How the Flying Childers has become a significant stallion-making race

How the Flying Childers has become a significant stallion-making race

By John Boyce

31st March 2023

The Flying Childers Stakes, the championship race for two-year-olds over the minimum trip, held each September during Doncaster’s St Leger meeting, has a rich and vibrant history. Since its inception in the late 1960s – as the Norfolk Stakes, until Royal Ascot’s New Stakes took over that title in 1972 – it is a race that has enjoyed its ups and downs. Its first golden age, when it enjoyed G1 status, was the 1970s. Back then it was frequently a stepping stone to either the Cheveley Park or Middle Park Stakes and was won by many of the highest-rated two-year-olds of the day, at a time when Timeform figures for youngsters were, by and large, higher than they are nowadays. In fact, the 10 winners during that decade achieved an average Timeform rating of 120.4 and featured many top juveniles such as Rose Dubarry (127), Hittite Glory (125), Devon Ditty (122), Mummy’s Pet (122) and Mandrake Major (122). Even through the 1980s the quality of its winners held up very well, the 124-rated Marwell winning in 1980, the race’s first year as a G2 contest. Another luminary to win during the 1980s was the venerable Green Desert, who showed early signs of his sprinting prowess winning handily under Lester Piggott.

By the 1990s the race’s winners could only muster an average rating of 106, but things started to turn around in the early 2000s, when the average two-year-old rating of its winners rose to 109 and that trend has continued to the present day, its last five winners featuring the 115-rated Soldier’s Call and the 114-rated Mehmas colt Caturra, who went closer to Rose Dubarry’s 50-year-old race record than any of the other winners mentioned above.

Throughout its time, the Flying Childers has been the launch pad for several commercial stallion careers, particularly those required to supply speed and precocity to the bloodstock marketplace. And make no mistake, this is a business model that not only has been around for decades but is one that has been developed and refined still further in recent times – one that has gained an ever-greater foothold as racing’s superpowers have begun to appreciate more and more the attraction of owning a precocious two-year-old that can compete, in particular, in the top juvenile races at Royal Ascot. You only need to look at the exponential growth of the breeze-up sales in recent years, where Sheikh Mohammed purchased his unbeaten Champion two-year-old and Dewhurst winner Native Trail and from where was sourced the same year’s Middle Park hero Perfect Power (sired by the 107-rated 2016 Flying Childers winner Ardad) to understand that there will always be a place at stud for fast, classy two-year-old colts.

The influential Green Desert is the obvious Flying Childers poster boy. This son of Danzig defied all attempts to turn him into a miler although he did chase home Dancing Brave in the 2,000 Guineas. With the benefit of hindsight, Green Desert was all about speed and it was in the five-furlong Flying Childers that he first looked comfortable as a racehorse after he had already captured the July Stakes over six furlongs, and it wasn’t until he returned to sprinting in the July Cup at three that we got to fully appreciate his natural talents. Green Desert, as we now know, has become embedded in the pedigrees of many a top-class horse through his influential sire sons Cape Cross, Invincible Spirit and Oasis Dream, and excellent grandsons Sea The Stars and Kingman. His record affirms that a stallion who demonstrates elite juvenile precocity can nonetheless have an impact on Classic horses.

There have been other successes, too. Among colts who have won the Flying Childers, I can count 20 who have sired Stakes winners including, in recent times, two who have sired G1 winners – led by Ardad, sire of the three-time G1-winning European Champion Perfect Power from his first crop. Sure enough, we are never going to see many breed-shaping sires emerge from among this speed-oriented cohort as we might encounter from among the elite milers and middle-distances horses, but that’s not the point. In the competitive world of commercial speed, stallions are held to a different set of standards – they must deliver early winners and plenty of them, plus one or two good enough for the juvenile Pattern races at Royal Ascot and beyond. The skillset of the Flying Childers colt is proving to be perfectly suited to the contemporary race programme and auction ring.

