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Al Ferof (Ruby Walsh) after winning the Supreme Novices hurdle Cheltenham festival 15.03.2011

Al Ferof: Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner drew first bloodfor the French

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Irish-breds lead French 4-3 on festival day one

5.20pmFrench-bred Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase winner Divers brings the final tally on day one of Cheltenham to four wins for Irish-breds, three for the French.

None for Britain.

Divers was bred by legendary French horseman Alec Head and his wife Ghislaine. He is by Highest Honor and out of the Groom Dancer mare Divination. His half-brother Dreux has finished eighth in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Hurdle and sixth in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham festival.

Divination is a half-sister to Dalna, winner of the Group 3 Prix Miesque at two, and Beau Sultan, third to Hector Protector in the Group 1 Grand Criterium at two.

Divers was purchased by his trainer Ferdy Murphy for £21,000 as a four-year-old at the 2008 DBS Spring Horses in Training Sale.

4.50pm Speaking of Sparky May, Midnight Legend and Bryan Mayoh . . . Mayoh was so impressed by Midnight Legend's upgrading statistics that he sent one of his star mares to the stallion at Pitchall Stud this year.

That mare is Sierra, the dam of Songe, who runs in the upcoming Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase.

Sierra is a far cry from Glassy Appeal, the showjumper who produced Sparky May. She is a winning Anabaa half-sister to Prix Jean Prat winner Sillery who cost Mayoh 50,000gns at Tattersalls in December 2007.

If Midnight Legend can produce a mare as smart as Sparky May with crude raw materials, what might he do with the better mares he has since received?

4.45pm Forget about the jockey and trainer standings, the all-important statistics are these going into today's last race: Irish breds have won four races, French-breds two. Britain awaits its first winner of the festival.

Maybe Rougham or Swincombe Rock can bring home the bacon for Britain in the last race today, the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase.

4.40pm Quevega completes her hat-trick in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle with the minimum of fuss.

The wonderful mare keeps paying tribute to Rathbarry Stud master Liam Cashman, who died last year.

Cashman acquired Quevega's sire, Robin Des Champs, to stand at Rathbarry subsidiary Glenview in 2009. The stallion's oldest Irish-bred crop are yearlings.

Quevega was bred in France by Pierre Rives out of the Cap Martin mare Vega IV, a six-time winner over fences up to 2m6f.

Midnight Legend's Sparky May was an honourable second.

4.30pm Silver Gypsy could kickstart another possible festival sibling double by winning the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle. Her half-brother, Quickbeam, is entered for the Pertemps Final on Thursday.

National Hunt breeder Bryan Mayoh has done some number crunching and found that Midnight Legend is one of the best upgrading sires around. A win for Sparky May - out of a showjumper, bred to be a showjumper and the only stakes winner under her first four dams - would add credence to that opinion.

But this race could all be about hat-trick seeker Quevega, a daughter of Glenview Stud's French import Robin Des Champs.

4.10pm Glenfarclas Cross-Country Handicap Chase winner Sizing Australia becomes the third paternal grandson of Sadler's Wells to win at the festival. He follows Captain Chris (King's Theatre) and Hurricane Fly (Montjeu).

One of the other day's winners, Bensalem is by Turtle Island ans so a paternal grandson of Sadler's Wells' brother Fairy King.

Sizing Australia is by New Frontier, one of Sadler's Wells' less prominent jumps stallion sons.

New Frontier, a winner of the 1m1f Group 3 Prix de Conde at two, died aged 10 in 2004. The sire's only black-type performer over jumps is Sizing Australia's brother, Gerry Feilden Hurdle runner-up Frontier Dancer.

Sizing Australia and Frontier Dancer were bred in Ireland by James Linnane out of the hurdles-placed Nashamaa mare All The Gear.

All The Gear is a half-sister to Steamroller, a champion juvenile and three-year-old in the Netherlands. It is the family of Group 3 Diomed Stakes winner Eton Lad and Group 3 AutumnStakes winner Blitzkrieg.

3.30pm Hurricane Fly is bred on the same Montjeu-Kenmare cross as Royal Lodge Stakes and Preis von Europa winner Jukebox Jury.

Jukebox Jury hasn't run since last July but, according to the Racing Post database, is still an entire. Wonder if his owner Alan Spence has had approaches from jumps stallion masters?

3.27pm Oscar sires the second and third home in the Champion Hurdle, Peddlers Cross and Oscar Whisky. Bumper prize-money will do his champion jumps sire hopes no harm.

3.25pm Hurricane Fly maintains his unbeaten record this season with a brave victory over Peddlers Cross (Oscar) in the Champion Hurdle.

Hurricane Fly's Coolmore-based sire Montjeu has establised himself as one of the best middle-distance sires of recent times with two Derby winners in Authorized and Motivator and three winners of the Irish version in Fame And Glory, Frozen Fire and Hurricane Run.

