The very nature of jump racing, when most star players are in their prime around the ages of eight or nine, means that often by the time a stallion has made it to the top of the table he is either in the twilight of his career or deceased. With the major Christmas meetings behind us and the big springs festivals which form an influential climax to the season now a topic of daily speculation, it’s time to look at how the jumps boys are faring mid-way through the season.
Nine of the current top 20 stallions by prize-money in Britain and Ireland are no longer with us but they nevertheless still make a dramatic impact in the rankings through progeny left behind. In the case of reigning champion, King’s Theatre, who died in 2010, there’s still plenty of his youngsters coming through and they have been much sought after at recent store sales – no surprise given that his current stars include the likes of Captain Chris, Menorah, Voler La Vedette and recent five-time scorer Pete The Feat.
His excellent strike-rate of 33% winners to runners puts him in third place on the current table with 62 winners from 190 representatives. Ahead of King’s Theatre, Beneficial has taken a commanding lead with 79 winners from 290 runners (27%) closing in on £1 million in prize-money. The 23-year-old son of Top Ville, who stands at Knockhouse Stud in Ireland, numbers Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle winner Monksland and promising young chaser Benefficient among his rising stars on the track.
The dependable Flemensfirth, now 21, sits just behind Beneficial in second and has one of the most talked-about chasers, Flemenstar, among his runners this season, while 12-year-old Tidal Bay, a rejuvenated force now under the care of Paul Nicholls, sprang a late shock in the Lexus Chase on 28 December when nabbing First Lieutenant by a head on the line. Both Tidal Bay and Flemensfirth’s top-rated performer, the recently-retired Gold Cup winner Imperial Commader, are out of mares by the dual Ascot Gold Cup winner Le Moss.
Milan is third of the active sires, an impressive feat considering his eldest runners have only just turned eight. He is not short of representatives, however, with his 230 runners so far this season having reaped 62 wins for a strike-rate on a par with leader Beneficial. He will no doubt continue to be widely represented, having covered 220 mares in 2011 and another 262 last season, making him one of the busiest jumps sires in Ireland.
Oscar and Presenting are never far from the thick of the action and once again they are holding their own in fourth and fifth place among living sires, both on a 22% strike-rate with 64 and 66 winners apiece. The next four in the table – Bob Back, Dom Alco, Montjeu and Accordion – are all deceased. Dom Alco’s legacy is particularly rich with his select group of runners in Britain and Ireland including Silviniaco Conti, Al Ferof and Grands Crus, while last year’s Grand National winner Neptune Collonges is another of his famous sons.
The three British-based sires in the active top ten are tightly bunched, with the Shade Oak veteran Alflora holding sway on prize-money, just £5,000 clear of reigning British champion Kayf Tara, who has 29 winners to Alflora’s 27.
Heading them both numerically is Dunraven Stud’s Dr Massini, like Kayf Tara a son of Sadler’s Wells, with 31 winners. Midnight Legend, further down the table when it comes to prize-money, has also had his fair share of winners this season and currently stands on 25 from just 80 runners.
The mountain the British stallions have to climb is amply illustrated by figures in the 2012 Return of Mares: Alflora, Kayf Tara, Dr Massini and Midnight Legend combined covered 179 mares. The individual totals for their Irish counterparts ahead of them in the table are as follows: Benefficial (124), Flemensfirth (217), Milan (262), Oscar (262) and Presenting (143).