In a surprising development Friday, Godolphin’s star three-year-old Barney Roy is entering stud at Darley’s Dalham Hall in Newmarket rather than continuing his racing career in 2018.
The news was unexpected for two reasons. Barney Roy was not listed when Darley announced its 2018 stallion roster in late October, and trainer Richard Hannon had confirmed that he’d be back in action as a four-year-old.
Now that the highly regarded son of Excelebration has been whisked off to stud after just seven starts, and with the strong possibility he had still more to offer once fully mature, his resume stops abruptly as a wistful “what might have been.”
Barney Roy began in auspicious fashion when rolling by 3 3/4 lengths in his debut at Haydock. After that lone juvenile outing, he was snapped up by Godolphin but remained in Hannon’s yard.
Stepping up in class for the April 22 Greenham (G3) in his reappearance, Barney Roy stamped himself as one to follow by catching fire late to dispatch Godolphin’s better-fancied Dream Castle. He brought a rapidly progressive profile into the 2000 Guineas (G1) on May 6, only to take a bad stumble in the “Dip” at Newmarket. Nevertheless, he recovered on the spot for runner-up honors, beaten a scant length by favored Churchill.
Barney Roy gained revenge in their rematch in the June 20 St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, where he packed a powerful punch to set a course record of 1:37.22 for the round mile. Hannon wanted to try him over further, and the next logical opportunity was the 10-furlong Eclipse (G1) versus older horses at Sandown. Although just denied by Ulysses, Barney Roy was coming again on the line, and his relative inexperience may have played a role in the outcome.
Unfortunately, his next two races were anticlimactic. Barney Roy’s chances in the August 23 Juddmonte International (G1) came undone by his racing too freely early, and he wound up a subpar third behind familiar foes Ulysses and Churchill. Instead of reverting to a mile, he kept to 1 1/4 miles for the October 21 Champion S. (G1), but the soft Ascot ground blunted his usual kick, and he was beaten a long way in ninth by Cracksman.
At the time, Barney Roy fans could turn the page on those disappointments in confident hopes of a banner 2018. At a bare minimum, he was the heir apparent to Godolphin’s retiring Ribchester in the mile division. And considering his effectiveness over 1 1/4 miles in the right circumstances, Barney Roy might well have added a big prize at that trip.
Aside from his trajectory on course, pedigree also suggested that Barney Roy was capable of further progress. Sire Excelebration enhanced his trophy haul at four, and his female line has produced globetrotting veteran Gordon Lord Byron.
Hannon has been adamant about the raw ability he’d seen in Barney Roy, and his quote in the Darley press release must conceal a deep regret.
“Barney Roy is by far the best colt I have trained and the most athletic horse I have seen. We look forward to seeing his yearlings at the sales.”
Sam Bullard, Director of Darley stallions, commented on Barney Roy’s “zestful way of running and ferocious tenacity in the finish” – qualities we wish to have enjoyed for longer.
Perhaps worst of all, Barney Roy’s retirement deprives us of a mouthwatering clash with Winx. Although it’s very early days yet, the Australian wondermare is under consideration for early-season targets originally mooted by Barney Roy’s connections – the Lockinge (G1) at Newbury in mid-May as a stepping stone to Royal Ascot, either the straight mile of the Queen Anne (G1) or the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales’s (G1).
Instead, if Winx does go on her grand tour, Barney Roy will be busy in his new stallion career, standing for a £10,000 stud fee.