By Amy Lynam

Since its inception in 1935, Rathbarry Stud has been synonymous with breeding high-class horses, whose talent stand the test of time, as do their top-class stallions. The family-run operation was established by Paul Cashman, grandfather of current Rathbarry residents Paul Cashman and Niamh Woods, after purchasing 159 acres of prime land in the Blackwater Valley, just outside the town of Fermoy in County Cork.

Paul stood the farm’s first stallion, Royal Pom, but it was his son, Liam, who introduced the farm’s first Flat stallion in Kampala (GB) (Kalamoun {GB}). This was the beginning of Liam’s reputation as a top stallion master, as Kampala became leading first-season sire, with his progeny including G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero, Tony Bin (Ire). The trend of standing champion first-season sires continued with Taufan and later his son, Tagula (Ire), as well as Acclamation (GB), Alzao, Barathea (Ire) and Namid (GB). A separate farm, Glenview Stud, was set up nearby to stand the Cashmans’ National Hunt stallions, with whom they have also had notable success.

Liam sadly passed away in 2001, but his wife, Catherine, along with her son Paul and daughter Niamh, ensures his legacy continues, both in standing top-class stallions and offering a genuine service in an increasingly commercial bloodstock world. A reminder of the farm’s deep-rooted connection to the interests of the industry was the family’s decision not to increase any of the stallions’ fees for 2019, as many breeders lament the constant rise in costs of breeding. Not even Acclamation, whose son Expert Eye (GB) thrillingly captured last month’s GI Breeders’ Cup Mile, will exceed his 2018 fee of €40,000.

When quizzed on the temptation to do otherwise, Catherine Cashman explains, “Of course, we were thrilled with Expert Eye’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He is just one of 29 stakes performers by Acclamation in the 2017-2018 seasons. This added to the record-breaking sale of Marsha (Ire) for 6 million gns at Tattersalls last December, but we felt that taking into account the overall tone of the current market, it was in everyone’s interest not to increase his fee.”

Listening to breeders and mare owners has always been key to Rathbarry’s success. Indeed, back in the 1990s, the Cashmans were ahead of the curve with the current hot topic of limiting stallions books, though the reception was not quite as they’d hoped.

“This debate [on limiting stallion books] has been ongoing since I started in the early 1970s,” says Catherine, “We have a large poster from 1993 in our office, and at the bottom it states that all Rathbarry stallions would be limited to a book of 60 mares. After a couple of years, we felt this move wasn’t appreciated. We have never covered large books with our Flat stallions. Acclamation’s books have averaged 120 mares each season.”

Many in the bloodstock world have a tendency to point fingers, be it towards sales companies or stallion masters. The views of Catherine Cashman, who has worked throughout the growing numbers of foals, lead one to think that stallion owners are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

She says, “I believe it is up to breeders and mare owners to police the mares they are breeding from, because at the end of the day, it is hard for stallion owners to say no, unless there is an agreement across the board. The way the game has gone, it has become a numbers game to a certain extent, especially for first-season sires. At the same time, if a stallion does not sire a certain number of quality horses, the industry will see through it.”

Tough judgement of stallion performance is not, however, the only challenge facing stallion farms these days, as Catherine explains, “It is very difficult for smaller operations to purchase their choice of future stallion. With many racehorses purchased very early in their careers, it means there is intense competition for the remaining pool of potential stallions.”

Rathbarry did, however, secure a new addition to its ranks this year in James Garfield (Ire), a son of Exceed And Excel (Aus) and member of the Mill Reef S. honour roll that also includes Harry Angel (Ire), Ribchester (Ire), Dark Angel (Ire) and Rathbarry’s own Moohaajim (Ire).

