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Bloodstock Bites: Mullins' domination continues

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With the Cheltenham Festival just over six weeks away, Willie Mullins’ domination of the 2015-16 British and Irish jumps season showed no sign of relenting last week with the eight-time Irish champion trainer saddling all three winners of the Grade One races run over the weekend.

With a five-length victory under Ruby Walsh in the Grade One Clarence House Chase at Ascot, last year’s Arkle Chase winner Un De Sceaux (Denham Red) confirmed himself the one to beat in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, putting a fall on his previous start at Leopardstown over Christmas conclusively behind him with a very accomplished front-running display for owner Edward O’Connell.

The last of four foals out of the unplaced French mare Hotesse De Sceaux (April Night), Un De Sceaux is a half-brother to the French twelve furlong winner Olympe De Sceaux (Diableneyev) and hails from the family of the 1966 Gran Steeplechase di Torino winner Totonaco and the 1970 Italian Group Three Coppa del Mare winner and two-time Italian Listed-winning hurdler Tricot.

By Denham Red, the winner of the French Listed Prix Georges de Talhouet-Roy Hurdle and Prix Wild Monarch Hurdle at Auteuil in 1995, Un De Sceaux is one of six black-type winning jumpers sired by the former Haras de la Rousseliere stallion prior to his death in October 2014, among them the 2008 Grade One Prix Gras Savoye Ferdinand Dufaure Chase and Prix Maurice Gillois 4yo Grand Steeplechase winner Oculi and the 2010 Listed Summer National Handicap Chase winner Ouzbeck.

Last year’s Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen (Germany) exacted his revenge upon stablemate Nichols Canyon (Authorized) in Sunday’s Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in no uncertain fashion, putting up arguably the performance of his career when cruising home to a fifteen-length win in the hands of Ruby Walsh ahead of another stablemate Arctic Fire (Soldier Hollow), with his Morgiana conqueror a further thirteen lengths back in third.

The only winner produced to date by the unraced mare Miss Pickering (Accordion), a half-sister to the five-time winning chaser Trotsky (Jurado), the Mrs Susannah Ricci-owned eight-year-old gelding has twice been through the sales ring, most recently when purchased by Meadowview Stables at the 2011 Goffs June National Hunt Sale for €12,000. From the family of the 1973 Group Three Premio Royal Mares winner Ombra Del Sol - herself the dam of the 1981 Old Newton Cup winner Dogberry - and the seven furlong Listed-winning pair Borderline and Sapper, Faugheen is also more distantly related to Paul Nicholls’ two-time Grade Two-winning jumper Rocky Creek and the dual Cheltenham Grade Two-winning hurdler Tell Massini.

Faugheen’s sire Germany, the winner of the Group One Bayerisches Zuchtrennen and Grosser Preis von Baden in 1995, is responsible for black-type winners under both codes but it is over jumps that his progeny have excelled, with, aside from the now seven-time Grade One winner Faugheen, the former Woodlands Stud stallion having produced the 2008 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Captain Cee Bee as well as the 2008 Grade One Powers Gold Cup Chase winner Conna Castle and the 2014 Grade Two Monksfield Novice Hurdle winner Free Expression.

Earlier on the Leopardstown card, backers of heavy odds-on favourite Douvan (Walk In The Park) never had a moments worry as Willie Mullins’ six-year-old gelding demolished his two opponents in the Grade One Arkle Novice Chase under Ruby Walsh to make it three-from-three over fences and a fourth victory at the highest level.

Another superstar running in the recognisable pink and green colours of Mrs Susannah Ricci, Douvan is the first winner produced by the once-raced French mare Star Face (Saint des Saints) from the family of the 1999 Grade Three Prix Hypothese Hurdle and four-time French Listed hurdle winner Discover D’Auteuil. A half-sister to Laskof (Walk In The Park), the winner of a French chase last September for Douvan’s original trainer Philippe Peltier, Star Face was offered for sale at last year’s Tattersalls Ireland November National Hunt Sale, having been imported from Tunisia where she produced a filly foal in 2013 named Kalimama (Charming Groom), but ended up being bought back by vendors Church View Stables for €140,000 despite being in foal to Douvan’s sire Walk In The Park.

Having produced both Douvan and the hugely exciting Min from his six crops of racing age, it was probably inevitable that Walk In The Park, a winning miler and 2005 Epsom Derby runner-up, would be highly sought after and therefore it comes as no surprise that just last week Coolmore announced that they have purchased the now fourteen-year-old stallion to stand at their Grange Stud in County Cork alongside leading National Hunt stallion Milan and Ascot Gold Cup winners Fame And Glory and Leading Light.

A notable mention from last week’s racecourse action must also to go Haras de Cercy-resident Saddler Maker, a three-times flat-placed son of Sadler’s Wells, who was responsible for a Grade Two double when Mouse Morris’ six-year-old gelding Alpha Des Obeaux (Saddler Maker) claimed the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park by eleven lengths, a couple of days prior to Nigel Twiston-Davies’ five-year-old gelding Bristol De Mai (Saddler Maker) cruising to a thirty-two length victory in the Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock Park. Earlier in the season, both Apple’s Jade and Label des Obeaux had won races at the same grade for the eighteen-year-old stallion, with all four of those named looking to hold leading chances at the Cheltenham Festival should they turn up in March.

Sadly, last week also saw the deaths of U.S. stallions Kingmambo and Arch, who passed away at Lane’s End Farm and Claiborne Farm in Kentucky respectively.

A three-time Group One winner for owner Stavros Niarchos when trained by Francois Boutin to successes in the 1993 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas), the St James’s Palace Stakes and Prix du Moulin, the twenty-six-year-old Kingmambo was responsible for twenty-four individual Grade/Group One winners, nine of which were victorious in European Classics, from sixteen crops of racing age, with his notable offspring including the 2003 1,000 Guineas heroine Russian Rhythm, the 2005 English and French 1,000 Guineas winners Virginia Waters and Divine Proportions, as well as 2,000 Guineas winners King’s Best (2000) and Henrythenavigator (2008) and Japanese great El Condor Pasa and champion sire King Kamehameha.

Arch, who passed away at the age of twenty-one, won the 1998 Grade One Super Derby at Louisiana Downs for trainer Frank L. Brothers and has produced ten individual Grade/Group One winners including the 2006 dual British Group One-winning sprinter Les Arcs and the 2010 Grade One Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame.

On a happier note, Watership Down Stud witnessed the birth of the first foal by Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber’s four-time Group One winner The Fugue (Dansili) when she delivered a filly foal by Darley’s leading stallion Dubawi last weekend.