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THE MEN WHO MAKE COOLMORE TICK; They are the most influential force in world bloodstock, but how have they reached such a pre-eminent position? Julian Muscat looks at the senior members of the Coolmore cabinet.

Byline: Julian Muscat

THE Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is increasingly at the mercy of Aidan O'Brien's all-conquering stable. Horses trained at Ballydoyle have won the last six renewals of the prestigious Classic - a nd eight times in the last 11 years.

Indeed, the race has become the stage for a Ballydoyle tour de force. It showcases Coolmore's penchant for top-class middledistance horses and this year's renewal has a distinctly familiar feel. Camelot, a prohibitively short-priced favourite, will be joined by other stablemates who are in effect running for place money.

However, it's not just the Irish Derby that bows to Coolmore's might. Camelot is firmly on course to emulate Nijinsky, a Ballydoyle legend from yesteryear, by winning the Triple Crown. Should he prevail at Doncaster he will complete an unprecedented clean sweep of the British Classics for Ballydoyle.

So what makes Coolmore Stud such a dominant entity? How does it breed or source so many fine racehorses? And more importantly, who are the players who make this happen, year after year? It's one thing to unearth a stallion of Sadler's Wells' merit, quite another to invest the proceeds wisely. John Magnier is the linchpin who is backed up by experts in their own fields. 'The lads', as O'Brien calls them, have worked assiduously within the team ethic to ensure a regular supply of potentially influential stallions pass through the farm.

They also studiously comb the world's paddocks in search of tomorrow's champions. Nor are they afraid to back their judgement with hard cash - t hey gave 1.2 million guineas for Investec Oaks winner Was at public auction.

'The lads' are numerous. Every member of Coolmore's staff is encouraged to contribute. But in the final analysis, all the key decisions are reached after extensive discussions by an inner cabinet.

Visionary who realisedt hed ream JOHN MAGNIER, 64, sits firmly at the controls. He is from a County Cork family whose dealings with jumps horses go back to the 1850s. His father Tom stood Cottage, sire of Vincent O'Brien's three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Cottage Rake, and his mother Evie was matron of honour at O'Brien's wedding in 1951. Evie's sister Mimi married former Jockey Club senior steward Lord Manton.

When his father died Magnier left his private school in County Limerick, aged 15, to run the family's Grange Stud. He has always been a visionary.

Having noted the success of US-bred horses in Europe, he contrived the blueprint that would see Coolmore grow from a 250-acre Tipperary farm in 1975 - when he joined forces with O'Brien and Robert Sangster - to the behomoth it is today.

Coolmore now owns huge land parcels in Ireland, America and Australia, with tentacles extending into every significant racing nation, and others, like China, where the sport has yet to meaningfully take root. All of this was made possible by Magnier's gameplan to buy the best yearlings who subsequently graduated to Coolmore to generate huge income streams.

O'Brien, whose daughter Sue is Magnier's wife, recognised his prowess from the start, describing Magnier as "a man of exceptional ability who thinks big, deals shrewdly, and is most knowledgeable about bloodlines and everything to do with the stud business". The key to his success is that he, too, recognises similar merit in others.

He has assembled a tightly knit and staunchly loyal team that consistently beats the odds at the sales - witness Camelot, Power and Was, all Classic winners plucked from the auction ring. With Magnier as conductor, big investors Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith have enjoyed immense racecourse and financial success since they joined the Ballydoyle racing partnership.

Magnier runs a tight ship at Coolmore; redundancies swiftly followed the collapse of Ireland's economy even though the farm's success rode well above it. Very little happens on the farm that he doesn't know about.

He ponders at great length before making any decision, big or small, and is known for his meticulous attention to detail. When O'Brien retired in 1994 Ballydoyle sat empty for two years before Magnier installed the unrelated Aidan O'Brien. Many questioned whether O'Brien was the right choice, but Magnier gave him plenty of time. It took O'Brien more than two seasons to hit his stride but there is no stopping him now.

All of Magnier's lieutenants have spent years working with horses on the ground and he rewards them by inviting them to share in his success. He has made many of them rich beyond their dreams.

