The breeding behind the winners on day one
Late sires High Chaparral and Saddler Maker supply top-level scorers
Labaik sprang a surprise on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday when getting the better of the highly touted Melon to land the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old has proved frustrating in recent times having refused to race twice in December and setting off in his own time and finishing well beaten on his last start last month.
But it was a different story on Tuesday when the gelding jumped off and was settled by jockey Jack Kennedy at the rear of the field.
As the field turned for home the reluctant starter was cruising under his jockey and took over from Melon as they took the final flight. Quickening clear, he won the contest by two and a quarter lengths.
Bred by Ecurie des Monceaux, a nursery better known for its Flat graduates such as Charm Spirit, Chicquita and Natioanl Defense, Labaik is the first foal out of the winning Choisir mare Avanguardia and is the best performer produced by his dam. He is a half-brother to the French Flat winner Danza De La Barre.
His granddam, the Listed-winning Hector Protector mare Anthurium is in turn a half-sister to dual Group 2 winner and Arctic Tack Stud stallion Arcadio.
Originally a €130,000 Arqana August yearling purchase by Shadwell, for whom he finished second on the Flat at Deauville, he was sold on to Aidan O’Ryan and Gordon Elliott for just £25,000 at last year’s Goffs UK August Sale.
Monceaux sold Avanguardia to Marc-Antoine Berghgracht for just €5,000 at the Arqana December Sale of 2014.
Labaik is a son of Grand Prix de Paris winner Montmartre, who stands at Haras du Hoguenet. He underlines the success that sons of the late Montjeu are having as jumps sires. Montmartre, along with the likes of Walk In The Park, Authorized, Davidoff and Scorpion are all Montjeu stallions to have supplied jumps Grade 1 winners.
Leading performers by Montmartre include Petite Parisienne, Kalkir and Capitane and he is standing the 2017 breeding season at a fee of €6,500.
Altior produces yet another impressive performance
Altior - a horse who has drawn comparisons with his trainer Nicky Henderson's last superstar Sprinter Sacre - produced another impressive performance at the Gloucestershire track to win the Racing Post Arkle Chase.
Charbel had set the pace throughout but fell at the second last to leave the race at Altior’s mercy. Driven out by jockey Nico de Boinville, he pulled clear to win by six lengths.
It was back-to-back successes at the Cheltenham Festival for the seven-year-old as he won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in scintillating fashion in 2016.
He was bred by Paddy Behan out of the winning Key Of Luck mare Monte Solaro and is a half-brother to the winners Princess Leya and Key To The West. He is from the family of Listed scorer Crosspeace and also features Triumph Hurdle second Moorish in his pedigree.
Highflyer Bloodstock picked him up for €60,000 at the Goffs Land Rover National Hunt Sale in 2013.
Altior’s sire, the late High Chaparral, won both the Derby and Irish Derby for Aidan O’Brien. He is more associated with supplying top-class performers on the Flat, where his leading lights include Group 1 winners Free Eagle, So You Think, Toronado and It’s A Dundeel.
Buveur seals Champion Hurdle honours
In a wide-open Champion Hurdle, it was the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air who got the better of stablemate My Tent Or Yours to seal a four-and-a-half-length victory in the contest.
A host of horses were in with a chance as the race entered its final stages but jockey Noel Fehily who produced Buveur D’Air at the right moment to cast his name in lights.
A six-year-old son of Crillon, Buveur D’Air was bred in France by Gerard Ferte out of the placed Alesso mare History. He is a half-brother to another Henderson-trained Grade 1 winner in Punchestowns, who landed the Long Walk Hurdle and Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, and finished second to Big Buck's in the World Hurdle.
Crillon, a 21-year-old son of Arc scorer Saumarez, stands at Haras de la Baie and has also supplied Grade 1-winning French hurdler Alex De Larredya and Grade 3-winning chaser Jemy Baie.
Apple's flies flag for late Saddler Maker
Apple’s Jade produced a battling performance for trainer Gordon Elliott to fend off the challenge of both Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini to claim the Grade 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.
Tracking the leaders, Apple’s Jade was pressed by Mullins’ two brilliant mares once she took the lead but she rallied gamely to assert her dominance to win the contest.
Ronny Coveliers bred Apple's Jade in France out of the winning Nikos mare Apple’s For Ever and she is a sister to the French winners Apple’s Maelys and Madame Apple’s. She is from the family of Listed winners Apple’s Girl and Arielle.
The success of Apple’s Jade in this race showed why the death of her sire Saddler Maker at the age of 18 was such a loss. A son of Sadler’s Wells, the former Haras de Cercy resident is also responsible for high-class jumpers Bristol De Mai, Alpha Des Obeaux, Bouvreuil and Label Des Obeaux.