Across The Codes: Late Starter, Supa Finisher


Supasundae en route to Beating Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle |

Emma Berry's occasional look at the narrow divide between the Flat and National Hunt

Supasundae (GB) was bred for those high summer days at Epsom, Ascot and Goodwood. By Galileo (Ire) and out of a Danehill half-sister to Group 1 winners Nathaniel (Ire) and Great Heavens (Ire), both of whom are also by Galileo, it was no stretch for his breeder Newsells Park Stud to have Classic aspirations for him when he arrived in this world in January 2010.

Plan A didn't quite work out: Supasundae was bought in at 195,000gns when failing to reach his Book 1 reserve at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale and, two years later, he was bought for a now scarcely believable £5,000 at Goffs UK as an unnamed and unraced gelding.

The note on his catalogue page that day read, “This gelding is a fine individual whose looks and appearance clearly indicate that he has needed time”. He transpired to have been a shrewd purchase by Tim Fitzgerald and, given that time, he gave back in spades.

Supasundae won his first two bumpers readily—the first for Fitzgerald and the second on his sole start for Andrew Balding. Then, bought privately by the late Ann and Alan Potts, he was transferred to Ireland, initially to the care of Henry de Bromhead and subsequently, during 2016, to Jessica Harrington, who this week announced his retirement from racing.

Supasundae may have been a late starter but he has packed plenty into his six years of racing, with three Grade 1 triumphs to his credit, including the Irish Champion Hurdle (beating the mighty Faugheen (Ire)), victories at Aintree's Grand National meeting and the Cheltenham Festival, at which he appeared in six consecutive years.

With 31 runs, eight wins, 11 places and more than £750,000 in prize-money to his credit, he now takes his bow from a successful career. Not the one he was intended for, but an honourable one nonetheless.

Mesnil Casts Potential New Star
As one jumping star is retired, another appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance. There was much consternation regarding the withdrawal of Altior (Ire) (High Chaparral {Ire}) from last Saturday's G1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase but that should take nothing away from the winner, Politologue (Fr) (Poliglote {GB}), who made a superb start to this season, having ended the last one on his rousing G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase victory at the Cheltenham Festival.

Now nine, the grey gelding made his first two starts as a 4-year-old in France in the colours of Sophie Devin, the daughter of his breeder Antonia Devin of Haras du Mesnil. Since then, he has been a stalwart of the Paul Nicholls stable, winning 11 of his 25 races in Britain, including two Tingle Creeks and the G1 Melling Chase at Aintree.

In the saddle for his last two Grade 1 wins has been Harry Skelton, more usually seen riding for his trainer brother Dan, a former assistant to Nicholls. The brothers have close links to Politologue's owner John Hales, who, as well as consistently racing decent National Hunt horses over many years, is an ardent supporter of show jumping and owned Arko III, one of the best horses ridden by their Olympic gold medal-winning father Nick Skelton.

Politologue's sire Poliglote, who died at Haras d'Etreham in 2018, was a true dual-purpose stallion and holds the rare distinction of having been champion sire both on the Flat and over jumps in France. The son of Sadler's Wells was bred by the Wertheimer family and provided them with their 2012 Arc winner Solemia (Fr).

In similar vein, Antonia Devin and her husband Henri can be considered breeders of distinction in both codes. Two years in a row they have bred a Cheltenham Festival winner, with A Plus Tard (Fr) (Kapgrade {Fr}) having won there in the Cheveley Park Stud colours in 2019. They have also enjoyed much success with their own stallions over the years. Politologue is out of a mare by their former stalwart, Turgeon, who died last year at the age of 33 having covered 26 mares the previous season.

As he entered his twilight years, Turgeon's stud mate Doctor Dino (Fr) came to the fore and is now one of France's busiest stallions. In 2019 the dual G1 Hong Kong Vase winner was sent 155 mares and, while he is principally regarded as a Nation Hunt stallion, with the likes of Sceau Royal (Fr), Docteur De Ballon (Fr), Sharjah (Fr) and La Bague Au Roi (Fr) as his major flagbearers, he is also responsible for the Flat group winners Golden Legend (Fr), Villa Rosa (Fr) and G1 Prix de Diane runner-up Physiocrate (Fr), all three having been bred by the Devins and trained by their son Henri-Francois.

