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King And Bromley Breezing Into Cheltenham

Updated: Mar 5


By Emma Berry

There was very little that was normal about last year. A late start to the Flat season, no spectators at the races and the breeze-up sales held after Royal Ascot, which was one of the few early meetings to be held in its traditional slot.

An extra twist to the Royal meeting was that one of the dominant trainers of the week was a man better known in jumping circles: Alan King. It is always worth taking note, however, when the master of Barbury Castle sends out a Flat runner, and those who followed Scarlet Dragon (GB) (Sir Percy {GB}), Coeur De Lion (GB) (Pour Moi {Ire}) and Who Dares Wins (Ire) (Jeremy) will have enjoyed the week all the more.

All three of those horses are winners not just on the Flat but, as one might expect from King, also over hurdles. Subsequently, their stable-mate Tritonic (GB) (Sea The Moon {Ger}), who embellished King's Ascot record with a close second in the Golden Gates H., has followed their example with two unbeaten runs over hurdles this season. He heads to the Cheltenham Festival as current second-favourite for the G1 Triumph Hurdle.




Tritonic, owned by the McNeill Family and Ian Dale, can be considered the perfect flagbearer for a project which King has worked on successfully with bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley of Highflyer Bloodstock in recent years. While the boutique sales for horses with form in point-to-points or bumpers have seen prices skyrocket for some of the best National Hunt stock, Bromley and King have explored another avenue for to recruit youngsters with the potential to go jumping: the breeze-up sales.

“The second-hand market is remarkably strong for the staying horse and they do hold British and Irish staying form on a pedestal,” says Bromley of the increased overseas participation at the horses-in-training sales, which were once an obvious port of call for National Hunt trainers looking to convert a horse from the Flat with enough stamina on the page.

He continues, “It doesn't suit Alan's system to buy too many Flat yearlings in October. We have done but because he is dual purpose and his boxes are full through the winter with the jumpers, it does suit him really well to come to the breeze-ups. Initially it was always just the Guineas Sale in May but we have also come to the Craven in April in the last few years. That's a time when a lot of the winter jumpers are going for their breaks and it's good to bring the 2-year-olds in as it keeps the staff busy. It has worked really well.”

He adds, “We do buy a few yearlings every year but we tend to buy between six and 10 at the breeze-ups, depending on the demand.”

In some ways, the coronavirus pandemic actually worked in the favour of Bromley and King when the breeze-up sales were delayed. What had looked like being a lean year for orders suddenly perked up as the Ascot winners rolled in.

“Having the sales in July meant that the horses had been got ready for an April or May breeze then they had to be let down again for a time. By the time we bought them we didn't have to give them too much of a break, which suited Alan's system very well as they'd already had a sort of mini-break,” Bromley says.

“It was a worry for the breeze-up fellas with more precocious types but it wasn't a worry for us with the type of horses we were after and we enjoyed those sales last year. If they had gone ahead in April or May we may not have had any orders.”

Tritonic, who was bred and sold by Kirsten Rausing as a foal, was pinhooked for the breeze-up sale by Tally-Ho Stud, with Bromley signing for him at the Tattersalls Guineas Sale of 2019 at 55,000gns. Though trainer and agent typically look for a progressive type who might at their best at three and up, Tritonic was ahead of the curve and showed early promise, winning a Ffos Las novice race on his second start at two, followed by victory in the Haynes, Hanson & Clark Conditions S. a month later. Last season, he was runner-up in the listed Glasgow S., achieving a Flat rating of 99.

Bromley says, “Alan hasn't got the clients with the cheque books to really try to buy leading prospects for the Triumph Hurdle but that is a race that we like to target, and a horse like Tritonic is a dream horse. He was placed at Royal Ascot as a 3-year-old, won a graded race over hurdles the next spring and is second-favourite for the Triumph Hurdle. That is a dream purchase for us and you could say he is the poster boy for what we have been trying to do.”

Tritonic's most recent outing last Saturday resulted in a 10-length triumph in the G2 Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle—undoubtedly his most polished performance to date.

“He was very impressive,” Bromley agrees. “Alan had made no secret of the fact that he wanted to get two runs into him before Cheltenham and it was a little bit of a rush to get him to the first [hurdles] run at Ascot. He felt that there was a lot of improvement to come in the horse and that was apparent on Saturday.”

Now it's all systems go for the Triumph Hurdle, a race King has plundered in the past with the former Flat winners Penzance (Ire) (Pennekamp) and Katchit (Ire) (Kalanisi {Ire}). The latter went on to glory in the following year's Champion Hurdle.

Whatever Tritonic achieves at the Festival, he has a strong challenge to his poster-boy claims from Trueshan (Fr) (Planteur {Ire}), a 31,000gns purchase from the previous year's Guineas Sale who usurped all of his aforementioned current stable-mates at Ascot in October when winning the G2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.

