WHAT a treat we were served up at Down Royal for the delayed Ladbrokes Champion Chase, and victory went to Robcour’s Gerri Colombe (Saddler Maker). One-nil to the French as we witnessed the first Grade 1 race of the new National Hunt season, and the winner is a horse who could yet scale unimaginable heights.
After all, just a short head is what stands between him and an unblemished race record, and that came about when he was runner-up to The Real Whacker at the Cheltenham Festival in the Grade 1 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. Apart from that, Gerri Colombe won his point-to-point, both his bumpers, two hurdle races and five chases, and the manner of his race programme clearly shows that Gordon Elliott always saw him as a chaser.
At the Tattersalls Cheltenham Festival Sale in 2020, Colin Bowe sold the Boistier-bred Gerri Colombe to Mags O’Toole for £240,000. The four-year-old son of Saddler Maker (Sadler’s Wells) was a point-to-point winner on his debut at Lingstown, and was always going to make a big price when it became obvious that both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott liked him.
The latter won out on the day, and Bowe’s €85,000 investment the previous June at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale more than trebled in value. Gerri Colombe contested a blacktype race for the first time at the Christmas meeting in Limerick, winning the Grade 1 Faugheen Novice Chase. After that he added the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park, rounding off his first season chasing with victory in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase in Aintree.
Gerri Colombe was born in the year that his sire, Saddler Maker, died, and is therefore a member of the penultimate crop sired by the stallion during a dozen years at stud. What a legacy he has left behind, and I am certain that he will sire more Grade 1 winners.
For now that list is comprised of Gerri Colombe (born 2016), Messire Des Obeaux (2012), Apple’s Jade (2012, successful an incredible 11 times at Grade 1 level), and Bristol De Mai (2011 and won five Grade 1s). These are among some 32 blacktype winners in all.
Gerri Colombe has reignited a branch of an outstanding family which had gone a little quiet. He is one of a pair of winners from his unplaced dam Ruse De Guerre (Cadoudal), and she had sold at the end of her racing career for €10,000. Her other winner is La Jubanaise (Enrique) who, in spite of winning four times, was snapped up by Elaine Mitchell at Arqana two years ago for €12,500. They are among 10 offspring to date for Ruse De Guerre, though that list includes a quartet who are aged four or younger.
Ruse De Guerre has three successful siblings, all multiple winners over jumps. Go back one more generation and there is an explosion of talent in the family. Gerri Colombe’s third dam Montecha (Montevideo) won at two, went on to become a dual listed chase winner in France, and she bred seven winners, two of them listed winners over jumps, while her son Mont Basile (Frere Basile) won a couple of Group 3 races on the level and later enjoyed success as a National Hunt sire.
Other notable descendants from Montecha include the 2022 Grade 1-winning hurdler Hawai Du Berlais (Martaline), and Grade 2-winning chasers Madison Du Berlais (Indian River), Southfield Theatre (King’s Theatre), and Southfield Royale (Presenting).
Wonderful season for the Emperor
WHAT a joy Brave Emperor has been for connections. From the first crop of Sioux Nation (Scat Daddy), he gave that sire the best possible start to 2023, the three-year-old bred by Caroline Hanly and Sean Ronan winning a listed race on the all-weather at Cagnes-Sur-Mer in early February.
At the time he became the fourth stakes winner for Sioux Nation, but that number has now grown to 13, and 10 of these are pattern winners. He is awaiting his first Group 1 winner, though that should not be far away, and in the recently announced sire fees for 2024 at Coolmore, Sioux Nation’s was one going in an upward trajectory, from €17,500 to €27,500. This year’s fee was already a notable rise from his low of €10,000, coming on the back of a prolific first season with his runners.
The list of smart runners by Sioux Nation now includes Group 2 winners Brave Emperor, La Gite and Matilda Picotte, the latter successful in the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket where she was also placed in the Group 1 1000 Guineas. She is due to sell at Goffs next week. Sioux Nation’s Group 3 winners have been successful in Australia, Ireland, Britain and France.
Apart from his juvenile debut and his run at Royal Ascot in the summer, Brave Emperor has never finished out of the first three in all his remaining 13 starts, winning nine of them (he passed the post first on another occasion, only to be demoted). Connections were toying with the idea of a Kentucky Derby challenge for him, but that did not materialise.
The Archie Watson-trained gelding has amassed earnings now of more than £320,000 for Middleton Park Racing, a sweet return on his £19,000 yearling sale price in the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale in 2021. His wins have come at five, six and seven furlongs at two, and now at a mile. All of his blacktype successes have also come on his travels outside Britain.
His latest triumph in the Group 2 Premio Vittorio di Capua in Rome can be added to Group 3 wins in France and Germany, namely the Prix Daphnis at Deauville, the Grosser Preis der Landeshauptstadt Dusseldorf and the Dr Busch-Memorial in Krefeld, He was second in the Group 2 Oettingen Rennen at Baden-Baden, and travelled to Sweden to run third in the Group 3 Stockholms Stora Pris.
Brave Emperor is the first foal from Roman Gal (Holy Roman Emperor), and she was fourth in a maiden at Naas over six furlongs from half a dozen starts. After her racing career she sold for just €9,000, and she looks to have another winner in waiting, as her two-year-old filly by Inns Of Court (Invincible Spirit), sold for €28,000 last year to Hamish Macauley, is named Puella Law and she has made four starts to date, running second, third twice and fourth.
Producing a blacktype winner means that Roman Gal is continuing a strong family tradition, following in the footsteps of her own first three dams. Roman Gal’s five successful siblings are headed by Salouen (Canford Cliffs), a listed winner at two who was placed five times in Group 1 races, including in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and the Racing Post Trophy at two, and twice in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.
Their dam Gali Gal (Galileo) was among five winners from the Listed Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Asterita (Rainbow Quest), the others led by the US stakes winner and Grade 2 American Derby runner-up Californian (Zafonic). Asterita and the Group 2 Italian winner Special Nash (Nashwan) head the list of eight winners from Northshiel (Northfields), and that group also includes Loxandra (Last Tycoon).
A minor winner in just four outings, Loxandra went on to breed five stakes winners, a pair of which performed well at the highest level. Keltos (Kendor) was the best older miler in Europe 21 years ago after winning the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, but sadly proved to be sub-fertile at stud, while his listed-winning half-brother Krataios (Sabrehill) was placed in both the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains-French 2000 Guineas and the Prix d’Ispahan.
Another notable performer in the family this year is Ottoman Fleet (Sea The Stars), a grandson of Loxandra. He won the Group 3 Earl of Sefton Stakes for Godolphin before traveling stateside to add the Grade 2 Fort Marcy Handicap, and finish third in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap.