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Midnights Legacy

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    Posted: 02 May 2018 at 4:49pm

The audacious plan to make a stallion out of a Midnight Legend foal

Martin Stevens on a six-month-old colt carrying great expectations

I have to admit, when David and Kathleen Holmes told me about their plan to make a stallion out of a foal then aged just three weeks old at the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association National Hunt awards at Doncaster in May, I assumed they were tired and emotional after a long evening spent celebrating the recognition of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John, a son of their late rags-to-riches sire Midnight Legend, as the season's leading chaser.

But no; six months later and in the cold light of day they have lost none of their conviction, and so the last colt they own by Midnight Legend, who passed away aged 25 in July 2016, will be left ungelded and sent into training with Alan King. If he manages to win a Grade 2 hurdle or better, he will be granted a chance as a stallion.

The colt, out of the useful and well-related Generous mare Giving, has already had the portentous name Midnights Legacy registered with Weatherbys. 

No need to shake your head and smile condescendingly as you read this, dismissing the plan as a naïve pipe dream. The Holmeses have worked with horses all their lives, run a successful business at their Pitchall Stud in Warwickshire, and are well aware the scheme is a million-to-one shot.

But then the couple have beaten the odds before with Midnight Legend, who they bought for a pittance when no one else would have him, only for the horse to blossom into an extraordinary upgrader of mares and consequently one of the most in-demand British-based jumps stallions of the past decade.

Besides Sizing John, he has also supplied the likes of Holmwood Legend, Midnight Chase, Seeyouatmidnight and Sparky May and, with bigger and better-bred crops coming through, there are bound to be plenty more of that calibre.

“We're absolutely under no illusion that to attempt to make a stallion from one of Midnight's last colt foals is probably utterly senseless but we all need a dream,” says Kathleen Holmes.

“So many people have bemoaned the fact there isn't a successor to Midnight through one of his colts and since the French are standing horses who have jumped a few hurdles and are exporting them over here, then perhaps it's time to try it with a British-bred colt by a top British-bred jumps sire. Judging by the phone calls and emails we've received there's certainly a lot of enthusiasm for the project.

“It's a long road before he even gets on a racecourse but we're intending to give it our best shot. It's set to be our most exciting and challenging stallion project ever.”

If Midnights Legacy inherits only some of his sire's talent on the track, it will be a good start down that road.

Midnight Legend developed into a fair stayer on the Flat for his first trainer Luca Cumani and owners Umm Qarn Farm, winning valuable handicaps at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood at three and adding two more Listed successes to his record at four and five.

He was later sold to Sir Stanley Clarke, who took the unorthodox decision to keep him entire when he sent him to David Nicholson – where Midnights Legacy's future trainer King was then assistant – for a hurdling campaign with one eye on a potential future stallion role.

Midnight Legend proved equally adept in his new incarnation as a jumper, landing the Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree and the Punchestown Champion Novice Hurdle on only his third and fourth starts for Nicholson and later, after a brief spell at stud, finishing third to Istabraq and French Holly in the Aintree Hurdle.

Retired for good and sent to Conkwell Grange Stud, he was languishing covering only a handful of poor mares when the Holmeses bought him as a replacement for their recently deceased stallion Bonny Scot and he moved to Pitchall Farm.

“We'd been trying to make various stallions since 1973,” explains Kathleen. “It requires a lot of self-belief, dogged determination and single-mindedness to succeed. Against the odds, at our first attempt, we produced a Wembley champion riding pony.

“Others were less successful but in 2001 we bought Midnight Legend. He was on the scrapheap and very unfashionable – he didn't see a mare who owned a bit of black type before he was 18.

“We'd followed his National Hunt career and we felt he was the ideal horse to breed jumpers from our own mares – and that was before the French made it fashionable to stand a jumping horse!

“He was also by a good sire in Night Shift who tended to stamp his stock and subsequently produced other good stallions such as the sadly deceased Azamour.”

The distaff side of Midnights Legacy's pedigree also offers encouragement that the idea of him turning into a smart racehorse and thus a stallion might not be entirely absurd.

His dam Giving won only one race for her breeder Bloomsbury Stud, a Warwick maiden, but achieved a decent Racing Post Rating of 97 for finishing second in a competitive Sandown handicap and a creditable eighth in a Newmarket Listed event.

Giving was a Generous half-sister to Classic-placed Lethals Lady, Listed scorer Burn The Breeze and the dam of King's Champion Hurdle winner Katchit – so, handily, the trainer has hands-on experience of both sides of the family. She was bought in foal to Kalanisi by Pitchall Farm for 41,000gns from the Bloomsbury Stud dispersal at Tattersalls in 2008.

The colt she was carrying at the time of her sale was sold to JP McManus for €32,000 as a foal only to break a leg on the gallops before he reached the track, but two later fillies by Passing Glance – another stallion owned by the Holmeses, stationed at Batsford Stud since Midnight Legend's demise – called Forgiving Glance and Giveaway Glance have been sent out by King to win and show useful form over hurdles.

In another bittersweet twist to the tale, Midnights Legacy will also be Giving's legacy.

