Handicap Division

Va Bank-The Background Story

Undefeated. A Triple Crown winner. The highest rated racehorse in the country’s racing history.

Any one of these descriptions on a horse’s resume would be spectacular. Now, imagine having the honor of all three at the same time.

Va Bank is a Polish sensation; a superstar that has enjoyed a rare combination of accomplishments and the fan bases that grow steadily with them.

A Triple Crown winner, no matter what country it was accomplished in, is a title to be respected and admired. It means that the victor had great talent, great connections, and great racing luck that all clashed together in a glorious result as he coasted over the third and final finish line on the trail.

Va Bank has done just that and with emphatic style.

Being undefeated is no small task. So many things have to keep going your way every time the horse steps out onto the track: never having a bad enough day to lose, never suffering race-changing mishaps during the contest, and never being the recipient of bad racing luck. Most horses will never see this amount of good racing fortune go their way. Many will never receive a perfect trip every time they race. Many will not remain healthy enough to enjoy an undefeated or lengthy career. Being undefeated is hard. Great horses create the illusion that being undefeated is an easy feat for all involved.

Va Bank is the picture of such an illusion.

Several thousand Thoroughbred foals are born every year in their respective countries. A select couple thousand of those may end up a multiple race winner in their racing careers, per country. A select few hundred will become black type winners of any kind. An even more elite group will become world-renown for their exploits on the track with fans on every continent. Only a select handful will be bestowed the honor of being crowned as the greatest horse to race in their country’s history.

Va Bank has that honor.

So, we stand in awe of this great racer, and we wonder: is there a secret to his success? Is there a formula or a feed that we all need to invest in to make our racers like Va Bank? Or is it something intangible? Could the secret in fact, be something that is “given” only to a very special horse once in a great long while?

It could well be all of these things. It could be none. Regardless if you are a proponent of science or of the heart, Va Bank has a story that is certain to make even the most hardened rail birds a fan of the Polish super horse. It is my great hope that by the end of this article, the fan base will only grow for the horse that just doesn’t know how to lose.


Photo Credit: Airlie Stud/Brendan. All rights reserved, please contact Airlie Stud for permission to reuse.

Va Bank was born on March 10th, 2012 and was his dam’s first foal.

Seen in the photo, Vinales (IRE) herself never raced, but that’s not to say that the family is not a productive one. Post Va Bank’s success, inquires into a little background information on this home bred mare of Airlie has given some interesting results. Through Brendan, the contact at Airlie that so kindly provided this information to me, I learned quite a bit about her:

“Vinales was also bred by Airlie Stud, she was unraced.  She was sold in the same year that she had Va Bank (2012) for €4,800 to De Burgh Equine at the Goffs November Breeding Stock Sale, she was sold in foal to Jeremy and ended up being sent to Libya.  Unfortunately we do not have any information after she went to Libya.” -Brendan

Wherever you may be in Libya, I hope you’re doing well, Vinales.

Vinale’s dam, Mirmande (GB), did make it to the track and ran twice at the age of three. Not the longest racing career, but it was her broodmare career that distinguished her. Her most accomplished foal, Hordago (IRE), ran from two all the way to seven years of age, and he was a winner over hurdles and fences in the latter part of his career. One of her daughters, Semplicita (IRE) was a ten time winner in Italy over the course of three years and she herself is also the dam of a winner in Italy.  Entente Cordiale (IRE) placed once at four but went on to become the dam of four winners, with the most famous being Equiano (FR), who won the Gr. 1 King’s Stand Stake during the Royal Ascot meeting twice and has since gone on to become a sire. Mirmande’s daughters have proven themselves trust-worthy producers despite not having the longest of careers.

Va Bank’s dam is not the only one that contributed to his gene pool; we also have his sire, Archipenko, to admire as well.

Archipenko Photo Rights and Credits are solely to Lanwades.

Photo Rights and Credits are solely to Lanwades.

Hailing from the Special family tree, not many in the general stud book can boast a more fruitful and accomplished female bloodline than can Archipenko. Names of super stallions such as Sadler’s Wells, Galileo, and Fairy King (to name a few) pepper the pages of Archipenko’s family book, and notable producing mares like Liable (the dam of Blame) and Limit (a stakes producer) catch the attention through their shared dam, Bound. While some names on Vinale’s pedigree may be a bit obscure for the domestic racing fan, many of the names that appear in Archipenko’s stallion register need no introduction. Granted, having the legendary KingMambo as your sire also significantly increases your appeal as a stallion. Being the son of a sire of sires is never a bad thing, especially when you combine that with a female family that some breeding operations would die for if it meant owning a piece of it.

When looking at Va Bank on paper, it seems that it’s no wonder as to why he’s had the level of success that he has in Poland and in Germany. But, paper can only predict so much. A horse’s physical presence is often  a good indication of his quality. Va Bank went from a plucky foal to a sleek teenager. When buyers first saw him as a yearling, a vast array of opinions were formed as to the potential of this youngster before the Tattersalls Ireland September Sale in 2013.


Photo Credit: Airlie Stud/Brendan. All rights reserved. Please contact Airlie Stud for permission to reuse.

Kilmacredock, Airlie’s sister farm that was purchased for the sole purpose of raising yearlings in 1984, has mastered the art of a well-prepared yearling. With Airlie just down the road being regarded as one of the finest vendors at all major European sales, it seems that the recipe for Va Bank’s success started long before he ever stood in the gate for his very first race.

Looking at his conformation picture above, it’s easy to see that he got the best possible start to his career. A shiny coat, trimmed and clean hooves, and already a hint of “the look of eagles”.

And that was just the beginning.

Next week, I will break down his path to stardom and include some videos of his races for the curious few!