12 February 2018

Irish breeders, stallions and sales companies enjoyed a terrific Saturday at Newbury, winning all seven races on the card, led by exciting comebacks from NATIVE RIVER (IRE) and Altior (IRE). 

The former was first to return and successfully became the first horse to twice win the Grade 2 Denman Chase, doing so in fine style, as he galloped home 12 lengths clear of Cloudy Dream (IRE). Colin Tizzard’s popular chestnut has six Graded victories to his record and will now aim to better his fine third in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which he is now joint second favourite with 2017 victor Sizing John, with Might Bite (IRE) currently favourite.

Like many top-class chasers, NATIVE RIVER (IRE) learnt his trade on the Irish point-to-point circuit, namely with Denis Ahern, before being purchased privately by current connections. John Dineen bought him for €6,000 as a foal at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale, where he was sold by his breeder Fred Mackey. A son of Park House Stud sire Indian River, he is a half-brother to talented chaser Orpheus Valley (IRE), bred by Mackey out of an unraced Be My Native mare. (Read our 2017 interview with Fred Mackey here)

All eyes moved to ALTIOR (IRE) in the next, the Grade 2 Betfair Exchange Chase, as the Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old bid to bring his unbeaten run to twelve after a long absence. December’s Tingle Creek winner Politologue was his fiercest rival, himself seeking to bring his winning run to four, but he was only capable of narrowing the winning margin, which was four lengths and ALTIOR (IRE) a comfortable winner.

ALTIOR (IRE) is something of a fairytale for breeder Paddy Behan, being out of his very first and only broodmare, Monte Solaro (IRE), whom he bought from his brother and raced to win a Grade 3 hurdle. By Key Of Luck, she first produced the Grade 2 winner Princess Leya (IRE) and was sent to High Chaparral (IRE) to produce ALTIOR (IRE). He was bought by Highflyer Bloodstock for €60,000 at the Goffs Land Rover Sale, where he was consigned by Kilmoney Cottage Stud. (Read our 2017 interview with Paddy Behan here)

The following Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle was the card’s feature in terms of prize money, its purse totalling £155,000, and its winner KALASHNIKOV (IRE) provided trainer Amy Murphy with a priceless highlight of her young career to date. The winner of his first three starts, he was sent off co-favourite for his fine second in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle last time out and carried 11 stone five for his troubles. His four and a half length win sees him priced at 10-1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle next month.

Murphy’s father, Paul, owns the five-year-old and purchase him as a foal at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale for €35,000. The son of Boardsmill Stud sire Kalanisi (IRE) was bred by Sunnyhill Stud and is a full-brother to the Murphy’s Listed chase winner Kalane (IRE), who finished third behind Annie Power (IRE) in the 2015 Grade 1 Irish Mares Champion Hurdle. Their Old Vic dam is a full-sister to the great Kicking King (IRE) and Grade 2 chaser Four Commanders (IRE).

The fourth and final black-type contest on the card saw the Anthony Honeyball-trained ACEY MILAN (IRE) land back-to-back Listed bumpers, winning his latest by 11 lengths. His trainer afterwards said “he could be anything” and aims to uncover just what he has on his hands in the Cheltenham Champion Bumper. 

Second on debut before winning his next three starts, ACEY MILAN (IRE) has more than repaid his €11,500 pricetag at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale. The son of Grange Stud sire Milan was bred by Mrs Marie O’Driscoll out of a half-sister to Listed performer Dagwood, from the family of Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Buck House and Drinmore Novice Chase winner Jessies Dream (IRE).

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