Best Of Both Worlds

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Successful dual-purpose campaigner Not So Sleepy may head for the Champion Hurdle | Racing Post

The second instalment of Emma Berry's winter series on the crossover between the Flat and National Hunt scenes

Ballylinch Stud may be best known as a high-class Flat operation but it has regularly stood a stallion with great appeal to the National Hunt market, most notably the five-time champion jumps sire King's Theatre (Ire). Following his death in 2011, King's Theatre was succeeded in his role by another son of Sadler's Wells, Beat Hollow (GB), winner of the Grand Prix de Paris and Arlington Million among four top-flight wins during his transatlantic racing career.

From Juddmonte's powerful stallion family which has subsequently included Oasis Dream (GB) and Kingman (GB), Beat Hollow was repatriated from America to stand at Banstead Manor Stud, serving his first nine seasons there before being recruited to Ballylinch in 2012. His dual-purpose appeal could have had no better advertisement than one of the most beloved horses of the last decade, Wicklow Brave (GB), who died in action last year at the age of 10.

A member of his final British-sired crop, Not So Sleepy (GB), is showing similar propensity for life under both codes. The Hughie Morrison-trained 8-year-old, who was bred by Lord Blyth and runs in the colours of his wife, had already proved himself to be a decent Flat performer, winning on debut at two and then landing the G3 Dee S. on his first appearance of his 3-year-old campaign. He won again at Epsom on Derby day two years later, but his number of victories over hurdles now equals his Flat tally, including his most recent and most impressive win to date in the G3 Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot just before Christmas.

Were it not for an excessively wet autumn in Britain, which forced the abandonment of Doncaster's November meeting, he may well have already been on his winter holidays by that stage, as Morrison explained, “He was going to go for a holiday after the November Handicap but that was off so Lady Blyth said 'why don't we go hurdling?' I thought that would be a one-off and that we might get lucky once but not twice. He's never lost his ability to be quite honest, and maybe on faster ground over hurdles he might struggle, but he was quite impressive on soft ground the other day and he seemed to take that race remarkably well.”

Following a fourth-place finish in the Cesarewitch in October, Not So Sleepy is now two-for-two over hurdles at Ascot this season and the Champion Hurdle is now under serious consideration for him.

Morrison said, “He's eight now and my view is that we'll only get one good chance of having a crack at the big one with him. We might go to Newbury first or we might take him to Cheltenham as a fresh horse and see what happens. There doesn't seem to be an outstanding hurdler about at the moment but of course that changes from day to day. A lot of the good ones have been disappointing and we're looking at the Christmas Hurdle winner as the main contender. Based on the various form lines we've got quite a lot to find but we probably could find a bit.”

He added, “It's particularly exciting that he's a homebred. He's a real enthusiast and he does just one thing, and that's throttle out and off he goes. He doesn't mean any harm—he pulls up at the end of the gallop and he's very nice in his box but at exercise he's like an exploding rubber ball.”

Morrison has already tasted success at the Cheltenham Festival with Frenchman's Creek (GB) (Emperor Fountain {GB}), whom he bred and won the National Hunt Chase back in 2002, the same year that his Marble Arch (GB) (Rock Hopper {GB}) was runner-up in the Champion Hurdle. Both Marble Arch and the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Blaklion (GB) (Kayf Tara {GB}), winner of the G1 RSA Chase, were bred by Morrison's wife, Mary.

“Mary has a couple of mares and always has done, and I've bred the odd point-to-pointer for fun but I'm a Flat trainer who also trains some backward Flat-bred horses for bumpers, or sometimes we go hurdling,” he said.

Regrettably, Not So Sleepy's former stable-mate Marmelo (GB) (Duke Of Marmalade {Ire}) will not be seen on the racecourse again after being controversially ruled out of taking his chance in the Melbourne Cup by Racing Victoria stewards a week before the race. Despite conflicting reports suggesting that he could yet race on, the 7-year-old stayer, whose seven victories include five group wins, has been retired to Haras du Grand Courgeon near Lion d'Angers.

“He's gone off to stud in France and I hope he gets some nice mares,” said Morrison of the 2018 Melbourne Cup runner-up who won the G2 Prix Kergorlay in 2017 and 2019. “At least he retired on a winning note as his final race was the Prix Kergorlay.”

