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Posts Tagged ‘Montjeu’

She is brilliant, beautiful, bold and beloved. But she is also a living work of art, wrought over more than two centuries. 

Before the Prix Vermeille.

Before the Prix Vermeille.

 

Whereas a work of art may take a decade or longer to complete, Treve is a work of centuries.

Even a cursory glance through Treve’s pedigree reveals some of the greatest names in thoroughbred history. Within her first 5 generations are Sadler’s Wells, Danzig, Mr. Prospector, Trillion, Top Ville, Secretariat, Buckpasser, Vaguely Noble and Nasrullah. Further back still, we find Hyperion, Gainsborough, Selene, Scapa Flow, Tracery, Swynford, Fair Trial, Rustom Pasha, Sir Gallahad, The Tetrarch and the champions of their day, the incomparable Pretty Polly and Mumtaz Mahal, “The Flying Filly.”

MUMTAZ MAHAL, his daughter, is one of the most important of all thoroughbred broodmares.

THE TETRARCH (left) and his daughter, MUMTAZ MAHAL (right) are a distinguish pair in TREVE’S bloodlines.

 

HYPERION with LORD DERBY after his Derby victory.

HYPERION (here with LORD DERBY after his Derby victory) is another “jewel” in TREVE’S pedigree.

 

PRETTY POLLY, one of TREVE'S distinguished ancestors, ruled the turf in the 1920's.

PRETTY POLLY (in the lead), one of TREVE’S distinguished ancestors, ruled the turf in the 1920’s.

 

VAGUELY NOBLE, shown here before his sale to , was the sire of champions

VAGUELY NOBLE, shown here before his sale in 1967, was the sire of champions EXCELLER, DAHLIA, ESTRAPADE, LEHMI GOLD and EMPERY. He appears in TREVE’S female family in the fifth generation.

 

TRILLION was a champion in her day, winning the Prix ganay, the Prix Foy and the Prix d"Harcourt for owners Nelson Bunker Hunt and Edward L. Stephenson. Retired, she foaled the great race mare TRIPTYCH. The great mare appears in TREVE'S female family in the fourth generation.

TRILLION was a champion in her day, winning the Prix Ganay, the Prix Foy and the Prix d”Harcourt for owners Nelson Bunker Hunt and Edward L. Stephenson. Retired, she foaled the great race mare TRIPTYCH. TRILLION appears in TREVE’S female family in the fourth generation.

 

Canadian Michael Burns' fine shot of SECRETARIAT and Ronnie Turcotte working at Woodbine, in Toronto, before the colt's final race.

Canadian Michael Burns’ fine shot of SECRETARIAT and Ronnie Turcotte working at Woodbine, in Toronto, before the colt’s final race. He appears in TREVE’S sire line in the fifth generation.

However, if we go even further back in time to 1882, we find a name that appears on both sides of Treve’s distinguished pedigree: Plaisanterie. Although she stands very far back in Treve’s pedigree — too far to have had a decisive hand in the making of the mighty Treve — her influence remains incontrovertible. Had Plaisanterie not added her “colours” to Treve’s bloodlines, there would have been no Treve at all. Distant in time as she may be, Plaisanterie, like any of the other names in Treve’s pedigree history, played a fundamental role in sculpting one of the best thoroughbreds that we have ever seen.

A late nineteenth century print of PLAISANTERIE, born in 1882, by WELLINGTONIA out of POETESS by TROCADERO.

A late nineteenth century print of PLAISANTERIE (1882) by WELLINGTONIA (1869) out of POETESS (1875) by TROCADERO (1864).

In Plaisanterie, we have an absolutely brilliant runner and an important broodmare — a kind of home run in development of the breed.