The Coolmore dinner table for upwards of 20 staff at the Deauville sales in August makes a perfect vignette of his modus operandi. Magnier sits at the head, immediately flanked by personnel in order of seniority all the way down to the young grooms working with the yearlings. The philosophy is all-inclusive.

A particular feature of Magnier's stewardship is the way he has replaced older, pivotal figures with younger recruits of similar calibre. Every important transition appears to be seamless: each individual seems perfectly cast in their respective roles.

What's more, Magnier is laying the groundwork for his own succession. One son, 'MV', is increasingly active around Coolmore; another, 'JP', is immersed in the financial side; while a third, Tom, oversees business at Coolmore's influential annexe in Australia's Hunter Valley.

So much so that Magnier, who spends most of his time in Barbados and Switzerland, can indulge his fondness for art and fine wine secure in the knowledge that Coolmore is in the best of hands.

MICHAELT ABOR Investor whose input proveda turning point WITH Robert Sangster in his financial pomp in the 1980s, Coolmore had the game by the scruff of the neck. Then along came the Maktoums, who returned from the Keeneland yearling sales with several of Coolmore's intended acquisitions. The imperative to buy every yearling they liked had run aground.

This masterplan unravelled so quickly that the Coolmore syndicate withdrew from the auction ring environment to which most of its success was beholden. Magnier's approach required big investors and Sangster's bidding jousts with the Maktoums had brought him to his financial knees.

There were five barren years before Magnier returned to Keeneland with Michael Tabor by his side in 1995. It was a seminal year. Tabor, who had just sold his Arthur Prince betting chain for a reported pounds 27 million, was buoyed by the racecourse success of his Thunder Gulch, winner of that year's Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Tabor was the new investor that Magnier - by now seriously enriched by the stunning exploits of Sadler's Wells as a sire - needed to resume his quest for global stallion supremacy.

Having returned with three of the top four lots, the pair ventured to Tattersalls to buy the joint sales-topping yearling for 600,000gns. That turned out to be Entrepreneur, subsequent winner of the 2,000 Guineas.

Tabor had struck equine gold. Had those early yearling forays yielded no racecourse dividend it is debatable whether Tabor, a hard-nosed businessman, would have persisted. Yet here he was, just two years into serious ownership with Classic winners on both sides of the Atlantic to his name.

The man who enrolled at the Morris School of Hairdressing, in London's Piccadilly, on leaving school had come a long way in a short time. He was happy to ride an owners' carousel that had reduced men of greater wealth to mere paupers.

In recognising the expertise of Magnier and his men, Tabor, 70, has accumulated untold riches. He has experienced the occasional hiccup: he declined a stake in Hawk Wing and rejected a similar opportunity over Holy Roman Emperor, who is becoming a sire of consequence. Yet in every other respect he has surfed an unbroken wave of success. He is one of just four men to have owned winners of the Derby and its Kentucky equivalent.

Like Magnier, Tabor is always keen for the pilot to fly the plane. A mental hoarder of information, he now has diverse business interests but his emergence as a serious invester encouraged Magnier to revive a long-term business model that had stalled.

DERRICK SMITH Extra financial musclea nda lot ofs uccess DERRICK SMITH'S entree to the clan came in the middle of the last decade, by which

time Coolmore's status as the game's undisputed master was well established. He did so after first sharing ownership with Tabor of some horses in America, among them the Grade 1 winners Lion Heart, Pomeroy and Sense Of St yle.

Smith also had horses in training with Sir Michael Stoute, registered in wife Gay's name, before he joined the Coolmore partnership at the 2004 yearling sales. His rate of success has been such that Camelot's Derby victory marked the 100th Group 1 triumph in which Smith has been involved. Prior to Camelot, Smith's purple-and-white silks had been carried by four previous Derby runners-up.

It has been a remarkable story for the man who part-owns Rags To Riches, winner of the 2007 Belmont Stakes. A Ladbrokes employee who manned the firm's rails pitches before graduating to head of trading, Smith left the company after 24 years to go it alone. Together with Tabor, he became well acquainted with JP McManus via the betting jungle.

Smith moved to Barbados in 1988, investing in the property and leisure sectors, and was barely seen in Britain for the next seven years - by which time he had made his fortune. Like Tabor, he has been linked with the currency trading activities of billionaire Joe Lewis, the entrepreneur who was born - like Tabor - in London's east end.

