Beneficial puts down a marker
Katherine Fidler with a bloodstock review of the racing week and news from the sales.
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* Beneficial, one of Ireland's top National Hunt stallions, looks to have another strong hand in this year's Champion Sire race. After a stint at the top of the table last season, the Knockhouse Stud resident saw his placing slide following the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, though secured a podium finish behind King's Theatre and runner-up Oscar, with whom Beneficial shared the leading GB Point-to-Point sire title on 40 wins apiece. As the season 'proper' swings into action however, the latter once again looms large as a contender for the crown, demonstrated by an across the card treble at Down Royal on Friday.
Top Madam, a second foal for her dam Supreme Madam (Supreme Leader), formed the first leg when holding on to defeat Thynetocatcher (Catcher In The Rye) by a length in the Grade 3 EBF Lough Construction Ltd Mares Novice Hurdle, with paternal sibling Celtic Cailin filling the frame. Festival third Monksland quickly converted the win into a double when justifying his odds-on favouritism to land the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle over 2m, before Benefficient, who filled tenth place behind Monksland at Cheltenham in March, regained his winning form in the card's 2m4f Beginners' Chase. Already a Grade 1 winner over hurdles, connections of the six-year-old will be hoping the promising start to his chasing career continues with more fluency than the inconsistent form posted over timber.
"The term 'non-Thoroughbred' may be alien to some but this group of runners consistently figures in many a top-flight finish and the weekend saw more of the same."
* The term 'non-Thoroughbred' may be alien to some racegoers, but this group of runners, primarily bred in Britain, France and Ireland, consistently figures in many a top-flight finish, Our Vic (Old Vic), Edredon Bleu (Grand Tresor) and Nacarat (Smadoun) to name but a handful. The weekend saw more of the same when Une Artiste (Alberto Giacometti) and Silviniaco Conti (Dom Alco) claimed the Listed Mares' Hurdle and Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase respectively; both are French-bred, both hail from the AQPS register (autre que pur-sang, literally meaning 'other than pure-blood'), and both are descended from Courte Point (Tino Rossi). Born in 1946 and featuring no closer than fourth dam in either pedigree, it's fairly safe to say the influence of this unraced mare is fairly diluted in both runners; nevertheless, this talented twosome have already joined the ranks of non-Thoroughbreds to wow the crowds, and look exciting prospects to follow for 2012/13.
* A week on from Frankel's finest hour and subsequent retirement, news that his National Hunt counterpart Kauto Star (Village Star) would follow suit triggered an out-pouring of emotion from even the most hardened racegoers. A regular feature on courses first in France before moving to the Ditcheat yard of Paul Nicholls, Kauto Star soon became a favourite amongst fans, his reputation as one of the most outstanding chasers of our time growing with each year as the handsome bay collected wins from 2m to 3m2f.
Nothing endears a sport to its heroes as much as watching them overcome defeat however, something Clive Smith's runner did on two memorable occasions; the first when becoming the only horse to regain a Gold Cup when defeating reigning Champion and stablemate Denman at Cheltenham in 2009, and secondly when returning last season to claim his fourth Betfair Chase and fifth King George, looking every inch the horse of a lifetime and a long way from the mount pulled up by Ruby Walsh at Punchestown earlier in the year. Now just a few weeks from his official 13th birthday, both owner and trainer have agreed it is time the curtain came down on Kauto's career, the horse with nothing left to prove, and to whom the racing fraternity owes so much. With parades and statues already planned, Kauto Star's name is one which will never be forgotten...
"Kauto Star's name is one which will never be forgotten......not least because his half-brother, Kauto Stone followed in his sibling's celebrated footsteps at Down Royal."
* ...Not least because his half-brother, Kauto Stone (With The Flow), followed in his sibling's celebrated footsteps to win the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal just days after the retirement of Kauto Star was announced. A fellow member of the Ditcheat team, the six-year-old helped maintain his trainer's excellent record at the course, who now boasts eight wins from 12 runs; two apiece are courtesy of the Kauto brothers, Kauto Star having twice won the Champion Chase and Kauto Stone winning the 2m4f grade 2 Chase on the same card last year, won on Saturday by fellow French-bred Cristal Bonus (Della Francesca).
