A Gr1 winning son of Galileo and a brother to a pair of European Gr1 winners, is it any wonder The United States is making an impact at Stud in South Africa?
Originally trained by Aidan O’Brien, Lloyd Williams acquired the stallion in late 2013 after winning three of his four starts in Europe.
He would go on to win the Gr1 Ranvet Stakes in 2016 and also the Moonee Valley Gold Cup and Crystal Mile, as well as finish second in the 2016 Queen Elizabeth Stakes behind Lucia Valentina.
But what ever happened to the striking chestnut who had his swansong when finishing fifth in the Hong Kong QEII Cup? Dr Bennie van der Merwe, owner of Moutonshoek Stud in South Africa explains.
“The top five stallions at the time in South Africa had come to the end and Paul Guy from Inglis had told us to have a look at this horse in Australia,” he said.
“We followed his career in Australia and then worked to negotiate a deal with Lloyd Williams.
“The fact he was from the Saddlers Wells line by Galileo appealed greatly.
“His sisters Hermosa and Hydrangea hadn’t won Gr1’s in Europe at that stage, otherwise I’d say the Coolmore team would never have let him go.”
The United States arrived in in the Western Cape in 2017, amongst great excitement to the local breeding industry with a strong book of 120 mares for his first season, before things took a nasty turn.
“He tried to jump out of the paddock and fractured his P2 between the fetlock and the hoof after he’d covered just 15 mares,” van der Merwe explained.
“We had him booked to 120 mares from some of the top breeders with their best mares.
“He was bandaged in a box for four months and never soured.
“He is the most laid-back horse I’ve ever dealt with, let alone stallion.”
As a result, The United States would have limited numbers on the ground in his first season – just ten live foals to be exact.
But as luck would have it, one of those ten has turned out to be the unbeaten two-year-old filly and budding star Sheela, who claimed the Gr2 SA Nursery (1160m) at Turffontein earlier this month.
The Michael and Adam Azzie trained Sheela, who was a winner of the Listed Storm Bird Stakes on debut, was also The United States very first runner and winner in February.
There has only been a total of five individual starters by The United States this season to hit the track. They have raced seven times.
Watch Sheela win the Gr2 SA Nursery:
Understandably, the phones at Moutonshoek Stud are ringing hot after The United States’ immediate success from such a small first crop.
“There is a lot of positivity around, we have been taking bookings since February for September, which is unheard of,” said van der Merwe.
“He didn’t get to serve the best mares in that first season so that’s double as encouraging.
“The trainers are saying they have great minds, attitudes and actions so the talk is good and that has sparked the interest, along with Sheela of course.”
And believe it or not, they are queuing up for a service fee of just R20,000 – or just A$2,000!
“With the effects of COVID, as shareholders we decided to leave his fee low and let him play catch-up,” said van der Merwe.
“Ever since the GFC in 2009 the South African breeding industry has been shrinking, we have gone from 4,000 broodmares to 2,200.
“There were 150 stallions but now there would be just shy of 100.”
The United States will serve a record 120 mares this season starting in September, up from just 60 in 2019 and 50 last year.
And while many may have forgotten about The United States Down Under, van der Merwe said he was heartened by the visit of Macedon Lodge’s Stacey Peglar, who made the trip to South Africa to visit her favourite horse.
“Stacey was here when he’d been injured and gave us confidence and faith in his recovery. He is such a special horse to so many people,” said van der Merwe.
“His success doesn’t feel like a one hit wonder and I think there is more to come.”
Sheela will now be aimed at the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint on June 5 at Hollywoodbets Scottsville, giving The United States an opportunity to sire his first winner at the elite level.