National Hunt Sire Cheltenham Preview

The late Presenting has not won a NH champion sires’ title since the 2010-11 season, but the former Rathbarry Stud sire, who has won the sires’ title four times and been a top three stallion every year since 2014-15, is leading the title charge this season.

As has been the case for the last few NH seasons the title chase is developing into a close battle – at the time of writing Presenting is just £176,781 ahead of last year’s leading NH sire and six-time champion King’s Theatre.

Presenting has had 83 winners from 307 runners who have won 120 races between them. He is clearly winning by representation on the track – Oscar (third with 69 winners), Beneficial (fourth and 74 winners), Milan (fifth with 73), and Flemensfirth (sixth with 66) are the other NH sires so far this season to have had more than 250 runners. Presenting, King’s Theatre and Oscar are the only sires so far to have picked up progeny earnings over £1 million.

The title will depend as usual on the results at the upcoming Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, and in particular on the valuable headline events.

So often one big horse makes a sire’s season, but Presenting does not seem to have a real standout in any of the Grade 1s at the Cheltenham Festival, his top prospect ahead of the four-days is Give Me A Cooper, a 6-1 chance for the Ultima Handicap Chase (G3).

Presenting Percy represents Presenting’s strongest chance of big-money success at this year’s Festival – as a dam sire. Last year’s RSA Chase (G1) winner and the joint-favourite for this year’s Gold Cup is by the admirable dual-purpose sire Sir Percy, out of the point-to-point winner Hunca Munca and hailing from the family of 2006 Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition.

Presenting Percy has been conspicuous by an almost absence for the year – the campaign orchestrated this season by trainer Patrick Kelly has seen his star performer run just once to win over hurdles.

The week could open with success for the French stallion roster in all three of the opening day’s Grade 1 races. The Haras De Mirande-based stallion Al Namix (Linamix) has two horses at the top of the betting for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (G1), the current favourite Al Dancer and 8/1 chance Elixir De Nutzm, while Kapgarde is due to represented by second favourite Fakir D’Oudairies.

Shantou could be the first Irish-based sire to have a horse on the Grade 1 winners’ podium this year – his five-year-old gelding Angels Breath is a 11-2 hope in the Supreme.

Voix Du Nord’s son Defi Du Seuil heads the betting for the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (G1) at 10/3 ahead of Lalor, a German-bred son of the French-based It’s Gino.

The 15-year-old progressive stallion Mahler, a son of Galileo who stands at Beeches Stud in Ireland, has strong hopes with the Mick Channon-trained and Tin Radford-owned Glen Forsa.

The Crillion gelding Buveur D’Air heads the market for the Champion Hurdle (G1) in a bid for a repeat success of 2018. The mares Apple’s Jade, who is by the Irish-bred deceased Haras de Cercy-based sire Saddler Maker, and Laurina, a daughter of the Haras d’Annebault sire Spanish Moon, are both aiming to become the first female Champion Hurdle winner (and fourth in total) since Annie Power’s success in 2016.

Yet another French sire, Doctor Dino, has strong chances of maintaining his excellent year in the day one feature with the Willie Mullins-trained Sharjah, who is a 10/1 chance. He won the Grade 1 Morgiana and Ryanair Hurdles in November and December.

Day two could be the day for Irish stallions. The 2m5f Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (G1) is headed by the possibly well-named Champ, a son of King’s Theatre, from Battleoverdoyen, a unbeaten son of the Sunnyhill Stud stallion Doyen. And while the Network gelding Delta Work heads the market for the RSA Chase (G1), Topofthegame (Flemensfirth), Ok Corral (Mahler), On The Blind Side and Champagne Classic, both by Stowaway, should offer strong competition.

Alitor (High Chaparral) looks as close to a certainty in the Champion Chase as there can be and is priced accordingly at 4/11, while Min is a 5/1 hope. He is by Walk In The Park, a son of Montjeu and now based at Granges Stud in Ireland having originally stood in France.