Take the table of leading first-season sires going back to 2000. As many as six of the 20 stallions on the list ranked by number of individual winners had the Flying Childers on their agenda as two-year-olds. The likes of Dark Angel, Havana Grey and Cotai Glory didn’t even win the race, Dark Angel running well below his best, as his subsequent successes in the G2 Mill Reef and G1 Middle Park prove beyond doubt. Cotai Glory, meanwhile, had the 2014 race at his mercy only to swerve badly and unseat his rider close home, while Havana Grey finished a half-length shy of Heartache in the 2017 renewal. Like Ardad, all three have passed on the mental and physical maturity and mental and physical soundness – real thoroughbred virtues – that is enabling their stock to thrive in an arena of the sport that is becoming increasingly relevant to all breeding and racing enterprises. Many a Flying Childers colt has won early in the year, competed at Royal Ascot, and frequently been tried at six furlongs before coming back, battle-hardened, to the minimus trip. In other words, they are robustly-made competitors – attributes all racehorses require, whatever distance they race over.

Dark Angel is now well on his way to 100 Stakes winners after starting out with an impressive tally of 33 first-crop juvenile winners. Cotai Glory, meanwhile, went two better last year and sits behind only Sioux Nation, Iffraaj and his stud companion Mehmas among Irish first-crop sires ranked by individual first-crop two-year-old winners. And what about Havana Grey? His 43 winners is already a record for a British-based sire, replacing Dubawi’s haul of 34 back in 2009, and is the highest total achieved by a Flying Childers contestant. For all that, the most accomplished first-crop juvenile runner by a Flying Childers winner is Ardad’s G1 Morny and G1 Middle Park winner Perfect Power – as a point of reference for the scale of that achievement, Green Desert sired only one juvenile G1 winner: Middle Park winner Oasis Dream, from his tenth crop.


1 Mehmas (Acclamation) 56
2 Sioux Nation (Scat Daddy) 45
3 Havana Grey (Havana Gold) 43
4 Iffraaj (Zafonic) 38
5 Cotai Glory (Exceed And Excel) 35
Canford Cliffs (Tagula) 35
Invincible Spirit (Green Desert) 35
8 Dubawi (Dubai Millennium) 34
9 Dark Angel (Acclamation) 33
Dutch Art (Medicean) 33
Fasliyev (Nureyev) 33
Red Clubs (Red Ransom) 33
13 Gutaifan (Dark Angel) 32
Sir Prancelot (Tamayuz) 32
Zebedee (Invincible Spirit) 32
Captain Rio (Pivotal) 32
No Nay Never (Scat Daddy) 32
Zoffany (Dansili) 32
19 Kheleyf (Green Desert) 31
20 Choisir (Danehill Dancer) 30
Mastercraftsman (Danehill Dancer) 30
Orpen (Lure) 30

The dividend for Flying Childers horses at sales time can be spectacular. Using these stallions in their first year brings its own built-in risk-free rewards but sending a mare in year two or even in year three, although not without some risk, can generate huge profits for commercial breeders. Just look what happened at this year’s yearling sales. Four of the top 10 most profitable stallions by fee multiple all ran in the Flying Childers. Ardad’s second crop of yearlings produced an average price nearly 13 times his fee – the highest fee multiple of any stallion in 2022 – while Havana Grey’s average was 11 times greater than his. Cotai Glory, with a 9.6 fee multiple and Prince Of Lir on 7.4, were two more Flying Childers contestants in the top 10 most profitable.


1 Ardad (Kodiac) 12.6
2 Mehmas (Acclamation) 12.4
3 Havana Grey (Havana Gold) 11.4
4 Farhh (Pivotal) 9.9
5 Cotai Glory (Exceed And Excel) 9.6
6 Kodi Bear (Kodiac) 8.7
Night Of Thunder (Dubawi) 8.7
8 Prince Of Lir (Kodiac) 7.4
9 Galileo Gold (Paco Boy) 6.2
Starspangledbanner (Choisir) 6.2

It is rather ironic that the Flying Childers name has become synonymous with speed, precocity, and early sire power. The great horse himself, a Doncaster native, wouldn’t have even got warmed up by the end of five furlongs as he was accustomed to racing over four and six miles. And although he had success as a sire, in the field of influence he was completely outshone by his unraced younger brother Bartlett’s Childers – also known as Bleeding Childers, due to the affliction that prevented him racing. He was the Champion sire of 1742 and is the stallion responsible, through his great-grandson Eclipse, for most of the thoroughbred population we see today.

Click here to see more Ardad facts…
and here for more about Caturra, the even faster Flying Childers winner, including the one-minute Caturra Story on video.