Although not pivotal, Smith's role within the partnership is significant. He adds extra financial muscle to Coolmore's rippling torso. He is centrally involved, too: the vast majority of horses in training at Ballydoyle and beyond are owned in equal share by Magnier, Tabor and Smith. He is enjoying the ride.

DEMI O'BYRNE Peerlessj udge ofy oung horseflesh DEMI O'BYRNE sits on the front bench of Magnier's advisory council and has been part of the Coolmore/Ballydoyle furniture for more than 40 years. By the time he graduated from veterinary college in 1968 O'Byrne had already been entrusted by Vincent O'Brien to take Sir Ivor to winter in Pisa, Italy, ahead of that colt's Derby triumph.

O'Byrne, 67, hails from a County Waterford family steeped in equine know-how. His father produced horses for the British Army at his Lodge Stud, together with an array of hunters, some of which O'Byrne rode in the field. O'Byrne's older brother John still runs the family farm, while his younger brother Roddy runs McCarthy's, the popular bar frequented by horsemen in Lexington, Kentucky.

From 1972 O'Byrne was O'Brien's vet at Ballydoyle, attending to the health requirements of iconic horses such as Alleged, El Gran Senor, Golden Fleece, Storm Bird and The Minstrel. He also accompanied Nijinsky to Britain on one of his racing forays.

On O'Brien's retirement in 1994 O'Byrne moved to Coolmore and made an immediate impact. He had been instrumental in the yearling purchase of 1992 Derby winner Dr Devious, but he exceeded that when Tabor asked him to buy him a horse in training in America.

At a shade over $400,000, O'Byrne recommended Thunder Gulch, who won the 1995 Kentucky Derby, Belmont and Travers Stakes in Tabor's orange and blue silks. He has been at Tabor's side ever since.

Further success in America followed until, in 1998, O'Byrne organised Coolmore's purchase of a stake in a promising two-year-old maiden winner in France, Montjeu.

On another front, O'Byrne teamed up with Timmy Hyde, of Camas Park Stud, in 1978 to buy foals for resale as yearlings. They were two consummate horsemen working as one: their successes included champions Al Bahathri, Indian Skimmer, Soviet Star and Authaal, who fetched Ir3.1 million gns at Goffs in 1984.

Hyde himself is part of Coolmore's inner cabinet in an unofficial capacity. He is among a number of horsemen whose opinions Magnier values.

O'Byrne, for his part, has no peer as an astute judge of young horseflesh. He spends much of his time visiting other successful commercial studs to assess the quality of their foals and yearlings. This is a perpetual process; O'Byrne will sometimes see a yearling in its home environment three or four times before it reaches the sales grounds. He is said to have been bowled over by Camelot at first sight.

O'Byrne is never comfortable in the spotlight. He kept his profile so low-key that when he bought a yearling at Tattersalls in 1993 the sales company misspelt his name on the official sales docket. Demi thus became Demmy when he signed for a Fairy King colt at 68,000gns.

That was then. The man who was an attentive young member of Vincent O'Brien's yearling sales team is now integral to Coolmore's.

O'Byrne no longer oversees the pre-sale vetting of yearlings; he 'retired' from veterinary work when Tabor climbed aboard in 1995. The role passed to another keen follower of hounds in John Halley, who has long been O'Byrne's partner in their veterinary practice.

Halley is cut from familiar cloth. A regular with the Scarteen and the Limerick, he sells horses at the breeze-up sales from his Rathvin Stud and also trains point-to-pointers. Halley landed a race over the Punchestown banks in April with Outlaw Pete, owned by JP McManus and ridden by his son Josh.

All in all, O'Byrne's sharp eye for a horse renders his input invaluable.

PAUL SHANAHAN Magnier's eyes and earso n the ground PAUL SHANAHAN is a prime example of Coolmore's commitment to the work ethic. The man who started life mucking out on the stud has graduated to a position of parallel importance to O'Byrne, who happens to be his cousin.

Like O'Byrne, his eye for a horse is hugely respected, and like O'Byrne he too entered into a successful pinhooking venture with Timmy Hyde. Unlike O'Byrne, however, Shanahan's role within Coolmore is more diverse. He is probably best described as Magnier's eyes and ears on the ground.