But he does a fine sideline with his jumps progeny too, including Punchestown Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle winner Won In The Dark and other smart hurdlers Blue Bajan and Kings Quay.

Hurricane Fly was bred in Ireland by Agricola del Parco out of the winning Kenmare mare Scandisk.

Credit to Richard Hobson for negotiating the purchase of Hurricane Fly from former trainer Jean-Luc Pelletan for Willie Mullins. The horse was originally bought as a yearling from Goffs for €65,000.

3.12pm Menorah was bred by Elizabeth Grant, mother of jump jockey Mark, and US-based lawyer Anna Brislane.

Overturn bred by Flat trainer-owner-breeder Peter Harris.

3.10pm Dunguib is one of the fruits of a three-year flirtation with breeding for retired college lecturer Liam Meade.

Meade took up breeding in 2000 and bought the mare Edermine Berry carrying Dunguib for €10,000 two years later. Sadly, a serious illness meant he had to give up breeding in 2003 and Dunguib is the only foal he bred out of the dam.

Meade fell in love with Edermine Berry on sight. And it helped that she was by Durgam, as he is a big fan of Durgam's sire Nureyev.

3.05pm HurricaneFly could be standing at stud if his form hadn't tailed off at the end of his three-year-old career. He beat subsequent Group 1 winners Literato and Spirit One when landing the Prix Omnium in the spring but he didn't build on that.

Ex-jockey Richard Hobson, who bought Hurricane Fly from France, says that, even when the horse was ungelded and being trained for the Flat, he was schooled over baby hurdles to keep his mind focussed. "A typically hotheaded Montjeu" was how Hobsondescribed him back then.

3.00pm Four of the first five in the betting for the Champion Hurdle are by sons of Sadler's Wells: Hurricane Fly (Montjeu); Menorah (King's Theatre); Peddlers Cross and Oscar Whisky (both by Oscar).

Sadler's Wells, of course, sire of Champion Hurdle legend Istabraq.

2.45pm Bensalem atones for a fall when travelling sweetly at last year's festival with a win in the Spinal Research Handicap Chase.

In the process, the Alan King-trained  eight-year-old gelding sets up a potential Cheltenham festival double for his dam, the Buckskin mare Peace Time Girl.

Peace Time Girlis also dam of Court In Motion, who is entred for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle on Friday.

Peace Time Girl won three of her seven starts for trainer Francis Flood - one bumper and two hurdles.

Bensalem is by Turtle Island, a son of Fairy King who formerly stood under the Coolmore National Hunt banner but has stood for the last two seasons in Italy.

Phoenix Stakes and Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Turtle Island had flashes of brilliance as a Flat sire, with 2,000 Guineas hero Island Sands and Prix d'Astarte winner Turtle Bow to his name.

His best jumps performer is ill-fated Irish Arkle winner An Cathaoir Mor and his other Cheltenham Festival winner is Triumph Hurdle scorerScolardy.

Congratulations to breeder Peter O'Reilly.

2.30pm Carole's Legacy's owner-breeder Paul Murphy had a pre-Cheltenham boost when another homebred, Skint, won a valuable handicap hurdle at Sandown on Saturday.

Carole's Legacy is a Sir Harry Lewis half-sister to tomorrow's Queen Mother Champion Chase hopeful Mad Max.

The pair are out of Carole's Crusader, a daughter of Faustus whose seven jumps wins included the 3m Charisma Gold Cup at Kempton. The dam died last year.

2.25pm One for your lists of famous Belgians: Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase hopeful The Sawyer was bred in the lowland country. He is the best son of Coolagown Stud stallion Fleetwood and is out of a winning daughter of Hero's Honor.

The Sawyer changed hands for just €2,200 as a three-year-old but has won over £125,000 in prize-money.

2.15pm There is a poignant footnote to Captain Chris's victory. Josie Moore of Ballincurrig House Stud, who consigned the Arkle winner to Tattersalls Ireland when he sold for €250,000, died on Saturday aged 38.

2.05pm The first leg of a famous owner-trainer-sire double? Captain Chris wins the Arkle an hour before Menorah lines up for the Champion Hurdle.

Both horses trained by Philip Hobbs for Diana Whateley and are by this year's leading jumps sire King's Theatre. They are also both out of mares by Strong Gale.

The £74,113 first-place prize-money earned by Captain Chris extends King's Theatre's lead over his closest pursuer Presenting.

Captain Chris was bred by Noreen Walsh - a cousin of trainer Ted Walsh - out of Function Dream. It was a late decision to add Captain Chris to the Arkle but looking at his dam's record it should have been a no-brainer. Function Dream won three Grade 2 chases at around 2m: the Castleford, the Game Spirit and the Victor Chandler.

Captain Chris was bought as a three-year-old by agent Aiden Murphy for €250,000 at the 2007 Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale. He was the third-most expensive lot of the sale. Incidentally, the sale's top lot, Lord Ragnar, is entered for the Coral Cup tomorrow.

