Why Theatre reigns supreme as king of Cheltenham stallions
Late Ballylinch Stud resident has excelled at jump racing's Olympics
When the Racing Post asked Ballylinch Stud managing director John O'Connor for a festival fancy, he told us: “The best advice I can give anyone betting at Cheltenham is follow King's Theatre.”
O'Connor may not be a non-partisan judge, as he looked after King's Theatre at Ballylinch for 15 years until his death in 2011, but his verdict is fair. An exceptional source of jumps talent, the stallion has supplied the most Cheltenham Festival winners in the last five years, with ten.
The best runner by King's Theatre on Racing Post Ratings is the evergreen Cue Card, who contributed to those statistics by landing the Ryanair Chase in 2013, although it was Balthazar King who did most for the sire in this range of years, scoring in the Cross Country Chase twice.
Having supplied the most winners and place-getters at Cheltenham in 2012, 2014 and 2015, it was a relatively quiet festival for King's Theatre last year with just the one offspring in the winner's enclosure, Diamond King after the Coral Cup.
It should be back to business as usual this year, with Cue Card appearing to hold a leading chance in the Gold Cup and the likes of Bellshill, Shaneshill, The New One and William Henry in with a shout in Grade 1 events.
Cue Card's owner Jean Bishop has enjoyed huge success with King's Theatre progeny and besides by the nine-time Grade 1 winner her silks could be carried this week by other sons Royal Vacation, winner of the Kauto Star Novices' Chase and in tomorrow's RSA Chase, and Theatre Guide, successful in the Unicoin Group Handicap Chase and back for more in the Ultima Handicap Chase today.
LEADING SIRES AT THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2012-16
King's Theatre (Sadler's Wells, dead) 10-12-4
Robin Des Champs (Garde Royale, Glenview) 8-1-1
Oscar (Sadler's Wells, retired) 6-4-6
Beneficial (Top Ville, dead) 5-5-2
Kayf Tara (Sadler's Wells, Overbury) 5-0-4
Milan (Sadler's Wells, Grange) 4-6-3
Presenting (Mtoto, Glenview) 4-4-2
Westerner (Danehill. Castle Hyde) 4-2-1
Old Vic (Sadler's Wells, Dead) 3-1
Shirocco Monsun Glenview 3 1
Six of Robin Des Champs' eight festival victories between 2012 and 2016 were supplied by his brilliant daughter Quevega in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle between 2012 and 2014 and outstanding son Vautour in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, JLT Novices' Chase and Ryanair Chase between 2014 and 2016.
The identity of the Glenview Stud resident's other Cheltenham scorers in this time frame – Sir Des Champs and Un Temps Pour Tout – demonstrates the sire's uncanny knack for coming up with a top-class jumper.
Robin Des Champs' previous festival winners were bred when he stood in France and he is becoming increasingly reliant on crops conceived after his move to Ireland.
Two such horses, Champers On Ice and Sizing Tennessee, have a squeak in the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase and Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase today, while another, Tombstone, should take all the beating in the Coral Cup tomorrow, having at one time been under consideration for the Champion Hurdle.
Oscar, on the mark with six Cheltenham victories in the past five years, has supplied a winner of three of the four championship events at the festival – Lord Windermere in the Gold Cup, Rock On Ruby in the Champion Hurdle and Big Zeb in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, with a blank in the Stayers' Hurdle although At Fishers Cross was a close third in 2014 and Black Jack Ketchum fell as a short-price favourite in 2007.
Oscar has no entries in the Stayers' Hurdle this week to set the record straight, but River Wylde in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle today and Our Kaempfer in the RSA Novices' Chase and God's Own in the Champion Chase tomorrow could give him other top-flight success.