Fifty-odd years ago a wealthy British bloodstock expert, Colonel Hall Walker, decided to establish the greatest stud farm in the world. He looked around for a site and eventually picked on 1,000 acres on the edge of the Curragh plain in County Kildare, Eire. This, he decided, was the best place in the world to breed bloodstock. He was right. As the years passed, horses from his Tully estate won more and more of the English classics, and even after he had given the stud to the British Government in 1915 the strain continued to win.
Now the home of the Irish National Stud—and a horse named Tulyar—the Tully estate is still living up to the expectations of its founder and is producing some of the finest thoroughbreds in the world. In the last 10 years the National Stud has produced such notable racers as Turn-To, Royal Serenade, Happy Laughter and Sea Charger. Today the prospects look even better, largely because of the presence of Tulyar, the stud's principal stallion.
In 1953, when Tulyar was bought for $700,000 from the Aga Khan, there were 90,000 unemployed in Ireland and the purchase created a furor in the Dail (Irish Parliament). "The people cried out for milk and the Government gave them a horse," said Labor Deputy Sean Dunne. "Gambling with the people's money," cried another.
But Minister for Agriculture Thomas Walsh defended the purchase and asked for the capital of the stud to be doubled—a step he contended was urgently necessary for the development of an industry which had an export trade of ¬£3 million.
Walsh estimated Tulyar's earning value at ¬£16,000 a year ($44,800) and thought it might go as high as ¬£20,000 ($56,000). Added to that was the money from the sale of yearlings and the value of the female progeny as stock.
Now, two years later, the Irish Government's long-term gamble on horseflesh is beginning to pay off. During his first season Tulyar produced 24 foals out of 28 nominations, and for the present season (February to June) he has 40 nominations. Ten already have been selected (four of them the Aga Khan's mares) and the rest are being drawn for. Although his stud fee is high ($1,680), demands for Tulyar's services run into the hundreds.
A brown 6-year-old, unmarked except for a bald spot between the eyes, Tulyar is lord of the manor and gets lordly treatment. A special groom looks after him, and he is given a bottle of Guinness stout with his meal every day. In the morning he exercises for an hour and a half in a straw-covered paddock (to protect his feet) and later in the day performs his special chores.
As well as Tulyar's get, the stud has high hopes for the progeny of another stud stallion, Preceptic, and the progeny of two mares, daughters of Royal Charger and Tulyar, which it is hoped will have the staying power of the former with the speed of the latter. Thanks to studs like the National, high-bred horses have become Eire's biggest export. England buys the most (75%), but exports to dollar areas have almost doubled and now amount to ¬£656,557 ($1,838,359). With profits from Tulyar's progeny beginning to show, the fuss over his purchase is almost forgotten.
Set in a thousand acres of beautiful County Kildare, the Irish National Stud is home to one of the world's most valuable stallions, Tulyar, whose purchase by the government for $700,000 was a long-term gamble on horse flesh that's beginning to pay off
Frolicking foals enjoy morning exercise in the Stud paddock with a mare. They are given the freedom of the paddock for two hours a day in good weather, are then brought in to prevent them from lying down in the damp grass and catching cold.