For these three breeders 2014 was a mixed bag. At midsummer Cliveden Stud looked to have a lot to look forward to, but then had a disappointing 2nd half. Mark Dixon looked as if he’d not worry the scorer at all but then got a winner in the Autumn. While Avington Manor Stud had a better year, but with some disappointments with some inconsistent runs. Lady Howard de Walden had 4 Avington horses represent her last year: two 3yo fillies and two 3yo colts. Both fillies finished the season as winners, but only Nirva (by Verglas) will be kept. She looked very promising after winning her first race of 2014 but then didn’t progress as expected. The first of her 2yos to run was Gibeon who unfancied won what looked a pretty good maiden at Newmarket. On the strength of that he was made favourite for the Haynes, Hanson and Clark Stakes at Newbury but put in a dismal display finishing last of 5. With his sights lowered he could still only finish 3rd in an ordinary novices race. Maybe he needs further and can be a decent 10-12f handicapper, maybe he needs to be cut but watch his first run. Her other colt was Perrault who is by Rip Van Winkle out of a Daylami mare. He ran only once and ran a nice sort of race over 8f in a back-end Newbury maiden. However the form was far from franked by those behind him. The dam La Persiana improved considerably as a 3yo and I’d expect this colt to do the same: at least a maiden winner. She looks to have two 2yos to represent her this year. On paper the most interesting is Girling, who is a Rock of Gibraltar sister to Gibeon out of a Galileo mare called Gravitation whose dam is a half-sister to Fame and Glory (whom the Walden’s conceived). Don’t expect to see her before August. The other 2yo is a colt called Nirvanam and a half-brother to Nirva. Being by Sakhee’s Secret he should be speedy and out a lot earlier. At the moment neither are placed with trainers. Looking ahead Avington now have 2 estblished mares in La Persiana (Magic Flute/Grand Lodge family) and Gravitation. The latter has a yearling filly called Gemina (by Holy Roman Emperor) and the mares are in foal to Champs Elysees and Lawman respectively. Now joined by Nirva the stud badly needs a Group horse soon. Mark Dixon had a really disappointing 2014 with his main hope Talent (owned, as all the Prowess family is, in partnership with James Rowell of Ashbrittle Stud) just not the horse she was as a 3yo. Her half-sister Much Promise ran only once and was retired to stud. A lot of the other horses either didn’t run or ran disappointingly. And then along came Talent’s sister Forte who ran a good 3rd first time out before winning what looked like a fair maiden at Kempton. She then took her chance in the Fillies Mile and finished 6th in soft ground. She will no doubt start in something like the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Guineas meeting before them considering a tilt at the Oaks. Like Talent she has the bad habit of being too keen at the start of her races but should go on to be a winner at listed class this year. Mark Dixon has a few other, often part-owned, fillies running for him this year. Top of the list may be the unraced La Marchesa, who is by Duke of Marmalade and in training with Ed Walker (who did well with another filly from this family, Livias Dream who was owned by Olivia Hoare, this filly’s part owner). Expect to see her sometime in May in a 3yo fillies maiden somewhere. Next comes La Superba who is a Medicean sister to the good stayer Thomas Hobson of 2013. La Superba ran twice as a 2yo in Ireland without troubling anyone but has been transferred to David Elsworth and is reported to be ready to run in April. She should stay 10-12f and if anything like her brother will like it soft. A final filly is the once-raced 4yo Bari, who is by Cape Cross out of mare called Genoa (who is a half-sister to Prowess and the granddam of Thomas Hobson). Bari was sold as a yearling but as Dixon lost Genoa unexpectedly he bought the filly back as an unraced 3yo. She ran a few weeks ago for the first time and finished a satisfactory 4th: she’s likely to reappear soon and could go close. Horses in Training shows he also has a Verglas colt called Ice Boat in training with Hughie Morrison. Dixon only has one 2yo and that’s La Superba’s brother Lazio. There is no Prowess 2yo because Dixon and Rowsell sold her colt foal by Fastnet Rock to Coolmore for 320,000guineas: look out for him. The biggest story to be told here is the planned matings for the part-Ashbrittle owned ‘Prowess’ mares. Talent’s (by New Approach) first partner will be Dubawi, Much Promise ( by Invincible Spirit) will be covered in her maiden year by Dansili and Prowess (after 4 racing foals and four winners) goes to Frankel. An expensive set of sires and I’m sure the owners were hoping there would be nothing amiss with Prowess’s New Approach foal. Unfortunately the foal had to be put down soon after her birth: such are the slings and arrows of a breeder’s fortune. With the expense of these matings it is possible that Forte or Much Promise will now have to be sold to fund this expenditure. The aim is high at Ashbrittle. Which brings me to the Cliveden Stud: last year they had no 2yos as they had been sold (most of them being colts). But this year it is quite different as they own or part own 4 2yo fillies (again having sold the colts). First up is a Dansili filly called Blue Geranium (with Gosden: does this name have Raymond Chandler connections?).This filly is out of a really good maiden filly called Super Sleuth (by Selkirk) who despite running a number of good races, including a Guineas third, never go her head in front. She is from the most established family in the stud that has produced such good horses as Mils Bomb, Milly Moss, Indian Haven and others. Sending her to Gosden (first time I can recall him being used) may be a sign and I’d expect to see her out in the 2nd half of the season. A second filly is the cleverly named Social Media (by New Approach out of a granddaughter of that tough Group 1 filly Fraulein) and she is with Ed Dunlop. The dam’s first foal was the twice-winning flat horse Devilment, who has turned out to be a more than useful hurdler, running a creditable and slightly unlucky 4th in the Triumph Hurdle. The last fully owned filly has pleasingly been sent to Andrew Balding who has had a good score rate with often moderate horses. His new inmate is a Fastnet Rock filly called Brief Visit, the first foal of that good filly Brevity (by Street Cry). Brevity won twice as a 2yo and ran placed in a listed event on one of her few starts as a 3yo. Bred as she is it is likely she’ll be pretty speedy and could be one to watch this year. A fourth filly is the well-named Sparring Queen (by War Front) is jointly owned and in training with Beckett. She is the second foal of a Giants Causeway mare called Spa Break from a US family Philipp Freedman bought into a while back. There is a maiden 3yo in training with Jeremy Noseda called Cable Street, whom Cliveden sold for 280,000gns as a yearling. I’d expect him to be running early in the season if he’s going to be anything. Before any of this happens there is an important date at Newmarket for Cliveden when their star 2yo colt appears at the Breeze-Up Sales. I am talking of the unnamed Oasid Dream colt out of the stud’s star mare Independence. He went through the ring at the Yearling Sales in October but was led out unsold at 250,000gns. He is a full-brother to the Voltigeur winner Monitor Closely and halkf-brother to the Eclipse winner Mount Nelson. This is the fine family of Cliveden’s superb Derby winner Reference Point. Hopefully he’ll sell well but it is exciting to see a Dubawi yearling filly out of this consistent mare in the wings. Cliveden have a good feel about them this year with these four exciting fillies. Though I expect them to have a good year this year it is probably 2016 when they will be seen to their best. Exciting times and I’ll return to these in a few months.