The jumps stallions capable of proving a source of Flat talent
Derby day dominated by stallions now serving National Hunt mares
Derby day at Epsom is undisputably one of the focal points of the Flat racing calendar. It is, therefore, something of an oddity that three consecutive races on this year's card, the Dash, the Derby and the following 1m4f handicap, all went the way of horses whose respective sires have had their focus turned towards serving National Hunt mares.
The Investec Dash must rate as one of the most unlikely races the world over to be won by the progeny of a 'jumps sire', as a full field of 19 covers the downhill 5f course in under 55 seconds. But that is precisely what Caspian Prince achieved on Saturday, and not for the first time either, having remarkably landed the race on two previous occasions - all for different trainers - in 2016 and 2014.
Tony Coyle's redoubtable eight-year-old is a son of Dylan Thomas, the Arc-winning son of Danehill who began life at stud at Coolmore at €50,000 but now stands for a tenth of that fee, having moved to the operation's National Hunt arm at Castle Hyde in 2014.
Wings Of Eagles' shock victory in the Derby provided another example of how routinely horses can confound, as his sire Pour Moi must have barely finished covering his first book of jumps mares having been relocated to Coolmore's Grange Stud for 2017, to stand alongside the likes of Milan and Walk In The Park, when he unexpectedly sired the winner of arguably the greatest Flat race of them all.
Admittedly Soldier In Action has already added to the attraction of his sire, Soldier Of Fortune, as a sire of jumpers, having run out a facile winner of a Doncaster juvenile hurdle earlier in the year.
However, he also highlighted that the Irish Derby-winning son of Galileo, whose six-year spell at Haras du Logis Saint Germain in France came to an end when switched to Coolmore's Beeches Stud in 2016, is still well capable of providing useful Flat performers, with Saturday's success earning him a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 107.
Obviously Saturday's winners were bred and born before their respective sires were rebranded as National Hunt stallions, but the point remains that they are clearly well capable of supplying talented Flat performers, even if commercial factors have seen them moved on to pastures new.
But for those principled souls that breed with the hope of producing racehorses that excel on the track, rather than in the sales ring, and don't have the luxury of fortunes to spend, it could just be that there are stallions among the jumping ranks that Flat breeders should consider giving a second look. Here are three such stallions:
Danehill - Hasili (Kahyasi)
Castle Hyde Stud, €6,500
Make no mistake about it, Champs Elysees is a fine sire of Flat performers. True, his stock, by and large, are not known for being precocious, but surely that alone should not preclude a stallion from the opportunity to prove his worth on the level. And there are, of course, always exceptions to the rule, with the likes of Listed winner Avenue Gabriel or Group 3 winner Jack Naylor, who lowered the colours of no less a rival than Legatissimo on her penultimate start at two, that have proved he has got it in him to throw a horse that, if asked, can get up and run early.
However, his strength undoubtedly lies in his ability to throw classy middle-distance types, very much in his own mould, and while that may not necessarily be the vogue, there are still races there to be won and prize-money to be earned and as such, the division should never simply be ignored.
His most noteworthy Flat performer is the Ed Dunlop-trained Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris, who proved Champs Elysees is capable of producing a Group 1 performer. But his title looks under threat, with the likes of dual Listed winner Dal Harraild, who took what had looked a competitive event at York apart with ease on his most recent start, and the unbeaten and upwardly mobile Wadigor, who made a mockery of the opposition when running to an RPR of 108 on his latest outing in a Kempton handicap.
Both of these examples also highlight that, while Champs Elysees' progeny clearly stay well, they have also plainly inherited a turn of foot which seems unlikely to have come from their respective dams.
And if that was not enough to recommend him to Flat breeders, there is obviously his pedigree. He is a son of the inimitable Danehill and the blue hen Hasili, which makes him a brother to the top-class sire Dansili, as well as three-time top-level winner Banks Hill, Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf heroine Intercontinental and the dual Grade 1 winner, and also talented sire, Cacique.
Rock Of Gibraltar - Independence (Selkirk)
Boardsmill Stud, €4,500
As a Group 1-winning two-year-old, Mount Nelson looks a perfectly well-credentialed Flat stallion. Admittedly, after eight seasons at Newsells Park Stud - with five full crops having hit the track - his CV does still lack that all-important Group 1 performer. But it should not be overlooked that he stood each of those eight seasons at increasingly modest fees. So far from disappointing, it could be argued that he in fact punched above his weight before moving to Boardsmill as a dual purpose sire for 2017.
In 2016 he boasted a particularly healthy strike rate of winners to runners in European stakes races, with a tally of over seven per cent. Granted, a number of those stakes wins were gained on the continent, but those results still compare favourably with stallions who stand at a much higher fee, and are sure to have received better mare opportunity.
Moreover, to focus solely on his current stakes performers would be to overlook perhaps his most exciting runner, Librisa Breeze. The grey started off life at around 1m2f, but since dropped back in trip he has improved beyond all recognition, having won two big-field heritage handicaps over 7f with a truly breathtaking turn of foot. He rounded his 2016 season off with a sixth-place finish in the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes, beaten a little over three lengths. If aimed at something like the Prix Maurice de Gheest or Prix de la Foret he looks capable of adding a Group 1 performer to his sire's CV.
Of course, one swallow doesn't make a summer, and Librisa Breeze is by no means Mount Nelson's only capable Flat performer, with the likes of Group 2 winners Highlands Queen and Berkshire, as well as tough and consistent sorts such as Ninjago, Elbereth, and Majeed, who have all been around a while but are still well up to repeatedly running to a high level of form.
Danehill - Lagrion (Diesis)
Castle Hyde, €5,000
First and foremost, Dylan Thomas was a brilliant racehorse. He won six Group 1s, including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2007. He is also closely related to runaway 2012 1,000 Guineas winner Homecoming Queen and unbeaten Cheveley Park Stakes winner Queen's Logic.
Furthermore, he has sired seven top-flight Flat winners, including multiple Group 1 winners Blazing Speed, Dylan Mouth and Nightflower. Despite such a seemingly compelling profile, Dylan Thomas has now stood the last four covering seasons alongside the likes of Westerner and Yeats at Coolmore's National Hunt branch at Castle Hyde. But his position may have more to do with the embarrassment of riches Coolmore have among their Flat ranks, rather than his own ability.
Having compiled a not inconsiderable record with his Flat runners, who are by no means typecast as stayers - take three-time Epsom Dash hero Caspian Prince, high-class miler Captain Cat and ill-fated Poule d'Essai des Poulains third Furner's Green as cases in point - his fee of just €5,000 surely represents a spot of value in such a competitive market place.