Highflyer eyes up more Cheltenham glory with 90-strong team
Kauto Star, Big Buck's and Bobs Worth among the agency's success stories
With a list of successes bordering on the ridiculous, those in search of winners at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival could do a lot worse than simply looking for horses sourced by the Highflyer Bloodstock team.
Since the 2007 edition no less than 60 festival races have been won by Highflyer-bought horses, including the winners of 37 Grade 1 events. And having sourced iconic performers such as Kauto Star, Big Buck’s, Bobs Worth, Long Run and Sprinter Sacre, the agency’s influence will forever be etched into the annals of Cheltenham history.
But in the racing world it rarely pays to spend too long looking backwards, and with a mammoth squad of 90 horses selected by the Highflyer team of Anthony Bromley, David Minton and Tessa Greatrex among the five-day entries for the 28 festival races, optimism, excitement and nerves are building in equal measure.
“Minty is always the great optimist and thinks that everything is going to win, whereas I’m a nervous wreck and think that everything’s going to get beat,” reveals Bromley. “Obviously the number of winners you buy is important, but from our point of view as buyers, we feel the job has been more than half done by having so many contenders for Cheltenham. It’s so hard even getting contenders, so with owners coming and telling us they want a Cheltenham horse I feel proud that we’ve been able to find so many of that calibre.”
With the top end of the market for jumps prospects displaying all the signs of rude health, to have so many entrants, including plenty in with live chances, is clearly quite an achievement.
“I’ve never known so many different players fighting over young horses,” says Bromley on the tribulations of sourcing potential festival candidates. “It’s great for the industry, but it makes my job a great deal harder. It’s exceptionally competitive at the ‘perceived quality’ end of the market at the moment.”
While punters will have been hoping to beat the betting market with ante-post portfolios and hours of form study, for agents like Bromley beating the bloodstock market involves a good deal of thinking outside of the box.
The likes of Kauto Star and Big Buck’s are evidence of the success Bromley has enjoyed when plundering France for the next National Hunt sensation, but this year’s Highflyer representatives are an illustration that he and his comrades have broadened their horizons in search of the next Cheltenham hero.
“I’ve been well-known for buying French horses, but that market is a very mature market and it’s getting harder to find clever prospects out of there,” he notes. “Since the recession the strength of the Irish point-to-point game has gone up and up and up and we’ve bought some really nice horses from that sphere. You’ll see a lot of Irish pointers winning this week, and that’s good for the industry as it’s creating a vibrant market.”
Among Highflyer’s leading chances at the four-day jumping jamboree is the Triumph Hurdle-bound Master Blueyes, and the Alan King-trained grey is a prime example of Bromley’s enterprise. While French novice hurdles and Irish points may be among the more obvious places to search for Cheltenham prospects, not many would have considered scouring the 2015 Tattersalls Guineas Breeze-Up catalogue. But that is precisely where the son of Mastercraftsman was unearthed.
“For the last couple of years we’ve been trying to buy two-year-old breeze-ups as dual purpose prospects,” explains Bromley. “It’s a little project me and Alan began as it’s difficult to keep buying six-figure store horses. You’re always trying to look at different angles and that’s one project that seems to be flourishing. The breeze-ups used to be perceived as being all sprint two-year-olds but there’s been a lot of change. Master Blueyes looks to have a serious chance.”
But of all the talented performers Highflyer have sourced, the one that really gets pulse racing was acquired from a more conventional source, with red-hot Arkle favourite Altior being picked up for €60,000 from the 2013 Goffs Land Rover store sale.
“He’s by High Chaparral and I know Minty and Nicky [Henderson] were hot on the idea of High Chaparrals at that time,” Bromley recalls. “He looked a scopey individual with a great walk so I don’t think there was too many debates about buying him.”
While working the store sales is a team effort for Highflyer, Bromley says that the expertise of Minton are not only unrivalled within their own outfit, but throughout the bloodstock industry.
“Nicky and Minty have had great success buying at store sales over the years, I think their record of buying untried horses is the best in the business. I’ve learnt so much working with those two. Every year they come up with a champion prospect that was bought as an unraced, unbroken store, and that takes a bit of doing.”
In the opening day’s highlight, the Champion Hurdle, Highflyer hold a particularly strong hand, having an involvement with six of the possible 12 contenders. But victory for one in particular would bring Bromley the greatest sense of satisfaction. Not only is Yanworth trained by an old ally in King, he was also bred by his father, Bill Bromley, who up until the summer of 2012 owned and ran Wood Farm Stud.
“He was bred by Dad so I’d love to see him win the Champion Hurdle,” says Bromley. “I know Alan’s been very pleased with how his preparation has gone. Since he started training we’ve always bought together so we go back a long way. I think Yanworth has a great chance.”
Kauto the star
And while any success this week will be met with the appropriate level of celebration from the Highflyer trio, Bromley wastes no time in naming his own most treasured festival memory.
“No horse had ever regained a Gold Cup, so for Kauto Star to come back and win a second was a big moment. When he got beat in his second Gold Cup I thought he’d never win another so 2009 was great. Azertyuiop winning the Arkle was a great memory too as it was the first championship race winner I’d bought for Paul Nicholls and that opened a lot of doors for me.”
But for all the personal satisfaction Bromley takes from past success and such a weight of numbers representing Highflyer at the upcoming festival, he is quick to highlight that the whole process is a collaborative effort.
“It’s the three of us that buy the horses,” he says. “Myself, David - who bought Altior, Mite Bite and Ballyandy - and Tessie as well who has horses running for Warren [Greatrex], Charlie Longsdon, Ben Pauling and Oliver Sherwood.
"We’ve had more winners of Graded and Listed races at this stage of the year than any other previous season. Our record is 71, we’re going into Cheltenham with 61, so I’d like to think we can beat that.
"It’s great for us to see our horses with such a variety of yards, and thankfully we’ve got some very good trainers that are using us and they do a very good job with the material we send them. You can’t underestimate how nerve-wracking it is for connections in the last couple of weeks.”
Bromley may be heading into Cheltenham with a rather pessimistic outlook, but with a battalion of exciting Highflyer-sourced runners due to tackle the festival his glass is unlikely to remain half empty for long.