* The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) has committed £1.6m to veterinary research and education grants for 2013, an increase of over 30% on the 2012 figure. A priority for both the HBLB and the industry as a whole is the detection and prevention of infectious diseases, particularly notifiable diseases as outlined in the HBLB codes of practice; these include contagious equine metritis (CEM), equine viral arteritis (EVA) and equine infectious anaemia (EIA), an outbreak of which prevented reigning Arc queen Danedream defending her title last month. Newer threats such as West Nile Virus and African Horse Sickness are also high on the list of priorities, alongside other key areas such as equine safety and musculoskeletal injury.
* Buyers from over 30 different countries walked away with a Tattersalls purchase last week, as the 2012 Horses in Training Sale upheld its reputation as a truly international affair. While many buyers had travelled from far and wide however, two of the three lots topping last year's highest price of 310,000gns were bought by local bloodstock agents. Alastair Donald of SackvilleDonald went to 370,000gns for the Listed-winning juvenile Invincible Warrior (Invincible Spirit), while Anthony Stroud was pushed to 340,000gns to secure the Group-placed Saigon (Royal Applause), winner of the Listed Rose Bowl Stakes on just his second start when defeating subsequent German Guineas winner Caspar Netscher (Dutch Art) by a neck.
The pair helped contribute to an aggregate of 20,761,100gns, up an impressive 25% on last year's renewal, while the 22,839gns average and 11,000gns median rose 17% and 22% respectively.
"Freshman sire Henrythenavigator topped off an excellent start to his stud career with a Breeders' Cup win George Vancouver won the Grade 1 Juvenile Turf under Ryan Moore."
* The overseas action continued in magnificent style as the Breeders' Cup returned to Santa Anita for the weekend. Plenty of European hopes travelled over to California, but only one, Flotilla, was able to score for the away team on Friday when leading home a 14-strong field in the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies' (Turf). Trained by Mikael Delzangles, the recent Prix Marcel Boussac fourth formed one half of a Breeders' Cup double for her sire Mizzen Mast, with paternal sibling Mizdirection landing the Grade 1 Turf Sprint the following day.
* Freshman sire Henrythenavigator (Kingmambo), due to move from the USA to Coolmore's Irish base for 2013, topped off an excellent start to his stud career with a Breeders' Cup win after the dual Group 1-placed George Vancouver, trained by Aidan O'Brien, gave a professional performance in the Grade 1 Juvenile Turf under Ryan Moore. The victory is a second at top-flight for the sire after Pedro The Great landed the Group 1 National Stakes in August, though his filly Infanta Branca didn't fare so well at Santa Anita behind Flotilla on Friday, unable to overcome a wide draw when finishing tenth.
* Another of O'Brien's much anticipated runners, St Nicholas Abbey (Montjeu), failed to repeat his Breeders' Cup Turf win of 12 months ago, though stayed on well under the trainer's son Joseph to finish third. The winner, dual Grade 1 scorer Little Mike, is by the unraced stallion Spanish Steps (Unbridled), a full-brother to Unbridled's Song; earlier in the evening a son of the latter, Unbridled's Note, finished just half a length second to Mizdirection in the Turf Sprint.
"Excelebration may have been unable to land a blow for the Europeans, but his half-brother Mull Of Killough earned their dam Sun Shower another spot of black-type."
* Records were broken early on in the meeting when Calidoscopio (Luhuk), became the oldest winner of a Breeders' Cup race. One of 13 runners in the Grade 2 Marathon, including European hope Fame And Glory (Montjeu), the nine-year-old has been a consistent black-type performer over recent years in his native Argentina before making the trip to California a winning one.
* Last year's most expensive auction buy, Royal Delta, helped justify her $8.5m price tag when landing a second Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. Offered at Keeneland's November Breeding Stock sale, the daughter of Empire Maker was bought by Benjamin Leon and returned to training, proving just as classy at four years old, adding another Grade 1 to her tally before Friday in Belmont's Beldame Invitational Stakes.
In a similar scenario, Grade 1 Filly & Mare Turf winner Zagora (Green Tune), in action 40 minutes before Royal Delta, also has a date with the auctioneer as Hip 152 at Fasig-Tipton on Monday.
* Excelebration (Exceed And Excel) may have been unable to land a blow for the Europeans, but his half-brother Mull Of Killough earned their dam Sun Shower (Indian Ridge) another spot of black-type when the two and a half length winner of Newmarket's Listed James Seymour Stakes. The six-year-old, trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam, earned his first Pattern title last month at the same track when beating Tattersalls session-topper Saigon in the Group 3 Darley Stakes.