Midnight Legend has made a name for himself as a National hunt sire
By Martin Stevens 4.10PM 18 JUL 2016
MIDNIGHT LEGEND, a talented performer on the Flat and over hurdles who won more fans as a rags-to-riches jumps sire, was euthanised at his long-time home of Pitchall Farm in Warwickshire on Monday after suffering from colic. The son of Night Shift was 25.
Originally trained by Luca Cumani for Umm Qarn Racing, Midnight Legend graduated from handicaps – including wide-margin victories in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot and Tote Gold Trophy at Glorious Goodwood in a sparkling summer campaign in 1994 – to become a leading middle-distance runner who added the Listed March Stakes at Goodwood and Mercury Stakes at Leicester to his record.
He was later sold to Sir Stanley Clarke and sent to David Nicholson, who reinvented the horse as a successful jumper, winning the Grade 2 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown and the Agfa Hurdle at Sandown.
Richard Johnson took the ride on all but two of his outings over jumps, and he took to twitter to pay tribute to the horse. “Very sad to hear Midnight Legend has passed away,” he remarked. “Brilliant tough racehorse & great National hunt stallion.”
Successful National Hunt sire
Midnight Legend started covering mares in 1998 and returned to training after that, and it was in this next incarnation as a jumps sire that he achieved almost cult status.
A rare breed as a British-trained jumper who had not been gelded and given a chance as a stallion, he originally stood at Conkwell Grange Stud near Bath and covered small books of mares of little note.
He was bought by David and Kathleen Holmes of Pitchall Farm in 2001 to replace the deceased Bonny Scot and with the intention of him covering mostly their own mares.
However, Midnight Legend’s name crept into breeders’ consciousness as those first crops hit the track and it became apparent he was upgrading his stock, with several classy performers and good winners-to-runners strike-rates.
Early flagbearers included the Grade 2-winning chaser My Petra and the talented hurdlers Itsa Legend and Magical Legend, while son Midnight Chase typified the class and gameness that Midnight Legend seemed to be transmitting with a string of front-running victories in valuable chases at Cheltenham.
First Cheltenham Festival winner
The year 2011 was a breakthrough for Midnight Legend, as Holmwood Legend became his first Cheltenham Festival winner when leading home paternal half-sister Aimigayle in the Byrne Group Plate and the plebeian-bred Sparky May scored in a Grade 2 hurdle at Ascot and found only Quevega too good in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
David and Kathleen Holmes hit the jackpot on their small investment in Midnight Legend as outside breeders queued up to use the stallion, and his book size and quality increased.
Sizing John, bred by Bryan Mayoh out of the four-time winner La Perrotine, is an example of the better chances that started to be given to Midnight Legend and he duly became the sire’s first Grade 1 winner in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Kathleen Holmes said: “Midnight was an absolute gentleman and had never given us any trouble – he was bouncing and didn’t look a day older than 15, so when the first thing he did this morning was refuse his feed, we knew there was a problem.
“We’re very upset – he’s irreplaceable and it’s the end of an era.
“His stock are tough, so genuine and just never give up trying. He also had a great record with his daughters, so if your mare had a filly there wasn’t any disappointment.”
Holmes added that it will be Midnight Legend’s daughters who write the next chapter in the stallion’s extraordinary story.
“He’ll be a great broodmare sire,” she said. “We’ve got lots of stock out of his daughters and they’re crackers. Carole’s Destrier has Midnight Legend as damsire, so we haven’t heard the last of him.”
Midnight Legend covered 30 mares this season and has around 17 in foal.