| |

Flying The Flag: The Dynasty Of Cassandra Go

The grey second dam of Flying The Flag, the brilliant Cassandra Go.
The grey second dam of Flying The Flag, the brilliant Cassandra Go.

A fantastic story and update about Flying The Flag’s second dam, Cassandra Go. Flying The Flag stands at Bush Hill Stud and his first crop will be yearlings in August 2018. 

By Daithi Harvey

As foundation mares go they don’t come much better than Cassandra Go (Ire) (Indian Ridge {Ire}). When her owner Trevor Stewart bought her as a foal over 20 years ago, he could only dare dream of the journey that she would bring him on or indeed of the racing dynasty that she would spawn. News that her granddaughter, dual Group 1 winner Rhododendron (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), is nearing a return to action brought the mare back into focus and now 22 years of age, Cassandra Go is reported to be in fine fettle by Stewart having only recently given birth to her 13th foal.

“She delivered a lovely filly by Gleneagles (Ire) on Mar. 18 and as usual she had an easy foaling, everything was straightforward and we are very lucky,” Stewart told the TDN a few days ago. “She is quite predictable. She goes a minimum of a month overdue, this time she went a bit longer, perhaps it was something to do with the weather or getting older but she is very healthy and looks considerably younger than she is. I must add that she has been wonderfully managed by James Hanly and his team at Ballyhimikin Stud.”

Such is the mare’s wellbeing, Stewart has her booked to be covered by another dual Guineas-winning son of Galileo in Coolmore’s Churchill (Ire). “I think it makes a lot of sense. Churchill is out of a very fast mare, he’s inbred to Mr. Prospector and even more significantly it represents a double cross with Indian Ridge, which is quite rare these days, so I think it is a very exciting cover. Obviously the Galileo line has also worked brilliantly with the family but as he is slightly out of reach, I’m hoping Churchill represents the next best thing.”

The Cassandra Go story could have taken a number of different routes. Stewart originally bought her as a foal to pinhook, but famously got a rush of blood to the head and bought her back as a yearling for 200,000gns. “It was one of those moments you regret immediately after the event but it has turned out to be the most wonderful story,” he says.

Flying The Flag pictured recently at Bush Hill Stud - the full brother to Gr1 winner, Rhododendron and Gr2 winner Magical. Image: Candiese Marnewick
Flying The Flag pictured recently at Bush Hill Stud – the full brother to Gr1 winner, Rhododendron and Gr2 winner Magical. Image: Candiese Marnewick

Training was the next step for Cassandra Go and she was dispatched to Geoff Wragg in Newmarket. While success wasn’t immediate, she improved with age. She beat Musical Treat (Ire), subsequently the dam of dual Classic winner Finsceal Beo (Ire) (Mr. Greeley), in a 3-year-old maiden but it wasn’t until a year later that she made her stakes breakthrough when winning a listed race over the minimum trip at Bath in May of 2000 before following up in the G3 King George S. at Goodwood a few months later. She continued to flourish as a 5-year-old, winning the G2 Temple S. at Sandown and the then G2 King’s Stand S. at Royal Ascot before finishing up her racing career with a fine second to the brilliant Mozart (Danehill) in the G1 Darley July Cup.

“It’s rare enough that a top-class race filly breeds one better than herself and even more rare that her daughter then does something similar,” he says.

Of course Stewart is alluding to Cassandra Go’s highest achieving daughter Halfway To Heaven (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}), the triple Group 1 and Classic-winning filly who has passed on those rare genes to her own daughter, last year’s G1 Longines Prix de l’Opera winner Rhododendron.

He adds, “A big factor in the whole equation has been Galileo and I am lucky in that I have sold three daughters of Cassandra Go and all three have gone to Coolmore.”

While the exploits of Halfway To Heaven, a €450,000 yearling purchase by Demi O’Byrne at Goffs, have been well documented, it was the purchase a year earlier of Cassandra Go’s third foal Theann (GB) (Rock of Gibraltar {Ire}), in 2005 at Goffs by John Magnier that planted the initial seeds. Theann would go on to achieve stakes success on the track when carrying Evie Stockwell’s colours to victory in the G3 Summer S. at York in 2007 before ultimately leaving a more lasting legacy through her own daughter Photo Call (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who struck at the highest level in the GI First Lady S. in 2016 and the GI Rodeo Drive S. in 2015.

The Coolmore team  returned to this illustrious family when MV Magnier bid 1,600,000gns for Cassandra Go’s yearling filly by Invincible Spirit (Ire), consigned by Ballyhimikin Stud at Tattersalls Book 1 last October. The now 2-year-old is in training with Aidan O’Brien and has been named Fantasy (Ire). “It’s a lovely name so it will be exciting hopefully to see her make her debut sometime this year,” Stewart says.

“While luck plays a major part in the development of these great families, human input is equally important and I have reaped the benefit of having some amazing people involved, from the team at Ballyhimikin dealing with the mares and foals to the trainers that have been involved with the progeny in their racing careers. Geoff Wragg did a wonderful job with Cassandra Go, Aidan O’Brien is obviously a genius and I was also lucky enough to have had an association with Henry Cecil.”


