Farm Ireland

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Trainers nominate favourites

So who will be the leading sires of the future? Neil O'Donnell asked several of our top jumps trainers to nominate their favourite young National Hunt stallions, roughly defined as those whose first crop of foals are no more than seven years of age.

TWO horses cropped up quite prominently in the choices of the trainers: Oscar and Flemensfirth.

The duo stand under the Coolmore banner and their first crop are both 6-year-olds in 2005. Oscar resides at the historic Grange Stud outside Fermoy while Flemensfirth is based at The Beeches Stud near Tallow.

The now 11-year-old Oscar was a top racehorse himself and, a 16.1 HH bay, he is a son of the mighty Sadler's Wells. Although he won just one race, Oscar had the class to finish second to the subsequent 'Arc' winner Peintre Celebre - beaten two lengths - in the 1997 French Derby at Chantilly. That was to be his final racecourse start and he was trained throughout his 4-race career by Pascal Bary. Importantly, Oscar is an own-brother to the 1990 Epsom Derby runner-up Blue Stag, while he is also closely related to the 2001 European champion Sakhee.

A good barometer is when a stallion can get off the mark quite quickly. Oscar did so in this regard as two members of his first crop, Knock Down and Sargon, both won on the flat as 3-year-olds in France in 2001. Tony Mullins is a confirmed Oscar fan.

Mullins has sampled success with the Oscar-sired William Bonney who made a victorious career debut as a 4-year-old in a Listowel bumper and he also sent out another one of his sons, the currently-sidelined Bold Jack Donohue, to finish third in two bumpers last year.

"Oscar is one of the rare sires who does not necessarily stamp his stock," said Mullins. "He can get a small horse or a big scopey type but yet they all seem to have ability. That's the thing about him I love."

Paul Nolan saddled his first winner by Oscar when the then 5-year-old Escrea, won a mare's maiden hurdle at Clonmel on December 8.

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"The Oscars appear to be good gallopers," said Nolan. "They are doing it on the track and they handle both types of going. I also have a nice filly by Oscar turning five from the same family as Deep Bramble."

Noel Meade has trained a couple of winners by Oscar, notably Augherskea and Polly's Joy.

"Norwich (first crop 8-year-olds of 2005) is another good stallion. I have a Norwich gelding called County Final and he finished second in a Naas bumper in November. I know Milan's first crop will only be the foals of '05 but I like the sound of him as a jumps stallion."

Francis Flood, who sent out Glencaraig Lady to win the 1972 Cheltenham Gold Cup, is also in the Oscar corner. Flood, a former seven-times champion amateur rider, comments: "I have a few in training by Oscar. From what I see, they have plenty of pace and are good jumpers with lots of class."

Dungannon trainer James Lambe is another Oscar fan. "I have Clearly Oscar by him. He was a shade above a point-to-pointer and that's why we didn't go that route with him. He finished second in a 2-mile bumper at Perth in July."

The American-bred Flemensfirth was a dual Group 1 winner over 10 furlongs while he also captured the Group 2 Prix Dollar at Longchamp as both a 3- and 4-year-old.

Flemensfirth, a $290,000 yearling purchase, won seven races altogether. The bay is by another good sire of sires in Alleged. Now 13, Flemensfirth experienced an explosive start to his stud career as his daughter Total Enjoyment, from his first crop, sluiced home in the Cheltenham festival bumper last March.

Champion trainer Meade sent out his first winner by Flemensfirth when Derravarra Eagle took a Wexford bumper first time out in late November. "I like my fellow," he said, "and I know that Willie Mullins thinks a lot of his Major Vernon (won two bumpers and a hurdle up to mid-December)."

Jimmy Mangan has little hesitation in plumping for Flemensfirth, sire of his Top Twig who won a Boulta maiden point-to-point in late-November. "Flemensfirth has been good to me," he said. "I have a couple more at home and they are all bay. I think he could be the next Montelimar (also by Alleged)."

Mangan adds: "Milan was a good racehorse. He will surely pass it on."

Frances Crowley was sufficiently impressed with Flemensfirth's exploits in 2004 to buy a couple of his progeny at the sales. "He did well as a first season sire," she said. "I liked the look of his progeny and I am happy with them. One of mine is a bay, the other a chestnut."

Old Vic differs from Oscar and Flemensfirth in that he was initially retired to stud as a flat stallion. No surprise really, considering that he won the 1989 Irish Derby for Henry Cecil and owner Sheikh Mohammed. The son of Sadler's Wells has been standing at Michael Hickey Junior's Sunnyhill Stud in Co Kildare since 1997 and his first jumps crop are 7-year-olds.

Tom Taaffe's Kicking King, winner of the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown last month, hails from his initial National Hunt crop.

So too does the Martin Pipe-trained Our Vic, an ex-Irish pointer and victorious in last season's Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot.

Jessica Harrington is an Old Vic fan. She has trained a few winners by the now 19-year-old: Brutto Facie, Ugly Face in Italian and Classic Vic. "I think Old Vic is doing very well," remarked Moscow Flyer's trainer. "Beneficial is a Top Ville horse and I like the Top Ville stallions."

Francis Flood concurs with Harrington on Old Vic. Grangecon handler Flood sampled success over hurdles with the with Windmill Flyer at Cork in March 2003.

"The Old Vic's are good tough horses and they all stay."

Tony Mullins is also a fan ("Old Vic is a classy sire, but I couldn't get my hands on any of his progeny") as is Jimmy Mangan: "I couldn't really afford any of them. Kicking King and Our Vic are doing the business for him at the moment."