Denniffs Banking On Star Graduate

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Beat The Bank | Racing Post

By Tom Peacock

When Fiona and Mick Denniff bred sport horses it would take a geological age for their work to come to fruition. Returns from their transition to Thoroughbreds have been rather more immediate and the exploits of Beat The Bank (GB) (Paco Boy {Ire}) have taken the Nottinghamshire-based couple to another level entirely.

The gelding bound for this weekend’s G1 Al Shaqab Lockinge S. at Newbury sold for 30,000gns to Darren Bunyan at Book 2 of the Tattersalls October Sale in 2015 and was to make such rampant progress for Andrew Balding that his half-sister by Exceed And Excel (Aus), now named Chil Chil (GB), became the most expensive filly ever to go under the hammer at that same sale two years later when knocked down for 500,000gns.

“If you breed a showjumper or an eventer, they’re not really doing anything when they’re five, which is about when Flat horses are finishing,” Fiona Denniff explains. “It’s a much longer process altogether.”

What is extraordinary is that Beat The Bank and lightning-fast sprinter Kachy (GB) (Kyllachy {GB}) are both descended from only the second broodmare they had ever bought. Fiona picked out Hill Welcome (GB) (Most Welcome {GB}) for just £3,000 at Doncaster in 2001 and she produced G3 Molecomb S. runner-up Mary Read (GB) (Bahamian Bounty {GB}) the following year as well as a string of other useful performers including the prolific Dubai Hills (GB) (Dubai Destination).

Manor Farm near Newark is still a working arable business and Denniff, who had some experience with point-to-point horses, took a gamble.

“I’d bred a couple from the first mare I bought and when I bought the second broodmare I wanted a 32-acre grass paddock, which Mick said was his best field on the farm, but it went from a wheat field to a grass field. The horses have the prime bits.”

She continues: “I looked at the pedigrees, I like to see black type close up and also I tend to look at sprinting families. I went to see Hill Welcome, and she was the greatest walker. I like to see a nice walk, she’s not the biggest in the world and still isn’t-but she was an athlete for me. Obviously not to anyone else, though as I got her quite cheaply! To be fair, had she been a lot more money, she wouldn’t have been mine.”

Hill Welcome is now 20 and will pass the baton on to others soon. Her filly by Bated Breath (GB) made 35,000gns at Tattersalls last year.

“She has a lovely Twilight Son colt foal at foot and is back in foal to Brazen Beau,” says Denniff. “We’re playing it year by year with her-if she hadn’t looked really well, and if the foal hadn’t looked well, and foaling hadn’t gone well, we’d have retired her. Everything went so well, so we’ve continued. The minute she tells me to stop, I will do.”

Beat The Bank’s dam Tiana (GB) (Diktat {GB}) is another of Hill Welcome’s daughters and the Denniffs let her go for £90,000 to Darley and Princess Haya of Jordan, for whom she won a Folkestone maiden and was listed-placed. In another sign of their sound judgement, they bought her back for 35,000gns the second time she appeared at the December Mares’ Sale.

“We’re sellers. We take everything to the ring, colts and fillies, to keep us going,” Denniff explains. “I’ve done quite well selling off my fillies then buying them back when other people have paid to race them. I did that with Tiana, I did it with Dubai Bounty (the dam of Kachy), and with Jacquotte Delahaye and Mary Read. I guess if you go to the ring and there’s one you bred against one you haven’t bred, you’d buy the one you’ve bred, although it wouldn’t be complete sentimentality.”

Beat The Bank did not exactly wow buyers in the ring and had won a Dundalk maiden before his private transfer to King Power, the racing interest of Leicester City FC owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Just a couple of weeks before Book 2 had begun, Balding’s rising star had been an impressive winner of the G2 Shadwell Joel S. at Newmarket and it prompted unprecedented interest in Chil Chil, who was consigned by Adam Hill of Rosyground Stud.

“Beat The Bank walked well enough, although he didn’t have what you’d call a sales walk,” Denniff recalls. “But in fairness to him, I was talking to Darren Bunyan at the sales and he thought he ticked all the boxes.

“The Exceed And Excel [filly] did have a sales walk. She must have stood out because we don’t put big reserves on our horses, and she was on her own in that ring. Every time we pulled her out, I don’t remember anyone saying anything bad about her. It sounds a bit conceited, but you know when you’ve got a nice one. She had a lovely shape, walked well, looked like an athlete. I’m sure Andrew would have liked her regardless.”

Balding said he agrees. “She was a nice filly anyway, the best one in the sale, [agent] Alastair Donald and I thought, but obviously there was the extra interest in her from the owner,” he said. “She’s actually a better mover than Beat The Bank, he’s always been a little bit ungainly. She’s a very good mover, and a good size, but we’ll be taking our time with her. She won’t be out any time soon, but later in the season.”

Denniff understandably now has high hopes for Tiana’s yearling filly by Showcasing (GB), who was withdrawn from the December Foal Sale.

“She looks very, very similar to the Exceed And Excel. She’s the same shape, same colour, same colourings, I like her a lot.”

Next on the agenda for Tiana is a date with Dalham Hall’s regal Dubawi, which exemplifies how far her once-humble family has come under the Denniffs’ direction.

“It’s all very exciting,” Denniff says. “Kachy is no slouch, he was just touched off as a 3-year-old in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and it would be nice see him go there again as he was extraordinary when he won at Chester the other day, but you’d have to say that Beat The Bank has been by far and away our best horse so far and hopefully we’ll see him win a Group 1. Hill Welcome has done very well, bless her.”

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