Life After Galileo

Bolshoi Ballet and Joan of Arc served notice that Galileo isn’t going to be displaced from his position as Champion sire anytime soon. However, whilst not at the end, we are at the beginning of the end of his reign and this will have very significant consequences for top level racing and breeding. Some of the likely impacts include:

 

1. A dilemma for Coolmore.

Although Galileo was still covering this year, he is now 23 and there have been limited updates on whether he is getting mares in foal. In the absence of Galileo, who should they utilise with their extensive broodmare band? This is the most immediate issue for Coolmore/Ballydoyle.

Looking at Coolmore’s European roster there is nothing remotely of his class available. The most expensive listed sire is No Nay Never (€125,000) who is far removed from Galileo in terms of progeny aptitudes. He is nobody’s idea of a suitable substitute. Wootton Bassett is next at €100,000 and he will already be busy as a suitable outcross mate for their band of mares sired by Galileo.  He is an interesting option but by no means certain of the patronage.

Camelot stands at €60,000. He received a fee hike this year but he doesn’t look like a successor in waiting. He will probably benefit from some redirected mares but he can count himself lucky.

Fastnet Rock (€50,000) is very limited and is already 20 years old. Sottsass (€30000) is unproven, likewise Saxon Warrior (€20,000) and Churchill €30,000. Gleneagles €25000 has disappointed. Australia €25,000 is the best son of Galileo on their roster and would benefit from access to better mares and maybe speedier types but Coolmore don’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him.

The US roster is headlined by American Pharoah (decent results in Europe) and Justify (potential but unproven) along with Uncle Mo (very few runners in Europe). It’s hard to see them redirecting too many mares to them. So there is the dilemma….do Coolmore support their own sires knowing their limitations or utilise more outside sires?

2. Implications for Ballydoyle.

Ballydoyle has been spoiled for over a decade with a conveyor belt of superior Galileo runners. I often thought that for a level playing field Galileo’s should carry a five pound penalty 🙂

A full listing of his astonishing 39 European classic winners can be found at https://www.aidanobrienfansite.com/galileo-classic-victories-by-crop-order.php .

However, without Mr Reliable the days of 25+ Group 1 winners in a season will be very hard to replicate. 15+ Group 1 winners in a season would be dreamland for any other operation but may seem underwhelming given what has gone before. This can escalate tensions with owners used to unprecedented success.   Will ‘the lads’ scale back on numbers? Will Aidan look to scale back the numbers he is training or redirect more to his sons?

3. Dubawi may win a sires championship

A little like Richard Johnson had to wait for McCoy to depart, if he can hang around for long enough, Dubawi may eventually claim a sires championship.

4. New owners will have a chance to compete and succeed

There is now an opportunity for new wealthy owners to enter the game and credibly chase middle distance classic horses. For the last decade with the close control of the Galileo progeny even the ultra-rich couldn’t get their hands on the right ammunition for classic glory. (Note if any such ultra-rich owner is looking for a bloodstock adviser drop me a line)…

5. The title of Galileo’s best son is still undecided

Frankel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but he has very good black type percentages, classic winners in Logician and Anapurna and a superstar in Cracksman. He currently leads the way ahead of the reliable Teofilo and the infuriatingly inconsistent New Approach who nonetheless can boast three classic winners in Dawn Approach, Talent and Masar. There are still plenty of sons who could yet emerge to take this title.

Conclusion:  Few would have predicted that the Sadler’s Wells era would have been followed by the even more remarkable Galileo era.  We don’t know what lies ahead but we are unlikely to see a third such dominant force emerge for some time. A more competitive top level racing environment with success being more evenly spread might not be such a bad thing…

HRI Administration Blues

This article isn’t about breeding matters but rather more mundane administrative issues. The staff in Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) are very nice but their systems are woefully inadequate for 2021. Part of the remit of HRI is to encourage racehorse ownership but their outdated processes and bureaucracy are a major turn-off for new owners in syndicates/partnerships. They also haven’t adjusted for Covid and it is no longer practical to meet your dozen other fellow syndicate members in the pub and gather all their signatures (or however they imagine it happens).

HRI only provide non editable partnership forms that owners and syndicates are expected to print out, hand fill, sign or scan/ post to the next person (and there may be 10 or more people in a syndicate). This is not acceptable in 2021. I know some syndicate managers just sign on behalf of everyone.

