While more readily associated with top-class Flat horses, the famous red, white and blue silks of Cheveley Park Stud have made a mighty impact in jump racing in the last few years.
Although no new stars will be added to those already owned by the Thompson family following the death of David Thompson, whose passion for the jumps drove the purchases, last December, the likes of A Plus Tard, Sir Gerhard and Ferny Hollow are set to shine in the years to come.
These box office names are set to be in action at Leopardstown over Christmas, so we caught up with Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park’s long-serving chief executive, to get the lowdown, plus catch up on the Flat side of the operation.
Before we get on to your Christmas runners, can we start with one of the most notable performers for Cheveley Park Stud this year – your stallion Ulysses. He made an excellent start with his first two-year-olds, what did you make of his year?
He was an impressive racehorse, an impressive horse and we wanted to add another arrow to our bow as the success of Pivotal meant that 75 per cent of our mares had him in their first or second dam. By bringing in a son of Galileo out of an Oaks winner, which is a pedigree to die for, it suits what we have extremely well, and it has also been popular with the Niarchos family, who still own 25 per cent, and with breeders. He’s exceeded our expectations this year and we were particularly excited to see our filly Julia Augusta make a winning debut; we’re excited about what she could do next year. In general, the horses look like they should improve next year, so we hope he can build on the good start he has had.
Much of Cheveley Park’s Flat success has been built on Pivotal, who died last month. What are your memories of him and what did he mean to the stud?
I was very lucky to be here the day he foaled, and I was here the day he passed away as well, it was a very emotional day, and his legacy will go on here. He was a bit of an enigma of a horse really. I recall Sir Mark [Prescott, trainer] calling up to ask what trip we thought he’d get, and on his breeding, it was a mile plus. ‘He’s showing a lot more speed than that,’ he told us. He broke the track record at Folkestone and then went and won the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, an ‘outbreak of owner indiscipline’ I think Sir Mark called it as he was eyeing the Wokingham! Three days before he died, I stood outside his box talking to him, asking him ‘Piv, what do you think of the others here? Will they make it?’ and he was just standing there with his tongue out. He had a wonderfully kind eye; he was an intelligent horse, and he was a pure delight to know.
On to Christmas and it looks like Cheveley Park’s colours could be in action plenty. How is everyone feeling about the coming days?
It’s great fun for the family. As is widely known, Mrs Thompson isn’t into it so much – the Flat, the breeding, the foals is what she enjoys – and we did find it quite amusing that it was due to Mr Thompson getting a bit bored in the winter, and not wanting to step too much on what Mrs Thompson enjoyed, that we ended up in this position. We were extremely well advised by [bloodstock agents] Tom Malone and Alex Elliott, as well as the trainers, in what we bought, and it was tragic that Mr Thompson was not here to see Cheveley Park being the leading owner at the Cheltenham Festival this year. To think we might be in the position to have the favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, 1,000 Guineas and Oaks in 2022 is something Mr Thompson would have enjoyed for sure.
The leading light, amongst many, for Cheveley Park is A Plus Tard. What is the aim for him?
The plan is for A Plus Tard to run in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown. He’s in great order but it’s a very competitive race, so he will need to be as good as he was at Haydock. But Henry [de Bromhead, trainer] is very happy with him and he’s a talented horse, as we all know. After that it will be straight to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup.
A Plus Tard was ridden to victory in the Betfair Chase by Rachael Blackmore. What did you make of her being awarded RTE Sportsperson of the Year and BBC World Sports Star of the Year?
She’s just poetry in motion. She sits so still and is fantastic at cajoling horses along to get the best out of them. We’ve been delighted to have her riding our horses more since we moved them earlier this year and it’s always something we look forward to if she chooses to ride our horses. In her and Bryony [Frost] the sport has two tremendous role models and two brilliant riders who showcase their skills at the highest level, so it was fantastic for the sport to see Rachael achieve what she did with the awards.
Back to the horses, what is the plan for Envoi Allen?
Envoi Allen is going to drop in trip for the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown as Henry thought that was the best route to go after the run at Punchestown last time. The race is over 2m1f so we’re going to learn a lot more about him and what suits him after that race. That is the best approach to take with him at the moment.
And can we get a quick word on Ferny Hollow and Sir Gerhard?
The Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown is the race we’ve had in mind since Ferny Hollow won last time out. He ticked every box on his debut over fences and it was a performance you couldn’t help but be impressed by because he looked a natural. Sir Gerhard is ready to run over hurdles and his schooling has been good. As you can imagine given his bumper form, we are looking forward to seeing what he can do. Willie [Mullins] has been positive about him.
And, finally, looking ahead to the Flat, you must be excited about Inspiral’s prospects for next year given what she produced on the track this year?
She’s a very exciting horse and she’s one that we will spend the winter dreaming about. Even after she won the May Hill, Frankie [Dettori] said she still felt weak and was going to grow and strengthen. To then go and win the Fillies’ Mile was the icing on the cake. It was wonderful for the stud that she won the Cartier Award for leading two-year-old filly as she’s a homebred – the mare, Starscope, is in foal to Ulysses and will likely go back to Frankel – and we will be working on her being a Classic filly for next year, starting at Newmarket. We’re fortunate that there are a lot of passionate racing fans who support Cheveley Park and want us to do well, so we hope the horses can keep giving them plenty to cheer about this year and next.