The filly was owned in part by the influential Carter family:

“The Carters had a dominating effect on French Racing not only because they were so numerous, but also because they had talent. Other racing families came to France in imitation, such as the Cunningtons, Jennings and Watsons, with whom they intermarried, but perhaps none were so pervasive. The Carters were the founders of the English colony in Chantilly and instrumental in the future racing success of the town and nation. Members of this family have an unparalleled racing record; they won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 5 times, the Prix du Jockey Club on no less than 27 occasions, the Grand Prix de Paris on 16 runnings and the Prix de Diane 23 times.” (Excerpt from Thoroughbred Heritage, “Les Anglais in France,” @ http://www.tbheritage.com/TurfHallmarks/Trainers/Fr/Anglais3.html)

The Carters were a very large clan and Thomas Carter, who trained Plaisanterie, followed in the footsteps of his father, Thomas Carter Senior, who was known at Chantilly by his nickname, “The Genius.” Thomas “The Genius” Senior had been invited to train in France by Lord Seymour in 1831; subsequent members of the Carter family so dominated horse racing for the next 131 years (1831-1964) that some still think of Thomas Senior as the “father of the French turf.” In 1836, Thomas Senior took on a pair of apprentice trainers, John and Tom Jennings. As fate would have it, the Jennings and Head families are related by marriage: Tom Jennings is a direct ancestor of Criquette Head-Maarek, Treve’s brilliant trainer.

Trainer Tom Jennings (shown here with GLADIATEUR) is a direct ancestor of the Head family.

Trainer Tom Jennings (shown here with GLADIATEUR) is a direct ancestor of the Head family.

It was Thomas Carter Junior who purchased Plaisanterie, in whom he maintained a half ownership until his partner died, at which point he bought her outright. And that was a good thing, too, since the filly went on to win 16 (14) of her 18 (15) starts in Europe and England. (Note: The bracket indicates that there is some disagreement about how many times Plaisanterie actually raced, although no source states more than 18 starts, and her second places are either 1 or 2. However, during her turf career, the filly was never worse than second.)

So brilliant was Plaisanterie — and so pervasive and numerous were the members of the Carter family in Chantilly by this time — that Thomas Junior became known as “Carter Plaisanterie.” Racing almost always against colts, Carter’s filly won some very big races, including Germany’s most prestigious — the Grosser Preis von Baden. In October 1885, the 3 year-old was sent to England to contest the “Autumn Double” at Newmarket, the Cesarewitch and Cambridgeshire Handicaps. Carrying 98 pounds into the 2 1/4 mile Cesarewitch, Plaisanterie took the lead in the closing stages to win by two lengths, becoming the first French-trained thoroughbred to ever win the Cesarewitch.

1885: the running of the Cambridgshire Handicap.

1885: the running of the “Cambridgeshire,” which may or may not be the Handicap, since there was also a Cambridgeshire Stakes. At any rate, this is how PLAISANTERIE’S win would have “hit the press.”

But the win also landed Plaisanterie an extra fourteen pounds for the 9f Cambridgeshire, run two weeks later. Undaunted, the courageous filly disputed the lead from the start and was never in danger of defeat. In fact, she won “very easily” from the 5 year-old Bendigo; the favourite, St. Gatien, finished far back.

Plaisanterie became the second of only three horses to complete the “Autumn Double” since its inauguration in 1839. In fact, so decisive were her wins that Lord Falmouth appealed to the (English) Jockey Club to disallow French thoroughbreds from being entered into either race!

By the time she was retired, Plaisanterie had a full race record, including wins in G1’s in France in the Prix du Cedre, Grand Prix de Chantilly, Prix de la Seine and the Prix Du Prince Dorange. As a broodmare, she was equally successful. Bred to St. Simon and Orme, her best offspring were Childwick (1890), Raconteur (1892) and the filly, Topiary (1901).

CHILDWICK, by ST SIMON, was PLAISANTERIE'S first foal and figures in TREVE'S sire line, as well as her female family.

CHILDWICK, by ST SIMON, was PLAISANTERIE’S first foal and figures in TREVE’S sire line, as well as in her female family.

Through Childwick’s sire line comes the filly, Sega Ville (1968), whose son Top Ville (1976) is the maternal grandsire of Treve’s sire, Motivator (2002). In Treve’s female family, Childwick again plays a role. Bergamasque (1969) — the grandam of Balbonella (1984), the dam of Treve’s BM sire, Anabaa(1992) — descends from him.

