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Best Mate's birthplace for sale

Story by John Donohoe

Wednesday, 5th December, 2012 9:30am

Best Mate's birthplace for sale

The Freffans farm is asking €875,000 with Colliers International.

A decade ago, the international media descended on Jack Quinn's pub at Scurlogstown, looking for the birthplace of the racehorse, Best Mate, which had just won the first of what was to be three successive Gold Cups at Cheltenham.

At the time, nobody knew that the horse had first seen the light of day just out the road, at Moyfern, where Jacques van't Hart had stables on a small holding at Freffans Little.

At the time of the horse's birth in January 1995, van't Hart was living at Garlow Cross, and had stables on the Freffans land.

Working with a pharmaceutical company, he came to Ireland in 1986, and bought the Freffans farm about 15 years ago. "I hadn't a clue about horses when I came to Ireland," he said. " But people began bringing me racing and one thing led to another and I got involved with racehorses. I bought a few National Hunt horses and had successes on the track."

However, van't Hart became disillusioned with the racing game, and decided to into breeding instead. He bought a number of broodmares around the one time. "And uniquely, out of the five of them, they all produced first time winners as foals. This was unusual, as they weren't particularly expensive mares, and only 30 per cent of mares produce horses that ever win a race. But to produce first foals which were all winners was unique."

One of these mares was Katday, which John Fowler and Austin Lyons had previously owned. She was sired to Dermot Weld's Un Desperado. When she showed signs of foaling, van't Hart rang Weld, who said she wasn't due for weeks yet.

"But I wasn't so confident, and I decided to visit the farm before going to work the next morning. And there in the snow in the middle of the field was Katday and her foal. Normally, horses foaling would go to a sheltered spot near a hedge, but she was out in the centre of the field."

He had to carry the almost dead foal to the stable and lift him under Katday to make him drink. After an hour or so, he came around.

"If I had left it until that evening on the way home from work, he would have been dead." Work commitments later brought him back to the Netherlands, and a deal with Dermot Weld to look after his bloodstock when he was away fell through, so he had to sell his stock, including Best Mate, bought by the Costellos in Clare who sold it to Jim Lewis.

Now, van't Hart is selling the property where Best Mate, who died in 2005 at Exeter, was born. Moyfern House, with about 23 acres (9.30 hectares), is a unique contemporary house surrounded by mature gardens and woodland on top quality limestone grazing land. Colliers International is asking €875,000 for the property for sale by private treaty. The house was built about 12 years ago and is exceptionally bright with an open plan contemporary feel to it and superb views of the gardens and surrounding countryside from every room.

Accommodation includes entrance hall/study with timber floor, marble stairs with ornate stair rail, breakfast room, sitting room, conservatory area, dining area with timber floor and kitchen/breakfast room.

First floor accommodation includes master bedroom, three additional bedrooms and a main bathroom.

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