Five Cheltenham runners that can keep success in the family
Sons of Oscar, Scorpion and Special Kaldoun all have leading chances
1. Finian’s Oscar
Oscar - Trinity Alley (Taipan)
Race Neptune Novices’ Hurdle
Finian’s Oscar immediately catches the eye having cost Tom Malone, the man responsible for previous festival winners such as Dodging Bullets, Ibis Du Rheu and Qualando, and Joe Tizzard £250,000 after a comfortable success in an Irish maiden point-to-point.
As his name suggests, he is a son of Oscar, whose roll of honour includes a wide array of festival scorers, including Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby, Champion Chase winner Big Zeb, Neptune winner Peddlers Cross and Gold Cup and RSA Chase hero Lord Windermere.
There is also strong festival form on the female side of Finian’s Oscar’s pedigree, as he is the second foal out of the Taipan mare Trinity Alley, whose half-brother Finian’s Rainbow recorded a memorable success in the 2012 renewal of the Champion Chase for Nicky Henderson.
On top of his taking price and pedigree, Colin Tizzard’s charge has remained unbeaten in four career starts, having added to his point success when readily winning a Hereford novices’ hurdle, claiming the Grade 1 Tolworth by five lengths and landing a Listed novices’ event at Exeter with the minimum of fuss.
There’s no telling quite how far Finian’s Oscar can go, but price, pedigree and performance suggest he might be heading for the very top.
Craigsteel - Last Theatre (King’s Theatre)
Race Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Nigel Twiston-Davies holds a strong festival hand with the likes of The New One, Ballyandy and Foxtail Hill set to line up, and in Wholestone he has another candidate with a fine chance of providing the Naunton trainer with yet another winner at his local track.
The son of Craigsteel has some talented performers in his pedigree, most notably 2011 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, 2012 RSA Chase, and 2013 Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth, who is out of a sister to Wholestone’s dam, the fairly useful hurdler and Listed-placed Flat performer Last Theatre.
The daughter of King’s Theatre is a half-sister to the six-time Listed winner Ballykett Nancy, and descends from the same family as French 1,000 Guineas winner Ukraine Girl and the Gerry Fielden winner Distant Prospect.
Wholestone was bought as a foal by Ian Ferguson for just €11,000, but instantly proved himself a bargain when making a winning debut in a Worcester bumper.
He has continued to show progressive form since being sent hurdling, and has added four further wins to his CV, including a pair of Cheltenham Grade 2s, one over three miles, and the latter by a comfortable three lengths over 2m4f.
Progressive, hardy, and with an appealing festival pedigree, Wholestone looks set to go very close.
Medicean - Night Teeny (Platini)
Race Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Melon may not have an entirely conventional pedigree for a festival contender, but his page is rich in high-class Flat performers, and in a race like the Supreme there’s a chance he will be much nearer his peak physical development than some of the more stoutly bred types in opposition.
His sire, Medicean, may be more accustomed to supplying Royal Ascot horses than Cheltenham contenders, but the likes of Beau Michael, Trenchant and Sempre Medici stand as proof that he is fully capable of producing very smart jumps performers too.
Melon hails from a family that boasts some strong European form, with his half-sisters Night Of Magic having landed the Italian Oaks and Night Serenade having won a German Listed event over 1m3f. Night Of Magic is also the dam of Nightflower, who was champion three-year-old filly in Germany in 2015 having won a pair of Group 1s over 1m4f.
He may lack the hurdling experience of some of his rivals, but he did race four times on the Flat in France, winning over 1m4f himself on his third outing, which will undoubtedly stand him in good stead come the festival curtain raiser.
He showed boundless promise when winning a Leopardstown maiden hurdle on debut for Mullins, and both pedigree and potential make him a serious contender to give his handler a sixth Supreme victory.
4. Dandy Mag
Special Kaldoun - Naiade Mag (Kadalko)
Race Triumph Hurdle
Trying to predict the running plans of Willie Mullins is a game fraught with risk, but what is for certain is that whichever race Vroum Vroum Mag lines up in, be it the Champion Hurdle or the Mares’ Hurdle, she is going to have a big chance. Should she hit the frame in - or even emerge victorious from - either of her Tuesday targets, she would provide her half-brother, Dandy Mag, with a significant pedigree update come Friday’s Triumph Hurdle.
Special Kaldoun may be an unfamiliar name at present, but he has already supplied impressive Fairyhouse maiden hurdle scorer Bleu Berry, and in Dandy Mag he could have a horse set to put his name up in lights on jump racing’s biggest stage.
Vroum Vroum Mag is not the only high-achieving jumps performer in Dandy Mag’s pedigree however, as his dam, the winning Kadalko mare Naiade Mag, is a half-sister to the Grade 1-winning novice hurdler come high-class chaser Saint Are.
Dandy Mag finished second on both starts for Etienne Leenders in France, before showing the benefit of the switch to the Mullins’ yard when running out a facile winner of a Gowran maiden hurdle in mid-February.
On form the stable has stronger chances in the Triumph, but few can match Dandy Mag on pedigree, and with potential in spades and odds of 33-1 still available, there looks to be plenty of value left in his price.
5. Might Bite
Scorpion - Knotted Midge (Presenting)
Race RSA Chase
A host of sire sons of Montjeu are gathering momentum in the jumping world, and towards the forefront of this new wave of stallions is Scorpion.
He has already produced the Grade 1-winning hurdler Don’t Touch It, and was rather unfortunate not to add a Grade 1 chase winner to his record when Might Bite, who was a street clear at the time, took a crashing fall at the last in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day.
However, Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old looks more than capable of setting the record straight in Wednesday’s RSA Chase. Not only does Might Bite offer standout form credentials, but he also boasts a compelling pedigree.
He is a half-brother to Henderson’s dual three-mile Grade 1-winning novice hurdler Beat That, and is out of a winning pointer who is a sister to 2007 Foxhunters Chase winner Drombeag.
Form and pedigree both point to the RSA proving the ideal test for Might Bite, and he should take all the beating as he bids to atone for his Boxing Day mishap.