That was Captain Chris's secondtrip through the Tatts Ireland sale ring. He had been bought for €66,000 there as a foal.

Function Dream died in 2008.

1.55pm Maybe it will be a case of Deutschland uber Alles in the Arkle. German-bred Ghizao has a fine pedigree - he's by Tiger Hill and out of Fillies' Mile winner Glorosia.

He's bred by Gestut Schlenderhan's Baron Georg von Ullman, who gave us international Flat stars Manduro and Shirocco aswell as a host of German top-notchers.

Well Chief, one of the most admirable chasers of the last ten years and the winner of the 2004 Arkle, also carried the German suffix.

1.50pm So isthis the beginning of a rout for French-breds? Coming up next in the Arkle they account for the favourite, Medermit, as well as Rock Noir.

1.45pm Bloodstock Al on Twitter points out that Al Ferof's dam won over 1m7f on the Flat in France and that with Dom Alco's influence, he should stay further in time.

1.35pm First blood goes to the French-breds with Al Ferof leading home a Gallic one-two-three in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Al Ferof's sire Dom Alco, who died last year, hasnumerous other top jumps progeny on his stud record including Neptune Collonges, who goes for the Gold Cup on Friday, and Grands Crus, who looks the biggest challenger to Big Buck's in Thursday's World Hurdle.

Runner-up Spirit Son is by Poliglote and third-placed Sprinter Sacre is by up-and-coming Monsun stallion Network.

Al Ferof is out of the winning Altayan mare Maralta, making him a half-brother to Ardissone, a daughter of Martaline who was Listed-placed over 2m2f at Auteuil last year.

The siblings are two of only three black-type performers under their first four dams. You have to go back under the fourth dam find the Listed-placed Moineau, born 1968, who was the last mare with bold type onthe page.

Al Ferof was purchased as a foal by Guy Petit for €13,000 at Deauville in 2005. He was registered as bot sold for £62,000 at Brightwells Cheltenham in May 2009.

1.25pm Breeders represented in the Supreme Novices: Darley (Marsh Warbler), Barronstown Stud (Magen's Star), the Aga Khan (Zaidpour). It's like Derby day.

1pm: Zaidpour could be the pedigree pick in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. He's by Red Ransom, sire of 2005 Arkle hero Contraband, and is a half-brother to a festival winner in Zaynar.

Flat pedigree connoisseurs will like Magen's Star, by Galileo and out of a Darshaan mare and so bred on a variation on one of the most celebrated crosses in modern breeding. She's from the family of recently deceased Irish Derby winner Law Society.

Gibb River is also bred in the purple. He's by Classicsire Mr Greeley and out of a half-sister of Oaks winner Love Divine, who went on to produce St Leger winner Sixties Icon.

And keep an eye on Cue Card and Dunraven Storm. Their sires King's Theatre and Presenting are the chief pretenders to this season's jumps sire crown.

8am: The lucrative prizes on offer at this week’s Cheltenham festival could have a big impact on the British and Irish jumps sires’ championship.

With progeny earnings of £1,252,348, Ballylinch Stud resident King’s Theatre currently holds a lead of £239,154 over his closest pursuer, defending champion and Glenview Stud sire Presenting.

King’s Theatre holds a strong hand at Cheltenham today. Cue Card is set to line up as the favourite in the meeting’s curtain-raiser the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Captain Chris is among the leading fancies for the Arkle and Menorah lines up for the Champion Hurdle holding strong claims.

The stallion is also set to be represented by King Fontaine in the Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase and he is triple-handed in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle with Alegralil, Banjaxed Girl and Stephanie Kate.

If those horses fail to fire for King’s Theatre, Presenting could bridge the progeny earnings gap with a trio of runners with fine chances of victory today: Dunraven Storm in the Supreme Novices’; Wolf Moon in the Spinal Research Handicap Chase and Dunguib in the Champion Hurdle.

The Champion Hurdle could play a crucial role in changing the complexion of the leading jumps sires’ table, as it is worth £210,937 to the winner.

Snapping at the heels of King’s Theatre and Presenting are Beneficial, with progeny earnings of around £980,000, and Oscar, on around £975,000.

Knockhouse Stud stallion Beneficial is represented today by Realt Dubh in the Arkle and by Adams Island in the Spinal Research Handicap Chase.

Coolmore’s Oscar has a quartet of entries, headed, perhaps significantly, by two live chances in the Champion Hurdle, Oscar Whisky and Peddlers Cross. His other two are Razor Royale in the Spinal Research Handicap Chase and Oscar Bay in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase.




King's Theatre £1,142,569
Presenting £1,058,475
Beneficial £986,639
Oscar £896,303
Milan £863,940
Westerner £839,012
Flemensfirth £755,621
Kayf Tara £657,044
Midnight Legend £595,332
Stowaway £503,470