Darley Australia are no strangers to formidable stallions forging careers through their operation, and the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale provides a major milestone for their promising sire Bivouac. The Thoroughbred Report caught up with Darley Australia's Head of Stallions, Alastair Pulford, to talk about one of the headline first-season sires of the sales season.
There is no shortage of narratives to present at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, yet one of the reliable points of interest is how the crop of first-season sires will perform. With 26 stallions set to make their Southern Hemisphere yearling sale debut in a matter of days, there is fierce competition to turn the most amount of heads, and indeed prise the wallets of prospective buyers open.
One stallion with plenty of eyes fixed on him in the lead up is Bivouac, the dazzling son of Exceed And Excel, who boasts a 36-strong band of yearlings for the Gold Coast spectacular. Ahead of the sale, Darley Head of Stallions Alastair Pulford caught up with The Thoroughbred Report to talk all things Bivouac.
No shortage of early support
With such a glistening career on the track, boasting seven wins, including elite-level success in the G1 Golden Rose S. and the G1 Newmarket H., it comes as no surprise interest ran hot for Bivouac as soon as he retired in mid-2021.
Victorious in all three of his racing seasons, including valuable black-type wins as a 2-year-old, his retirement as a 4-year-old allowed him to seemlessly slot into the Darley Australia fold ahead of the 2021 breeding season.
His initial fee of $66,000 (inc GST) was met with enthusiasm by breeders, with 157 coverings in 2021, his freshman year, and 398 across his first three seasons.
The strong support has pleased Pulford, who told The Thoroughbred Report, “His first book (2021) was probably his best book, the first book tends to be in the early part of their career.
"And it exploded!"— Racing.com (@Racing) August 15, 2023
We always love this replay!
Bivouac blitzed his rivals in the 2019 Vain Stakes before winning the G1 Golden Rose three starts later 💥 pic.twitter.com/0YI9LG1vvh
“Going to stud as a $66,000 champion sprinter who won three Group 1s and who was judged the world's champion sprinter of his time, he went to stud with a lot of support, and that’s borne out of the fact by of all the first-season sires, he’s got the most in Book 1 at Magic Millions.
“That tells you a bit about the quality of mares and the quality of breeders that supported him, we’re very pleased with what we’ve seen so far.”
Echoes of Exceed And Excel
Bivouac resides at Kelvinside alongside his sire, Exceed And Excel, a veteran of the Australian staying ranks who even at the ripe old age of 23 is still commanding interest, covering 56 mares in 2023 at a fee of $132,000 (inc GST), one of the highest in the country.
It should come as little surprise that interest has remained strong, with the son of Danehill (USA) boasting 2552 indivdual winners, of which 214 have been victorious in stakes grade.
One of the qualities Exceed And Excel has consistently provided is his strength at siring 2-year-old runners, something Pulford hopes has been passed down to Bivouac.
“He (Bivouac) was a late foal, so he didn’t get going very early in his career, but that’s probably a product of his birthday (November 4) more than anything else. He was up and about just post-Christmas, he won the (Listed) Lonhro Plate, then he went on a (G1 Golden) Slipper path, he just missed out on a spot in the Slipper, but then won the (G3) Kindergarten S. on Sires’ Produce Day, and that was a super impressive win.
“As I said, he wasn’t an early foal, so we didn’t have the opportunity to really test him (as an early season 2-year-old), but he always had that natural ability from day dot. He went through from (being) a stakes winning 2-year-old to a Group 1-winning 3- and 4-year-old.
“Exceed And Excel was a bit the same, he didn’t win a Group 1 as a 2-year-old, but he’s the world’s best sire of 2-year-olds. He’s made a great name for himself as the sire of 2-year-olds, that then go on.”
Best of Bivouac shining through
Unsurprisingly during this frenetic period, Pulford has been hitting the road for inspections, and the similarity of some of the yearlings to Bivouac himself has caught his eye.
“We’ve done a few inspections on farms, and they’re very much like him. He’s not a big, powerful, muscle-bound heavy-top sprinter,” he explained. “He’s more of an athletic horse than that, and was as a young horse himself.
“That seems to be what he is throwing, beautifully balanced, athletic horses with good shoulders. They aren’t muscle-bound, heavy-top horses, but I think they will be well liked.
“I’m very pleased that they seem to be reasonably consistent, I see plenty of their father in them. He’s got a great hind leg, he’s just that beautiful athletic, free-moving horse, and that’s what I’ve seen in a lot of his progeny.
“They seem to be beautifully balanced, good movers, and that’s what he was himself, we put a lot into our promotion of his race tactics, he was brilliant out of the stalls, first out every time, his gate speed was unbelievable.”
“People don’t remember him for being a tearaway leader because he wasn’t, he was a horse that could bounce, accelerate mid-race and then blow his rivals away.
“He was a tremendous horse and it was no surprise that he was judged the best sprinter in the world. So if people remember that, and people look at him and look at his progeny and realise that’s what he was, and that’s what they are, there’s a lot to like about him.”
Darley poised for strong sales results
The depth to the stallion ranks at Darley Australia is well-publicised, with a mix of local stars and globally renowned shuttle stallions forming a roster that boasts imposing pedigrees and formidable race records.
With a number of respected stallions from the Darley operation set to have yearlings go through the ring next week, Pulford is buoyant on how the group are travelling.
“I think our stallions are going well, Exceed And Excel just keeps keeping on, he’s an amazing horse, and he’s got a couple of really good 2-year-old prospects again this year, both within our stable and outside it.
“Brazen Beau has got that very good filly with the Hayes stable (Bold Bastille), as well as a couple of older horses who are going exceptionally well. Street Boss, he keeps throwing high-class horses as well, and (so does) Harry Angel.
“One of our catch cries is ‘we get you there on the big days’, and that happens so often, if you line up in these big race meetings over the spring, in the autumn, whether it’s in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth, the Darley stallions are always very well-represented. People who support them generally get rewarded.”