Explaining the appeal of their latest recruit, who will begin his stallion career at €7,000, Catherine says, “Firstly, he was a very tough and genuine racehorse. He broke the track record when winning the G2 Mill Reef S. and trained on to win a Group 3 as a 3-year-old, beating Expert Eye. He was only just touched off by Polydream (Ire) in the G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest in August, and he also had four Group 1 winners behind him that day. Secondly, he boasts a pedigree rich in stallion potential: he’s by an increasingly influential shuttler and sire of sires in Exceed And Excel, and also comes from the family of Invincible Spirit (Ire) and Kodiac (GB).”

The next generation of Rathbarry Stud stallions have their introduction this winter, as the first foals by Ajaya (GB) and Kodi Bear (Ire) enter the market. “The feedback from breeders, and indeed from our own foals, has been a generally very positive consensus. Both stallions are stamping their stock. Ajaya is siring correct, sharp, sprinter types, while the Kodi Bear foals are handsome, strong and appealing individuals,” says Catherine.

Rathbarry Stud is not just known as a top-class stallion farm, but as talented breeders in their own right, their greatest graduate being champion filly Finsceal Beo (Ire) (Mr. Greeley). The story of her making began far from Fermoy, though, as Catherine recalls, “Liam decided we should look further afield to introduce new bloodlines to our broodmare band. We have always been friendly with John Tyrell of BBA Ireland and Liam entrusted him to buy us a mare at Keeneland. Luckily, Musical Treat (Ire) was on the shortlist John sent to us, and though we hadn’t heard much about Mr. Greeley at the time, we bought her carrying a filly by him–Finsceal Beo.”

The Cashmans, unsurprisingly, continue to source broodmares with success in America, and as Catherine says, “When you’re lucky once, it makes sense to return.”

The relationship with BBA Ireland agent John Tyrell also continues, as he explains, “Rathbarry and I go back a long, long way. My first notable purchase for them was Namid as a stallion in 2000 and it’s gone on from there. I bought the dam of Finsceal Beo for them and it was one of those magical things. She made €340,000 at Goffs as a yearling, became champion 2-year-old filly the following year and went on to win both the Irish and English 2000 Guineas. She was then just touched off in the French Guineas, sadly missing an entry in the record books. I’ve bought a mare for Rathbarry at Keeneland November almost every year since and most have been a success, at least from a financial or business point of view.”

He continues, “From the time of Liam Cashman, the farm has had a wonderful approach and he was an exceptional horseman, both of which he has passed on to his children. Not only is Rathbarry a top-quality farm, but they have also established a top-class stallion roster and excellent client base. The important aspect of Rathbarry is not only do their horses achieve success in the sales ring, but also on the racetrack, which has seen them build great trust and friendship with the buying community. People like to see a farm produce sound, talented racehorses and Rathbarry continues to do this year in, year out. The Cashman family are very hard-working and popular, and they deserve all the success.”

Behind every good stud farm, there is always a hard-working team and though, perhaps lucky to have a whole family involved, Catherine Cashman admits that finding staff is an ongoing challenge facing stud farms.

“As well as sourcing stallions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to source experienced and dedicated staff,” she says. “When myself and Liam started in the 1970s and 80s, there were many farmers’ sons in Ireland, who would have experience in the breeding or racing industries by owning a point-to-pointer, or a mare of their own at home. They understood the game. Whereas now, the intensification of farming, both in dairy and tillage, has seen times change and less people from farming backgrounds are venturing into the equine industry.”

Catherine, like all the Cashman family, is much keener to discuss positives and when asked on the greatest improvement since she joined Rathbarry in the 1970s, she is quick to nominate one, “Ultra-sound scanning,” she says without hesitation. “It is responsible for improved detection of breeding issues in mares and in the health of young foals, and has greatly reduced time and money spent by breeders and stallion farms alike. Before ultra-sound scanning, the mare had to be brought to the stallion farm and left for a week, or more, in a strange environment, which comes with risks. Even at the best farms, a young foal can pick up anything, so the risk of this has been greatly reduced. The majority of mares visiting our stallions are now walk-ins, which works very well for both the mare and stallion owners.”

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