The exquisite BALBONELLA is TREVE'S maternal grandam and descends from CHILDWICK.

The exquisite BALBONELLA is TREVE’S maternal grandam and descends from CHILDWICK. She is the dam of ANABAA, BM sire of TREVE.

 

ANABAA (foreground) is TREVE'S BM sire. This wonderful runner and sire, who holds a very special place in the hearts of the Head family, is also the sire of the great GOLDIKOVA, among other champions.

ANABAA (foreground) is TREVE’S BM sire. This wonderful runner and sire, who holds a very special place in the hearts of the Head family, is also the sire of the great GOLDIKOVA, among other champions.

 

TOP VILLE, owned by the Aga Khan III, appress in TREVE'S sire line in the fourth generation. He descends from PLAISANTERIE'S son, CHILDWICK.

TOP VILLE, owned by the Aga Khan III, appears in TREVE’S sire line in the fourth generation. He also descends from PLAISANTERIE’S son, CHILDWICK.

 

MONTJEU, who died at only 16 years of age, is TREVE'S maternal grandsire.

MONTJEU, who died at only 16 years of age, is TREVE’S grandsire. The 1999 winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, MONTJEU’S BM sire is TOP VILLE.

 

Plaisanterie’s “bloodedness” runs in Treve’s veins from two centuries ago, one of a huge number of thoroughbreds who have helped to “colour” a champion. We wonder, too, if something of Treve’s “strength of mind” owes to her champion ancestress. In a world where everything is so immediate, it is a comfort to behold Treve, the work of generation after generation of thoroughbreds.

And although we can only imagine Plaisanterie’s triumphs on the turf, just perhaps, it looked something like this ………

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Treve’s Theme Song:

2) Training Treve (with English subtitles — Please DON’T CLICK when “ENGLISH VERSION” comes up. The subtitles are right after it & continue throughout):

 

3) TREVE wins the 2014 ARC

 

4) TREVE: Career highlights

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If you love THE VAULT, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I have set up a charity for donations for horse rescues. Please consider making a donation.

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

Together we can make a difference.

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NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

 

 

 

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My idea to collect photographs of the progeny of Northern Dancer, our King of Thoroughbred Racing here in Canada, led to the discovery of just how influential this tiny thoroughbred stallion really was — and continues to be today, particularly in Great Britain, Ireland, Europe and Australia.

NORTHERN DANCER QUOTE by SANGSTER_$_57

It was the last Kentucky Derby my ailing grandfather and I watched together. He sat, wrapped in blankets, in his favourite armchair and I sat cross-legged near him on the carpet, the rest of the family ranged in chairs around the black and white television console. When the little colt hit the wire, the room erupted with gasps, followed by delight. Here he was, the very first Canadian bred and owned 3 year-old to win the Kentucky Derby and he had done it in record-breaking time.

As we watched EP Taylor leading his fractious champion into the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs, my grandfather exclaimed, “Well I never……just look at him ….he’s only a pony!”

I had been born with Grandpa’s “horse gene,” as my mother liked to say. Shortly after the Derby win, I bought a copy of Sports Illustrated magazine, carefully removed a photo of “The Dancer” winning the Florida Derby and glued it onto a sturdy sheet of blue cardboard, under which I wrote: ” ‘He’s all blood and guts and he tries hard.’ Northern Dancer: first Canadian owned-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. Time: 2:00:00 flat.”

The photo and the memory stuck. Today, as I write this, the faded blue cardboard with The Dancer’s photo and my round printing sits in a frame just above the computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

Punctuated as he was by the love of a grandfather who was gone only a year later, as well as that festering horse gene of mine, it was predictable that by 1990 I had decided to collect original press photos of Northern Dancer and some of his progeny. What I had in mind was a project: to collect some photos and then mount them in an album, together with a little research on The Dancer’s most prominent progeny.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

I started out in earnest, shopping on places like the newly-opened EBAY. But little did I know what I was going to uncover. The search for original photos of Nijinsky and The Minstrel connected me to a number of UK sellers — and it was here that the proverbial “floodgates” flew open. My career and family had necessitated a lengthy sabbatical from all things thoroughbred, leaving me somewhat amazed to discover that through the aegis of the great trainer and horseman, Vincent O’Brien, Canada’s tiny Dancer had, in fact, gone viral. 

NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr.

NORTHERN DANCER by Allen F. Brewer, Jr. The artist’s exquisite portrait belies the temperament of Canada’s King of Thoroughbreds which was, to quote E.P. Taylor’s daughter, “Not very nice at all.”

 

I had bought a few albums to house the photos and had started mounting them together with text. But as the sheer number of photos mounted, I could see that I was making myself a project that would take a lifetime to complete. It wasn’t that I had no criteria for acquiring a photo…..it was that truly great thoroughbreds kept coming and coming, like an enormous tidal wave, prompting the question: Where do I draw the line?

Think about it. Out of the “Danzig connection” alone, another galaxy of superstars in England, Ireland, Europe and Australia have emerged. And this is only one of many Northern Dancer sire lines.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

 

DANZIG'S best son, DANEHILL.

DANZIG’S best son, DANEHILL.

 

DANEHILL'S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

DANEHILL’S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

 

DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

Juddmonte’s DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

 

Among the remarkable thoroughbreds who descend from a bewildering galaxy of Northern Dancer sire lines and families, and who have recently retired are the champions: Rachel Alexandra (USA), America’s sweetheart and 2009 Horse of the Year, is a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and granddaughter of Sadler’s Wells; Black Caviar (AUS) whose sire, Bel Esprit, is the grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Helsinge, is the granddaughter of the late Green Desert (by Danzig); the incomparable Frankel (GB) a son of Galileo (by Sadler’s Wells) whose dam, the Blue Hen, Kind, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); America’s two-time Horse of the Year and turf star, Wise Dan (USA), who carries Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer) and Lyphard (by Northern Dancer) on both sides of his 4th generation pedigree; the 2014 and 2013 Investec Derby winners Australia (IRE) by Galileo and Camelot (IRE) by Montjeu; Arc winner Danedream (GER), whose sire Lomitas is a grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Danedrop, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); the brilliant Nathaniel (IRE), a son of Galileo and only one of two horses to seriously challenge Frankel, the other being Zoffany (IRE) by Dansili, a son of Danehill and grandson of Danzig; the mighty Igugu (IRE), winner of the SA Triple Tiara and a daughter of Galileo; the immortal Hurricane Fly (IRE) whose sire Montjeu is a son of Sadler’s Wells; the undefeated Arc winner Zarkava (IRE) whose sire, Zamindar, is a grandson of The Minstrel and whose dam, Zarkasha, is by the superb Kahyasi, a grandson of Nijinsky; the ill-fated and brilliant St. Nicholas Abbey (IRE) a son of Montjeu; the Australian champion All Too Hard (AUS), the half-brother of Black Caviar, and a grandson of Danehill (by Danzig); the wonderful mare, The Fugue (IRE), a daughter of Dansili (by Danehill) whose dam, Twyla Tharp, is by Sadler’s Wells; Canada’s Inglorious, winner of the 2011 Queen’s Plate, who is a granddaughter of Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer); and last but hardly least, Goldikova (IRE) whose sire, Anabaa is a son of Danzig and whose dam, Born Gold, is a granddaughter of Lyphard (by Northern Dancer).

It’s impossible to think of thoroughbred racing or the National Hunt without these individuals — but even they are the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the ongoing genetic dance of The Dancer.

