You have to feel for racing fans who aren’t interested in the breeding side of the sport.
For those people, it will be a bitter disappointment if Honeysuckle isn’t deemed capable of defending her crown in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and is retired into her owner Kenny Alexander’s broodmare band instead, as they will never see her again; but for us, the blow will be softened by looking forward to the start of an exciting new story.
As things stand, the 11-time Grade 1-winning hurdler will head to paddocks as the joint-fifth best jumps filly or mare this millennium, according to Racing Post Ratings.
It got me wondering what happened to the other top-rated fillies and mares to have raced and retired since 2000, especially when there exists a school of thought that they don’t make the best broodmares, so I set about investigating…
Annie Power (RPR 170)
The brilliant hurdling mare by Shirocco, from an excellent Flat family that has produced Classic winners Adayar and Billesdon Brook in recent years, has yet to be represented by any progeny on the track.
She has four-year-old and three-year-old colts by Galileo, and two-year-old and yearling colts by Camelot, all bred in partnership between Coolmore and Martinstown. She was covered by Walk In The Park last year, and connections will no doubt be hoping for a filly sooner rather than later.
Lady Rebecca (169)
A young(er) David Redvers famously paid just 400gns for the diminutive daughter of Rolfe who became a Cheltenham favourite, winning the Cleeve Hurdle on three occasions.
She turned out to be a fine broodmare too, producing four winners including Listed bumper scorer Lord Generous, not to mention the dams of Galmoy Hurdle winner Royal Kahala and classy chaser Before Midnight. She was lost to colic in 2013.
Apple’s Jade (168)
At the time she was carrying a Walk In The Park filly, which is now a two-year-old, while last year she produced a colt by Crystal Ocean before returning to Walk In The Park.
Asian Maze (165)
Asian Maze has it all, being both brilliant on the track – not least when slamming Hardy Eustace by 17 lengths to win the Aintree Hurdle – and in possession of a top pedigree, as a half-sister to Cheltenham Grade 3 winner Quantitativeeasing.
With that in mind, it’s a little disappointing that she’s bred only one winner since retirement in 2008, though in mitigation that was the useful Cup Final, and she appears to have had her issues, losing her pregnancy five years out of six between 2014 and 2019. More happily, she has a three-year-old colt by Order Of St George and a yearling filly by Blue Bresil.
Ma Filleule (164)
Poor Ma Filleule, best remembered for dotting up in the Topham Chase at Aintree in spite of conceding weight to most of her 29 rivals, died following complications from colic surgery in April 2020, only a couple of months after delivering a filly by Doctor Dino. That was the only foal bred from the mare by Dominic Burke, who had paid €220,000 for her 18 months earlier, but at least he has a daughter to continue the line.
The well-bred mare had produced one previous foal in France for racing owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, a five-year-old Martaline gelding named Raffles Park who has finished placed twice from eight outings for Jerry Planque.
What an outstanding breeding prospect Niall Flynn’s homebred mare is, having taken the scalps of Envoi Allen and Monkfish when winning the Punchestown Champion Novice Chase on her swansong, and being by Flemensfirth out of a Saddlers’ Hall mare who has produced six winners from as many runners, also including Munster National scorer Spider Web, Grade 2-placed hurdler Runfordave and the smart January Jets.
The ten-year-old mare produced her first foal, a Walk In The Park colt, on April Fool’s Day last year, and returned to the son of Montjeu afterwards.
Function Dream (163)
One in the eye for all those who say that high-class racemares, especially those that stay in training for a long time, don’t make good producers. Mary Reveley’s spring-heeled chaser, who at the age of nine beat Cenkos and Exit Swinger to win the Clarence House Chase in its former more exciting guise as a handicap, produced three winners from as many runners, including the top-notch chaser Captain Chris.
Sadly she left only four foals before her death in 2008, but her two daughters Function Dreamer and Dream Function have each produced three winners.
J’y Vole (163)
The daughter of Mansonnien, who beat none other than Big Zeb by five lengths when she won the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase, has proved disappointing as a broodmare so far, with her first two runners bred by Paul Murphy, the ten-year-old Flying Legend mare Legende Volante and eight-year-old Shirocco gelding The Chipper, having shown next to no talent and more than a little temperament for the breeder’s daughter Amy.
Surely the only way is up for J’y Vole. Murphy has also bred a four-year-old filly by Westerner and a three-year-old colt by Yeats from the mare, and she has more recently been owned by Bryan Mayoh, who has a two-year-old colt and yearling filly by Dartmouth out of her.
Racing fans of a certain age will cherish memories of the late David Johnson’s green and blue silks being carried to victory by a host of Martin Pipe-trained stars, including this mare who was awarded an RPR of 163 for humping 11st 12lb to victory in a competitive Cheltenham handicap chase and scoring in the Game Spirit.
She went on to produce two winners who represented Johnson with distinction in the final months of his life: Swing Bowler, who won her first five starts and ran third behind My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle, and Red Sherlock, who briefly looked a superstar, especially when defeating Rathvinden to win a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Cheltenham.