“Trueshan has almost achieved too much to go jumping,” says Bromley. “They have big plans for him this season as a 5-year-old. Hurdling could have been on the agenda for him but it has now been taken off. There were enquiries made for Trueshan and Tritonic at different stages of their careers but their owners have stuck with them and they are reaping the pleasure of that. Even if they are not reaping the big prize-money, they are reaping the pleasure of having a good horse in their own country.”

The two current stars are by no means the only success stories from the breeze-up project. King also won the Adonis Hurdle back in 2017 with Master Blueyes (Ire) (Mastercraftsman{Ire}), a 42,000gns purchase and an 85-rated dual Flat winner. Rainbow Dreamer (GB) (Aqlaam {GB}), still on the go at the age of eight and a winner on his last start on Feb. 6 off a mark of 110, has now won eight Flat races and twice over hurdles.

One of the early purchases at 20,000gns, Chatez (Ire), won seven races, two of which were over hurdles—a rare feat for a son of Dandy Man (Ire). He, like Trueshan, was a graduate of Thomond O'Mara's Knockanglass Stables.

“I get quite excited when the catalogue arrives and I pick out a long list to look at,” Bromley explains. “I will look at sprint sires as long as the female family has got some stamina in it. We are looking for something to run over a mile and a quarter as a 3-year-old, and if it can do that you have a horse who can go over jumps if things didn't work out.

“Last year we bought a horse by The Last Lion (Ire),” he says of juvenile winner Rafiki (Fr), another Knockanglass breezer. “We like him a lot and he's a big stamp of a horse, but being by a son of Choisir he wouldn't necessarily jump out at you as being one for Alan. But he's going to be a nice horse who we think can do all sorts of jobs. You need to have bit of stamina on the female side. And then obviously the physique of the horse is the main thing once we actually get to the sales. They have to have some sort of scope. I've bought for Alan since he started training and I know exactly the sort of horse he's after. We're not trying to buy a National Hunt store, we still do need to have a Flat racehorse there as well. We're looking for an athlete with a bit of scope about him.”

Trueshan, who has “all the big targets that you'd imagine” could yet emulate another star of the Guineas Breeze-up Sale, the Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris (Ire) (Champs Elysees {GB}), whose relatively lowly price of 20,000gns was doubtless connected to the fact that he didn't clock a particularly fast time when breezing on the Rowley Mile.

“I don't bother with the times,” says Bromley. “Many moons ago, before it got really professional, I had an assistant for the sales and we got the times. It was the worst breeze-up sale I ever bought at because I was referring to the times and I think it stopped me buying some horses because they hadn't clocked a good time. I think it clouded my opinion of the horse I saw with my eyes.”

He continues, “When I get one out that I've liked in the gallop and then the vendor says he clocked in the top ten of the day I always groan. One, the horse is going to be expensive, and that's not good for me if I haven't got the big money to spend, and more importantly, with the individual's pedigree and physique I don't want to be hearing that he had clocked a good time as it might mean that we are going to have to take a lot of time to unwind the horse. A horse not bred to do that may have been pushed to record a fast time.”

More important to Bromley is the trust he has built up with vendors with whom he has had past success. “It's not done us any harm just to go with our gut feeling, and as we've been doing it year after year we do like to go back to vendors we've done well with before,” he says. “You go with your own eyes and you go a little bit on vendors' recommendations—and they have to see you again next year.”

A number of King and Bromley's breeze-up purchases have been for Max McNeill, the co-owner of Tritonic whose previous high-class horses with Alan King include Grumeti (GB) (Sakhee), the archetypal dual-purpose performer with his wins in the Cesarewitch and the G1 Anniversary Hurdle at Aintree.

“Fair play to Max McNeill as there have been a lot of enquiries about Tritonic throughout his career, right from when he won the Haynes, Hanson & Clask as a 2-year-old, and again after his run at Royal Ascot last year,” Bromley says. “It's very good for them to support Alan, who is desperate to keep the horse, but you can't argue if the owner is being offered a serious amount of money for a horse.

“Max has been a great supporter and he's bought a couple of 2-year-olds every year and has had plenty of winners, but this has been the best we've had going this route.”

While Cheltenham is the major focus for every big jumps stable at this time of year, King and Bromley may well have to accept that they will be donning their morning suits as frequently as they reach for the tweed these days.

“The Flat didn't use to be the main day job for Alan but it is becoming part of his daily life now,” Bromley admits. “Alan is a dual-purpose trainer in the old-school style and I think he really punches above his weight because we rarely have six figures to spend on any horse for jumping or the Flat, and in this day and age that's what everyone is trying to achieve at the top table.”

He adds, “It isn't easy to keep playing in the big races with smaller budgets. This is still quite a lot of money, don't get me wrong, but when you are trying to get to the Cheltenham Festival it can be tough. The breeze-up route is one angle that we tried a few years back and it's exciting for everyone.”

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