Always of great interest to NH breeders is the result of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, and Muhtathir, a capable dual-purpose stallion whose leading progeny list is headed by Festival hopeful sire Doctor Dino (see Sharjah), has the favourite in the shape of the Cheveley Park-owned and Gordon Elliot-trained unbeaten five-year-old gelding, Envoi Allen.

Second favourite is the JP McManus-owned and Willie Mullins-trained Blue Sari. He is by the 16-year-old son of Sadler’s Wells and Haras de Mirande resident Saddex.

After a turn-around regarding running plans at Cheltenham, owners Paul and Clare Rooney are on course to let their two-time winner Get In The Queue take his chance. He is a son of Mount Nelson, who has transferred from life as a Flat stallion at Newsells Park Stud to a career as a dual-purpose sire at Boardsmill Stud. Success for him would be important to a number of NH pinhookers who spent an average price of €18,365 on 43 of his foals at the last Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale. He was the fourth leading sire at the sale by aggregate behind Soldier Of Fortune, Walk In The Park and Flemensfirth.

Many of the week’s earlier leading entries are again entered for Thursday’s 2m4f JLT Novices’ Chase (G1) and the 2m4f Ryanair Chase (G1), while Paisley Park could give Oscar, currently third on the NH sires’ tables with earnings of £1,608,317, victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle (G1). The Emma Lavelle-trained seven-year-old has been so impressive this year with four wins from four starts. He was a €60,000 purchase at the Goffs Land Rover Sale in 2015, and the Stayers’ Hurdle is worth £182,877 to the winner.

One runner who was set to go off a rare Cheltenham even-money favourite was Sir Erec, the son of the promising sire Camelot entered in Friday’s opening contest, the JCB Triumph Hurdle (G1).

As we we write, a week ahead of the juvenile contest, O’Brien has reported that Sir Erec has suffered a stone bruise, though the young trainer tweeted that he is confident that his four-year-old will get to Prestbury Park: “Sir Erec was found to have a stone bruise this morning. With eight days until the Triumph Hurdle, we are confident that will be more than enough time for him to fully recover and get to the race in top form.”

The news has caused Sir Erec’s price to drift, while conversely stablemate Garden Of Babylon has shortened to 10/1 for the Triumph and been taken out of the Fred Winter. He is also by Camelot and finished second to Sir Erec in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle (G1) at Leopardstown in January.

Battleofdoyen is also entered in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (G1) and he heads that market from Commander Of Fleet, a son of Fame And Glory (Montjeu), and Lisnagar Oscar (Oscar). They could give their ancestor, the record-breaking champion sire Sadler’s Wells, a clean sweep at the top in the Grade 1 novice hurdle.

The King George VI Chase and Denman Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux (Kapgarde) is vying for favouritism with Presenting Percy for the meeting’s feature, the 3m2f Gold Cup. If the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding were to take the winners’ prize of  £351,687 it would make him second-highest earner for Kapgarde behind Milord Thomas, the French-based horse a rare runner over jumps to boast prize-money earnings over a £1 million courtesy of 10 wins, including four Grade 1s, in France.

Native River is attempting to make a second win in the Grade 1 for sire Indian River, while the 9/1 chance Kemboy is another Festival representative for Voix Du Nord, Bellshill (10/1) is a son of King’s Theatre and the admirable Thistlecrack (11/1) is, of course, by leading British sire, Kayf Tara.

To finish we thought we might pick a more unexpected stallion for NH breeders to note. Ask, the dual Group 1-winning son of Sadler’s Wells, has recently moved from Coolmore in Ireland to Dunraven Stud in Wales. The 16-year-old has been putting together a good record in Irish point-to-points and can boast a 58 per cent winners-to-runners strike rate under NH Rules.

He has three horses entered at the Festival: his Grade 2 runner-up Ask Ben and Ask Dillion are both entered in the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdles, while Just Don’t Ask has one entry in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (G3).

For the sire, whose first crop are just seven-year-olds, to have three entries with each-way chances at The Festival is admirable, and is worthy of a watching brief by breeders.

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