Grand National bid from home.

Comply Or Die may have gone unbacked by his breeder, but Dibbs was not surprised that the son of Old Vic relished the Aintree marathon.

"The family were all distance performers and he had won that race at four miles the Eider so I wasn't surprised. I never bet though, so I didn't back him," he explains.

Luck plays an undeniable role in breeding and were it not for the quirky nature of Comply Or Die's dam, Madam Madcap, her most famous son may never have come to be.

"I bought her off a neighbour," Dibbs recalls. "She was very hard to catch - every time he would go to the field she would gallop off and take the others with her, so I said I would take her. I used to catch another mare first and she would follow her in loose."

The unraced daughter of Furry Glen first produced a filly by Shadari for Dibbs, and the filly, later named Paumafi, landed two handicap hurdles in Ireland.

Dibbs's philosophy in deciding to next send Madam Madcap to Old Vic was a simple one. "I think it's always better to be going to the better type of horse," he says. "Old Vic had won those two Derbys and I've always liked him as a sire."

The product of that union was Comply Or Die, who Dibbs remembers as having been "a very nice foal". In line with all of Dibbs's bloodstock the colt was sold as a foal, with Northern Irish buyer Danny Doran purchasing him before he was sold on to the legendary Tom Costello.

A return to Old Vic was on the cards for Madam Madcap and she next produced a filly.

Called Boopsey, she lacked the talent of her older brother and has been unplaced in her only two starts to date. MADAM Madcap's next foal was unfortunately born almost totally blind, with only limited sight in one eye, and Dibbs passed the filly and her dam on to another neighbour.

Madam Madcap went on to produce Gemini Ahhs, who was twice placed in bumpers for Nigel Twiston-Davies last year, but sadly died not long after.

The dam of Dibbs' other winners last weekend spent rather longer at his farm than Madam Madcap. Annie's Alkali, an unraced daughter of Strong Gale, originally belonged to a friend who asked Dibbs to keep the mare at his farm and then passed on her ownership to Dibbs.

The mare visited Good Thyne on three occasions, producing the bumper winner Anniesthyne and the well named Bar Gayne, a bumper winner on his debut and later a scorer over hurdles.

Annie's Alkali visited the leading sire Presenting in 2001 and again the following year, foaling The Sliotar and then his full sister Brotenstown.

While Dibbs sold The Sliotar for Ir11,000gns as a foal, he decided to retain Brotenstown, also a winner at Limerick last month, who is trained by Paul Cashman, son of Rathbarry Stud owner Liam Cashman, who stands her sire.

Annie's Alkali had only two more foals, including a colt by Naheez in 2005.

"We had to put her down on Christmas Eve last year as she was arthritic," Dibbs explains.

"She has a four-year-old Anshan filly, though, that I've kept to breed from."

Comply Or Die is certainly the best horse Dibbs has bred to date, but he has tasted big race success before as breeder of Bueche Giorod, who landed the Massey Ferguson Gold Cup now the Boylesport Gold Cup for Jenny Pitman in 1980. Partnered that day by Bryan Smart, the gelding showed his love of Cheltenham that season when winning at the Cotswolds track a month later and then finishing second in the Mildmay of Flete.

More recently, Even More, an easy winner at Wincanton in March, is among Dibbs' homebreds running in Britain, along with Ballyvoge.

A cattle farmer by trade, Dibbs currently has eight National Hunt broodmares.

"My mother and father, and their parents before them were all involved with horses, so it's in the family tradition to keep a broodmare or two," he says.

"I've had horses for the last 25 years and I have them all at home and raise them myself.

"It's been a great few days.

That's what keeps us all breeding a few - success like this weekend."

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Martin Dibbs with dual Limerick winner Brotenstown
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Apr 11, 2008
Words:927
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