INTERVIEW: GARY NORRIS, WOODFIELD FARM STUD
26 February 2018
This year sees the exciting Bullet Train, a Sadler’s Wells
brother to the mighty Frankel, join the Irish stallion ranks, standing at the
picturesque Woodfield Farm Stud in County Waterford. ITM spoke to the farm’s
Gary Norris to learn more about his new dual-purpose recruit, proven resident
Curtain Time (IRE) and what makes Woodfield the perfect environment in which to
raise top-class stock.
2018 will, no doubt,
be very busy for yourself and the team, with exciting new recruit Bullet Train.
How has he been received by breeders?
Bullet Train needs no introduction. If you are a racing fan
or work in the industry, then you should know of Bullet Train and his brother
Frankel. Breeders have flocked to see him and the phone has rung nearly every
day since his arrival so it's all positive. This is not surprising, considering
he has had 11 new individual winners since he arrived at Christmas. His first
crop just turned four and he is already the sire of a two-year-old Listed
winner. His yearlings sold for up to $240,000 in 2017.
He is taking on a
dual-purpose role. What balance of flat and national hunt breeders have shown
Bullet Train stood
his first four seasons in Kentucky. Bar his obvious appeal on pedigree, what
attracted you to him?
Bullet Train has been in our sights since the day he
retired. Apart from his wonderful pedigree, his ability to win a Classic trial over
eleven furlongs, and then adjust to the role of making a World Champion out of
his brother Frankel was exceptional.
Bullet Train is part
of the reason you joined the ITM Irish Stallion Trail this year. How did that
go for you?
Bullet Train certainly is the reason we took part in the ITM
Stallion Trail this year. We knew he had a huge fan base from his racing days
and breeders came in large numbers to view him. It was a very good experience
and all positive on the booking front as well. We are very happy that a
significant number of leading breeders have booked some quality mares into him.
On my visit, I
noticed music playing in Bullet Train’s barn. Was this purely a coincidence or
do you believe this benefits the horse?
We believe in a happy environment for all our horses. We
have four separate stable barns and have a radio in each one. We find that they
do listen to the radio; it helps to settle them and it prevents them from
listening to activities in the yard in general.
You made a great
effort during the Trail, with a fantastic coffee stand and created a wonderful
backdrop for photos with the stallions. You’re also very active on Twitter- you
must see advertising and an online presence as an essential part of the business?
Yes, I see the online presence as very important and believe
it is the way forward, as it has a worldwide audience. Newspaper advertising is
becoming more prohibitive due to the costs and most stallion owners have been
forced not to advertise because of exorbitant rates.
The farm is certainly
scenic, located in the foothills of the Comeragh Mountains and just a stone’s
throw to the Copper Coast and Irish Sea, but how does it benefit raising high
We find that our horses thrive here on the farm, are healthy
and grow good bone. All paddocks are grazed in rotation with our prize-winning
flock of sheep, which we believe is key to grassland management.
Curtain Time (IRE)
comes from the family of Taipan (IRE) and Ali-Royal (IRE), while previous
Woodfield resident Balakheri (IRE) was
bred and race by the Aga Khan. Is pedigree the most important factor for you
when choosing a stallion, and what else do you focus on?
Curtain Time (IRE) has a massive stallion’s pedigree- one of
the best in the stud book. It is my opinion that a stallion must have a
stallion's pedigree to begin with, because that’s where their progeny get their
success from. Curtain Time (IRE) has produced some star performers to-date.
Conformation and temperament is very important also and I like a stallion to
stand at a minimum of 16.1hh. Pinhookers require big, scopey horses, so that’s
what one aims to breed.
Does the farm also
own mares? Do they all visit your own stallions?
There are 25 broodmares here and they are all home-owned. We
don’t believe in legs & shares of broodmares for the sake of building up a
band- it’s a bad policy in my estimation. We have never adopted a policy of
using one stallion to cover all our mares, but now that we have Bullet Train,
we will mainly support him as we believe he will seriously upgrade our mares,
given his regal bloodlines.
What is your
background? Was it always going to be horse racing and breeding for you?
I was always involved in the farm since I was a child. After
finishing my college course, I gained some outside experience in other stud
farms and racing yards, before settling down to run the home farm. I prefer the
breeding side of the business as I have more control of it.
Who is your favourite
graduate of Woodfield Farm?
We have had many favourites throughout the years, but I
suppose Bramblehill Duke (IRE) was special to me. I bought him cheaply at
Tattersalls Ireland and he won his point-to-point first time out at Lismore in
1996. He was my first investment and went on to win eight races under rules.
From then on, I was really hooked. He is 26 now and has had a wonderful life
after racing in the care of Amanda Dagwell.