The latest addition to the stallion yard at Mesnil is Telecaster (GB) (New Approach {GB}), who won the G2 Dante S. for his breeders Mark Weinfeld and Helena Ellingsen of Meon Valley Stud in 2019 before returning to post two wide-margin victories in France this season, including his swansong in the G2 Grand Prix de Deauville.

Meon Valley Stud has already provided arguably the best British-based National Hunt stallion of the modern era in the recently retired Kayf Tara (GB) (Sadler's Wells). In Telecaster, who is out of the Oaks and Irish Oaks runner-up Shirocco Star (GB), we find not just Sadler's Wells in his top line, but the much-vaunted Monsun (Ger) underneath. Though both these top-class stallions have been hugely influential on the Flat, they are also ubiquitous in the pedigrees of jumpers.

With the support in particular of the Devins' own broodmare band, which features plenty of outcross daughters of their former stallions Turgeon, Kaldounevees (Fr) and his son Ange Gabriel (Fr), don't be surprised to see Telecaster loom large in the jumps division in years to come.

Come On Eileen
In many respects, 2006 was a vintage year for those who enjoy seeing some of the game's smaller players gain the upper hand in major races. The 16,000-guinea yearling Sir Percy (GB) (Mark Of Esteem {Ire}) won the Derby for Victoria and Anthony Pakenham, whose previous star performer had been the prolific jumps winner The Dark Lord (Ire) (Lord Americo {Ire}).

A month earlier, Speciosa (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}) had plotted a wayward course to triumph in the 1000 Guineas for her small dual-purpose trainer Pam Sly, who owned the filly with her son Michael and Dr Tom Davies. The victory not only made Sly the first British woman to train a British Classic winner, but Speciosa, bred by Kevin and Meta Cullen, became the first graduate of a breeze-up sale to win a Classic.

Having turned down a seven-figure offer for Speciosa before her Classic season, the Slys and Davies retained her as a broodmare and she is still at her former trainer's farm near Thorney, some 40 miles from Newmarket. She has been joined in the paddocks by her three winning daughters Asteroidea (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), Vernatti (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}) and Specialty (Ire) (Oasis Dream {GB}). The latter is responsible for the latest exciting member of the dynasty in 3-year-old Eileendover (GB) (Canford Cliffs {Ire}), who has won her only two bumper starts to date by a collective 45 lengths in the colours made famous by her grandam.

Eileendover may be seen next in the listed juvenile bumper at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, according to Pam Sly, who told TDN after last Saturday's rout at Wetherby, “I'm going to try to get a bit of black type with her, then give her a break and have a go on the Flat as I think she goes on any sort of ground.”

The breeder/trainer has her horses in tremendous form and, as well as Eileendover, she has also won with her homebreds Xcitations (GB) (Universal {Ire}), Fransham (GB) (Sulamani {Ire}) and Takeit Easy (GB) Malinas {Ger}) in recent weeks. Furthermore, Rainyday Woman (GB) (Kayf Tara {GB}), whom she bred and trained for her first two starts, recently won on her bumper debut for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

Sly says of her 17-year-old former stable star, “Speciosa had a Cracksman (GB) filly this year and is not in foal this time. She's still as feisty as ever. Her 2-year-old by Nathaniel (Ire) is enormous and is in my front paddock. I'll get on with him in the new year.”

Meanwhile, Speciosa's daughter Asteroidea has a 3-year-old War Command filly named Bellica (GB), also described by the trainer as “enormous, so I'm going to try to run her in a bumper”.

The bumper-to-Flat route has worked well in the past for middle-distance fillies, with the Hughie Morrison-trained Urban Artist (GB) (Cityscape {GB}) winning last year's listed mares' bumper at Cheltenham before notching three consecutive wins and some black type on the Flat this season to push her rating to 98. The most notable example of all, however, was perhaps Turbo Linn (GB) (Turbo Speed {GB}), who was reared on a Scottish hillside by her owner-breeder James Nelson before being deftly trained by the late Alan Swinbank to progress from Carlisle bumper winner to G2 Lancashire Oaks winner from seven consecutive wins in nine months. The stuff of dreams for all small breeders.







Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.

Liked this article? Read more like this.

  1. Seven Days: Much Ado About Frankie
  2. Seven Days: A Coronation in Chantilly
  3. 'Unexpected Superstar' Eileendover Takes up Broodmare Duties
  4. Seven Days: A Haggas Masterclass
  5. Seven Days: Abundance

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.