WOMEN BREEDING SUCCESS AT THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL
Ahead of International Women’s Day and next week’s Cheltenham Festival, Great British Racing International spoke to Sally Noott and Tessa Greatrex, each of whom will be represented in Grade 1 contests by horses they have bred, about their recent success in the National Hunt sphere and their respective journeys in the industry.
Sally Noott, breeder of last year’s Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, CONSTITUTION HILL (GB), is hoping that the gelding can continue his exceptional record in this year’s Grade 1 Champion Hurdle, for which he is currently clear favourite.
It was in early 2022 when Constitution Hill confirmed himself as the new star of British National Hunt breeding when winning the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown Park Racecourse by an impressive 12 lengths. Since then, the Nicky Henderson-trained star has won a further three top-level contests, amassing a combined winning distance of 63 lengths across his four Grade 1 victories.
Noott, based in Belbroughton, Worcestershire, spoke with GBRI about the journey she has been on with Constitution Hill:
“It’s been a fantastic ride really. It’s been lovely. Nick Williams the trainer phoned me one day and said he got QUEEN OF THE STAGE she’s a black-type mare and finished her career and would l like her? So I bought her. We had the discussion on who we were going to send her to and it was BLUE BRESIL. So she went straight from Nick’s to Blue Bresil and back to me pregnant in foal. That’s how it happened really. Incredible, what’s happened. It’s what you dream of as a breeder. You think if I get one to Cheltenham that would be fantastic, but obviously to achieve what he has achieved is just incredible.”
Later in 2022, Noott made the decision to sell the then 12-year-old Queen Of The Stage through Goffs UK’s online platform for £340,000 to Jayne McGivern’s Dash Grange Stud. She was sold in foal to leading sire Blue Bresil, meaning that the resulting progeny, due this spring, will be a full-sibling to Constitution Hill.
Looking back on her recent rise to prominence as a breeder, Noott reflected:
“I’ve had a lot of attention because of Constitution Hill, but as a breeder you don’t get much. You do it for the love of it. It’s a lot of hard work. Breeding is exciting and can be very rewarding. You got no idea when you sell them on at six months. You just never know till they make it to the track. I’ve had a great time. You’ve got to dream, haven’t you?”
Tessa Greatrex, based in Upper Lambourn, Berkshire, has achieved an impressive winners to purchases record as a bloodstock agent for Highflyer Bloodstock. She celebrated a first Cheltenham Festival winner in 2015 when COLE HARDEN landed the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle for husband Warren, and has since sourced Festival winners including WILLOUGHBY COURT, ON THE BLINDSIDE, MISSED APPROACH, PORTRUSH TED, and KEEPERS HILL.
But when INTHEPOCKET (GB) lines up in Grade 1 company at The Festival this year, most likely in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday, Greatrex, who is a member of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association National Hunt Committee, will instead be wearing her breeding hat. Bred in partnership with Yorton Farm’s David Futter, Inthepocket has won a Grade 2 and been runner-up in a Grade 1 this season and is thus fulfilling Greatrex’s ambition to produce top-level performers herself.
Reflecting on her journey into breeding, Greatrex told GBRI:
“I always liked the idea of doing it as I had done a few foal sales and things. Possibly a bit of a romantic, wanting to breed a superstar. I bought a horse, a three-year-old mare because at the time it was cheaper, and Warren hadn’t long been training on his own. I really liked this mare at Tattersalls in Fairyhouse and she wasn’t very expensive, so I bought her. Her name was EGRETTA ISLAND and she’s the one that bred Inthepocket. That’s how it started. She’s still going, an incredible mare she’s only given us colts, but we’d quite like a filly now.”
When asked about her entry into the bloodstock industry, Greatrex explained:
“I’m super dyslexic and school was a real challenge. I just never found my thing at school. I was okay at sport. School just wasn’t designed for me and thankfully my parents got that and at 16 I was able to leave so long as I did a secretarial course. I went out and worked in America for a couple of years for Jonathan Sheppard, which was fascinating. I returned to England and did a three-month placement at the BBA before they all went their separate ways, and I desperately wanted to go down the bloodstock route. I loved the picking of horses and pedigrees and looking for the next star.”
Asked about what advice she would give women looking for a career in the industry this International Women’s Day, Greatrex continued:
“Any woman looking to move into bloodstock should go out and work from sales work to stud and training yards. Get as much grounding and knowledge of horses, racing and breeding as you can. You never stop learning. I think that’s the important bit. It’s about being part of the industry and then people see you about and realise you know what you’re talking about. Step by step. Do the mileage whichever way you want to do it.”