Ten to follow: the sires who could break through at Cheltenham
Martin Stevens with the less heralded names with top festival prospects
Punters are not the only ones poring over fields for the Cheltenham Festival now that bookmakers are going non-runner no bet and the handicap entries have been revealed. Jumps breeders will be eagerly sizing up which sires could be in for a successful week, especially any up-and-coming names who promise to have those highly sought-after Saturday horses in the seasons ahead, and are thus worth sending mares to in the coming weeks.
Here, then, are ten of those less heralded stallions, covering mares this year and not doing so at the top of the market, who could be in the spotlight come the biggest week in National Hunt racing.
So although Flemensfirth and Kayf Tara look like having another fruitful festival, the fact that each is around a quarter of a century old and advertised at a lofty covering fee means this is not the place for them; that would be like suggesting Altior and Buveur D'Air appear to hold leading chances at Cheltenham – stating the blindingly obvious.
Likewise, Germany has two big guns set to fire in Faugheen and Samcro, while Saddler Maker is – quite remarkably – set to field two sisters who are trading as favourites for their festival targets in Apple's Jade and Apple's Shakira. However, both sires are dead, so there is no chance of capitalising on that pair's enhanced profiles.
Dubai Destination, too, has at least two excellent opportunities of a Cheltenham winner with Elegant Escape and Next Destination, but he was exported to Saudi Arabia three years ago.
Of the ten who do make the grade as sires to watch at Prestbury Park next month, seven stand in France, which says a lot about the current state of the jumps market.
Not only are young horses exported across the English Channel for huge sums to race in Britain or Ireland, but there appears to have been a growing trade for their sires to travel in the same direction. The likes of Califet, Robin Des Champs and Walk In The Park, who would have all qualified as exciting sources of jumps talent worthy of inclusion in this article in other years, were snapped up in such circumstances.
But we start with a stallion who started off in Britain and crossed the Irish Sea...
Pedigree 21yo b Sadler's Wells-Wemyss Bight (Dancing Brave)
Stud, fee Ballylinch Stud, €6,000
At 21 Beat Hollow is the oldest stallion to make the cut but as he moved from the Juddmonte roster to Ballylinch Stud and had his focus switched from the Flat to dual-purpose in 2012, his oldest jumps-bred crop are only five-year-olds. One of that vintage – wide-margin Punchestown winner Hollowgraphic, trained by Willie Mullins for Beat Hollow's owner Ballylinch Stud – figures prominently in the betting for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Beat Hollow's Flat-bred offspring include two Cheltenham winners in Cinders And Ashes (Supreme Novices' Hurdle) and Wicklow Brave (County Hurdle), who ran so well for a long time in last year's Champion Hurdle and is around a 14-1 shot for this year's edition.
Black Sam Bellamy
19yo b Sadler's Wells-Urban Sea (Miswaki)
Shade Oak Stud, £3,000
Black Sam Bellamy moved to Britain from a Flat role in Germany in 2009, meaning his oldest jumps-bred crop are eight-year-olds. The son of Sadler's Wells has long proved a solid source of talent – as would be expected of a Group 1-winning brother to Galileo – but is enjoying a bit of a moment at present, with son Sam Spinner fresh from victory in the Long Walk Hurdle and among the leading fancies for the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.
Best known for supplying Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster, Black Sam Bellamy could also be represented by eye-catching Newbury winner Tidal Flow in the Champion Bumper and the progressive Spice Girl in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
13yo b Cadoudal-Buck's (Le Glorieux)
Haras d'Enki, €3,000
Buck's Boum retired to Haras d'Enki in 2011, the year his older brother Big Buck's delivered the third of his four Stayers' Hurdle victories. He was no slouch himself, having finished second to Long Run in Grade 1 company at Auteuil, and he is by Cadoudal, the sire of Gold Cup hero Long Run and grandsire of Timico Gold Cup hopeful Native River.
So it is no surprise that the stallion is coming to the fore with plenty of able jumpers. They include Flogas Novice Chase second Al Boum Photo, around an 8-1 chance for the JLT Novices' Chase among other entries; Deloitte Novice Hurdle runner-up Duc Des Genievres, who has a range of targets for Cheltenham and is shortest in the betting at 8-1 for the Martin Pipe; and unexposed Musselburgh maiden hurdle scorer Coup De Pinceau, who would be a live outsider for one of the festival handicaps.
