Micheál Orlandi

INTERVIEW: MICHEÁL ORLANDI

06 March 2017

2017 is an exciting year for Micheál Orlandi, who welcomes the first foals by Cappella Sansevero and kick-starts the stallion career of Strath Burn this spring, with both sires standing under his Compas Stallions banner at Bridge House Stud in County Westmeath. ITM’s Amy Lynam spoke with the young stallion owner and bloodstock agent to learn more about his stallion recruits, his career so far and his views on a changing bloodstock industry.

 

What is your first racing memory?

My earliest racing memory that I can recall is Anthony Ross winning the last race at the Slanemore point-to-point on a big chestnut. Don’t ask me the year but I was young enough to pull off green wellies with frog heads! I also have fond memories of going racing in Kilbeggan after primary school with my principal, Mick Molloy.

 

What is your background in racing/bloodstock?

My parents encouraged us all to ride ponies from a young age and I did a lot of show jumping and hunting throughout the years. I was fortunate enough to have jumped abroad and to a competitive level. My passion for racing and bloodstock continued to grow when I began riding out in local yards while I was at school and my father started to keep a mare around the same time. 

Following school, I took a year out and went abroad to Australia to work for Coolmore Stud and gained a great insight into the breeding industry there. I returned home and completed my studies before working with some fantastic people that have influenced my career, notably Maurice Burns and Mark Johnston.

 

Was there a person that inspired you to pursue a career in the bloodstock industry, or someone’s career you wished to emulate?

Many people have inspired me and now I even get to stand beside some of them at the sales ring. There are some amazing people involved in all corners of the industry today so it’s hard not to gain inspiration from them and it definitely helps to motivate you.

There is no one person that I would like to emulate but there are many people who I have read about or been fortunate enough to have met that have had an ever-lasting impact on the industry as a whole, who I greatly admire.  I would like to emulate them in being an industry leader and changer for the benefit of the industry.

 

As well as working as a bloodstock agent, you stand two stallions, Cappella Sansevero and Strath Burn, at Bridge House Stud. What made you get into the stallion business?

It’s another cog to the wheel in growing the business and diversifying. It’s a competitive and difficult sector to break into but one I always wanted to get involved in as you can have a lasting impact on generations of the breed. I also enjoy the social aspect of it in dealing with breeders, but also how it then becomes a shared venture when they use one of your stallions. They want the best result for their mare and I want the best for the stallion.

 

Cappella Sansevero has welcomed his first foals recently. What can you tell us about them?

You say a few prayers and cross your fingers because nobody knows what type of stock a stallion will throw but thankfully, they have been outstanding. The feedback has been unreal and it has boosted his book with breeders returning off the back of his first foals. The majority of them are bay or dark brown like himself but they all have plenty of bone and substance. His first few foals are old enough to allow you to have a better gauge and I would say they all have a great hind leg and walk for fun; one renowned breeder described his foal as ,’stylish’.

 

How has Strath Burn been received by breeders? Can you tell us about any of the mares booked into him?

Breeders have been blown away when they see him. Since he raced predominantly in the United Kingdom and France, few Irish breeders had seen him in the flesh but when they do, they normally leave with a signed contract. For a horse that breezed and was a precocious two-year-old and really excelled as a Group 1 performing sprinter at three, breeders love his stature. He is a correct horse that walks well and, like Cappella, has plenty of bone and substance. He has a great shoulder and width between his hips- a very imposing horse from every angle.

His book is filling up nicely, with plenty of black-type mares and producers. I don’t want to comment too early on his book but it will be strong enough to give him the best opportunity of becoming champion first season sire in 2020.

 

Tell us a little bit more about Bridge House Stud.

Bridge House Stud is ideally-located for breeders all around Ireland, just off the N4 outside Mullingar in the heart of Ireland. It has fantastic facilities; the stallions are relaxed and thrive there. With plenty of spare room and room to expand, we hope to stand more stallions in the future to help utilise Bridge House to its maximum.

 

With your stallions’ progeny a little way off racing, who is your pick to lead the freshman sire table in 2017? 

It is a very exciting bunch of stallions. Camelot has all the class and his progeny were majestic in my opinion, full of class and quality. I can see him being a very successful sire and breeding a Group 1 horse but he might not be the leading freshman sire. If Dawn Approach (IRE)’s stock replicate himself, they will be top-class two-year-olds and he will have the right to be leading freshman sire. Society Rock (IRE) has power in numbers and he came from a stud whose stallions are known for producing early runners, so he is likely to have plenty of winners. Lethal Force will have an impact and he was fourth in the Coventry Stakes at two so he must have been showing a lot at home early in his career. 

For me, I’m going with Epaulette. I loved his stock at the sales, he seems to have a wonderful temperament and if he can pass on his speed as well as his mind, his progeny will take to racing well. Will he breed a Group 1 horse in his first crop like his half-brother Helmet, I’m not sure, but he’ll give Dawn Approach (IRE) and Camelot a run for their money.

 

Moving to your work as a bloodstock agent, how long have you been in this role and what are the changes you have noticed since you started?

I’ve only been an independent agent for over four years and probably one of few independent agents under-thirty.  So I can’t say it has changed drastically in that short window but I can say that technology has become a major feature for both the vendor and agent. 

Plenty of clients want pictures and videos of perspective purchases, which can slow you down at a sales complex but it’s an example of how the client is growing to have more of an input into a purchase. Via different websites and sources, a client can gather up-to-date stats on a sire or mare and can be well-versed in a number of aspects.  It very much depends on your clients- some might be traditional by giving you just a brief and a budget, but the more modern clients are involved at every aspect of the purchase. The agent role is changing to some degree and maybe it is a good thing, but I’m not sure agents will have as big as impact on the industry as they once did. 

The bloodstock world is becoming increasing global and the increase in shuttling of stallions is just one aspect of this but everyone is tuned into what’s happening wherever it may be, so we can all be armchair experts.

 

Is there an area of the market that you focus on? 

I focus on the flat as it’s more global and financially more rewarding, but I do love jump racing and always buy a few jumpers. I have clients across the Middle East, and as far as Australia and the United States but 50% of my trade would be between Ireland and the UK. I mainly focus on horses in training, yearlings and mares. I don’t deal a huge amount in the pinhooking trade and prefer to deal with the end user.

 

What are the characteristics you look for in a horse and which faults would you overlook?

I’m a big fan of pedigree- black ink doesn’t lie. I love a good hind leg, a well-balanced athletic horse. I learnt a lot working for Mark Johnston on what faults to look past. I can forgive most front legs but worry about a dodgy curby hock. A horse’s wind is pivotal so no question marks there.

 

What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt?

I’m still learning but always listen and ask questions.

 

What has been your career highlight so far?

I could list off a few horses but I suppose my highlight is still being in business after setting up on my own, and for it to be growing year-on-year.

 

What are your aspirations for 2017?

Continue to grow Compas Equine internationally, develop Compas Racing more and continue success with Cappella Sansevero and Strath Burn under the Compas Stallions banner. Also try and purchase a new recruit for the 2018 season.

 

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Irish bloodstock industry at the moment?

Owners- we need to attract more owners, both domestically and internationally. A simple tax incentive off training fees from income tax could be a sufficient carrot to dangle to domestic owners. The whole industry must realise that owners comes first and we must all work together to make sure this happens.

 

And finally, what do you think makes Irish horses the best in the world?

It’s hard to say, the climate, land etc have a big factor, but I suppose it’s the people that handle them from birth all the way to the racetrack. The Irish people are probably the best horse people around and their horsemanship helps to develop traits in the Irish horse which is hard to replicate.

 

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