Below, a video of the American turf superstar, Wise Dan, winning the 2013 Breeders Cup Mile for the second straight year:

“The bird has flown” — the fabulous Nathaniel winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot:

The “sensational” Canadian filly,Inglorious, winning the 2011 Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, Toronto, Canada:

Stallions — so many names that one gets dizzy just trying to keep them in a kind of chronological order. Among the best-known: Giant’s Causeway, Medaglia d’Oro, Elusive Quality, Animal Kingdon, Big Brown and War Front in the USA; Galileo, Sea The Stars, Yeats, Invincible Spirit, Cape Cross (sire of Sea The Stars, Ouija Board and Golden Horn), New Approach, Oasis Dream, Kingman, Mastercraftsman, Dansili and Dubawi in Great Britain, Ireland and Europe; So You Think, Exceed and Excel, Sepoy, Redoute’s Choice, Fastnet Rock, More Than Ready, Bel Esprit and Snitzel in Australia; and in Japan, the great Empire Maker and leading sires by earnings, Deep Impact and King Kamehameha ( a son of Kingmambo who is inbred 2 X 4 to Northern Dancer through his sons, Nureyev and Lyphard, and carries Nijinsky’s son, Green Dancer, in his 4th generation).

A look back at the late Bart Cummings’ great champion, So You Think:

And in 2015?

Well, let’s see.

There’s America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah (whose brilliance, I will continue to insist, owes at least as much to Empire Maker and his Blue Hen dam, Toussaud, a daughter of Northern Dancer’s El Gran Señor as to any other in his pedigree), the Investec Derby winner Golden Horn, Shadwell’s brilliant Muhaarar, Coolmore’s Gleneagles, the up-and-coming sire, Mastercraftman’s The Grey Gatsby and Amazing Maria in Great Britain. And it’s impossible to overlook the incomparable Treve, who now has her own theme song!

This year, they all look like him, carrying his bay coat and dark mane and tail into a future he never saw. But the familiar colours of my “tiny Dancer” always take me back to that last Kentucky Derby my grandfather and I watched together. And as for my collection of photographs, it’s tailed off considerably since it arrived at 500 + images. I’m well behind in recording them all, so the considerable overflow are now housed in an archival file.

But then along came 2015.

And I can see that my collecting is not yet done…….

 

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UPDATE

Since I began THE VAULT’S rescue fund, $1,542.00 CAD has been raised, allowing THE VAULT readers and yours truly to rescue Hale, as well as a Standardbred gelding and a beautiful blue roan QH mare, in foal, from slaughter. Too, donations have been made to Our Mims and RR Refuge. I continue to work to save horses, one horse at a time: this week, it was a granddaughter of Secretariat.

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

Here’s some footage of Hale, a mere month after VAULT readers, his new owner and yours truly rescued him:

If you love THE VAULT, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I write it for you.

And please consider making a donation:

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

Together we can make a difference.

 

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NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trainer Willie Mullins arrives at Cheltenham 2015 with a stable of National Hunt royalty. But there can be little doubt that 11 year-old Hurricane Fly crowns the lot — and all Irish eyes will be on him in the Champion Hurdle.

Hurricane Fly, as champion trainer Willie Mullins admits, has never lost his coltish streak, his “buzziness” — (translation) a quiet Hurricane Fly is a sick Hurricane Fly.

The little bay gelding, now entering the dusk of a brilliant career, stands as one of Montjeu’s very best progeny, even though “The Fly,” as he is affectionately known by all, made his career over hurdles. And what a stunning career it is — 22 Grade One wins and counting.

In his most recent victory at Leopardstown in January of this year, he bested the record of the mighty Istabraq by one, to win his fifth straight Irish Champion Hurdle.

And was greeted by an adoring public:

So it is that The Fly is THE horse to watch — and to beat — at Cheltenham this year, despite Mullins’ fearsome contingent of Faugheen (also entered in the Champion Hurdle), Annie Power (Mares Hurdle), Douvan (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Un de Sceaux (Arkle Trophy) and Don Poli (Toby Balding National Hunt Chase). In fact, Mullins comes to Cheltenham this year with arguably the best stable of any of the big-time National Hunt trainers. Which, if you’re Irish, is exactly what it should be, since Ireland has long dominated the winners enclosure at Cheltenham. For the Irish, Cheltenham is better than Christmas Eve and excitement builds from well before Christmas into a national crescendo by opening day at the premiere National Hunt festival of the season.

