Cassie Tully takes a look at the Cheltenham Festival through the eyes of the bloodstock world and highlights the super sires that dominate at Prestbury Park.
The countdown is on. Just three weeks to go to until the gates of jump racing’s Mecca swing open.
And before we launch straight into dissections of the fields, it would be prudent to look at bloodstock results and trends of past – yes I know how outrageous that may seem, it is jump racing and it is Cheltenham, anything can happen – but we will dig nonetheless.
While there may be no one single satisfactory result, there is still much to anticipate due to past paternal sibling results.
We know that the likes of King’s Theatre, Presenting, and Robin Des Champs have had phenomenal Cheltenham records, not to mention the unremitting influence of Sadler’s Wells.
But to keep it as current as possible, the last six years in particular, there are a select number of sires who have managed to produce numerous Cheltenham festival winners, and an even further select group who have managed to produce more than one Cheltenham Grade One winner.
Bearing in mind that there are 28 races in the festival week, 14 of which are at Grade One level, below are the super-sires who have given us numerous progeny performances to feast upon.
Note - other sires with two individual winners in the timeframe: Heron Island, Muhtathir, Nathaniel, Network, Presenting , Robin Des Champs, Saddler Maker, Shirocco, Sholokhov, Soldier Of Fortune, Walk In The Park
With regards individual winners in the past six years, Kayf Tara, King’s Theatre, Milan and Poliglote all lead the way with five winners apiece.
Now, any form of winner at the Cheltenham festival is of course a massive deal, but from a Grade-One-win-on-the-pedigree-page perspective, we are going to be extra selective and place emphasis on those sires which have had numerous successes at the highest level.
In this elite group, Kayf Tara once again leads the way with four individual Grade One winners of late. Three of those came in the year 2016 when Blacklion won the RSA Chase, Ballyandy won the Champion Bumper and Thistlecrack won the Stayers’ Hurdle. Three Grade One wins over three different disciplines. And the following year Special Tiara won the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Kayf Tara’s retirement from the British stallion ranks last year will ever be lamented, but there are still much of his progeny to come including one of his best chances at this year’s festival, Thyme Hill in the Stayer’s Hurdle.
A fellow phenomenal influence throughout the years has been Oscar, who is right behind Kayf Tara on three Grade One winners in the last six years. He also has the joint favourite in the stayer’s hurdle, Paisley Park, who won the race in 2019. Another son of Oscars, Lisnagar Oscar, won last year’s edition of the race and he was also represented by Kilbricken Storm in the Albert Bartlett in 2018.
As well as Paisley Park, Oscar is also represented by Latest Exhibition who would be a four-time Grade One winner including last year’s Albert Bartlett were it not for Monkfish. This year he is a possible for both the Brown Advisory Novice Chase and Challenge Cup.
Of course the French stallions are going to be in the mix and Voix Du Nord has had three winners in the last six years at Cheltenham, all three at Grade One level. This is significant because Voix Du Nord died prematurely as a twelve-year-old and has therefore had much less opportunity than some of his fellow elite counterparts with a total of just 300 foals. His Grade One winners are no less than Vroum Vroum Mag, Defi Du Seuil and Espoir D’Allen.
Voix Du Nord is also the sire of Kemboy who won the Irish Gold Cup two weeks ago and this will be Kemboy’s fifth visit to the festival, the best of which so far was his fourth place in the JLT in 2018, finishing seventh in the Gold Cup last year.
The late stallion Stowaway was represented by two Cheltenham winners last year in Monkfish and Put The Kettle On. The former is odds on for the Brown Advisory Novice Chase and the latter is entered in the Champion Chase. But they are also joined by the very exciting Champion Bumper favourite, Kilcruit.
The current favourites of all 14 Cheltenham Grade One races (including joint or close second favourites) are all by sires who have produced Cheltenham performers of past and there are three sires who are represented by more than one individual Grade One favourite.
As mentioned, Stowaway has at least two strong contenders. French stallion No Risk At All is the sire of both Epatante (Champion Hurdle) and Allaho (Ryanair Chase).
But the third stallion is relatively new to the jumping scene. He is actually a horse who currently stands for £15,000 on the flat and is best known as the sire of Enable. That horse is of course Nathaniel and his progeny have been taking humongous strides in the National Hunt sphere to date.
Not only was he represented by two festival victors last year in Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory and Mare’s Novice Hurdle winner Concertista, but the latter is also favourite for the Grade One Mares Hurdle this year and there is now also Zanahiyr who is favourite for the Triumph.
Famous Cheltenham roar or no roar this year, all that we anticipate is still to come. Just twenty-two days to go.
Read this article from last October before Pivotal was retired as a stallion