Excellent Art, likely favorite for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Excellent Art, likely favorite for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

John Crofts

Excellent Art Proved Secret They Couldn't Keep

The likely favorite for the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) caught Demi O'Byrne's eye in the barn of another trainer. And that's just fine with the man who sold most of Excellent Art.

The story may be apocryphal, but that’s no reason to keep it out of the public eye, for it’s a good one--especially if it’s true.

Excellent Art, the likely favorite for the Oct. 27 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), is well-established now as an inmate of the Ballydoyle yard from where Aidan O’Brien has sent out three Breeders’ Cup winners since 2001. But he is an unusual inmate in that he came not from the blue-blooded ranks of the affiliate Coolmore Stud or the sales ring, but was bought out of another stable, the Newmarket yard of Neville Callaghan.

Callaghan trains for Ballydoyle patron Michael Tabor, so it was not unusual to find agent Demi O’Byrne looking at horses there. But in this case, it seems O’Byrne’s skills really do allow him to spot a champion out of the corner of his eye. Callaghan, knowing the ability of both O’Byrne and Excellent Art, is rumored to have instructed that the latter stayed firmly in his box, out of sight of the former.

The plan, unfortunately, didn’t work out, and O’Byrne is said to have been so taken with Excellent Art that he recommended a bid from the Coolmore clan.

Owner Matthew Green had little hesitation in selling, though he has kept a share in the St James’ Palace Stakes (Eng-I) winner. “I believe that if you are to be a successful owner, you have got to be willing to trade,” Green said. “With prize money so poor, you have got to approach ownership as a business.”

In which case Green is certainly a successful owner, having earlier sold Art Trader, a $130,000 foal, to Hong Kong for $800,000.

A group II-winning juvenile, Excellent Art has contested mile races in all four starts this season. He made an encouraging debut for O’Brien, finishing fourth in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas, Fr-I) after hitting trouble in running under Jamie Spencer. The son of Pivotal then ran out a narrow winner of the St. James’ Place, and has subsequently finished second to Godolphin 5-year-old Ramonti in both the BGC Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I), twice coming from the pack and being unable to peg back the winner.

Green’s father, Richard, has been influential in sparking his racing interest, which has seen him own horses for more than 15 years. “I used to go to the races with dad at a young age and enjoyed it,” Matthew Green said. “So he’s to blame for all this. I do like other sports as well, but racing and studying the ‘form’ has always been my main passion.”

The family name is even better known in the art world than it is in racing. Richard Green, the company, has three galleries in swanky parts of central London, specializing in early 17th century works through to the modern day.

Perhaps inevitably, father and sons (Matthew Green has two brothers, Jonathan and David) deal extensively in the great equine art painters such as George Stubbs, John Frederick Herring, and Sir Alfred Munnings, for whom Matthew Green’s grandfather acted as agent.