John Ingles looks back at last week's Cheltenham Festival from a bloodstock perspective and nominates his sire and broodmare of the week.
Honours among the sires were very evenly spread over the week but a last-day double for Shantou, courtesy of Stay Away Fay in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and Impervious in the Mares’ Chase, meant that the 1996 St Leger winner, who died in 2021, was the only sire to boast more than one winner. Shantou had been successful at the Festival in the past with the likes of Ballynagour, Beware The Bear, Briar Hill and The Storyteller. However, the vote for the sire of the week, taking his success as a broodmare sire into account as well, has to go to Saint des Saints.
His best horse at this year’s Festival was Betfair Chase winner Protektorat who probably ran closer to his best in finishing fifth (losing fourth close home) in this year’s Gold Cup than he had done when third last year. Saint des Saints’ highest-rated chaser was Djakadam who contested four Gold Cups for Willie Mullins, finishing runner-up to Coneygree in 2015 and to Don Cossack a year later. Mullins has been a strong supporter of Saint des Saints ever since and was the trainer of his Festival winner this year, Gaillard du Mesnil, who won the National Hunt Novices’ Chase after being placed in the Ballymore and Brown Advisory in his two previous Festival visits.
In addition, daughters of Saint des Saints were responsible for the Sporting Life Arkle winner El Fabiolo, the Ryanair Chase winner Envoi Allen who was winning for the third time at the Festival, and the mare Maskada, winner of the Plate. Saint des Saints’ influence in the Arkle was particularly strong as not just the winner, but the next two home as well, Jonbon and Saint Roi, are also out of Saint des Saints mares.
Two of the most successful sires at the Festival in recent seasons have been Jeremy and Yeats so it’s worth nothing that they both added to their tally this year, making it seven winners apiece since 2018. Jeremy’s winner was Corach Rambler, successful in the Ultima Handicap Chase for the second year running, while Angels Dawn added to a particularly good Festival record for Yeats’ daughters when winning the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir in which he also had the fourth Dunboyne. Heaven Help Us, Shattered Love and Mount Ida, the last-named also successful in the Kim Muir, are other mares by Yeats to have been recent Festival winners. Yeats was also responsible for the Gold Cup third Conflated.
The most popular National Hunt sires cover huge books of mares which potentially gives them several chances at any given Festival so due credit – sadly, posthumously - has to go to Timos, sire of the outstanding Gold Cup winner Galopin des Champs. Not only was Galopin des Champs a single runner for Timos at the Festival, he remains his sire’s only runner in Britain or Ireland. That’s from a total of just 60 or so foals he sired in France before a lack of support there prompted his export to Libya. Timos was a smart middle-distance performer in France who shares his sire Sholokhov with the likes of Don Cossack, a former Gold Cup winner as already mentioned, and Shishkin, runner-up in the latest Ryanair Chase.
If it’s hard enough for a sire to get more than one winner on the board at any given Festival, what are the odds of a broodmare achieving it? However, that was the feat which the French mare Robbe pulled off last week and in two very different contests, with Jazzy Matty, her four-year-old by Doctor Dino, winning the Boodles (Fred Winter) Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and ten-year-old Delta Work, by Network, winning the Glenfarclas (Cross Country) Chase for the second year running. Robbe’s fine record as a broodmare extends beyond the Festival, however, as she has also produced the Leinster National winner Cap York, the Ten Up Novice Chase runner-up Elwood and Jazzy Matty’s year-older brother Inneston, a progressive novice hurdler for Gary Moore who was runner-up in the EBF Final at Sandown the weekend before the Festival. Robbe, a non-thoroughbred daughter of Video Rock, has been a much more successful broodmare than she was a racehorse as she managed only a second place at best from just three starts over hurdles in France.
Two of last week’s Festival winners fared better than their dams when they ran at the meeting. Stage Star is compiling a good strike-rate over jumps, and in winning the Turners (Golden Miller) Novices’ Chase, he went one better than his dam Sparky May who lost her unbeaten record over hurdles when coming up against Quevega in the 2011 David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle. There was no disgrace in that performance, given that that proved to be the third of Quevega’s six wins in that particular contest. Quevega’s own son Facile Vega won the Champion Bumper at last year’s Festival but had to give best to Marine Nationale in the Supreme this time.
Sparky May’s sire Midnight Legend is also the sire of You Wear It Well, winner of this year’s Jack de Bromhead Mares' Novices’ Hurdle. She’s out of Annie’s Answer who was a 50/1 shot when seventh in the inaugural Mares’ Hurdle in 2008. Incidentally, the runner-up in that first Mares’ Hurdle, Refinement, was represented at this year’s Festival by Walking On Air who was fifth in the Pertemps Final.
The Mares’ Chase winner Impervious was another to improve her family’s Festival record. She’s a granddaughter of the smart Francois Doumen-trained hurdler Bilboa who finished third in the Champion Hurdle in 2002 in the days before the Mares’ Hurdle option existed.
Much has been made of Irish success at Cheltenham last week, though French-bred horses just about came out on top 13-11 against those bred in Ireland. Of those 13 winners with the ‘FR’ suffix, all bar two were trained in Ireland, the exceptions being Faivoir in the County Hurdle (trained by Dan Skelton) and Iroko in the Martin Pipe (for Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero), which shows where much of the best raw talent from France is heading these days. All six of Willie Mullins’ winners were bred in France, while half of the Festival’s 14 Grade 1 winners began life across the Channel. Mullins had five of those – El Fabiolo (Arkle), Impaire Et Passe (Ballymore), Energumene (Champion Chase) and Lossiemouth (Triumph Hurdle) in addition to Gold Cup winner Galopin des Champs, while Henry de Bromhead (Envoi Allen in the Ryanair) and Gordon Elliott (Sire du Berlais in the Stayers’ Hurdle) accounted for the other two.
While the retirement of dual Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle after her final win in the Mares’ Hurdle marked the end of one notable British-bred – albeit Irish-trained - success story, earlier on the first day of the Festival Constitution Hill, bred in Worcestershire by Sally Noott, succeeded her on the race’s roll of honour. Constitution Hill is out of the fairly useful hurdler Queen of The Stage who earned black type from finishing third in the Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown when trained by Nick Williams, the same race which the third British-bred winner at this year’s Festival, You Wear It Well, won on the way to Cheltenham.
Constitution Hill’s sire Blue Bresil was standing at Yorton Farm, just over the Welsh border, when he was conceived, though as a French-bred horse now at stud in Ireland, Blue Bresil’s stallion career has followed a similar path to that taken by several of those successful at Cheltenham last week.
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