By Jon Lees
The red, white and blue colours of Cheveley Park Stud have become synonymous with top-level success on the Flat and could make an instant impact at the Cheltenham Festival.
In the 44 years since David and Patricia Thompson purchased Newmarket’s oldest stud, it has become one of the most successful in Europe which as owners raced champions like Russian Rhythm, Pivotal, Medicean and Queen’s Trust.
At Cheltenham, Cheveley Park Stud’s significant entry into the jumps sphere will be put to the test with five possible runners headed by £400,000 purchase Envoi Allen, the unbeaten Gordon Elliott-trained favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Until then the Thompsons most notable success over jumps was with Party Politics, who won the 1992 Grand National in Patricia Thompson’s own colours.
“Mr Thompson decided last year that he wanted to have more involvement in National Hunt racing, so we set about instructing Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins to find him some horses along with Tom Malone,” said Chris Richardson, managing director of Cheveley Park Stud.
“Alex Elliott also found A Plus Tard for us who went to Henry de Bromhead.
“He made some significant investments, but bought some very nice horses. It gives them some welcome entertainment during the winter months.
“Mrs Thompson’s focus is very much on the stud and the Flat, but between them they felt rather than the jumps horses continuing to run in Mrs David Thompson’s colours, they would like them to run in the more familiar colours of Cheveley Park Stud.
“They felt if they were to do so they would want some nice horses with potential, so to have possibly five runners at the Cheltenham Festival is giving them exactly what they wanted.”
To a string of 120 horses in training on Flat, another 22 National Hunt horses have been added, based in Ireland with Elliott, who has nine, Willie Mullins with eight, and one with De Bromhead. Alan King, Nicky Henderson and David Pipe trained one horse each while Highland Lodge remains with Jimmy Moffatt.
Richardson continued: “Horses like Envoi Allen and Malone Road have caught the imagination. Sadly Malone Road is not going to be running.
“We will look at Punchestown but probably take the long term view, put him away and bring him back next season nice and fresh. He is only a young horse and there is much to look forward to.
“A Plus Tard has managed to get into the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, rated 144. We could have considered the RSA, but being only five, it makes sense to take up the Close Brothers option.
“Envoi Allen is in the Champion Bumper and looks pretty exciting. We could have two representatives in the Fred Winter in Chief Justice and Lethal Steps. Allaho will run on the Friday in the Albert Bartlett in what looks a very open race.”
With a policy of selling the colts the stud produces and racing the fillies, there was little scope to convert some of the Flat runners into jumpers.
“Cheveley Park Stud is more associated with speed,” Richardson said. “Our stallions have been primarily speed orientated, but the involvement we now have with Ulysses brings in a new dimension.
“Intello started that off five years ago and has had six stakes winners including Intellogent, who won the Prix Jean Prat.”
Further expansion is not ruled out and Richardson added: “You never know with Mr Thompson. I suppose it all depends how successful they are. The winners to runners among the jumpers is 38 per cent.
“The enthusiasm and passion that David and Patricia Thompson have is commendable. What a huge contribution they make to the industry and even more so now in getting involved in National Hunt.
“They have always had an interest. Last year we ran Seeyouatmidnight in the Grand National and that stems back to 1992 when Party Politics was found by David Minton 10 days before the race and won.”
Richardson is not a regular Festival goer as it falls during peak breeding season.
“It’s not normally a time of year when I can escape from the stud with 160 mares, 112 to foal and we have 42 on the ground so we are flat out with foalings and 71 to foal,” he said.
“You would have to say Envoi Allen would have the best chance. He has been very impressive so far. He is a fine, strong horse who is only going to improve. A Plus Tard is pretty useful horse and if he improves, he could step up into graded company.”