A Man For All Seasons
Beat Hollow can also be found in the pedigree of the G1 Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle winner Allmankind (GB), though not in the top line. From the first crop of Sea The Moon (Ger), the 4-year-old is out of Beat Hollow's unraced full-sister Wemyss Bay (GB) (Sader's Wells), who was bought from the Juddmonte draft by Tim Gredley for 40,000gns at the Tattersalls December Sale of 2014. The following season she was covered by Sea The Moon and their resultant offspring was sent to Michael Bell, who has also trained the Group 1 winners Big Orange (GB) (Duke Of Marmalade {Ire}) and Pretty Pollyanna (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) for the father-and-son team of Bill and Tim Gredley of Stetchworth and Middle Park Studs. A winner at two but well beaten on both his Flat starts at three, Allmankind was then directed towards an alternative racing career, which has thus far seen him sail unbeaten through his three races over hurdles and propelled him to second-favouritism for the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

It was a link through another equestrian discipline that prompted former showjumper Tim Gredley to send his first horse to trainer Dan Skelton, the son of Olympian Nick Skelton.

“Allmankind had always shown that he has a lot of ability and a big engine but he became headstrong and unruly and Mike tried a few things at home,” Gredley explained. “I've been friends with the Skeltons for years through the showjumping and Nick was always trying to get me to send a horse to them. We thought this horse had the pedigree to give it a go. I'm a bit new to jumping, though I follow it to a degree, but we leave the planning to the Skeltons. I know they have big belief in him and it's really up to them—I think they are keen to have one more run before the Triumph.”

While Gredley admitted that he is excited of the thought of going to Cheltenham, he is quick to stress that the family's racing and breeding operation is very much geared towards the Flat.

He said, “Our priority is to produce Derby horses, Flat horses, but with the jumping it's quite nice to know that the middle-distance or staying horses have a second life if it doesn't work out on the Flat. It's only a fallback option though, our focus will always be to breed Flat horses to the highest standard.”

And this is something that they have proved more than adept at doing over the years, with the popular stayer Big Orange and champion juvenile filly Pretty Pollyanna the standouts among their recent homebred runners.

“As I was leaving the stud the other day I saw Big Orange's dam and Pretty Pollyanna together in the field and Allmankind's dam next to them, and they are all Group or Grade 1 winners,” Gredley said. “It's a very exciting time for the stud and the team there does an excellent job rearing these horses. They know all their little idiosyncrasies, which is very helpful to pass on to the trainers when they go into training.”

Gredley added that Wemyss Bay, who has a yearling full-sister to Allmankind, will return to Sea The Moon this season, while G1 Prix Morny winner and Irish 1000 Guineas runner-up Pretty Pollyanna will visit Galileo (Ire). He also provided an update on 9-year-old Big Orange, who retired last year after an honourable career which included victories in the Ascot Gold Cup and two Goodwood Cups.

“Big Orange is in good form,” he said. “He's turned out with a couple of my old pointers and comes in at night, but he's bright, alert and healthy, that's the main thing.”

Towering Prospect
One of Allmankind's potential rivals at Cheltenham is Aspire Tower (Ire) (Born To Sea {Ire}), who was another impressive winner over Christmas when landing the G2 Frank Knight Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, a race won in recent years by future Champion Hurdle winner Espoir d'Allen (Fr) (Voix Du Nord {Fr}) and star mare Apple's Jade (Fr) (Saddler Maker {Ire}). Like Allmankind, he started out on the Flat and his current trainer Henry de Bromhead is the horse's third, following stints in Britain with Richard Hannon, for whom he won at two, and then Steve Gollings.

Bred by Julie Lynch at Fastnet Stud, Aspire Tower is one of 15 winners over jumps to date for Born To Sea, the half-brother to Galileo (Ire) and Sea The Stars (Ire) who left Ireland last year to stand at Haras des Faunes in France.

He helped to provide a happy Christmas for de Bromhead, whose wins during the holiday period included Grade 1 success for A Plus Tard (Fr) (Kapgrade {Fr}), owned by Cheveley Park Stud.

