Kayf Tara has been one of the most successful National Hunt stallions for well over a decade.
And he was no slouch on the racecourse. Out of the Irish Oaks winner Colorspin and from one of the greatest sire’s Sadler’s Wells, Kayf Tara was first trained by Sir Michael Stoute before switching to Saeed bin Suroor. Under Godolphin he became one of the great stayers of his time, capturing the Ascot Gold Cup in 1998 and 2000. He also became dual-winner of the Irish St Leger, and won both the Goodwood and Yorkshire Cups.
He retired to stud in 2001, and has been responsible for high-class jumpers such as; Special Tiara, Planet Of Sound, Carruthers, Blaklion, and potentially the best of the lot, Thistlecrack. His home is Overbury Stud, near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, just a short drive from the home of jump racing, Cheltenham Racecourse. In his time there, he has become Champion British National Hunt sire on seven occasions.
Producing a star-performer such as Thistlecrack has certainly put the stallion in the limelight, though his influence has rarely waned over the years. The aforementioned Special Tiara, has been among the elite two-mile chasers in recent times. He captured the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase during Christmas 2014, and a few months later won the Grade 1 Celebration Chase at Sandown. He was only just denied victory in the Tingle Creek last winter, and arguably should have been awarded the race in the stewards’ room.
It appears that his spot as the Kayf Tara ‘top two-mile chaser’ could be in danger, with novice Identity Thief looking mightily impressive so far this winter. Two from two since switching to the larger obstacles, he was a classy hurdler, winning the Fighting Fifth last year, and has clearly transferred that talent to chasing. He’s sure to be tested over Christmas, with the likelihood of a clash with Mullins’ Min.
Though rarely a headliner, Planet Of Sound was a quality chaser for Philip Hobbs. Third in an Arkle, his finest hour came at Punchestown in April 2010, when winning the Guinness Gold Cup, defeating War Of Attrition and Denman in the process. A year later he finished runner-up in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, beaten by another from the Kayf Tara production line, Carruthers.
Blaklion and Carole’s Destrier look set to be the next Kayf Tara pair to challenge for major honours over marathon trips. The former is already a Grade 1 winning chaser, after his victory in the RSA at Cheltenham back in March. He ran well for a long way in the Hennessy Gold Cup, though was ultimately undone by a combination of 11 stone and lively ground. There’s plenty more to come from this progressive seven-year-old, especially with conditions to suit.
Carole’s Destrier is only a year older, and came close to capturing the Hennessy, when only just failing to get to Native River in a thrilling finish. He won a London National at Sandown last winter, and is a well-fancied second favourite to take the Welsh National at Chepstow over the Christmas period. He’s effective on all ground, and should be a huge player.
It could prove an incredible Christmas for Kayf Tara, with a pair of his progeny likely to take their place in Kempton’s showpiece on Boxing Day. Potentially the best of the lot was confirmed a runner on Monday, after owners John and Heather Snook rather surprisingly said ‘it’s definitely the King George for Thistlecrack’, setting up a clash with stable companion Cue Card.
Last year’s World Hurdle winner is one of the most gifted racehorses, and has cruised to victory in his first three outings over fences. Nevertheless, this is a huge challenge for a novice chaser, and in Cue Card he faces arguably the best staying chaser in the business.
He’ll be joined in the line-up by seven-year-old Tea For Two, another by Kayf Tara, who 12 months ago was an impressive winner of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at this meeting. He had Hennessy winner Native River seven lengths back on that occasion. He’s three from three at the track, and is an intriguing contender.
Though I’ve spent time highlighting established stars from this incredible stallion, I’d also like to point out the substantial impact of Kayf Tara progeny when competing in bumpers. Ballyandy took the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March, and Nicky Henderson’s Kayf Grace captured the mares equivalent at Aintree a few weeks later. Sadly, I’ve no stats to back it up, but I’d always be giving Kayf Tara progeny a second look when running in bumpers.
It looks like being another sensational winter for this mighty stallion. Thistlecrack is undoubtedly the fag-bearer, but he is ably supported by an array of talented young horses.