Group 1 winner Mount Nelson will shuttle from England to Baerami Thoroughbreds in the Hunter Valley this year.
Mount Nelson is a British bred son of Rock Of Gibraltar who won a 2yo Group 1 in France and returned at four to add another G1 in the prestigious Eclipse Stakes at Sandown.
Mount Nelson (Rock Of Gibraltar – Independence by Selkirk) was raced by Coolmore’s Susan Magnier in partnership with Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith and he has just completed a initial northern hemisphere season at Newsells Park Stud in Hertfordshire.
“Mount Nelson was one of the top juveniles of his generation and he is the only Group 1 winning two-year-old from the Danehill sireline standing in the UK,” Newsells Park manager Julian Dollar said.
“We have supported Mount Nelson very strongly with our own broodmare band and will continue to do so at the sales and on the racecourse.”
Baerami principal Paul Higgins believes Mount Nelson is perfect for the Australian racing environment. He is bred on the proven Danehill/Sharpen Up cross that is carried by one of Australia’s leading stallions in Danehill Dancer.
“Precociousness, racing styles, surface appreciation, physical attributes, pedigree suitability and durability all need to be analysed and on all of these fronts Mount Nelson fits the bill,” Higgins said.
“We have been very successful with the progeny of shuttle stallions in the past because we have very strict guidelines of what attributes we look for in them and then how we can couple that together with the local broodmare population.
“For us, not standing a horse like Mount Nelson was never an option as we feel his credentials to suit Australia outweigh virtually every shuttle stallion coming this year.”
Mount Nelson was bred by Cliveden Stud and was a 320,000gns buy as a yearling. His dam Independence was a G2 winner of the Sun Chariot Stakes and she traces back to English Derby winner Reference Point.
Mount Nelson exploded on to the racing scene when winning his maiden at the Curragh in October 2006. He defeated 28 rivals by six lengths and that prompted trainer Aidan O’Brien to step him straight up to G1 company for the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud seven days later.
As expected, Spirit One (Anabaa Blue), who was coming off a G3 victory in the Prix des Chenes at Longchamp, shot straight to the front and set a decent pace while Seamus Heffernan had Mount Nelson going along comfortably midfield.
Mount Nelson came with a strong run to hit the front at the furlong and, although Spirit One didn’t give in, the Ballydoyle colt did best for a hard-fought head victory. He set a course record running the 1600m in 1.41.30s and the win also gave Rock of Gibraltar his first Group 1 victory as a sire.
“Our decision to run Mount Nelson twice in the period of a week was justified,” O’Brien said. “He’s a lovely horse who will be even better next year when he should stay further.”
Unfortunately, Mount Nelson was sidelined at three when he tore off a shoe and took half of his foot with it.
Returning at four in 2008, he ran out of condition in soft ground first-up at the Curragh and then improved noticeably when placed behind Spirito Del Vento and Athanor in the G3 Prix du Chemin de Fer du Nord at Chantilly.
At his third run back, Seamus Heffernan returned to the saddle for the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. He finished fifth to Haradasun and Heffernan, like several other jockeys in the race, felt he would have been closer with as clear a run as the winner.
The 2008 Coral Eclipse was next on the agenda and O’Brien had enjoyed a good run in the Group 1 winning previous editions with Giant’s Causeway, Hawk Wing and Oratorio.
The Henry Cecil trained Phoenix Tower and jockey Ted Durcan were acclaimed by the crowd with victory seemingly in their grasp but it was not to be as Mount Nelson and Johnny Murtagh wore down the favourite to score by a short head.
“He is a very good horse this fellow,” O’Brien stated. “He had problems last year but the whole team did a great job and they need to take all the credit. He is an amazing horse to come back because we didn’t think he would make it.”
Mount Nelson retired to Newsells Park earlier this year and he covered a book in excess of 100. Mares already tested in foal to him include the dams of English 1000 Guineas winner Speciosa and last year’s Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes winner Equiano.
Another high quality mare carrying a positive is Honorlina, a winning sister to French 2000 Guineas winner Vahorimix (Linamix) from the immediate family of Group 1 winners Val Royal and Valixir. The latter is about to stand his second season at Lomar Park Stud.
Mount Nelson will stand for a $16,500 (inc gst) service fee at Baerami Thoroughbreds in 2009.