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Bully for the son of a blind mare who ran riot in the Derby; GRASS ROOTS.

Byline: Nancy Sexton

Nancy Sexton talks to leading breeder Seamus Burns, whose Lodge Park Stud in Kilkenny bred Derby winner New Approach

THE victory of New Approach in last year's National Stakes was the first indication that we were witnessing something out of the ordinary. Here was a colt bred to come into his own over 1m2f-plus as a three-year-old, yet who was forward enough to take two Group 1 races - he added the Dewhurst Stakes to a five-race juvenile haul - over a supposedly inadequate 7f trip.

Last weekend's Derby success confirmed that the son of Galileo is a colt of exceptional talent and versatility, but it also provided further evidence of what most industry professionals already knew - that his breeder, the Kilkenny-based Lodge Park Stud, remains one of the shrewdest operations in Ireland.

"My attitude is to produce winners," says stud owner Seamus Burns. "I don't think there's any real secret, as long as you rear on the right land and have a bit of luck."

Since Folle Rousse became the stud's first Group 1 winner in 1968 when taking the Prix Robert Papin, the family has remained at the forefront of the industry, rearing horses such as Cheveley Park Stakes winner Seazun, Derby Italiano winner Central Park, and Irish champion Dazzling Park. New Approach was only their second runner in the Derby, following 2005 runner-up Walk In The Park.

The stud also twice topped the Houghton sale, while sons Ronan and Damian also present a formidable team when it comes to pinhooking.

"My father, Paddy, was always interested in horses, and he decided to go to Newmarket in 1958 to buy some mares," says Burns, who himself moved to the stud in 1972.

"He came back with some of the cheaper, commercial ones, but in 1959 he paid pounds 500 - quite a sum then - for Better Way, who was sold by George Beeby father of Harry in foal to Grey Sovereign. His mentor was Captain Ken Watt, and he took a lot of advice from him when he was getting started."

THE mare indirectly responsible for the stud's growth was Park Appeal, an Ahonoora half-sister to Desirable, who carried Paddy Burns' colours to victory in the Cheveley Park and Moyglare Stud Stakes before passing into the hands of Sheikh Mohammed. It was her success that prompted Seamus Burns to look at another Ahonoora filly when she came up for sale in the autumn of 1984.

"That year, Michael Hillman, of Tattersalls Ireland, told me that he had a very nice filly by Ahonoora, and so I went to see her," Burns says. "She was very like Park Appeal, except bigger, and through John Warren, I outbid Paul Cole to get her for 42,000gns."

Named Park Express, she went on to win five races, including the Nassau Stakes, Lancashire Oaks and Irish Champion Stakes, enough to see her crowned an Irish champion both seasons she raced.

The filly was retained by the stud as a broodmare, and even without New Approach, she would have been deemed an exceptional producer.

When the colt walked into the Goffs sale ring in October 2006, she had produced seven winners, including champion Dazzling Park, Group 1-winning Japanese sprinter Shinko Forest, and the stakes-placed pair Tycoon King and Alluring Park.

"She would always get them with plenty of size and scope, and New Approach has a tremendous action," Burns says. "Tattersalls had had a couple of good ones out of the mare from me, but I'd done well at Goffs the year before with an Alhaarth colt from the same family, and so when Matt Mitchell asked me to give them something good, I decided to send New Approach.

"But I was amazed he didn't top the sale. I suppose being by a Coolmore stallion meant that there wasn't any action from the Arabs on him, and maybe the mare's age put some people off. As everyone knows, when Jim Bolger bought him, I retained half, which I sold to Sheikh Mohammed last year."

New Approach is the final foal out of Park Express, who began going blind five years before foaling the colt. By the time New Approach was born, circumstances required him to wear a light, leather strap with a bell on it so that she could distinguish his whereabouts.

BURNS says: "The mare lived in a field of 31 cattle, and when she started going blind we decided to let nature take its course and leave her with a bullock that she had become attached to. We could do anything with her because she knew our voices.

"My feeling is that New Approach may have become more of a bully because he was reared around just his mother and the bullock.

"Tremendous credit has to go to Jim, who has handled the horse brilliantly, and to the ride Kevin Manning gave him at Epsom. And it was great to see how pleased his owners were."

As with nearly every successful breeder, Burns' focus remains very much on the future of the 400-acre stud, which will be again represented on the big stage next week by Himalya in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. If the colt should win, he will join a list of 20 recent Group winners to emerge from the stud, which currently houses 14 mares, including New Approach's half-sisters Dazzling Park and Alluring Park.

"We're on great Kilkenny land,"

Burns says. "It's a fantastic team effort from the family and our stud groom, Richard Eyre.

"But the business is definitely getting harder because the numbers have gone up enormously and the racing is so competitive. I wouldn't be totally commercially minded either. In fact, I'd say that we're just farmers who produce a few winners."


Derby hero New Approach lands another big race for Lodge Park Stud, owned by Seamus Burns (inset)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 13, 2008
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