Procter in gamble to latch on to hottest brands during Cheltenham
Festival set to play a key role in mating plans decisions
For many punters, the Cheltenham Festival brings to an end months of ante-post punting and dreaming of striking it rich as some of the biggest names in jumping seek to deliver for them up that famous hill come mid-March.
The four-day spectacular represents a gamble of a different kind though for some National Hunt breeders, who find themselves eagerly watching the action unfold in the hope that their calculations have paid off by having their mare in foal to a sire who has supplied a big winner.
One such breeder is Doug Procter of The Glanvilles Stud in Dorset, who produced leading Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle contender Sam Spinner, and has a collection of mares booked in to visit stallions set to be represented at Prestbury Park.
Among them is Tsarinova, a 13-year-old Alflora half-sister to Long Walk Hurdle hero Sam Spinner who is destined for a date with his sire - Shade Oak Stud resident Black Sam Bellamy.
Other stallions being patronised by Procter include Creachadoir, sire of the Racing Post Arkle favourite Footpad, the Haras de Montaigu-based Martaline and Great Pretender, who is set to have the likes of Claimantakinforgan going around for him in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
It all represents a gamble of a different kind but the main reason Procter finalises plans prior to the March showpiece is a desire to make use of a number of French-based stallions.
"Making my decisions on the mating plans after the Cheltenham Festival is too late," said Procter. "With the French stallions, for example, they will close their books and say 'he's going to cover 120 mares and he's full'.
"If I'd have waited until after Cheltenham, half of my mares wouldn't have been able to get into the stallions."
Once the Festival is underway, Procter's thoughts will already be turning to 2019, with results from the festival something he considers when making the following years plan.
"I'll look through the Cheltenham results to gain information that will inform mating plans for next year," he explained. "One horse winning a race at the festival can have such an impact on a sire - take Walk In The Park as an example.
"The first draft of the mating plans will have been done in August and then I'll keep track of how the stallions are doing throughout the year.
"My plans are made before Cheltenham and I watch it with great interest. To me, if a sire I'm using has a winner, it's more of a vindication than it informing this year's decision."
Procter will be far from alone in keeping a close eye on Cheltenham but for Kenilworth House Stud in County Tipperary - home to a number of National Hunt broodmares alongside Flat counterparts such as La Collina - plans for this year will only be finalised once the dust has settled on the 28 races.
Gerry Ross, manager of the operation based outside Cashel, said: "We see if there's any sires that crop up and there's a lot of exciting young sires coming through the ranks who we want to keep an eye on.
"It's more of a case of wait and see how the racing pans out as we have a few mares who we're still deciding on."
Whatever decisions are ultimately made regarding plans for National Hunt mares in the wake of the Cheltenham Festival, the message from breeders is clear - the most highly anticipated meeting in the calendar can have a career-defining impact on the reputation of a stallion.
"A sire will be more high-profile when they have a Cheltenham winner," said Procter. "I hope we've made reasonable decisions and fingers crossed the stallions do well."
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