In his lovely book, “A Fine Place To Dream,” transplanted American writer Bill Barich enthrals readers with his passion for the horses, trainers and jockeys of the Irish National Hunt. It is the year of Best Mate’s third Gold Cup, the year of Moscow Flyer, Beef Or Salmon and Barracouda, and Barich, in love and living in Dublin, delights with his behind-the-scenes account of the run-up to Cheltenham 2004. One of his visits is to the yard of trainer Willie Mullins. Mullins, himself a former jockey, is a rather conservative type, “meticulous by nature,” who has won more National Hunt races than any trainer before him. Mullins keeps up to 100 horses in his yard in any given year, including some flat runners. Most recently, he won the 2005 Grand National with Hedgehunter and trained the fabulous Quevega, winner of the Mares Hurdle event at Cheltenham for six consecutive years, beginning in 2009.

Here’s a look at the Mullins’ yard produced by the Racing Post. Hurdlers going to Cheltenham, featuring Hurricane Fly, together with Faugheen, Annie Power and Douvan are featured in Part One (below). (NOTE: For those interested, Part Two, that looks at the Mullins’ chasers going to Cheltenham, please see the Bonus Features at the end of this article.)

As his trainer points out, The Fly is down in the Cheltenham betting pools at the moment largely due to his age, as well as an unfounded conviction that he is predisposed to do poorly over the Cheltenham course. Although the gelding prefers ground with some moisture in it, he is quite capable of giving any course under any conditions his best effort. And although The Fly is now 11 years old, he’s coming off the best season in his National Hunt career, a career that began when he was sold to George Creighton and shipped to Willie Mullins late in 2007. The then-3 year-old was coming off a disappointing career on the flat where he had only managed to win twice. But The Fly’s bloodlines were just too promising to give up on him entirely and, once gelded, he began to learn a new career under Mullins’ practiced and patient guidance.

Trainer Willie Mullins and The Fly.

Trainer Willie Mullins and The Fly.

HURRICANE FLY leads out the Mullins' horses on a morning work.

HURRICANE FLY leads out the Mullins’ horses on a morning work.

Conditioning the young son of Montjeu meant developing stamina through long gallops and teaching agility over minor obstacles at first.  But by 2008, the little bay was ready to try his hand at Novice Hurdle racing. He won a race at Punchestown Racecourse in May and then returned to France to win the Grade Three Gras Savoye Prix de Longchamp Hurdle at Auteuil. Racing over the same course and distance at Auteuil in June, The Fly finished second to Grivette in the Grade One Prix Alain de Breil, and just ahead of his stable companion, Quevega, who would go on to prove a champion of stunning merit in her own right. Returning to Ireland later in the year, the Mullins’ trainee recorded his first Grade One win when beating Donnas Palm by a neck in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November 2008, followed by another win in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown a month later. Bypassing Cheltenham that year, The Fly returned to Punchestown where he scored two wins, in April and again in November of 2009:

What was becoming evident was that the little bay had talent, not the least of which was an explosive show of speed as he raced to the finish. However, his 2009-2010 campaign was short: The Fly started only twice, with a win and a third place finish before injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Hurrican Fly clears a hurdle in a manner reminiscent of the great Irish National Hunt champion, Istabraq.

Hurrican Fly clears a hurdle in a manner reminiscent of the great Irish National Hunt champion, Istabraq.

This shot captures the power of The Fly, Ruby Walsh up.

This shot captures the power of The Fly, Ruby Walsh up.

Charging across the finish line.

Charging across the finish line.

 

By the 2010/2011 season, The Fly was considered a senior hurdler and he put his skill to work, winning all five of his starts, including the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on what was his first visit to the meeting at Prestbury Park. Started as the 11/4 favourite in a field of eleven runners, Hurricane Fly took the lead at the last flight of hurdles and won by one and a quarter lengths from Peddlers Cross. National Hunt legend Ruby Walsh, who was now his regular rider, was unable to suppress his delight as the pair returned to the winner’s enclosure.

Following a win in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in May 2011, the gelding was given eight months off and returned to business in January 2012 to contest the Irish Champion Hurdle, which he won for the first time. However, things didn’t go his way at Cheltenham in 2012, where The Fly finished third to Rock On Ruby.

