Tuesday 15th of June 2021
The Bloodstock Blogger

The Bloodstock Blogger: Part One

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We are delighted to welcome Sophie Buckley to The Gaitpost. Sophie joins the team as a regular contributor and will be sharing her journey as she develops her blossoming bloodstock operation at home in Oxfordshire.

Mother to Albert and Athena, Sophie continues to ride as a hobby, in recent years producing champions at the Royal Dublin Horse Show, Royal Windsor and the Royal International Horse Show alongside many other wins at county level.

Growing up on a farm in Ireland’s County Kildare, Sophie has spent her life surrounded by and working with horses.

In her teens she trained with international dressage instructor Gisele Holstein before spells with renowned Irish show producer Frances Cash, going on to land her first Champion at the Royal Dublin Horse Show, aged 17.

Pursuing her dream to work within the racing industry, Sophie became assistant to Shadwell Racing Manager,

Angus Gold and Derrinstown Stud Manager, Hubie de Burgh, travelling to bloodstock sales in the UK, US, Ireland and France, developing a keen eye for horses with premium potential.

On graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a BA in Rural Resource Management and an MBA in Equine Business Management from the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, Sophie joined Darley as a Marketing Executive.

In 2006, Sophie and her husband Charles bought Culworth Grounds intent on developing the farm and its equestrian potential.

Since then, under their direction, Culworth has grown to accommodate a number of equestrian disciplines, owners and professional riders and is now the base from which Sophie runs her showing and racing operations as well as a working farm.

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A view from my bedroom window but sadly there are no horses at home since I have left.

“For many the start of the November foal sales at Goffs in Ireland signals that the end of the sales season is in sight. For me however it was the beginning in more ways than one.

I grew up in Ireland so it is always great to have another excuse to go home. Luckily Coolcarrigan, where my parents live, is only twenty minutes’ drive to the sales. As I drove down the avenue past the church on my way to the sale, I thought of my grandfather turning in his grave with the thought of me going foal shopping. Horses were the ruin of many good Kildare families in his opinion!

After the first week at Goffs, I quickly realised that I had great taste in horses alongside the people who also had much deeper pockets than I did.

So I decided that I was just going to have to put that week down to a good learning experience.

Right: The pre parade ring at Goffs where all the last minute decisions are made.

The following week I set off to Tattersalls in Newmarket, full of enthusiasm and after the first day of looking, I had a good long shortlist of at least thirty foals. Surely I would be able to acquire one? 


The pre parade ring at Goffs where all the last minute decisions are made.

Working into the night at the pre-parade ring at Tattersalls

Working into the night at the pre-parade ring at Tattersalls


After bidding on at least fifteen horses and watching the other fifteen go up in the bidding so quickly that I didn’t have time to put my hand up, the day ended with nothing purchased.

Luckily the week improved and with the help of Matt Coleman from StroudColeman Bloodstock and Sam Hoskins from Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds we purchased two lovely colts, now named Speedy and Quick. They are getting a daily pep talk about how they have to live up to their names.

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Speedy (bay) and Quick (chestnut) enjoying life in the field at Culworth Grounds with their new friend Pirate

The December sales are usually freezing, this year wasn’t too bad but I am always cold, I blame my Greek grandmother for that gene.

For somebody who is always cold going around with Matt was perfect because he was always hungry and delighted to stop for something to eat. So as I defrosted, Matt ate!

Working at the sales is not as easy as it may seem and we were joking about how after two weeks of hard work, over a thousand horses, endless analysis of pedigrees, conformation, dams letters and future sales positions, I only managed to buy two foals but the market was buoyant and there were braver people than me out there.

There were nice foals by new stallions such as Lethal Force, Havana Gold, Harbour Watch, Casamento, Swiss Spirit, Dragon Pulse and Mayson, which kept cropping up on my shortlists but never made it home to the Culworth Grounds paddocks. However, I will still enjoy following the progeny of these stallions when they have their first runners and seeing whether the nice models turn into good racehorses.

You would think that two weeks of horse shopping would be enough but the following week the mare sales began and the whole thing starts again but with different criteria. I purchased a Galileo mare who has bred some winners. I thought she was lovely, correct with a great walk and a lovely temperament and will run nicely with my other filly that I had privately purchased.


Nutwood Mimic getting ready for Christmas

With all my new purchases home and safely ensconced in their fields the fun bit of seeing them grow and develop has begun.

“Sometimes it is the simple things in life”, is a good saying to sum up how good it feels to be up early on a lovely morning feeding the horses. Now of course, when it is chucking it down with rain it is another feeling altogether but the good days make up for the bad ones!

Next month I will be writing about choosing stallions for my mares, but for now it is Peppa Pig and Minecraft that are top of the next shopping list!

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a very Happy New Year.”


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Hanella by Galileo out of Strutting having her first photo taken at Culworth Grounds

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