“Midnight Legend had covered the mare before but was 25 when he did so again in 2016,” remembers Kathleen. “He had one chance only to get her pregnant as she had gradually got later foaling. She failed to ovulate despite the correct intervention and the follicle grew large and spotted. Midnight had never got a mare in foal with this problem but, amazingly, at 16 days she was pregnant and Midnight died a few weeks later.

“Giving foaled Midnights Legacy at 11.30am on May 1 and collapsed and died literally out of the stud vet's hands an hour later. At 8pm, having had two lots of colostrum from a bottle, the colt was happily feeding from his little gypsy foster mare and we never looked back.”

To cap it all, the idea of making a stallion out of one of Midnight Legend's last foals and even calling him Midnights Legacy had come to Dorte Roeper, the partner of Sizing John's breeder Bryan Mayoh, completely independently, much to the amazement of Kathleen Holmes when the pair discussed it with each other as they toasted Gold Cup victory at Cheltenham in March.

Considering the unlikely turns of events and the obstacles that needed to be overcome for Midnights Legacy to even be born in the first place, the prospect of him following his father into the breeding shed five or six years from now suddenly doesn't seem so far-fetched after all.


Midnight LegacyCOLT 2017  
Midnight Legend (GB)
Bay 1991
Night Shift
Bay 1980
Northern Dancer
Bay 1961
Nearctic
Brown 1954
Nearco
Lady Angela
1935
1944
4-r
14-c
Natalma
Bay 1957
Native Dancer
Almahmoud
1950
1947
5-f
2-d
Ciboulette
Bay or brown 1961
Chop Chop
Bay or brown 1940
Flares
Sceptical
1933
1922
17-b
2-m
Windy Answer
Bay 1955
Windfields
Reply
1943
1951
11-c
4-g
Myth
Bay 1983
Troy
Bay 1976
Petingo
Bay 1965
Petition
Alcazar
1944
1957
16-g
22>
La Milo
Chestnut 1963
Hornbeam
Pin Prick
1953
1955
1-p
1-b
Hay Reef
Bay 1976
Mill Reef
Bay 1968
Never Bend
Milan Mill
1960
1962
19-b
22-d
Haymaking
Brown 1963
Galivanter
Haytime
1956
1958
4-n
6-e
Giving (GB)
Grey 2003
Generous
Chestnut 1988
Caerleon
Bay 1980
Nijinsky
Bay 1967
Northern Dancer
Flaming Page
1961
1959
2-d
8-f
Foreseer
Bay or brown 1969
Round Table
Regal Gleam
1954
1964
2-f
1-s
Doff the Derby
Bay 1981
Master Derby
Chestnut 1972
Dust Commander
Madam Jerry
1967
1961
3-j
1-l
Margarethen
Bay or brown 1962
Tulyar
Russ-Marie
1949
1956
22-a
4-n
Madiyla
Grey 1987
Darshaan
Brown 1981
Shirley Heights
Bay 1975
Mill Reef
Hardiemma
1968
1969
22-d
1-l
Delsy
Brown 1972
Abdos
Kelty
1959
1965
1-e
13-c
Manntika
Grey 1979
Kalamoun
Grey 1970
Zeddaan
Khairunissa
1965
1960
11-g
9-c
Manushka
Chestnut 1971
Sheshoon
Manush
1956
1963
14-a
8-i
 Ancestor duplications:Northern Dancer3m x 5m Mill Reef4f x 5m



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All systems go as stallion project Midnights Legacy turns one

Midnight Legend colt will not be gelded in the hope he can become a sire

The colt who has been entrusted with continuing the legacy of his late, lauded sire Midnight Legend turned one year old on Tuesday – and it is still all systems go to make him into a stallion.

The ambitious plan was hatched last year by David and Kathleen Holmes, who stood the classy dual-purpose performer Midnight Legendat their Pitchall Stud in Warwickshire for 15 years until his death in 2016.


Read the full story from November 2017 on the audacious plan to make a stallion out of a Midnight Legend foal


The last colt bred by the couple from the sire, born May 1 last year, has been given the portentous name of Midnights Legacy and earmarked for a racing career with Alan King.

He will not be gelded, so that if he wins at least a Group or Grade 2 contest under either code he will retire to stud to become Midnight Legend's only stallion son.

“He's now turned out in the field full-time with a gelding pal who has a lovely temperament but enough sense to keep Leggy in his place,” reported Kathleen Holmes.

“We're pleased with his progress over the winter. He has his sire's good temperament, conformation and good bone.

“He'll go to Jamie Goss near Banbury in December to be broken in and we'll then be nearer to deciding whether he'll run on the Flat or go the bumper route.”

Even as Midnights Legacy has been frolicking in his field, his stallion credentials have received some tangential boosts.

Midnight Legend, already the sire of stars such as Sizing John, Midnight Chase and Seeyouatmidnight, gained new Graded winners Midnight Shadow, Midnight Target and Midnight Tune in the 2017/18 jumps season.

Shall We Go Now, a rare Flat runner for Midnight Legend, was also a fair second in a Windsor maiden on Monday evening, conceding more than a stone to the exciting winner Aspetar.

Meanwhile Midnights Legacy's four-year-old sister Giving Back won a Kempton bumper on debut for King in March and their two-year-old sister was broken over winter and “looks very promising” according to Holmes.



STRIKE WHILST THE IRON IS HOT

reductio ad absurdum

The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.

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