Flemensfirth crowned leading jumps sire after thrilling battle
The 26-year-old son of Alleged claimed his first title
Much of the focus this week has been on Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins as the latter got the better of a thrilling tussle for the Irish trainers' championship but all the while, another titanic battle had been brewing and it came to a dramatic conclusion on Saturday.
Flemensfirth and King's Theatre traded blows all week in the race to be crowned leading jumps sire in Britain and Ireland and despite each sire's progeny having accumulated more than £2 million in prize-money this season, only £55,498 separated the pair leading into the final day of the season.
The late King's Theatre was bidding for a fifth consecutive title and sixth overall, while Flemensfirth - who has comfortably sat in the top ten the past five seasons without reaching the pinnacle - was chasing his first.
Ballymoy sent Flemensfirth into an early lead on Saturday, bringing in £61,900 for his win in the opening Class 2 handicap hurdle at Sandown - an amount which ultimately proved decisive - while his paternal half-brother Show On The Road received £280 for finishing eighth. O O Seven also played his part by finishing third in the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase, earning £5,885.
King's Theatre £2,572,838
King's Theatre went to war with four runners in the bet365 Gold Cup versus Flemensfirth's sole representative, Minella Daddy. But only Theatre Guide, a son of the former, managed to play a part, obtaining £990 for finishing seventh. With only two races to go at Punchestown in which they had runners, it was all still to play for, with Flemensfirth holding a slender lead of £11,577.
That lead was extended to £21,754 when Isleofhopendreams and Kilcullen Flem placed second and fourth in the BoyleSports Handicap Chase, and King's Theatre had just two salvos left - Diamond King and Minella Beau in the Ballymore Handicap Hurdle - though neither was on the mark.
With as many twists and turns as the Elliott-Mullins tussle, Flemensfirth's son Invitation Only appeared to be still in contention when brought down in the Champion Novice Chase won by The Storyteller on Tuesday.
The Beeches Stud stalwart, who is standing at a career-high fee of €15,000, enjoyed better fortunes later in the week with Tornado Flyer landing the Grade 1 bumper and Colreevy completing a double in the Grade 3 bumper on Wednesday and his daughter Magic Of Light winning the Grade B handicap chase on Friday, setting the scene for an ultimate showdown on Saturday.
Other winners of note for the son of Alleged this season were Challow Novices' Hurdle winner Poetic Rhythm, Ascot Chase hero Waiting Patiently and Champion Bumper scorer Relegate.
King's Theatre, meanwhile, came up with two winners from eight runners earlier this week, including Punchestown Gold Cup winner Bellshill, who earned a career-high Racing Post Rating of 172. The son of Sadler's Wells also sired Dawn Shadow, winner of the Listed Mares Novice Hurdle on Thursday. A treble at Chepstow on Friday also enhanced his claims on a sixth title.
The former Ballylinch Stud resident also had Aintree Hurdle winner L'Ami Serge and fellow Graded winners Master Dee, The Dutchman and The New One to bat for him earlier in the season.
While not counting towards the jumps sires' title, the growing influence of Flemensfirth and King's Theatre as broodmare sires was also apparent throughout the season - daughters of Flemensfirth responsible for top-flight winners Identity Thief and Next Destination and daughters of King's Theatre supplying Grade 2 winners Portrush Ted and Wholestone.
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