July 2023



VIA SISTINA’s career soared to new heights on Saturday afternoon, when the five-year-old mare won her first Group 1 in the Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh for owner Rebecca Hillen and bloodstock agent husband Stephen, trainer George Boughey and jockey Jamie Spencer.

The Hillens’ mare, now a five-time winner, was bred by Colin and Melba Bryce’s Laundry Cottage Stud in Hertfordshire.

The stud is home to the Bryces' band of just 10 broodmares, plus a handful of boarders, but nevertheless boasts some well-known names on its roll of honour, including WOOTTON BASSETT (GB). Via Sistina's latest win in Ireland doubles the tally of Group 1 winners produced on the stud.

One might expect the result to be a bittersweet one for the Bryces, given that they sold Via Sistina for only 5,000 guineas to Stephen Hillen at the Tattersalls December Yearling Sale in 2019. Her dam, NIGH, was also sold the same week for 36,000 guineas at the Tattersalls December Mare Sale.

But speaking with Great British Racing International after the win on Saturday, Colin Bryce had only positive things to say:

"We're thrilled because it's a small operation and to have bred two Group 1 winners, after Wootton Bassett, we're pretty proud of that, I have to say. And it's great for Stephen and Rebecca to own a Group 1 filly, it must be wonderful, so all congratulations to them.

"Unfortunately, the mare produced what was described on inspection day as a camel! She was not a sales horse, which is a rather interesting thing actually because it just shows you they come from anywhere, and at the end of the day maybe the thing to do is to look to the pedigree. Stephen Hillen clearly did his calculations and took an educated risk, and that's great. You want people who are out there taking risks to succeed, so congratulations to him, it's great.

"We were very impressed watching her. I would confidently say she looks like she can go on from here."

Boughey, who welcomed Via Sistina to his Newmarket stables only last autumn after she left retiring trainer Joe Tuite’s yard, and has since produced her to win three of four starts, had reported the mare to be in rude health since her victory last time out in the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse.

The trainer’s instincts were spot on. Having sat near the rear of the field for most of the contest alongside eventual runner-up STAY ALERT (GB), Via Sistina produced a potent turn of foot when pulled wide in the home straight by Spencer, drawing clear of rivals by a cosy two lengths at the line.

A stewards enquiry followed, with the winner having caused interference to those on her inside at the one-furlong marker, but the result stood.

With Ben and Sir Martin Abib’s homebred Stay Alert, trained by Hughie Morrison, following Via Sistina home for second place, the result thus represented a 1-2 both for British breeders and for British trainers.

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