from my blog: richardmooreracingblog.wordpress.com
On the 27th December 2014, Bristol de Mai became the first Grade One winner for the previously unheralded French sire Saddler Maker. It was an incredible moment for all connected with the stallion, as his story is so unique and unlikely that at first glance the only emotion it provoked in me was disbelief. Foaled in Ireland in 1998, this son of the great Saddler’s Wells was bred in the purple by the Wertheimer family. His dam was Animatrice, herself a half sister to Poliglote. Poliglote is currently making waves as a dual-purpose sire, with Don Poli and Top Notch among his current highlights. Animatrice was a Group Two winner on the flat, and her foal Saddler Maker was born with big expectations on his powerful shoulders. He was sent to race in France under the care of Criquette Head-Maarek, but never reached the track in his three years at that stable, eventually making a much-belated debut as a five year old for his new stable of Emmanuel Chevalier. Two placed efforts in minor races in the French provinces were all that season yielded, but he was kept in training as a six year old. He raced six times in that season, with the highlight being a third placed finish in a two mile handicap at Longchamp.
So here we are left with a six year old who has shown very little ability in eight starts on the track, but whose impeccable breeding was enough for Haras de la Haute Benaudiere to take a chance on him as a stallion. From the photos here he is clearly a beautiful specimen of a horse, and this undoubtedly influenced the stud’s willingness to take a chance despite such moderate ability from the track evidence. Needless to say he received very few mares in his first few crops, but incredibly every single one of the runners from his first three crops either won or placed on the track. He was bought by the prestigious Haras de Cercy stud of the basis of these results, and he then started covering some better books of mares. In the 2015/2016 season he has still only had 36 individual runners, but 12 individual winners from these. Bristol de Mai is undoubtedly his star so far, having won at Grade One level over hurdles and over fences, but he is far from the only top horse he has produced. The Mouse Morris trained Alpha Des Obeaux won the Grade Two Red Mills hurdle at Gowran by 11 lengths on his most recent start, and looks to be a most promising horse for the future. Apple’s Jade is another graded winner for Saddler Maker, having taken a Grade 2 hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, and Bouvreuil is yet another promising horse in the care of Paul Nicholls.
The most exciting thing is the relative age of all his star horses, Bristol de Mai is a five year old, Alpha Des Obeaux is six, while Apple’s Jade is only four. Saddler Maker himself is 18, but with relatively few miles on the clock as a stallion, it is hoped he can cover a few more big groups of mares over the next few years. The Racing Post website lists 41 individual runners for him, with 25 of these having won or placed. Of the remaining 16, only three have run more than ONCE, with none of them having had more than three starts. His winners to runners ratio for the last four seasons is up around 29% on average. His top progeny so far have all shown a marked preference for soft ground, and all have shown plenty of stamina in their races, two traits that National Hunt breeders covet highly. Perhaps the most amazing fact of all is that he is still available today to cover a mare for the modest fee of 2000 euro, surely the best value stallion standing anywhere in the world today.
The French, to their credit, are more willing than many other countries to give chances to potential stallions who have not reached the required level of results on the racetrack. Another intriguing aspect of French breeding is their willingness to give chances to horses who only raced over jumps during their racing careers. Robin Des Champs was one such horse, having only ran over hurdles before retiring to stud. These days in Ireland and England, very few stallions get a chance if they haven’t proven themselves at Group level on the flat. If such an attitude had prevailed with Robin Des Champs the world would have been deprived of Vautour and Quevega, to name but two. Nickname is another former jumper now enjoying success at stud in France, with Yala Enki, Gwencily Berbas and Frodon among his recent winners. It goes to show, regardless of racing background, taking a chance on an outsider at stud can reap big rewards against all the odds.