SA Connections Looking Forward To Cheltenham Challenge

Save the date - Tuesday 14 March

South African interest in the ‘equine olympics’ that is the Cheltenham Festival will be at a peak when the four days of explosive track action gets underway at Prestbury Park on Tuesday 14 March with the running of the Gr1 Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle.

And it’s largely all about a charismatic grey rising star of the jumps called Il Etait Temps.

The Cheltenham Festival has been labelled the greatest show on turf and showcases 28 extraordinary contests from Tuesday 14 March to Friday 17 March, when the Cheltenham Gold Cup takes pride of place.

Danny Mullins and Il Etait Temps are welcomed by Wayne Kieswetter (Pic-supplied)

A son of Jukebox Jury, Il Etait Temps carries the instantly recognisable silks of KZN champion owners the Hollywood Syndicate who race him in a lease partnership with the Kieswetter family’s Barnane Stud.

The handsome gelding is also owned by Bloodstock man Ross Doyle and longstanding Barnane Stud manager Patrick Wynn Jones.

Announcing his Cheltenham claims in supreme fashion, Il Etait Temps charged to victory in the Tattersalls Ireland Gr1 Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown a fortnight ago, in the process adding his name to an illustrious winner’s list that includes Gold Cup hero Sir Gerhard, Appreciate It, Klassical Dream and Vautour, amongst others.

Wayne and Danny Mullins, Il Etait Temps, Adam Connolly, Willie & Jackie Mullins, Patrick Wynn Mullins (Pic Supplied)

The grey’s sensational victory was also a momentous occasion for the burgeoning partnership between the Kieswetter family and the Hollywood Syndicate, with the Dynasty filly Make It Snappy preceding Il Etait Temps elite status with a dual Grade 1 score this summer on her home track of Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.

We tracked down the man that started the Il Etait Temps ball rolling.

His name is Ross Doyle, a member of the internationally respected Doyle racing family, and one well acquainted with South African racing over many years.

The late Jack Doyle, Peter’s father and Ross’ grandfather, was known to many as the doyen of bloodstock agents and for some 60 years was a major force in the bloodstock industry. When Peter was working with his father, yearling purchases included Classic winner Bruni and European Champion Sprinter Sandford Lad.

Peter Doyle established the agency in 1978 with his wife Anna; horses purchased by the agency have enjoyed remarkable success around the world. Ross joined the company in 2001 and is an integral cog in the continuing success of Peter & Ross Doyle Bloodstock.

And the Doyle-Kieswetter family association goes back quite a way.

“My parents Peter and Anna have been visiting South Africa for more than 25 years, attending the National Yearling Sale in Johannesburg and latterly the Cape Premier Yearling Sale in Cape Town. They met Craig’s parents Wayne and Belinda (Kieswetter) on one of those visits and struck up a friendship. I in turn met the family on subsequent visits to Cape Town for the yearling sale. And so began a firm friendship with the second generation. We have purchased some lovely yearlings from their magnificent Ridgemont-Highlands Stud in Robertson,” reflects Ross as he illustrates again that racing is really as much a game of great horses, as it is of good like-minded people!

Ross then goes on to outline the Il Etait Temps fairytale for the Sporting Post.

A gelded son of Jukebox Jury he is out of a mare called Une Des Source and was bred in France by Emmanuel Clayeux.

And there frankly wasn’t much to suggest to the uneducated observer that a potential jumps star was lurking in the shadows when he ran twice as a 3 year old on the flat in France for his trainer and part-breeder Emanuel Clayeux, finishing fifth  and then second over 2200m at Vichy in May 2021.

“I am in regular contact with Harold Kirk, a bloodstock agent in Ireland, and he along with his close friend in France, Pierre Boulard, are the chief scouts for Champion trainer Willie Mullins. Harold mentioned  Il Etait Temps to me in conversation as a horse that had caught the eye,” recalls Ross.

The third generation bloodstock consultant had his interest pricked further after watching the race replays.

“I agreed that he had something about him. He was eye-catching, very keen to get on with the job and looked tough. We liked his running style; he is a medium-sized horse and a good mover,” he adds.

Ross then had a chat with Craig Kieswetter and Barnane Manager, Patrick Wynn Jones.

“We have an excellent existing relationship and I told them that I really believed that Il Etait Temps was an interesting prospect. The rest is history, with many happy chapters still to be written, hopefully!” smiles Ross.

A proud Adam Connolly posed with the winner (Pic – Supplied)

He proudly adds that the honour roll of the Gr1 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle speaks for itself and it is widely regarded as one of the premier races in Ireland and England on the National Hunt Calendar.

“The Gr1 Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham is the obvious next step. He is now in the top three in the betting, so hopefully, all being well, he has a very good chance there,” he says with a smile.

Ross previously bought Echoes In Rain in May 2019 from France through the same channels for the Kieswetters.

“She is now a Grade 1 winner with Willie Mullins. She will hopefully also run at Cheltenham in the Mares Hurdle. Another horse that we purchased for Craig and his family more recently is Gust of Wind. Like Il Etait Temps, he too runs in the Hollywood silks and is heading for Cheltenham and being aimed at the Triumph Hurdle.”

Devin Heffer seen with Diane de Kock and Mike de Kock (Pic-Candiese Lenferna)

Hollywoodbets Brand & Communications Manager Devin Heffer said that the Hollywood Syndicate’s growth and success had been extraordinary and that the mere thought of involvement at the Cheltenham Festival would have been a pipe dream even six months ago.

“Our association with the Kieswetter family has been a turning point in our ability to compete at Grade 1 level, globally, and we are indebted to them for embracing the partnership and welcoming us into their world. We enjoyed a dual Gr1 success recently in the Cape, and then Il Etait Temp’s big Leopardstown Gr1 victory was simply awesome. It feels like a dream!” he added.

Craig Kieswetter told the Sporting Post that the goal of their Ridgemont-Highlands and Barnane Stud operations was to breed the best-to-the-best and to enjoy horseracing at all levels, but always to strive to be competitive at the elite level.

“Cheltenham is one of the world’s pre-eminent racing festivals and to have representation there is both an honour and a privilege. Enjoying this great game with world-class passionate racing folk like the Heffer and the Doyle family’s makes it all the more fun and pleasurable,” he concluded.

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