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Magnificent Martaline – A Leading French Stallion

The career of talented chaser Dynaste came to an end at the weekend, following a slightly disappointing run in the Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Sandown.

The popular 11-year-old grey had been one of David Pipe’s stable stars for almost half a dozen years. The racecourse highlight came when winning the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in 2014. He followed that performance with a second-place finish in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree, and later that year was runner-up to Silviniaco Conti in the King George at Kempton.

Though an attractive looking grey, Dynaste could not compete in the looks department with his talented father Martaline. The truly gorgeous French stallion is virtually white from nose to tail. A strikingly powerful colt, he stands at Haras De Montaigu, a beautifully picturesque stud in North-West France.

A classy horse on the flat, Martaline was at his best as a four-year-old in 2003, when runner-up in the Group 2 Grand Prix De Chantilly before winning the Prix Maurice De Nieuil at Longchamp. That victory came at 1m6f, when he defeated an outstanding stayer in Westerner. He was victorious or placed in 12 of his 22 career starts. It’s also interesting to note, that his most disappointing performances came on heavy ground.

As a leading French National Hunt stallion in recent years, he has produced numerous talented jumpers for trainers on both sides of the English Channel.

Agrapart was a high-profile success for the French sire recently, when taking the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Trained by Nick Williams, the six-year-old clearly thrived in testing conditions, when getting up late to beat L’Ami Serge, with Cole Harden seven lengths back in third. He’s likely to head for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, though he looks a chaser in the making, and certainly has the action over hurdles to suggest that he’ll suit a fence.

Another with a Cheltenham success to his name this season, is the Colin Tizzard trained Viconte Du Noyer. Owned by the Potts’, he’d previously been trained in Ireland by Henry De Bromhead, and was winning the Grade 3 Betvictor Handicap Chase on his first run for the new yard. He failed to take to the Grand National fences next time at Aintree and then ran below par in testing ground at the Welsh National. His win at Cheltenham suggested there’s plenty more to come, so I wouldn’t be losing faith in this fella. Better ground may well be essential, and he’s worth a second luck with conditions to suit.

One from the bloodline that does enjoy Aintree’s National fences, is the Gordon Elliott trained Ucello Conti. He was fourth in the Becher Chase in December, having been sixth in the Grand National last April. It’s tough to say whether he truly stayed the trip that day on soft ground, but he’s likely to be back for another crack this year, and on a more attractive looking handicap mark.

Noel Meade also looks to have a talented chaser on his hands with the six-year-old grey gelding Disko. He seemed to appreciate better ground when running a cracker at Leopardstown over Christmas. His third-place finish in the Grade 1 three-mile novice chase was a personal best, and he’d be a live contender at Cheltenham in March, for either the JLT or the RSA. He’s not short of speed. Meade’s last Cheltenham Festival winner was another son of Martaline, with Very Wood landing the Albert Bartlett of 2014 at huge odds.

Another from the Martaline production line, who is rapidly going the right way, is Tim Vaughan’s hurdler, Theligny. Despite four victories and three second place finishes from his eight outings over hurdles, the six-year-old remains on a fair handicap mark. He was impressive at Newbury last time, when showing a terrific attitude in holding off the Rebecca Curtis trained Geordie Des Champs. That came at two and a half miles, and the target may well be the Martin Pipe Conditional at The Festival, with classy claimer Alan Johns likely to be on-board.

As an 18-year-old, Martaline continues to prove an extremely popular stallion. A strike-rate of 31% this season for his offspring, shows just how potent he is. It would be no surprise to see many more of his progeny travelling across the Channel in the coming years.

Williams Welcomes A Brighter Spell

Williams Chasing Winners

Williams Chasing Winners

Victories for Tea For Two and Aubusson have sparked life into a hitherto lacklustre campaign for Nick Williams.

The Devon handler has now crept to six winners from 51 starts at a strike rate of 10%. Last season gleaned just 13 wins from 113 runs compared to the previous five winters which saw the Williams yard hit virtually twice that figure on each occasion. In the 2009/10 campaign total prize money touched half a million, whilst last year it dropped below £300,000 and so far this winter sits at less than £80,000.

Added to this, during the summer the stable lost one of its exciting youngsters, when Fox Norton moved to Neil Mulholland’s yard. To rub salt into the wounds, the five-year-old has taken to fences, like a duck to water and is already two from three over the larger obstacles.

It sounds like an almighty tale of woe, but to be fair to Williams and his team, fortunes can quickly turn in his favour. The yard only has around 25 horses in training, a manageable quantity for Culverhill Farm. It therefore follows that should the trainer nurture a star or two, the slightly disappointing stats can very quickly look a whole lot healthier.

Reve De Sivola has certainly been one such star over the past half dozen years. He may be fast approaching ‘senior citizen’ status, but on the evidence of his run at Auteuil last month, he looks to retain plenty of ability. In just over a week’s time he makes his regular pilgrimage to Ascot to contest the Long Walk Hurdle. It’s a race that he has dominated in recent years, with three consecutive victories. There’s every chance that he can make it four on the bounce, especially if the ground rides testing.

Last Friday at Exeter Tea For Two made his much anticipated switch to fences. A classy hurdler, he always looked to have the stature that suggested chasing would be more his game. Nevertheless, few could have anticipated such a stunning debut. He travelled through the race with ease and was wonderfully slick over his obstacles. He recorded a thumping 10 length success despite being eased right down in the latter stages. Paul Nicholls’ Calipto was back in third and the Philip Hobbs trained Golden Doyen out of sight in fourth. It was a truly cracking performance.

Though Aubusson’s win at Uttoxeter yesterday was somewhat less impressive, it was still a dominant performance. He’s another huge beast who appears to need testing conditions to be at his best. In time you could certainly see him becoming a Welsh National type. However, I’d be surprised if he progresses as quickly as Tea For Two, and he looks more of a long term project.

On Saturday the yard also celebrated a stunning win for the four-year-old novice hurdler Agrapart. The son of Martaline is yet another who coped best with testing ground conditions. He trounced the opposition by 20 lengths with Lizzie Kelly on board barely moving a muscle. Heavy ground form can be misleading at times, but he undoubtedly looks a tasty prospect.

It’s fair to say that Williams and his team are stirring from their recent slumber. The outlook for the Devon handler suddenly looks a whole lot brighter.