A Cool Day at Ashford Stud

On a rather cold day this winter, Ashford opened its broad black iron gates for people to come in and visit their stallions first hand. The gates were a tad slow, but it built anticipation as we drove down their stretched driveway, giant beautiful trees lining the sides and draping over us, to their secondary gate that enters the stable area.

Our first stop was the office. Upon entering we were greeted by a sweet, wonderful dog in a stylish sweater and a friendly receptionist who was also in stylish attire.  The ambiance was that of an Irish abode, yet there were cases of trophies on display. A lot of trophies to be exact. There is a strong tradition here, so that is to be expected. The crew and I picked up their brochure, which was quite fancy and very well designed and we scoped out which stallions we definitely wanted to see out of their stalls.

Shuffling along the road we were greeted by several kind Irishmen, and they pointed us to which barn was the main barn. I was told by a few people, that the Irish handlers could be quite assertive and unkind, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. The guy we talked to and who helped us along was very nice and enjoyed sharing his depth of knowledge about the horses and their personalities. He was a great guide, and he had a bright red goatee.

The guys were a little cold, and you could tell they had been standing outside for a while. The main barn held many greats, but the most important horse for me to lay eyes on was none other than Giant's Causeway. I am a HUGE fan of his. The name alone demands respect, which is why I initially became interested in him, but his record also speaks well of him. What a well-behaved horse and put so nicely together. His stride was wonderful.

Side Note:
The real Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located on the north-east coast of Northern Ireland.
Read more here...

The second candidate we elected to have brought out and walked was Giant's Causeway's half brother, but not a half-brother, Van Nistelrooy. Both sires are by Storm Cat, yet since stallions in the Thoroughbred world have so many offspring, having the same dad does not make them related. Relationship is attained through the dam or mother. If they had the same mother they would be half-brothers, but that is not the case here. Anyway, the main fascination with seeing both of these horses, was to compare their structure. Both horses looked great. Van Nistelrooy is built and had success as a sprinter while Giant's Causeway generally preferred turf races.

Sprinters are built more compactly, with power and big butts. There is definitely some junk in their trunk. My favorite sprinter running currently is Piratesonthelake! The name had me hooked, but I have followed him since July and he has done well for himself.  He actually races today at Oaklawn Park, so go encourage him in his race.

Back onto the comparing Giant's Causeway and Van Nistelrooy was impressive. You can see how they are related, but at the same time, they are proportioned differently but correctly for their build. Meaning for their size and shape, their stuff fit together.

Later we ventured with our awesome guide, who I shall deem "red beard," to the next barn. It was a little bit of a walk, but we had some good chatter with the lad. We learned about how Fusaichi Pegasus was doing, since he had just returned from Australia and was in quarintine. According to Leia, it is bad practice to ask about horses if you know they are in quarentine or have been over sees. The guy didn't have a problem saying he was doing fine. There was an EI outbreak in Australia, so it was a big deal that he and several other horses were returning and staying in quarentine. But most animals must stay in quarentine and be evaluated routinely by government regulations even if there isn't a disease outbreak.

Finally we reached the next barn. A calico barn cat decided to join us and fell in love with Marta, and followed us out when we left. Anyway, there were a few horses we saw from that second barn. We had two horses out, Johannesburg and Lion Heart. Marta asked to see something in a bay color. Johannesburg was a beautiful horse, I enjoyed seeing him. A few months later we saw some of Johannesburg's horses breeze at the Keeneland April under tack show.

The Keeneland April 2YOIT  Data Digest results edition held some of Coolmore's pride;  Three juveniles by Tale of the Cat  were offered, and two sold for a gross of $630,000. Read the other great sires of this sale in the Data Digest on BloodHorse.com.


Leave a Comment:


Take a look around the horse world and you will see that some the best horseman and women are Irish.

Your sources were ill-informed. Tell them next time you meet!

11 Apr 2008 11:28 AM

I have been to Ashford many times and I have never met an unkind person there.  That has to be one of the most beautiful farms in the area and all of the stallions are well-behaved.  When I met Giant's Causeway he was wanting some attention so I stood and talked to him for a few minutes while waiting to see Johannesburg.  They always offered to take me out to the barn that they call Argentina because it is so far from the other barns.  That is where Thunder Gulch and other sires are at the moment.  On one particular trip I was taken out to see the great Storm Bird and El Gran Senor.  The fella asked me if I knew who Storm Bird was and I replied excitedly "the sire of Storm Cat."  I hope to return to Ashford many more times.

11 Apr 2008 12:05 PM

I agree, the Coolmore folks were very nice and I would enjoy visiting them again. Lexington has such a rich Irish history with Irish/Horse presence.

 How was Storm Bird? I never had the pleasure of meeting him and Ashford does love that bloodline. Thank you so much for sharing that story, I really enjoy hearing what other people have experienced!

11 Apr 2008 12:08 PM

When I saw Storm Bird he was looking great as was El Gran Senor.  I felt privilaged having been introduced to these two greats because it was not long after that when El Gran Senor passed away (I same great experience when I met Affirmed).  I managed to get my excitement under control and I took a pic of Storm Bird.  That is one of those "special" moments in my life as a fan of the great thoroughbred.

11 Apr 2008 1:51 PM

I agree, the grooms were very pleasant and friendly at the January open house.  The stallion manager told me about all the horses in the first barn and then the groom of Fusaichi Pegasus gave me some insights into his personality because I said he looked like a character. They were all very friendly and had time to talk.  The groom of Powerscourt let me take a picture with the stall door open. A farm of unbelievable beauty!

11 Apr 2008 2:47 PM

I had the great pleasure of visiting Coolmore Stud (the Ireland branch) just over two weeks ago, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. They brought out many of the stallions for us to see (and my hard drive is now filled with pictures of the beautiful stallions they have there), were incredibly informative, and just plain awesome. I was even able to pet Dylan Thomas! (I could not have been more excited if I had met a rock star!) I'm definitely looking forward to getting to visit Ashford when I move to Kentucky; Coolmore Ireland is one of the nicest places I've ever visited, and it sounds like Ashford's the same. Props to them, that's what ever industry needs!

14 Apr 2008 3:46 PM

Nicole - I still think it is  awesome you have a picture of Storm Bird.

Margaret - That is awesome the grooms were so helpful. It is fun to learn how the horses personalities unfold and the horse tendencies and reactions.

Kate - That is amazing. If you have any pictures you think you would like to share, I can post one on this blog, that would be fun. I like Dylan Thomas a lot.

14 Apr 2008 3:54 PM

Kentucky folks aren't nearly as nice as Ocala folks! ;)

14 Apr 2008 11:44 PM
Oglala Sue

If you think the Ashford people are nice then you should visit Three Chimneys and Taylor Made farms.

The folks at Three Chimneys were really nice (we got to pet Silver Charm and they brought us War Chant) and the workers at Taylor Made were absolutely superb.

For us, the people at Taylor Made were (by far) the coolest of the whole trip -- even though we were late for our appointment.

20 Apr 2008 12:38 AM

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