THE intention of the big championship race meetings is to bring the cream to the top. Find the best of the best. And with racing and breeding entwined, you might expect that annual championships are showcases for the blue bloods of the sport, breeding the best from the best, as the saying goes.

On the flat, at each big festival meeting, the expectation is to see the cream among the top stallions come to the top. Frankel, Dubawi et al.

But a quick glance over recent Cheltenham Festival winners gives a different story and a list of stallions from a wide range of backgrounds.

It’s never been figured out why modern jump racing creates such a different perspective. You would cover a lot of territory to link sires like Yeats, Jeremy, Midnight Legend and Muhaarar in one ceremony, yet, from their hugely different racing achievements, they each sired a winner at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.

With the demand for jumping horses showing little decline as shown by the Caldwell dispersal sale, a Grade 1 win at the Cheltenham Festival will usually project a lesser known sire into demand. Diamond Boy came to the fore with two Grade 1 winners in the last two years, L’Homme Presse and Impaire Et Passe.

No one pricked an ear when Le Prezien won the 2018 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase and said ‘Who is this sire?’ Four years on, after Constitution Hill’s Supreme Novices’ win, their sire Blue Bresil became the hottest property.

Most successful

Many stallions have died by the time their progeny, aged six or seven, have achieved their great racecourse success. Three of the most consistently successful Festival sires over the last five years are Jeremy and Stowaway. Shantou, the only one with more than one Festival winner last season, is also deceased.

Sires like French Navy, Timos, Denham Red and Sulamani had just that one outstanding performer.

The 2023 Festival had 27 different sires on the scoreboard. In 2022 it was 26 different sires with just Jeremy and Fame And Glory getting two home.

2021 was an outlier with three stallions standing out. Jeremy, Stowaway and Yeats sired four winners each while Flemensfirth and Sholokov sired two. Jeremy had three Grade 1 winners in Appreciate It, Sir Gerhard and Black Tears. Stowaway (Monkfish, Put The Kettle On), Yeats (Chantry House, Flooring Porter) and Sholokov (Bob Olinger and Shishkin) each sired two Grade 1 winners.

2020 was back to normal with 24 different sires and just Poligote, Stowaway, Kalanisi and Nathaniel doubling up.

In 2019 we had 26 sires represented in that winner’s enclosure with Buck’s Boum and Oscar the only stallions doubly-represented.

In 2018, it was all spread out again with 28 different sires. And if you needed a lesson in caution for large covering fees – the five championship races that year were won by progeny of sires who rarely featured on jumping rolls of honour - Crillion (Buveur D’Air), High Chaparral (Altior), Balko (Balko Des Flos) and Indian River (Native River), with Mount Nelson (Penhill) perhaps just making the commercial cut.

The deceased pair Stowaway and Jeremy were ever-present over the last few years with Yeats (Flooring Porter, Noble Yeats, Conflated, Ginny’s Destiny in action this season) also on the board in four of the last six years.

Walk In The Park has relied on Facile Vega and Jonbon to be in contention in the last three years to follow Min in 2020. It’s not the strongest results but he has a big representation again this season with Gidleigh Park, Ashroe Diamond, Monty’s Star and Nick Rockett among his likely runners.

Among the top ranking stallions of the last few seasons, it’s a surprise to note that Getaway has yet to sire a Festival winner (Cooper’s Cross, Queen’s Gamble and Classic Getaway are his leading runners this year). But no doubt there’ll be a new name or two this year and the rush to bring more French sires to Ireland will continue.

National takeover

ONCE upon a time, it was a newsworthy story for a small Irish stable to have a horse just placed in the Grand National. Drumroan for Mrs Peggy St John Nolan was such a story back in 1978.

Scanning the field for Irish-trained runners inevitably took you to the bottom half of the list. Even Senator Maclacury, finishing fifth in 1981, is recalled as an achievement when there were no Irish-trained winners from Mr What in 1958 to L’Escargot in 1975 and then none until Bobbyjo in 1999.

What changed times we have and the 2024 National demonstrates it all too well, the depth of NH horses in Ireland compared to Britain, never mind the Grade 1 horses.

Of the first 40 in the 2024 National handicap, only eight are trained in Britain. Gordon Elliott has 15, Willie Mullins has 13 entries and you can see a major discussion coming as the race gets closer with the 34-runner limit.

It’s an El Fabi No from Bryan!

THERE are lies, damn lies and you know the rest. It doesn’t stop the pre-Festival churn-out of analysis and study from more and more racing pundits. You can almost be bogged down in the numbers.

But one of the older and perhaps now under-the-radar offerings, still offering some gems can be found on complied by Bryan Gault.

Here are some quick and interesting ones for you to ponder over: The last 14 winners of the Arkle Trophy had won last time out. Yes, even 33/1 shot Western Warhorse and 16/1 shot Put The Kettle On. In that light, where does that leave Marine Nationale and Facile Vega fans? If you can’t have Il Etait Temps, does it put Hunters Yarn or Quilixios to the fore?

In the Ryanair Chase, the last 10 winners ‘made all’, ‘tracked leaders’ or were ‘prominent.’ Only problem is will Protektorat run and upset Stage Star?

And Champion Chase fans of El Fabiolo – take note. In the two-mile championship this century, there have been 11 odds-on favourites. Only three won. Seven were beaten. I had to check. Moscow Flyer, Master Minded, Sizing Europe, Defi Du Seuil, Douvan, Chacun Pour Soi, Un De Sceaux, Shishkin, all beaten at odds-on. And Well Chief was beaten at evens. Three of those were the previous year’s Arkle Trophy winner. It’s an amazing stat for a race with all exposed and proven over the distance. And there’s more... Donations to the My Name5 Doddie Foundation at