The Rectory Farm Stud-based owner/breeders Mr & Mrs Leonard Bird had a tremendous day last Saturday with Maywake winning well on the Knavesmire. We spoke with Stud Manager William Grant to find out more about the operation…
Tell us a bit about Rectory Farm Stud and how it came to be.
Mr & Mrs Bird have always had horses. Mrs Bird evented for Britain, rode in point–to–points and was the first lady Master of the Belvoir Hunt. Mr Bird, meanwhile, has always enjoyed his racing – owning flat horses for a good number of years.
They established the stud in 2017 with the intention to breed hunters and event horses. Located on the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire border, it was just a barn and few out buildings when we arrived. It now boasts our self-designed stables and paddocks, a horse walker, lunge pen and riding arena . With these excellent facilities at our disposal, we all quickly decided that breeding racing stock was something we could succeed in and also enjoy. It soon became our primary focus.
What is the current working structure of the stud? How do you approach foaling, prepping and/or selling your stock?
We try and do the best for the five mares we currently have with us. Maywake, for instance, was retained to support his at the time unproven dam. However, we are, of course, always looking to improve and upgrade our band.
As for our foals, myself, my partner and Mr & Mrs Bird foal them down at home with the aid of the excellent Tower Equine Vets.
We are trying to develop the stud into a viable business and so that does dictate that we sell almost all of the stock our mares produce. We prep everything for sale on site – both foals and yearlings – and it’s a side of the business that we take great pride in. We have the perfect facilities and, with our numbers as they are, we have the time and space to treat each horse as an individual. We may not have backgrounds in thoroughbred breeding, but we have great experience when it comes to educating these young horses.
Does the stud aim to breed a particular type of animal (sprinter/miler/stayer), or does it purely seek to produce the best racehorse possible?
Whilst we don’t necessarily believe it’s the right thing for the industry, we are taking the commercial route and looking to breed early, precocious types. They are attracting the biggest buyers, so, particularly where we are as a business, we have to fall in line with market trends.
What excites you all the most about this game? Is it the foaling process? Watching the stock develop? Or experiencing that winning feeling on track?
That’s a tough question. It’s all very exciting – from foaling down to watching them grow and develop into athletes – but nothing quite beats watching the stock you’ve brought into the world go and win on track.
Now rated 87 after winning three times in a row, being honest, did you always hold Maywake in high regard?
He always had a willing attitude and was tough from the start,but none of us honestly believed he would do as well as he has. We were delighted when he ran so well on debut and from then on we’ve just loved watching him progress from race to race. He hasn’t been out of the placings in all of his starts – which shows he’s genuine as well as talented. It’s so hard for a small operation like ours to breed a horse that wins one race, never mind one that achieves it multiple times. It’s also a great testament to Richard and his team. Their management, skill and patience with him has been superb.
What can you tell us about his dam, Wakened?
She’s a real yard favourite and everyone here has had a little part in her story. My partner Ellie bought her to retrain as an eventer. She was taken by her attitude and conformation – qualities that are important in all equestrian disciplines. Upon arrival, we all really liked her outlook, and, coinciding with our plunge into thoroughbred breeding, we bought her for the stud. Her page wasn’t anything too special, but she was a half-sister to a winner and her grand dam, Glamadour, was a half-sister to the outstanding miler Goldikova and Group 1 winner Galikova. She was the very first mare we bred from and it’s remarkable that our first racer has been Maywake. Hopefully it’s not just beginner’s luck!
In or out of training, who is your next star going to be?
We have a Twilight Son yearling (out of the Intello mare Prodigious) on the farm at the moment who has a real bit of something about him. For such a young horse he has so much presence and quality. He is a very good-looking specimen, has a great walk and comes from a very good Cheveley Park family. Sadly, we will have to take him to the sales this autumn, but we think a lot of him. And we would love Maywake’s half-sister (two-year-old by Twilight Son) to be as successful, or even more so than her brother, but that might be wishful thinking! We will enjoy the journey with her regardless.