David and Patricia Thompson have notably increased their jumping string with some high-profile purchases in recent seasons and they were duly rewarded with Cheltenham Festival victories last year for A Plus Tard and Envoi Allen (Fr) (Muthathir {GB}). The latter, trained by Gordon Elliott, has built on his G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper success to remain unbeaten over hurdles this season, including back-to-back Grade 1 wins, most recently in Sunday's Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle. It will be no surprise to see Cheveley Park Stud's red, white and blue silks in the Cheltenham winner's enclosure again this year.

Queally Jumps In For Family Success
In Festivals past we've been treated to performances from top Flat jockeys Johnny Murtagh, who was beaten a head in the G1 World Hurdle on Golden Cross (Ire) (Goldmark), and Jamie Spencer, who won the 2002 Champion Bumper on Pizarro (Ire) (Broken Hearted {Ire}).

Joining these names eventually could be Tom Queally. The man best known for his association with the mighty Frankel (GB) had three rides over hurdles in Ireland over Christmas and notched a memorable family victory on Owenacurra Lass (Ire) (Gold Well {Ire}), trained by his father Declan, at Tramore on New Year's Day.

“It's something I've always wanted to do,” he said. “The other Flat jockeys who have done it have sort of been between jobs and that's exactly the position I'm in now, so I had no-one to tap me on the shoulder and say 'what the hell are you at?' The only person I cleared it with was my old mentor Barney Curley and he thought it was a good idea because he said it would maybe put my skills as a horseman on display. So I applied for the licence and gave it a go.”

He continued, “I've schooled at Gary Moore's and I'm quite friendly with Willy Twiston-Davies so any time I'm down there I always jump on one and school over fences. They might give me a ride or two before the season ends.

“I'm very much a Flat jockey but if the opportunity did arise and the weights were in my favour then it's no problem. It would be a different story if I had 100 Flat horses next season at my disposal, which I don't, and that's just the way it is, so why not?”

The last time Queally rode a winner for his father was in 2002 when he was still at school. Based in Cappagh, Co Waterford, Queally senior is assisted in the training by Tom's brother, also called Declan, who rides as an amateur.

“It created a little bit of publicity from the family,” said Queally. “What my dad and my brother are doing is phenomenal with very cheap horses and they are competing with the big guns. It's still very much a family-run business but they are holding their own. My brother is getting more and more involved in the training side.”

He added, “Riding for them enabled me to keep my fitness in check over Christmas and if I wasn't doing that I'd have been out hunting. The mare that I won on may go for a couple of good handicaps in the next six weeks—she has a couple of options. The sort of races she's going for, she should be hitting the weights somewhere between 9 stone 10 and 10 stone, and there aren't that many jockeys in that weight category. I know her well so that might materialise in time.”

Jeremy A Sad Loss
One regretful aspect of the jumps sire division is the fact that by the time a National Hunt stallion is truly proven, he is often in his twilight years or even deceased. In the case of Jeremy (Danehill Dancer {Ire}), who died at the age of 11 in 2014, there was barely a chance to build on the early success of his star performer Our Conor (Ire) and his subsequent move from the Irish National Stud to Garryrichard Stud, where he stood for just two seasons before his premature death.

The resultant offspring from Jeremy's brief stint as an official jump sire are now aged five and six and their results of late have given greater cause for us to rue Jeremy's untimely demise. Last Saturday, Silver Forever (Ire) was the facile winner of the listed Unibet Mares' Hurdle, while another of his daughters, Jeremys Flame (Ire), was runner-up to the smart Fiddlerontheroof (Ire) (Stowaway {GB}) in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle. Also in the last fortnight, Appreciate It (Ire), Champagnesuperover (Ire) and Highstreet Roller (Ire) have all posted impressive bumper wins.

Jeremy, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, hails from the family of the late Deep Impact (Jpn) and was bred from the Japanese super sire's half-sister Glint In Her Eye (Arazi) by Betty Moran. The American owner-breeder has been associated with top-class runners on the Flat and over jumps, among them the Grand National winner Papillon (Ire) (Lafontaine). Jeremy came agonisingly close to providing Moran with Group 1 success when beaten a short-head by Ramonti (Ity) in the Queen Anne S. at Ascot, a year after he had won the G3 Jersey S. at the royal meeting.

 

 

 

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