Today, what is now the Irish National Stud Farm takes a somewhat different approach to producing champion thoroughbreds but still excels in breeding global stars of the turf. In the heart of racing country in County Kildare, it is the third-largest breeder of thoroughbreds in the world.
Touring with a guide you hear the behind-the-scenes story: stealing the show are the stallions whose racing track records enable them to command gigantic fees to cover mares. Maybe the hours-old foal you see (most are born between February and May) is destined to win the Epsom or Irish Derby.
Through yards and paddocks where equine Living Legends bask in sunny retirement, reminders of the Colonel pop up, including a sculpture featuring zodiac signs unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 2011 – Tully-produced horses have won five Classics for the British Royal Family. In the museum, Ireland’s epic love affair with horses, in history, folklore and sporting life unfolds and there’s even the skeleton of Arkle, the greatest steeplechaser of all time.
And you wander St Fiachra’s Garden, a reflection in woodland, rock and water of Ireland’s natural beauty. Still wondering the while which of today’s frolicking foals you’ve seen are tomorrow’s racing stars.