Steed dating at National Stud

NUZZLING up to a new partner is one of life's pleasures for those in the throes of an embryonic romance.Whispering sweet nothings and the exchange of little secrets are often the building blocks that pave the way for a long-term relationship.

By Colin Adwent

NUZZLING up to a new partner is one of life's pleasures for those in the throes of an embryonic romance.

Whispering sweet nothings and the exchange of little secrets are often the building blocks that pave the way for a long-term relationship.

However, Bahamian Bounty has no time for such niceties.

When you have to cover more than 100 mares within six months, speed dating tends to be more in your line.

The ten-year-old's dalliances may not last longer than the average weekly shop at Tesco's, but Bahamian Bounty's love life is predominantly about quantity rather than emotional depth.

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Bred to breed the Group 1 winner is the star turn at Newmarket's National Stud.

Alongside other luminaries of the turf such as Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Helissio, and Derby runner-up and St Leger winner Silver Patriarch, Bahamian Bounty is chaperoned by stallion man Dave Johnson.

Lanark-born, not unnaturally he has acquired the nickname Jock during his years in the racing industry.

In charge of the five stallions, who call the National Stud their home, Jock's manner is of a man at ease with horses in the testosterone-charged world of breeding.

A ready smile and ribald sense of humour permeate from a horseman who has just about seen it all in the 47 years he has spent looking after thoroughbreds.

Although he may have been round the block once or twice, when it comes to his horses Jock's twinkling eyes still radiate a warmth akin to a father's pride.

Jock said: “I kiss and cuddle all these stallions. I hope they are happy to see me in the mornings and I am happy to see them. I want them to be happy. You've got to love them and I'm all for kindness.

“These stallions are like that. There is not a nasty one among them.”

Jock came to Newmarket from Scotland as a 15-year-old apprentice at trainer Harvey Leader's.

Like thousands of others he was never destined to make his living as a jockey and turned to working in a stud after having to make a choice between Saturday afternoon football and Saturday evening stables.

When the crunch came, the patron of the team Jock played soccer for, also owned Lanwades Stud in Kentford and offered him a job.

He rose through the ranks and eventually moved to the National Stud in 1986.

Now he gets to travel the world.

In modern-day breeding there is no rest for the amorous and each year Jock travels to Australia with the stallions during the southern hemisphere breeding season.

He said: “At my age I thought going to Carlisle would be a big thing, never mind going to Australia.

“I love the horses. It's in my blood. I like the horses and you get to know their characters.”

Nowadays Jock is more involved in ensuring the conception goes smoothly rather than the birth. However he has fond memories of sitting up waiting for the mares to give birth, which in certain cases ended up literally being a labour of love.

“One particular foal took ages to get out. I was completely knackered and somebody brought me a cup of tea. Then this little foal came plodding up and I said 'how are you then' and it started licking my tea.

“I used to like backing the foals when they ran. It's a bit like being a teacher, watching your kids grow up.”

The resident star studmuffin in the breeding stakes nowadays at the National Stud is Bahamian Bounty. At the moment he could be worth as much as £2m-£3m.

Already this year he has been mated 112 times, a considerable feat in stamina terms alone for even the most ardent human Casanova. But it is all the more laudable for this stallion when you consider he suffered a life-threatening injury to his nether regions last year.

Bahamian Bounty is not only very popular with the ladies, the owner's have also taken a shine to him in the hope he will yield them a quick return for the £4,500 outlay they pay for his services.

In this day and age with many are not prepared to wait for a late-developing horse, owners want the precocious two-year-olds who are Bahamian Bounty's forte.

Jock said: “Bahamian Bounty fell over and broke his pelvis last year. Now he has come back ten-fold to get the amount of mares he has this year. He's recovered so well. Nothing bothers him. I have always said when I take him to Australia he would put his own seat belt on if he could.

“Bahamian Bounty is a Christian. I could take him down the street with me and it would not bother him.”

Despite his affection for Bahamian Bounty, Jock's favourite stallion down the years was the ill-fated Arc de Triomphe winner Suave Dancer.

The winner of the 1991 French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes was killed when struck by lightning in an Australian paddock while there for the breeding season.

His death was like losing a good friend for Jock, who had travelled to Australia with him.

“Suave Dancer was my favourite. He was great to work with. I was devastated seeing him laying there and I had another week to ten days to go before I came home. I had to keep walking past his box every day.”

Jock said his endearing ways and a placid temperament made Suave Dancer special in his eyes.

“I loved him to death. I used to go down to the stallion's barn and go 'good boy Suave' and he would make a noise to answer me.

“He was good in the covering yard. I always used to have him standing there ready to go and would wonder how long he would wait.”

Of the other current stallions standing at the National Stud, Jock spoke particularly fondly of Silver Patriarch.

“He's like an overgrown school kid. We have to put side reins on him for periods to stop him from rearing up and showing off to everybody. However he's a nice kind horse. They all are.”

Next month Jock will fly out to Australia with his willing Lotharios as they gird their loins for the southern hemisphere's breeding season.

As they fly out on August 10, Jock will prepare himself for the three weeks he will spend looking after them while they are in quarantine, before returning home. As they say, there's no rest for the wicked.

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