Verdana Blue (163)
The Christmas Hurdle heroine, bought by Blandford Bloodstock on behalf of Doreen Tabor for 370,000gns at the Tattersalls December Mares Sale of 2019, has joined the throng of high-class racemares and proven producers being covered by Walk In The Park in her early years at stud.
She delivered her first foal, a colt by the source of Douvan and Min, last May and subsequently paid another visit to him at Grange Stud.
Benie Des Dieux (162)
Guess which enormously popular sire the four-time Grade 1-winning hurdler has been seeing in recent years? Yep, you’ve got it.
The daughter of Great Pretender was sent to Walk In The Park for her first cover in 2021, and was sold in foal to him for €350,000 at Fairyhouse later that year. Her joint-buyers Coolmore and Bective Stud welcomed a filly out of her last April, and then sent her back to the Derby runner-up for a repeat mating.
Magic Of Light (162)
Another tragic tale, as the dual Grade 2-winning hurdler and Grand National runner-up died from a haemorrhage while delivering her first foal, a Crystal Ocean filly, last April.
As is the case with Dominic Burke and Ma Filleule, at least her owners Coolmara Stables can console themselves with the fact that they have a filly to continue her legacy.
Put The Kettle On (162)
This popular mare, who notched the Arkle-Champion Chase double, will, fingers crossed, produce one of the most keenly anticipated first foals this year.
More compelling evidence that top-class racemares shouldn’t be maligned as poor producers, as the six-time David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle heroine has delivered two winners from her first two foals, and one of them happens to be the unbeaten Facile Vega. The son of Walk In The Park (who else?) emulated his dam with success at Cheltenham last year, and since adding the Punchestown Champion Bumper and Future Champions Novice Hurdle to his tally, is already long odds-on to take after mum in becoming a multiple Festival scorer, by taking the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.
Quevega also has a five-year-old filly by Walk In The Park, a four-year-old filly by Camelot and a three-year-old filly by Australia (with her first foal also being a filly, Princess Vega by Beat Hollow, her genes should be spread far and wide in future). She delivered another colt by Walk In The Park last February and was later covered by him again.
Ah, Solerina. The winner of 22 of her 40 starts, including five Grade 1s, she ran 11 times in her penultimate season and seven times in her final one, even after falling first time up. They don’t make them like that any more, more’s the pity.
She died at the age of 24 two years ago, leaving her devoted breeders, owners and trainers the Bowe family heartbroken, but she did them proud at stud as well, producing three smart winners under rules and leaving several daughters to be bred from. Her last produce are a four-year-old colt by Vendangeur, a three-year-old colt by Walk In The Park and a two-year-old filly by Maxios.
Might the late Feathard Lady be one of the forgotten heroes of the post-millennium hurdling scene? You don’t hear her name mentioned all that often any more, in spite of her winning all of her seven starts, culminating in a 12-length defeat of Self Defense in the Christmas Hurdle.
It was this mare’s record price that Apple’s Jade stole, as she was bought by Graham Wylie for 270,000gns at Doncaster at the outset of her breeding career in 2007. She went on to put together a rather strange production record, as she has seven offspring aged six and over and only one who has graced a winner’s enclosure, but that just happens to be Augusta Kate, who struck in Grade 1 company. Her last registered foal is a three-year-old Telescope filly named Pretty Flamingo, bred by Shade Oak Stud and Bryan Mayoh.
La Landiere (160)
Richard Phillips’ French-bred daughter of Synefos lit up the spring of 2003 by winning the Racing Post Chase at Kempton and Cathcart Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Sadly, in a turn of events that might allow Ma Filleule and Magic Of Light’s connections to reflect on their fortune in getting even one filly out their star mares, La Landiere was found dead in a field while carrying her first foal by Classic Cliche, believed to have been kicked by a paddock-mate.
Liss A Paoraigh (160)
Liss A Paoraigh, a 25-length winner of the December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown over the Christmas of 2002, had one of the finest National Hunt pedigrees in the stud book with Baronet, Irish Hussar, Joncol, Next Destination, On His Own, Shuil Ar Aghaidh and The Outlier just a few of the other stars who appear under her first three dams.
The mare, who carried the same distinctive blue and white birdseye silks belonging to the Flynn family as Colreevy, did her bit to maintain family honour by producing three winners, including the black type-placed pair Liss Na Tintri (later the dam of Grade 3-winning hurdler Just Janice, trained like her dam and granddam by John Kiely) and Goodbye Someday.
Voler La Vedette (160)
Margaret Brophy’s homebred multiple Graded winner, who got to within two lengths of the mighty Big Buck’s when second in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, can rival Liss A Paoraigh in the pedigree stakes, as a half-sister to Bet365 Gold Cup winner Hennessy and to the dams of Shishkin and Good Boy Bobby.
Her broodmare career is yet to really take off, having produced one relatively modest three-time winner from two runners under rules to date, but there is still plenty of time for her. She has a four-year-old filly by Mount Nelson, a three-year-old colt by Snow Sky and a yearling colt by Hillstar, and she visited Affinisea last year.