Taking Stock of Tavistock

Lord & Lady Tavistock with Mrs Moss and her statue by sculptor Philip Blacker
Lord & Lady Tavistock with Mrs Moss and her statue by sculptor Philip Blacker

Jupiter Island became the first British-trained winner of the Japan Cup in 1986, five years after the race was inaugurated. It was the final race of the tough seven-year-old’s career before he was retired to stud as the winner of fourteen races, and he more than doubled his career earnings at a stroke in Tokyo, the Japan Cup then being worth more than the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

 Jupiter Island ended his racing career in the purple and white striped colours of the Marquess of Tavistock after being bought back by his breeders as a six-year-old with a view to standing him at stud. Lord and Lady Tavistock had sold him as a yearling for 10,000 guineas to Clive Brittain who retired from training at the end of 2015 after a career during which Jupiter Island’s Japan Cup was just one of his many international successes.

The Japan Cup winner was among eleven winners produced by his dam Mrs Moss, the bargain foundation mare of the Tavistocks’ Bloomsbury Stud. Jupiter Island was by the Derby and St Leger winner St Paddy, but for the most part, the offspring of Mrs Moss, whose only win came over five furlongs as a two-year-old, were speedier types like herself.

They included Precocious who was unbeaten in five starts as a two-year-old before injury hastened his retirement to stud. Those wins included the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Gimcrack Stakes at York the day after his half-brother Jupiter Island won the Ebor Handicap there. Another two-year-old sprinting son of Mrs Moss to earn a place at stud was Krayyan, third in the 1982 Middle Park Stakes.

As sires, Jupiter Island, Precocious and Krayyan did not have the most successful stud careers, though Precocious was responsible for the dual King’s Stand Stakes winner Elbio.

Mrs Moss and her dynasty

Mrs Moss was bought by the then Henrietta Marchioness of Tavistock (now the Dowager Duchess of Bedford) for just 2,100 guineas as a six-year-old at the 1975 December Sales. While the sons of Mrs Moss were not that influential, her daughters have established an extensive dynasty. Best of them on the track was Pushy, another speedy two-year-old, and a Royal Ascot winner like her half-brothers Precocious and Jupiter Island (who won the Hardwicke Stakes). Pushy won the Queen Mary Stakes, a race in which her own daughter Myself was to finish runner-up.

Of the dozen foals of Mrs Moss to race, Pedestal was the only one who failed to win, finishing last at Goodwood in what proved her only start. But thirty years after her birth, she now figures as the grandam of the most exciting sire to emerge from the Mrs Moss dynasty. Appropriately, he’s named Tavistock after the Duchess of Bedford’s late husband.

Tavistock is a product of the New Zealand arm of Bloomsbury Stud which was sold in 2007. It was thanks, indirectly, to Jupiter Island, that the Tavistocks came to have a southern hemisphere base in addition to Woburn Abbey in England. Among Jupiter Island’s Japan Cup rivals was Waverley Star, trained in New Zealand by Dave O’Sullivan who was to win the Japan Cup himself two years later with Horlicks.

As a result of meeting the Hall of Fame trainer, the Tavistocks visited New Zealand and ended up purchasing the New Zealand 1000 Guineas and Oaks winner Snap who became the foundation mare for the New Zealand branch of Bloomsbury Stud. Some of the descendants of Mrs Moss were also transferred down under, among them Upstage (by Derby winner Quest For Fame), the daughter of Pedestal who was to become the dam of Tavistock.

The 'dual-hemisphere' Bloomsbury studbook
The ‘dual-hemisphere’ Bloomsbury studbook

Incidentally, an ingenious solution to cataloguing Bloomsbury’s broodmares was the probably unique ‘reversible’ studbook with two front covers, which, turned one way, listed the stud’s British-based mares, but turned upside down, listed the New Zealand stock.

By Montjeu, Tavistock is getting the sort of middle-distance stock that might be expected of a son of the Arc winner. Except that as a racehorse, Tavistock was anything but a typical Montjeu. He had the speed to win over five and a half furlongs on his debut as a two-year-old, gained his two biggest wins in New Zealand over seven furlongs in the Group 1 Mudgway Partsworld Stakes and Waikato Draught Sprint, and finished well beaten on his only try over as far as a mile and a quarter. Perhaps that was the speed influence of Mrs Moss coming through in her great grandson.

The success of Sir Patrick Hogan’s Cambridge Stud, where Tavistock stands, was built on the champion sires Sir Tristram and, more recently, his son Zabeel. Tavistock has been bred to a number of daughters of Zabeel with some excellent results.

The latest Rosehill Guineas winner Tarzino (also winner of the Victoria Derby at Flemington last year) is out of a Zabeel mare, as is Werther, winner of this year’s Hong Kong Derby and Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (see video above) after finishing second in the South Australian and Queensland Derbies before his export. The New Zealand Group 2 winner Hasselhoof is another bred on the Tavistock x Zabeel cross, while Tavago, the 2016 Australian Derby winner, features Zabeel as the sire of his grandam.

Tarzino was the second Rosehill Guineas winner sired by Tavistock from his first two crops following Volkstok‘n’Barrell in 2015. Also placed in the New Zealand and Australian Derbies last year, Volkstok’n’Barrell is a dual Group 1 winner in New Zealand this year to add to his sire’s current hot streak.

Montjeu has already sired a Melbourne Cup winner with his import from Europe Green Moon. It’s not fanciful to think that Tavistock may well emulate his sire in that respect one day.

[photo of Mrs Moss statue courtesy of philipblacker.com]