It was at about this time that “Fly doubters” emerged. The 2011/2012 season had been a short one for the eight year-old and even though Cheltenham was his only loss, the nay-sayers abounded. And it was also precisely here that the idea that The Fly couldn’t cope with Cheltenham was born.

Hurricane Fly began the 2012/2013 season in brilliant fashion, taking the Morgiana Hurdle in November by twelve lengths from Captain Cee Bee. A month later, The Fly annexed his thirteenth Grade One race winning by seven lengths. He then won his third consecutive Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2013, beating Thousand Stars by five lengths with the very good Binocular in third place. After the race, a pleased Willie Mullins confided that his champion had returned to his best form. But as Cheltenham loomed, it became clear that the pundits and bookies still doubted that the 2011 Champion Hurdle winner could regain the title. By now, The Fly and his hugely-talented team had gained the status of superstars, and thousands of “Fly fans” travelled over from Ireland to see their little hero take on the doubters.

As it turns out, regaining lost titles at Cheltenham takes some doing. Only Comedy of Errors had managed it, regaining Champion Hurdle honours in 1975. On March 12, 2013, Hurricane Fly stepped onto the course and into racing history:

The Fly ended his season by winning his 16th grade one race and his fourth consecutive Punchestown Hurdle, to equal the records of the legendary Kauto Star and America’s brilliant John Henry in consecutive wins.

HURRICANE FLY (outside) and stablemate, the brilliant mare, QUEVEGA, at Cheltenham.

HURRICANE FLY (outside) and stablemate, the brilliant mare, QUEVEGA, at Cheltenham.

what a team! The great Ruby Walsh, HURRICANE FLY and Gail Carlisle, the gelding's caretaker and frequent exercise rider.

What a team! Ruby Walsh, HURRICANE FLY and Gail Carlisle, the gelding’s caretaker and best friend.

 

Last year did not find Hurricane Fly in the winner’s circle at Cheltenham, but the 10 year-old showed that he could be impressive even against much younger talent. In eight starts, he only lost twice although, to “Fly fans,” the horse didn’t seem quite on his game.

As we heard from trainer Mullins (video above), Hurricane Fly acquitted himself with honour last season but was not, indeed, quite himself.

The Fly goes into Cheltenham 2015 vulnerable to young guns like the promising Faugheen. But as his 22nd Group One win (shown above) suggests, this champion hurdler is still more than capable of brilliance. Other than his age, it remains to be seen whether his constant partner, Ruby Walsh, will decide to ride him or will, rather, choose Faugheen. Walsh has said that he’ll use his head and not his heart to make a final decision.

Who loves you, baby? Oh, the whole of Ireland, for starters. The Champ with Gail Carlisle.

Who loves you, baby? Oh, the whole of Ireland, for starters. The Champ with Gail Carlisle.

But one thing is clear: whether he is blessed with the talent of a legendary jockey or not, Hurricane Fly will be carried every step of the way in the hearts of his legions of fans. And if, as was true of the noble champion Istabraq on his final appearance at Cheltenham, it proves too much for him, two things remain certain.

The greatest care will be taken to see that he comes home safe.

Hurricane Fly stands as one of Ireland’s greatest National Hunt horses and nothing, not even Cheltenham 2015, can change that.

(Video by Michael Greaney)

 

BONUS FEATURES

Faugheen, shown here winning the 2014 Christmas Hurdle, will go up against Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham this year:

Recent article on Willie Mullins’ Un de Sceaux (Arkle Trophy) with video :

http://www.cheltenhamfestival.net/category/tuesdays-race-card–day-one/2015-arkle-trophy-tips-is-hot-favourite-un-de-sceaux-a-banker-or-blowout-201502280006/

Douvan, another from the Mullins’ yard, winning a month ago:

Annie Power in a 2014 win. Trainer Mullins says she’s “doing everything right” for her return in the Champion Mares Hurdle:

Finally, for those interested in the great Sprinter Sacre, who will also vie for honours at Cheltenham this year:

https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/hes-better-than-frankel-sprinter-sacre/

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