THE BHA handicapper was as impressed as we all were with Stage Star’s victory at the weekend in Cheltenham.

Bred in Ireland by Ruxley Holdings, Stage Star put in a career best performance to land the Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup, even though he is already a dual Grade 1 winner, landing Newbury’s Challow Novices’ Hurdle and, in March, the Turner Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. At the start of his career the seven-year-old gelding was a listed bumper winner at Ascot.

With winnings that are climbing close to £300,000, Stage Star has certainly repaid the €60,000 investment made in him when bloodstock agent Tom Malone gave that amount for him at the 2019 Goffs Land Rover Sale, when he was offered from Baroda Stud.

Stage Star in one of three winners out of the smart racemare Sparky May (Midnight Legend), and they have come from just four runners.

The story of how Sparky May became a smart racemare is worth the retelling. She was originally destined for a career as a showjumper, but instead ended up racing for her breeder Bill Muddyman, trained for her four successes by Pat Rodford. Muddyman purchased three mares in the USA for breeding purposes, all having been successful in the show jumping arena.


Having brought them to England he decided that one of the mares, Glassy Appeal (Glassy Dip), the only thoroughbred, should be given a chance to produce a racehorse. Sent to Midnight Legend (Night Shift), she produced a filly who almost died, save for some early morning heroics by Rodford.

On a miserably wet night, Rodford went out after midnight to check on the stock when he found the filly foal, lifeless and 20 yards the wrong side of an electric fence. Instinct rather than reason kicked in and he dragged the foal back under the fence. Sparks literally flew!

When it came to naming the filly she was called Sparky May. She caused a sensation of sorts on her racing debut, only beaten by the smart Banjaxed Girl thanks to veering all over the track when the steering controls failed.

While Sparky May did not manage to win on the level, a switch to hurdling showed what she was capable of and she beat Carole’s Legacy in a Grade 2 mares’ hurdle at Ascot.

Quevega denied Sparky May a win in the Grade 2 David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but she acquitted herself well when tackling Grade 1 company in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, finishing third in a 19-runner field.

Sparky May is writing her own success story at stud, the family having missed out on a couple of generations. She is also the dam of Lanspark (Milan), a three-time winner over hurdles, and La Malmason (Walk In The Park), a hurdle winner last year and more recently placed over fences.

Big loss

What a loss Fame And Glory was at the age of just 11. He raced for five seasons and stood the same number at stud. Winner of the Group 1 Irish Derby, he added a pair of Group 1 races at four, the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Coronation Cup. Then, at five, he was successful in the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup. His first three crops have been the best to date of the five he left behind.

His second crop include Grade 1 winners such a Ballyadam, The Nice Guy, Home By The Lee and Flame Bearer, while Stage Star and the French Grade 1 winner Gardons Le Sourire are members of his third crop. His first crop was led by Commander Of Fleet, while crop number four has a couple of blacktype winners. His final crop are just five-year-olds.

Baby Kate has a rich history to emulate

BABY Kate was earmarked in this column as a mare to watch for after she made the trip from Willie Mullins’ yard in Closutton to Ballinrobe to land the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies INH Flat Race on her debut.

The four-year-old daughter of Champs Elysees (Danehill) kept her unbeaten record when she travelled to Cheltenham and added the Listed Evesham Mares’ National Hunt Flat Race to her bumper win in the west. She is upholding a great family tradition, as her dam won three bumpers, two of them listed, and her grandam won a pair of bumpers, and became a Grade 1 winner over hurdles.

Baby Kate is the first foal out of Augusta Kate, and she was bred by the former Irish international soccer player Kevin Doyle. He leases the mare to the syndicate who race her, and he tweeted after the victory that he didn’t expect they would be sending her back to him any time soon. Doyle bought Augusta Kate, carrying Baby Kate, for €85,000.

That purchase was made after Augusta Kate, a daughter of Yeats (Sadler’s Wells), had a stellar career on the track. She won five times, but two of her three bumper successes were in listed races, while her pair of hurdle victories included a triumph in the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. This is a family in which mares do very well.

Augusta Kate’s second produce, a three-year-old filly by Flemensfirth (Alleged), sold for €75,000 to Bryan Cooper this year at the Derby Sale, while Kevin Doyle has a two-year-old filly by Maxios (Monsun) at his Slaney River Stud, along with a colt foal by Crystal Ocean (Sea The Stars). Augusta Kate is continuing a strong family tradition, as Baby Kate’s first four dams have all bred a blacktype winner.

Rags to riches

The dam of Augusta Kate is Feathard Lady (Accordion), a true rags to riches story. Bought as a foal for IR900gns by Jamestown House Stud, she was never beaten. She won two bumpers and five hurdle races, notably a 12-length success in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Sandown, and sold for a record 270,000gns. She ended her racing career with earnings of €146,000.

Augusta Kate is the only winner for Feathard Lady, but that mare is the best of six winners from Lady Rolfe (Alzao), whose siblings include the Auteuil listed hurdle winner Invite D’Honneur (Be My Guest).

Baby Kate is a daughter of the multiple US and Canadian Grade 1 winner Champs Elysees (Danehill), and she is from his final crop. Bred in the purple by Juddmonte, Champs Elysees will be remembered for a long time to come.

On the flat he is the sire of five Group 1 winners, including his son Way To Paris at stud in Ireland, and he is emerging as a smart broodmare sire too. With large crops of four and five-year-olds to race for him, he will surely get an outstanding National Hunt performer – maybe Baby Kate?

Keep an eye out for another filly from the final crop by Champs Elysees, Arclight. Bred by Neil Greig, she raced for him and her trainer Sir Mark Prescott before selling to join Nicky Henderson. Winner over a mile at two, she won twice over hurdles last season and was placed in a listed juvenile hurdle. Now, still only four, Arclight has won both her starts over fences, last time out taking a listed mares’ chase at Exeter.

The sole blacktype earner out of Florentia (Medicean), Arclight is one of five winners from that mare, and she is a full-sister to two winners, Cote D’Azur (Champs Elysees) winning seven times on the flat for earnings of nearly £100,000. While this is a flat family, it is ironic that the only two blacktype winners in four generations are Arclight, and the Grade 3 Imperial Cup Hurdle winner Ebony Express (Superior Premium).