Live contenders can fly the flag for Kayf Tara

Kayf Tara: is standing his 17th season at Overbury Stud

PICTURE: David Dew Live contenders can fly the flag for Kayf Tara By James Thomas 2:03PM 11 MAR 2017

IN 2016 the Overbury Stud resident Kayf Tara supplied a trio of festival winners that showcased his talents across the range of National Hunt disciplines. Blaklion kicked things off with a gutsy success in the RSA Chase, which was swiftly followed by Ballyandy toughing it out to land the Champion Bumper, before Thistlecrack tore clear of his 11 rivals to run out an imperious winner of the World Hurdle.

The loss of the colossal talent of Thistlecrack may have dented Kayf Tara's Cheltenham squad, but despite that absentee he is by no means a forlorn hope to retain his leading festival sire crown.

"It's obviously disappointing for so many people that Thistlecrack has been ruled out," said Overbury manager Simon Sweeting. "But I wouldn't rule out the chances of Tea For Two in the Gold Cup. He wasn't beaten far in the King George and there's another two and a half furlongs in the Gold Cup. It would certainly be a wonderful story for racing if Lizzie Kelly were to win the race."

Alongside Tea For Two in Kayf Tara's festival teamare the likes of the aforementioned Ballyandy – who announced his arrival as a serious Supreme Novices' Hurdle contender with a win the Betfair Hurdle; the unbeaten hurdler Constantine Bay – who would not be without a squeak in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle; Cantlow – who is as short as 2-1 to land the Cross-Country Chase; while North Hill Harvey also has a favorite's chance in the ultra-competitive County Hurdle.

While the racing world's spotlight has well and truly been on Cheltenham over the previous few weeks, those involved in the breeding industry will only be well aware that the covering season is now in full swing.

And at Overbury Kayf Tara has been busy ensuring that there will be festival runners by the son of Sadler's Wells for many years to come.

"Kayf Tara has only had two mares scanned so far this season but they are both in foal and of course that's a great relief to know that, at the age of 23, he can still get the job done," said Sweeting.

On the back of such a glittering 2016 the 23-year-old Kayf Tara is standing the 2017 breeding season at a career-high fee of £10,000, up from £5,000 12 months ago.

Nominations were still very much in demand however, with his book including names such as Megalex, the dam of Megastar and Ballyandy who is making her 11th visit to Kayf Tara, Maid Of Oaksey, an Overbury half-sister to Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree and Hennessy Gold Cup winner Carruthers, and the Grade 1 winner L'Unique.

"He's certainly still very keen in the covering shed," added Sweeting. "We're restricting his book to 100 mares for now, but if we get to May and he's still feeling well, we could take a few late-foaling mares. We just don't want to put him under any pressure."

With a stellar book of mares lined up and a host of live contenders due to fly his flag at Cheltenham next week, the last thing Kayf Tara should be feeling is pressure.

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