HONEYSUCKLE (GB) provided the British National Hunt breeding industry with another landmark success on Saturday when the classy mare showed admirable courage to claim the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown Racecourse’s Dublin Festival under Rachael Blackmore.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained five-year-old daughter of SULAMANI, a six-time Group 1 winner on the Flat between 2002 and 2004 who stood at Yorton Farm in Shropshire until he died in 2017, is now unbeaten in seven starts over hurdles.
For the first time in her relatively short career, Honeysuckle was made to work hard for victory as dual Grade 1 winner PETIT MOUCHOIR and the fast-finishing DARVER STAR hassled her all the way to the line.
Owner Kenneth Alexander has breeder Dr Geoffrey Guy and Guy’s co-owners and managers of The Glanvilles Stud in Dorset, Doug and Lucy Procter, to thank for producing the mare. Honeysuckle is a fourth foal out of the late LANDO mare FIRST ROYAL.
Reflecting on the pairing of First Royal with Sulamani, Procter told GBRI:
“I was always a fan of Sulamani but he tended to get quite light-boned, narrow horses so I felt he needed a mare with a bit of substance. Honeysuckle’s dam was a great big lump of a Lando mare. She was a nice black-type hurdler and a winner on the flat in Germany, a very good-looking mare.
“I was very pleased with Honeysuckle when she was born. As soon as I saw the foal I sent the mare back to Sulamani, so I have a year younger full brother.
“We lost the mare, so the year younger brother was orphaned when he was about three months old.
“Honeysuckle only has one sister, a SHIROCCO filly called ROCK ROYAL (GB). We raced her in France and she placed three times for us. We sold her on, she went to Jersey, went wrong there, then after Honeysuckle won the first Grade 1 I bought her back from Jersey quite late last year and she was covered by MOTIVATOR.
“I’m having fun planning matings for her this year.”
Noting how important this level of success is for the operation, Procter continued:
“It’s very important for profile. I do it for a living but in fact everyone does it for good horses like that.”
The strength of the British breeding industry was highlighted at the Longines World’s Best Horse Race & Racehorse Awards on Wednesday afternoon, with 128-rated co-winners WALDGEIST (GB), ENABLE (GB) and CRYSTAL OCEAN (GB) all flying the flag for Britain’s studs.
WALDGEIST (GB) became a four-time Group 1 winner when storming to success in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last October – announced at the awards ceremony as the 2019 World’s Best Horse Race – for co-breeders Newsells Park Stud.
The chestnut was bred at the Hertfordshire operation in association with Coolmore and co-owners Gestut Ammerland under the banner of ‘The Waldlerche Partnership’.
The 2019 Arc result was a landmark one for Newsells Park, given that the stud also bred fourth-placed JAPAN (GB), who was awarded second best three-year-old by Longines and the IFHA, and stand stallion NATHANIEL, sire of runner-up and two-time race winner ENABLE (GB).
ENABLE (GB), who is the only one of the top-rated horses to remain in training for 2020, was bred at Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket by Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms operation.
In securing a trio of Group 1 titles in 2019, including both the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot Racecourse and the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park Racecourse, ENABLE (GB) became the first European mare to exceed career earnings of £10million.
CRYSTAL OCEAN (GB), who was bred by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild at his Southcourt Stud in Bedfordshire, progressed from a Group 2 winner to a Group 1 winning five-year-old in 2019 when securing the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Amanda Prior, General Manager of GBRI, commented: ‘Enable, Crystal Ocean and Waldgeist have been stalwarts of the global Flat season over the past few years, scooping a total of 15 Group 1 wins between them.
‘Their owners’ British-based breeding operations are renowned for producing world-class racehorses year in, year out, so it is wonderful to see these three representatives recognised by Longines and the IFHA as the joint world’s best racehorses in 2019.’
The quality of Britain’s racing was also recognised at the awards ceremony, as four of the country’s contests made it into the top ten most highly rated races worldwide in 2019.
Ascot Racecourse was doubly represented in the top ten, with the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes faring the best of its exceptional repertoire of races with a rating of 125.75, which put it half a point behind the Group 1 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the top spot.
The 2019 renewal of the late-July contest delivered a memorable tussle between ENABLE (GB) and CRYSTAL OCEAN (GB), with WALDGEIST (GB) picking up third place honours.
