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Cheveley Park Stud

You know the breeders and racehorse owners Cheveley Park Stud well.  You know the racing colours of the famous Newmarket stud farm: red, white sash, blue cap.  You know the horses.  Pivotal and Medicean and Russian Rhythm and Nannina.  Top class horses on the flat who are trained in Britain and who win the Guineas and the Eclipse and the Lockinge Stakes and the Coronation Stakes. 

But the Cheveley Park Stud colours are becoming more and more prominent of late in Ireland, in bumpers and in maiden hurdles and in beginners’ chases.  It’s novel.  It’s unusual to see racing silks that you usually associate with high summer on the flat in Britain being carried to victory at Down Royal and Clonmel and Fairyhouse during the winter.  It’s a new departure.

Only it isn’t really.  It isn’t that Cheveley Park Stud’s owners, David and Patricia Thompson, have never been involved in National Hunt racing before.  It’s just that, when they have, it has usually been with older, established National Hunt horses.  Also, significantly, the horses have generally raced in Mrs Thompson’s own colours: pink with purple cross-belts and armlets and cap. 

Famously, Party Politics won the 1992 Aintree Grand National in those colours, the sale only completed the day before the race.  The strapping Nick Gaselee-trained gelding also carried the colours to victory in the Greenalls Gold Cup and the Rehearsal Chase the following year.  Baronet won the Scottish Grand National in 1998 in those colours. 

“Mr and Mrs Thompson decided that they would be a little more adventurous this year,” says Max McLoughlin of Cheveley Park Stud.  “They decided that they wanted to have young National Hunt runners in Ireland this season, and that they would race in the Cheveley Park silks.”

Envoi Allen won a point-to-point for Colin Bowe in February last year, and was bought for £400,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham Sale 11 days later.  Malone Road won a point-to-point for Stuart Crawford in March last year, and was bought for £325,000 at the Goffs UK Aintree sale the following month.  Chief Justice, zero for seven on the flat in Britain in the Cheveley Park colours, won a novices’ hurdle at Worcester last August, and his trainer Richard Fahey suggested that he join the Irish National Hunt team at Gordon Elliott’s.

“All in all, we have nine horses in training with Gordon,” says McLoughlin.  “We have six with Willie Mullins, and we have one with Henry de Bromhead.  It’s a nice team of horses and a nice team of trainers.”

The adventure started as a trickle.  Chief Justice won a three-year-old hurdle at Listowel in September, and followed up by winning another three-year-old hurdle at Gowran Park in October.  Then on Hatton’s Grace Hurdle day at Fairyhouse in early December, he got the better of a protracted duel with Coeur Sublime, giving him 7lb, to land a Grade 3 contest, the pair of them coming clear of their field. 

Envoi Allen won the bumper at Fairyhouse on the same day – a double for Cheveley Park on one of Fairyhouse’s marquee days, half of a four-timer for Gordon Elliott – and followed up by winning a listed bumper at Navan two weeks later.

Malone Road was impressive in winning his bumper at Down Royal in early November on his debut for Cheveley Park Stud, and he was even more impressive in winning again at Punchestown two weeks later.  Unfortunately, Malone Road has suffered a knee injury that probably means that he won’t make it to the Cheltenham Festival this year, but he remains a hugely exciting prospect.

“It’s not a serious injury,” says McLoughlin.  “The Cheltenham Festival is probably out, but there is a chance that he could make it back for the Punchestown Festival.  Gordon won’t rush him though.  All going well, he is a horse with a future.”

The stats are impressive.  Just nine individual horses have carried the Cheveley Park colours in Ireland this National Hunt season so far, and five of them have won.  And the four horses who haven’t won yet have each run just once.  

The Cheveley Park Stud horses have between them run just 19 times in Ireland this National Hunt season, and they have won nine times.  That’s a strike rate of over 47%. 

They are all young horses too.  Chief Justice has just turned four.  Envoi Allen and Malone Road have just turned five.  Allaho is five.  Larquebuse is five.  Of the nine horses who have run so far, only Western Honour is older than five.  They are all horses with potential.

A Plus Tard is five.  Winner of a listed hurdle in France, the Kapgarde gelding made his debut for Cheveley Park Stud and for Henry de Bromhead in a beginners’ chase at Gowran Park in late November, and he ran well in going down by just a neck to Dr Mikey.  He stepped forward from that last time, when he ran out an impressive winner of a beginners’ chase at Naas under Rachael Blackmore.

“We were delighted with A Plus Tard at Naas,” says McLoughlin.  “He won nicely, and the form is working out well.  Hopefully he will be able to take the next step now.”

The next step is today at Punchestown, when A Plus Tard steps up in class to contest the Grade 3 Total Event Rental Novice Chase.  The adventure continues.

© The Sunday Times, 13th January 2019