14yo b King's Best-Sadima (Sadler's Wells)
Haras de Lonray, €3,500
It has been impossible to ignore the rise of Creachadoir this season as his second-crop son Footpad is one of the most exciting young chasers around, having taken Grade 1s with ease on his last two starts and looking banker material for the Racing Post Arkle in three weeks' time.
Creachadoir is no one-trick pony, however, as he could also be represented at Cheltenham by the four-year-old Mitchouka, placed behind Espoir D'Allen twice this winter and an easy winner of the Grade 3 Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
16yo ch Muhtathir-Logica (Priolo)
Haras du Mesnil, €8,000
This globe-trotting Grade 1 winner by Muhtathir, whose other offspring include festival scorers Pacha Du Polder and Silver Jaro, has got some good ones on the Flat – Prix de Diane runner-up Physiocrate in particular – but promises to be an even better wellspring of classy jumpers.
Doctor Dino's Cheltenham squad could comprise impressive Ascot Grade 2 winner La Bague Au Roi, around a 6-1 shot for the OLBG Mares' Hurdle; Sceau Royal, winner of the Henry VIII and Lightning novices' chases and 7-1 for the Arkle; and Sharjah, no match for Samcro on his last start but in with a shout of bouncing back on his early season form.
15yo b Monsun-Guernica (Unfuwain)
Grange Stud, €7,500
The oldest crop by Getaway are aged six and the sire is starting to churn out the volume of capable performers under rules we were entitled to expect, considering he has covered so many mares throughout his stallion career.
This year's festival could just mark the sire's breakthrough, as he has a number of likely sorts entered up – not least Getabird, an unextended nine-length winner at Punchestown last month who is a short price for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle. He also has a sizeable draft for the Champion Bumper, including the last-time-out winners Alighted, Getaway John and Downtown Getaway.
19yo b King's Theatre-Settler (Darshaan)
Haras de la Hetraie, €7,000
Few champion jumps sires based in Ireland or Britain would have ungelded sons good enough to become stallions, and Great Pretender has presented a rare chance for breeders to send mares to a son of King's Theatre – source of Cue Card, Captain Chris, Menorah, Riverside Theatre and The New One among many Cheltenham stars.
Great Pretender has taken after his father and although he is yet to put a festival winner on the board, that could all change this year. Cracking Smart, runner-up in a Grade 1 at Naas last month, is 5-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle; Dortmund Park has a number of hurdle races he can go for; Benie Des Dieux, unbeaten since joining Willie Mullins, is 7-2 for the OLBG Mares' Hudle and 10-1 for the Ryanair Chase; and Claimantakinforgan was disappointing last time but could find redemption in the Supreme Novices'.
Perhaps Great Field, not seen since obliterating his rivals at Punchestown last April, could make his eagerly awaited comeback in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase too.
16yo b Montjeu-Out West (Gone West)
Haras du Quesnay, €10,000
Derby hero Motivator – by that brilliant jumps influence Montjeu – has come agonisingly close to a Cheltenham Festival winner before, as sons New Year's Eve and Modus were narrowly beaten runners-up in the Champion Bumper.
He has a few chances to set the record straight this year, with Modus having flourished over fences and at 9-1 for the JLT Novices' Chase, and Stormy Ireland, who almost lapped her rivals in a Fairyhouse maiden hurdle in December, at single figure prices for the JCB Triumph Hurdle and Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
No Risk At All
11yo ch My Risk-Newness (Simply Great)
Haras de Montaigu, €4,000
The first runners by No Risk At All – a Group 1-placed half-brother to the late, lamented classy chaser and useful sire Nickname – are only four-year-olds but he already finds himself the talk of the French jumps breeding scene.
The stallion, who shares his sire My Risk with Champion Chase hero Sire De Grugy, is responsible for AQPS Grade 1 three-year-old bumper winner Epatante in France, and his candidates for the Triumph and Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham include the winners Casa Tall, Eoline Jolie and Gumball.
14yo b El Prado-Shining Bright (Rainbow Quest)
Haras du Thenney, €5,000
Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Spanish Moon presents a divergent route into the ubiquitous Sadler's Wells sire-line, as he is by El Prado, who is leaving a significant influence on the Flat in America through outstanding sire sons Kitten's Joy and Medaglia D'Oro.
The slightly different bloodlines seem to have worked in jumps racing as, with his oldest runners aged six, Spanish Moon has sired Laurina, who has hardly come off the bridle in two victories for Willie Mullins and is the even-money favourite for the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle. Daphne Du Clos and Shanning, exciting winners on their last starts, are 20-1 or less for the same race.
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