Festival hero Labaik to go through the ring at Aintree next week
Supreme Novices' winner has ability to match his quirks
The big players of National Hunt racing were presented with a tantalising opportunity on Wednesday when it emerged that one of the sport's rising stars is to be offered for sale at the Goffs UK Aintree Sale next week.
Labaik, a revelation at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago, has a history of refusing to race but in winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle showed the kind of ability that nowadays comes at a huge premium. In the circumstances, the addition of his name to Thursday's catalogue by owner Aidan O'Ryan sets a fascinating conundrum for the market.
Having been reluctant to race on his final start before Cheltenham, and refused to do so on consecutive occasions in December, Labaik was sent off at 25/1 at the Festival. But the six-year-old produced a stunning performance, swooping from the back of the field to beat the fancied Melon by two lengths.
Of the decision to sell, O'Ryan said: "The other partners involved in him wanted to send him to the sales to see what he'd make. He's there for sale and it's up to everyone else. He's a Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner at the end of the day and the best place to sell is at public auction.
"Cheltenham was brilliant as he showed his true ability and that he's a very good horse. He just decided to jump off which he was great. It's always been well advertised that he has massive ability and it's just a matter of when he decides to put it all to good use."
Shadwell originally purchased Labaik for €130,000 at the Arqana August Yearling Sale of 2012. His best performance in eight starts for those interests came when finishing second in a three-year-old maiden at Deauville for John Hammond.
Transferred to Owen Burrows, he refused to race at Lingfield last May and it was decided not to persevere with him. O'Ryan and new trainer Elliott were able to snap him up for £25,000 at the Goffs UK August Sale.
"He was a nice-looking horse," O'Ryan explained. "And I just thought that Shadwell went to the hassle of bringing him back from John Hammond to Owen Burrows as a five-year-old last year, they obviously thought he had plenty of ability too."
Bred by famed Flat nursery Ecurie des Monceaux out of the winning Choisir mare Avanguardia, Labaik is a half-brother to the French Flat winner Danza De La Barre. His granddam, the Listed-winning Hector Protector mare Anthurium is in turn a half-sister to dual Group 2 winner and Arctic Tack Stud stallion Arcadio.
He is a feather in the cap of his sire Montmartre, who is one of five sons of Montjeu to have supplied to have supplied Grade 1 winners over jumps.
Labaik had a rating of just 70 when making his last appearance on the Flat and that adds another exciting dimension for any new purchaser. On the evidence of the ability he revealed at the Festival, he may prove to have a very low mark indeed if tried again in that discipline.
Moving him from Elliott's yard would clearly be a risky strategy, however, judging from the way he found the key to the enigma at Cheltenham. O'Ryan confirmed: "Obviously we'd be hoping that if someone buys him they might send him back to Gordon."