An Al Duncan musing

Just what might have made Presenting a top National Hunt Sire for the last decade........

A few weeks ago in August 2017, it was announced that one of the most influential National Hunt stallions of the last 50 years passed away.

Presenting (bay horse, born 1992) was trained for a couple of seasons by John Gosden, and won several 'pattern' races at 2 and 3 years of age, with his best performance coming in the 1995 Derby when finishing third to Lammtarra.
He stood at Glenview Stud in Ireland from 1996 until his recent death, and in those years he has sired a host of top class National Hunt horses, including two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners (War of Attrition and Denman) and the 2011 Aintree Grand National winner Ballabriggs.
For the last decade, Presenting has featured in the top half dozen of leading NH sires in UK & Ireland, statistics gathered based upon total prize money won by his progeny. In all, to date, he has sired over 20 individual winners of more than 30 Grade 1 events in the jumping sphere, and with crops of over 100 in recent years right up to his death, his influence will be felt for many years to come.

His stock always caught the attention of the big spenders at bloodstock sales both in the UK and across the Irish Sea. I flicked through my collection of sales catalogues accumulated over the last decade, and noticed that I had bid on a couple of his progeny, and was the actual underbidder on one of his geldings in 2015 - way over my limit of course, with The Trainer by my side having palpitations.
Of course, there were always those present with bigger budgets so it was another a case of the 'what might have beens'.
As I experienced first hand, Presenting has been very popular in the sales ring, with his stores (unbroken 3 and 4 year olds) averaging around £30,000 over the last 4-5 years.

All of which made me look a little deeper into his pedigree, which can be viewed by clicking here. I was struck by the absence of the great influential sire Northern Dancer in his ancestry. Northern Dancer (b 1961) first came to prominence in the late 60's when Vincent O'Brien and wealthy owners like Robert Sangster ventured over to Keeneland Yearling Sales annually to acquire his progeny - such as Nijinsky, El Gran Senor, The Minstrel etc. It is a bloodline prominent in the Coolmore operation to this day with first his son Sadler's Wells, and then grandsons Galileo and Montjeu being dominant sires throughout the Northern hemisphere.
These days, from an National Hunt perspective, it is quite difficult to trace a current NH Sire who doesn't have the presence of Northern Dancer in the pedigree. Of the 16 current Coolmore NH sires, I could only identify Flemensfirth as being 'Northern Dancer free' and elsewhere Robin des Champs, Gamut, Vinnie Roe, Prince Flori (all in Ireland), Gentlewave (in UK) and Balko & Network (in France) share that trait. (There may be two or three more, especially based in France)

That leaves a lot of NH Sires where Northern Dancer pops up once, twice, thrice or even 4 times in the first 6 generations.

Which makes the 'Northern Dancer free' sires quite attractive to most NH breeders whose mares already contain the Northern Dancer bloodline. And why four sires in particular from the 'Northern Dancer free' list highlighted above, have been very successful at the top level of Jumping - Presenting, Network (sire of Sprinter Sacre), Flemensfirth and the younger Robin des Champs (sire of Vautour, Quevega, Sir des Champs and also standing at Glenview Stud).
After all, these sires can be paired with the best NH mares without fear of the progeny containing further more Northern Dancer blood (too much breeding to the same gene pool will inevitably lead to weaknesses in thoroughbreds).

Discussing such matters with The Trainer and The Jockey, both highlighted 5 of the current Dodlands Steading string who were by 'Northern Dancer free' sires.
Gamut is the only one still active and is the sire of those promising sorts Paper Roses, Paper Promise and Keyboard Gangster, all bred to a mare by Old Vic (who himself is by Sadler's Wells).
'Spud' is by Spadoun who, like several French based stallions, is a Group winner on the Flat and a winner of Hurdles too.
Night Comes In is by Definite Article (sire of Vinnie Roe), and is unique at Dodlands in having no trace of Northern Dancer blood at all.

Arthur and Brooke
Night Comes In leads Paper Promise - both by sires that are 'Northern Dancer free'

As very much a hobby breeder for the last 6 years, the above has been a bit of an eye-opener. I mean, from a very small sample of National Hunt sires who are 'Northern Dancer free', a high proportion of successful sires have stood out.
Certainly Presenting, Network, Flemensfirth, Robin des Champs, Vinnie Roe (sire of the ill fated Neon Wolf), Gamut (sire of Road to Riches, Road to Respect and the aforementioned, upgraded progeny of the Old Vic mares at Dodlands). And the first four of those command (or did command) covering fees at the top end of the market.

I have a young, potential broodmare who is a year older own sister to Dodlands inmate Eternally Yours, with Northern Dancer appearing a combined 4 times in the 5th and 6th generations, so an outcross to that sire would seem desirable.
Gamut and Gentlewave would each seem to be an ideal mating at a modest fee..........


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