Those who don't settle their bills in reasonable time can expect to hear from Shanahan, who was given the unenviable task five years ago of informing Aidan O'Brien that a horsebox would soon arrive to whisk Holy Roman Emperor off to Coolmore as a replacement for the sub-fertile George Washington.

He also co-ordinates activity at public auctions, a complex role given Coolmore's myriad relationships with breeders over foal shares and mares owned in partnership. He is often left to do Coolmore's bidding at the breeding stock sales in December.

Shanahan comes with the pre-requisite of having been reared among horses. His father Jimmy bred jumps horses from his Ashtown House Stud, in County Waterford. He started making his annual pilgrimage to the Doncaster sales in the 1950s.

Shanahan has not abandoned his jumping heritage. In 1998 he gave Ir45,000 gns for an unraced threeyear-old store, who was named Bannow Bay and raced for a partnership comprising his wife and Sue Magnier. Trained by Christy Roche to win nine races, Bannow Bay chased home Baracouda in the 2002 Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

For all that, Shanahan's primary focus is Flat-orientated. He breeds horses under the apellation of Lynch Bages, after the noted vinyard in Pauillac, and Shanahan's efforts do justice to the name.

Lynch Bages has bred the likes of Derby winner Pour Moi and his threeparts sister Kissed, whose promising racing came to a sorry conclusion when she fractured sesamoids in the Prix de Diane earlier this month.

Shanahan is far from the only Coolmore employee to breed top-class horses. With Magnier's encouragement, Richard Henry, who fronts Coolmore's advertising and public relations, has bred the Group 1 winners Quarter Moon, Yesterday and their three-parts sister by Galileo, Betterbetterbetter, who ran in the Oaks. And director of sales David O'Loughlin, in a partnership that includes former Ballydoyle stable jockey Mick Kinane, bred 2007 Derby winner Authorized. All these horses are by Coolmore sires.

Because Shanahan and O'Byrne have several close friends within the breeding community, they are well positioned to hear about any outstanding foal born on pastures beyond Coolmore.

This comprehensive network is a priceless aspect of Coolmore's success in sourcing the nascent champions it needs to keep the wheels turning.

CHRISTYGR ASSICK Publicf ace who liaisesw ith the clients THE general manager at Coolmore, Christy Grassick is the organisation's public face. He liaises with regular clients who board mares at Coolmore as well as breeders whose mares visit Coolmore stallions. He succeeded Bob Lanigan, who was at Coolmore from the start in 1975 and whose son, David, trains from Upper Lambourn.

Grassick also keeps a close eye on Coolmore's racing interests in France. Having seen Montjeu win on his debut in 1998, he initiated the process by which Coolmore bought into a horse that would sire four Derby winners - Motivator, Authorized, Pour Moi and Camelot - in eight years.

When Montjeu was put down in March it was Grassick who dispersed the news among breeders whose mares were due to visit the stallion.

Like Shanahan, Grassick has spent the majority of his working life at Coolmore - originally on the farm, some of it in the National Hunt division - bef ore he assumed front-of-house responsibilities.

Grassick's late brother, Brian, was a bloodstock agent of high integrity who branched out on his own after 17 years with the British Bloodstock Agency (Ireland). He specialised in broodmare purchases; he bought the dams of Millenary (2000 St. Leger) and Preseli (1999 Moyglare Stud Stakes) for owner-breeder Neil Jones. He also ran the family's Newtown Stud, in County Kildare, which has since been taken on by his wife, Sheila. Their daughter Kathy is active in the pinhooking field.

Grassick's father, also Christy, was a successful jump jockey and trainer who supplied Coolmore with one of their first stallions in Godswalk, winner of the 1976 Norfolk Stakes.

At Magnier's behest, Godswalk broke new ground by commuting to breed to mares in the Southern Hemisphere. He became the trailblazer for what has since become the common practice of shuttling stallions, in the process vastly increasing the income they generate in covering fees.

Grassick's role is with the horses, since Coolmore's finances are handled by Clem Murphy and Eddie Irwin, the latter an increasingly influential presence.


Coolmore Stud: all staff are encouraged to contribute
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 29, 2012
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