Meanwhile, the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes retained its third-place spot in the World’s Best Horse Race rankings with a rating of 124.25. Victory for CRYSTAL OCEAN (GB) in this most recent renewal of the race secured an 80th Royal Ascot win for trainer Sir Michael Stoute.
Sandown Park Racecourse’s Group 1 Coral-Eclipse, which represented a first of three top-level successes of the year for ENABLE (GB), secured the fourth highest rating of 123.00.
Meanwhile, York Racecourse’s Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, which was the world’s top-rated race from 2012 until 2014, achieved a rating of 122.00. This put it in joint eighth spot along with the Group 1 Arima Kinen and the Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Prior commented: ‘Once again, the Longines World’s Best Horse Race rankings have shown that Britain’s races boast unparalleled strength in depth.
‘To have four races in the world’s top ten – twice as many as any other country, as was the case in the 2017 rankings – is a wonderful testament to Britain’s racecourses, whose teams work tirelessly to attract world-class fields to contest their most coveted prizes.’
Father and son duo Bill and Tim Gredley enjoyed a rare top-level National Hunt victory on Friday as homebred ALLMANKIND (GB) led exuberantly from pillar to post to land the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow Racecourse in scintillating style.
The family’s Stetchworth & Middle Park Studs in Newmarket, whose band of around 30 broodmares includes homebred 2018 Group 1 Prix Morny winner PRETTY POLLYANNA (GB), is a traditional Flat breeding operation. Accordingly, Allmankind began his career under the tutelage of Michael Bell, trainer of the Gredleys’ Group 1 winning stayer BIG ORANGE (GB).
Yet despite showing plenty of ability at home, Allmankind was unable to deliver on the track, due to his seeming inability to settle, and it was after his appearance in a Class 2 handicap over 1m2f at Newmarket Racecourses’ July Festival that the idea occurred to Tim to send the son of Lanwades Stud stallion SEA THE MOON to long-time friend Dan Skelton.
Tim explained to Great British Racing International after the race on Friday:
‘It was as much of an experiment as anything else. We knew he had an engine, but I was just hoping that the hurdles might give him something to concentrate on and break up the race a little bit, because when he was on the Flat he was just getting keener and keener. We ran him at Newmarket in a handicap and I was expecting him to run well and he resorted to his usual tactics of running blind, blew himself up early and got tailed off.
‘So instantly I spoke to my father and said “look, are you happy to me to cut him and send him to the Skeltons?” because we weren’t really getting anywhere, and really just hoped that the hurdles would be that ingredient to focus him during the race.’
The gelding certainly retains plenty of his enthusiasm, exemplified by his pulling into the home straight several lengths clear of his nearest rival, eventual runner-up Cerberus, but it appears that obstacles have indeed been a revelation for the three-year-old.
What’s more, this recent success has given the owner-breeders fresh food for thought when it comes to their middle-distance horses.
‘The jumping has come as a bit of an afterthought, but it’s given us a shake to realise that there’s another string to our bow if things don’t quite work out for those middle-distance pedigrees,’ explained Tim.
‘It’s a nice option to have, instead of putting them through the Horses-In-Training Sale as a three-year-old because they’re not quite working out, we can maybe hang on to them and send them to Dan to go jumping.
‘I’m not saying it’s going to happen with all of them, it might just happen for one or two a year. They’ve got to fit the profile, but for sure it’s something we’ll definitely look at now. It’s a nice new avenue open to us.’
Naturally, as owner-breeders, the Gredleys are relishing the prospect of more success with the offspring of the dam of Allmankind, WEMYSS BAY (GB), who Bill picked up for 40,000 guineas at the 2014 Tattersalls December Mares Sale.
“It’s amazing to have Group 1 or Grade 1 winners, but to have the family is great. We’ve got a full-sister foal, which is quite exciting, and she’ll go back to Sea The Moon because it obviously works.
“Funnily enough my father went really nap on Sea The Moon a few years ago before he’d become the popular stallion he is today, so we’ve got quite a lot of good yearling stock at ours, which is exciting.”
Keen to acknowledge the team responsible for rearing their stock, Tim added on behalf of him and his father:
“I just want to thank all the team at Stetchworth Park, because they do a great job foaling and raising all these horses and Allmankind is just one of them.”