The nurturing early years that Stewart’s bloodstock receives is paramount for their future development and to that end he has nothing but praise for the farms that he partners with. “I keep the majority of my mares with James Hanly in Ballyhimikin, but I also keep some with the Donworths in Round Hill Stud. Both farms are run by superb people and the attention to detail is second to none, which is so important when dealing with this kind of livestock.”

The above mentioned link with the late Sir Henry Cecil came through Cassandra Go’s seventh produce Tickled Pink (Ire). On the track, Tickled Pink carried Stewart’s silks to success on three occasions with two of those wins coming in the G3 Abernant S. at Newmarket and the G3 Coral Charge, beating colts on both occasions. Tickled Pink then took the obvious route back to Ireland to join the broodmare band at Ballyhimikin and her first produce to go through the sales ring fetched 500,000gns when bought by Shadwell at Tattersalls in 2016. Subsequently named Eraad (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), he made a pleasing debut last winter for Charlie Hills and hopes are high that he can make his mark this year.

Recalling Tickled Pink’s stint in training at Warren Hill Stewart says, “It was a very poignant time with Henry’s illness and when she was a 2-year-old, he told me she was a group-class filly. It took her until she was four to achieve that though and before the Abernant S. I had wanted to target a listed race for fillies at Bath but Henry rang me and pleaded with me to allow him to run her against the colts in the Abernant. He was adamant she would win and I relented and thankfully he was right. I think that was his second-last visit to a racecourse.”

Tickled Pink also has a Shamardal 2-year-old in pre-training and a yearling filly by Gleneagles that will be retained. Stewart can also look forward to her delivering a foal by Frankel (GB) in the coming weeks before the mare travels to Newmarket for a date with Dubawi (Ire). “We’re certainly giving her every chance but I suppose with her pedigree and race performance she deserves it.”

As well as Tickled Pink, Stewart has also retained an unraced full-sister to Halfway To Heaven called Allez Alaia (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}) and, with the recent arrival of the newborn Gleneagles filly, already given the moniker of Holly Golightly, he has some exciting young stock coming through.

“It was always my idea to have three fillies [out of Cassandra Go] to breed from and that is the main reason I sold the yearling at Tattersalls last year as I knew then that Cassandra was carrying a filly. In the end she went to the best home one could hope for,” he says.

Magical winning the Gr2 Debutante. Image: The Sun
Magical winning the Gr2 Debutante. Image: The Sun

Allez Alaia is also not being spared sire power and has a yearling filly by Kingman (GB), who will be retained, and a filly foal by Dark Angel (Ire). She visits Churchill imminently. This season’s cover is one Stewart is really looking forward to, as he says, “The mare is by Pivotal and with the Pivotal/Galileo cross having been so successful it sort of feels like I am digging deep where the gold is.”

As an owner, Stewart’s colours have been carried to success in Ireland, England and France, and it is the latter country where his silks are most likely to be seen this summer.

He explains, “Most of my racehorses are in training in France at the moment, the prizemoney and premiums are certainly attractive. The way I look at it is, in Ireland it is so competitive, you are taking on Aidan O’Brien and the rest every day of the week. In England the prizemoney isn’t great but the racing is fantastic, while in France you have a bit of everything and if you have a very good horse you can travel. Obviously things can change but that’s where they are at the moment, but it is a moveable feast.”

Stewart enjoyed a nice winner recently at Chantilly when Hunaina (Ire) (Tamayuz {GB}), trained by Henri-Francois Devin, beat some smart types in a conditions race at Chantilly on Mar. 6. The ex-Aga Khan filly was bought by Stroud Coleman Bloodstock at Goffs last November for €140,000 and gained a valuable bit of black-type on her first start for her new owners when third in the Listed Prix Miss Satamixa at Deauville in January. Stewart is hopeful of increasing that black-type to capital letters in the coming weeks.

He says, “I bought Hunaina in partnership with James Hanly and Anthony Stroud and she now goes for the Listed Snowdrop S. at Kempton in a few weeks’ time. She won quite nicely last time and we think highly of her so hopefully the listed race is a stepping stone to even better things throughout the season.”

Being the custodian of a family replete with such speed, Stewart is obviously keen to maintain that element but also to breed horses that will stretch that bit further, though the eighth furlong is far enough for him. “One’s dream is to have pure speed and one’s dream is still to produce a Guineas winner,” he mused.

Having already achieved that when Halfway To Heaven won the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas in 2008, Stewart has now upgraded that original dream to include winning a 1000 Guineas as an owner-breeder. Given the quality of his mares, that is no far-fetched fantasy and Stewart rightly is of the opinion that he could not afford to go to the market and buy some of the fillies that he is producing himself, thus retaining his homebred fillies gives him a better than sporting chance of realising that dream in the coming years.

The breeder puts a lot of thought into his coverings, delving deep into the pedigrees of his mares and the stallions he is considering using, and while ultimately he tries to keep it simple, he does, as he puts it, go ‘off piste’ now and again. One thing is certain, whatever decisions he has made over the past two decades concerning Cassandra Go and her daughters has reaped huge dividends and it has all the hallmarks of a pedigree that will prosper for generations to come.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *