On the racing front we had a really fun season with our pleasure all the greater as Sam rode all our winners. The highlights were Long Run winning a second King George VI chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, Rajdhani Express providing us with our first home bred Cheltenham Festival winner and winning a Grade 2 novice chase at Ayr, and our home bred filly Free Thinking winner her first two races before finishing third in awful ground in a Listed National Hunt flat race. Sam had a great ride in the Grand National when he and Oscar Time looked like winning at the third last fence before fading into fourth. This horse is owned in partnership with Martin Lynch and Steve Broughton and all our hearts were racing too. This great fun is credit to Martin Lynch and his team as Oscar Time was difficult to get ready for the race.
Long Run ran in four Grade 1 races resulting in one win and three places to maintain his record of never having been out of the first 3, in a career so far of 26 races, 25 of them Class 1. He won back the King George in a battling finish, came 2nd in the Betfair Lancashire Chase at haydock and 3rd in the Cheltenham Golf Cup. His last race of the season was the Punchestown Gold Cup, going down by a diminishing 3/4 length to the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2nd, Sir des Champs. There was a lengthy Stewards enquiry as Sir des Champs, ridden by the Irish champion Davy Russell, had jumped left handed across Long Run at the last fence. During the enquiry there was a slow motion replay on the big screen of Sam's whip conjuring skills after the 2nd last fence. An instant YouTube success.
Long Run, Rajdhani Express and Freee Thinking were the three horses we had with Nicky Henderson, who had a fantastic season, ending as champion trainer for the 3rd time after a gap of 26 years. He trained his 50th Cheltenham Festival winner this year and we are among those to have benefited from his skils over 4 decades as Rustle in the '80s, Katarino in the '90s, Liberthine in the '00s and Long Run and Rajdhani Express in the '10s are our 5 winners at the Festival in our colours. So far!
We are delighted that Upton Viva Stud is the May issue of Owner and Breeder Magazine's Stud of the Month due to wins by Rajdhani Express (by presenting out of Violet Express) and Free Thinking (by Hernando out of Liberthine.).
Violet Express is proving an outstanding broodmare as Rajdhani Express is her second Grade 2 winner. Her first foal, the 2002 filly Shatabdi, won not only a flat race at Chantilly and a steeplechase but also a Grade 2 novice hurdle race at Kempton in 2007. These two are closely related as Rajdhani Express is by Presenting, a son of Mtoto, and Shatabdi and The Missus, both by Presenting, while this year she has a colt foal by Milan. Shatabdi has just had her third foal at Upton Viva Stud.
Liberthine is the first of four progeny out of Libertina that have raced for us. She was a tough racehorse winning a listed hurdle at Auteuil, over fences at the Cheltenham Festival and over the Grand National Fences as well as coming fifth in the Grand National itself though her 3 parts brother Long Run has eclipsed her achievements. Free Thinking is Liberthine's first foal.
Her second foal, a 2010 filly by Poligote, called Parlez Vous is now in training in France with Marcel Rolland and should run over hurdles this July as a 3 - year-old. We look forward to racing her 2011 filly by Presenting and her 2012 filly by Kayf Tara in due course.
We sent two homebred horses to David Pipe with the intention that they would race until the end of their 4 year old careers in France, to take advantage of their excellent race programme for young horses and significantly higher prize money, but neither have yet raced in France for different reasons which is a bit frustrating. Over the past 24 months the programme for fillies racing in UK has significantly improved with some new high value races which greatly increases both the attraction of testing fillies on the racecourse here, and their value when sold, which was badly needed.
We usually sell all the colts or geldings, Rajdhani Express being the first gelding we didn't offer for sale because we wanted to race him ourselves. This year we have kept a colt entire and he has gone into training with Andrew Balding with a view to running him on the flat initially. Like all studs we dream of producing one good enough to be a stallion and Storm Force Ten (2011 colt by Shirocco out of Stravinsky Dance) looks as though he has the right ingredients having great temperament, very good limbs, balance, and size. All he has to do now is win top class races! His dam, Stravinsky Dance, was the champion 3-year old filly hurdling in France winning 4 of her 7 starts including the only listed race for her age and sex. We were encouraged that Gemix, a colt, won the French Champion hurdle in June.
We have continued to reduce the number of mares, selling Symphonique in foal to Robin des Champs, Aconit in foal to Kapgarde and we are retiring Karolina this year. We sold the race mare Way Back When after leasing her to race for a syndicate who had her trained by Alan King. She won a hurdle race and a steeplechase, winning or being placed 8 times from 16 starts but we want mares with higher ratings than she achieved to join the stud so didn't allow sentiment to govern our judgement.
To stop the numbers ever growing we sell at least as many as are born each year so we will be offering for sale the 5 geldings born in 2012, keeping the only filly.
With the unpleasantly cold wet spring this year we have like many others found the mares foaled late and it has been a challenge to get mares back in foal. However 6 of the mares are back in foal with just Violet Express proving barren, which could be due to her age. This is an achievement in such a year, a credit to Jayne Busby, who has been the stud groom since the stud was founded, and her assistant Melanie Gittus.