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From Small Beginnings – High Chaparral

In the first of a new series, we take a stroll down memory lane and find some of Racing’s biggest names who made their first steps into the public eye on this very day in years gone by.


On what was a pretty ordinary mixed card at Punchestown on the 30th September 2001, 18 runners lined up for the opening 7 1/2 furlong maiden and among this bunch of youngsters was a newcomer from the Aidan O’Brien stable by the name of High Chaparral. Ridden by Mick Kinane, this soon to be household name was sent off the 8/15 favourite to score on debut, but ultimately he would come up short, going down by a battling short-head to the Kevin Prendergast trained Hot Trotter.


Having started slowly in the race, High Chaparral found plenty for pressure but just failed in the end to a colt who had plenty of racecourse experience. Analysis by the Racing Post said: ” Though not a particularly striking individual, he should win his share of races.”


This would prove to be one of the biggest understatements of all time as we were soon to find out. High Chaparral would make amends for his debut defeat just one week later, cruising to victory at Tipperary on soft ground, this time with Seamie Heffernan in the saddle.


O’Brien made the brave decision to throw his Sadler’s Wells colt in at the deep end in his final start of the season in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster and it proved to be a decision well made as High Chaparral again showed his staying prowess on heavy ground to record a 3/4 length victory from his more fancied stablemate Castle Gandolfo.


Stepping up in trip as a 3yo brought yet more improvement out of O’Brien’s star, racking up a winning run of four, the last two of which were a Derby double. Under Johnny Murtagh for the first time at Epsom, High Chaparral again simply outstayed his rivals to grab the coveted Classic and followed it up a few weeks later with a devastating performance at the Curragh to take the Irish equivalent with Mick Kinane back on board.


High Chaparral would go down by just 1 1/4 lengths in the ‘Arc’ on his next start but made up for this blip by taking the Breeders Cup Turf on his first outing to the US. He would remain in training as a 4yo, a season in which he would take the Irish Champion Stakes before again being frustrated in the ‘Arc’, finishing 3rd for the second season in succession.


He would make the final appearance of his career back on US soil, where he managed to successfully defend his Breeders Cup Turf title in a dead heat.


After all of his success on the track, it was no surprise to see High Chaparral go on to become one of the finest sires of his generation. He has, to date, sired 31 Group winners, with 10 of the total recording victories at the highest level. The most famous of his progeny may be the brilliant So You Think.


So You Think, a winner of five Group 1’s down in Australia, eventually followed in his father’s footsteps by moving to the Aidan O’Brien yard in 2011. Under his new trainer’s tutelage, he would also win five Group 1’s including the Tattersalls Gold Cup twice, the Coral-Eclipse, the Irish Champion Stakes and eventually ending his career with victory in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.


High Chaparral’s legacy continues to the present day, with the likes of Toronado, Lucky Lion, Western Hymn and the very exciting Free Eagle flying the flag for the brilliant dual Derby winner who set out on his career on this day 13 years ago.


By Kevin Walsh / Photo: PA Archive/Press Association Images


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