Here are some improvements that could easily be made if HRI wanted to improve life just a little for owners:


1. Have editable pdf /typable word documents for all ownership forms on the HRI website. Better still have an online form in which details are entered

2. Accept digital signatures – it is 2021, we have been through a pandemic but their systems haven’t adapted

3. Allow an online check of available horse names (subject to final verification). Currently you have to ring up and speak to someone, yet there is no reason why this can’t be done online.

4. Sort out the sequencing of registering a new owner in a partnership. As I understand it, they can’t be registered until they are linked to a horse and that horse has to be named. Why? (apart from system inadequacy)

5. The charge for naming a horse can only be taken from one partners account- yet everything else is split in proportion. I’d love to know the justification for that…

6. Colours can’t be registered for a partnership but they can for a syndicate. Some people don’t care about whose colours a horse runs in but others do and having a neutral option that doesn’t favour one partner would be a good idea.

There are HRI charges to owners for everything from registering a partnership/registering colours, renewal, authority to act, registering leases etc. It is not unreasonable to expect a decent service in return………

Cheltenham 2021 and Sons of Galileo

Last year, I wrote about the deeply concerning rush by National Hunt breeders to use sons of Galileo see http://www.montjeu.com/galileo-groupthink-national-hunt-breeding-and-a-new-heresy/

Herd mentality (or mass insanity) saw around one third of NH mares go to sons of Galileo in 2020 year. Nothing in the interim has changed my view that this is a misguided approach that will do long term damage to the National Hunt breed. NH breeders should look at the Cheltenham 2021 results and start to look for alternatives.

The full listing of runners by Galileo and his sons at Cheltenham 2021 is shown below.

HorseSirePositionRnrsClassType
OK CorralMahlerPU16Hcp Gr. 3Chase
ConcertistaNathaniel210Grade 1Hurdle
Cabot CliffsGleneagles1222Hcp.Gr. 3Hurdle
Glen ForsaMahler1219Hcp Gr. 3Chase
Chris’s DreamMahlerPU9Grade 1Chase
Pont AvalSoldier of Fortune1015Grade 2Hurdle
Bob MahlerMahlerBD21HcpChase
Deisa AbaMahlerPU21HcpChase
ZanahiyrNathaniel48Grade 1Hurdle
BuildmeupbuttercupSixties Icon2425Hcp Gr3Hurdle
TorygraphMahler816Grade 1Hurdle
N’goloGalileo916Grade 1Hurdle

The results are striking for two reasons:

  1. The lack of runners, sired by sons of Galileo who were actually good enough to run at Cheltenham
  2. The lack of success of his sons runners. Only Nathaniel could be described as a good NH sire (and he is still a flat sire).

Incidentally, the solution is not to redirect every mare to a son of Monsun instead!

Lanwades Stud: 2021 Fees Reviewed

Lanwades Stud titles itself the ‘Independent Option’ . Numerically, it doesn’t try to compete with the Darley or Coolmore rosters. However, despite having only four sires it still manages to provide a varied and interesting stallion choice.

It isn’t a lack of finance that prevents the stud from expanding its roster. The stud’s owner, Kirsten Rausing, is one of the richest women in Europe, due to her part ownership of Tetrapak. To her credit, she has contributed generously to racing welfare and research charities.

Lanwades has always tried to offer alternatives to Northern Dancer line stallions. They stood sires like Leroidesanimaux (a grandson of Blushing Groom) , With Approval (Caro) and Selkirk (Sharpen Up). I felt the stud was almost like a project in ‘breed improvement’ , providing some sires that were worthy but not always commercial. It was the stud farm version of the public service/highbrow broadcaster contrasting with more populist/commercial offerings. Times change and they have embraced larger books for Sea The Moon so they are not averse to availing of commercial opportunity.

Stallion 2021 fee (2020 fee)

  1. Bobby’s Kitten £7,000 (£8,000) (Kitten’s Joy ex Celestial Woods by Forestry)

Verdict: Overpriced

Winner of a Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint at three (defeating No Nay Never), he failed to win at four. He was shipped across the Atlantic to Dermot Weld and he reappeared early in his five year old career, hacking up by 8 lengths in a listed race at Cork in March on heavy ground. It appeared he was set for a very interesting and profitable European campaign but alas he was never seen again on the track. His sire, Kitten’s Joy, achieved champion sire status in the US in 2013 and 2018, despite being primarily a turf sire. His reputation in Europe has flourished in recent years with Hawkbill quickly followed by Roaring Lion and Kameko. Lanwades are advertising Bobby’s Kitten as ‘a great outcross for most European mares’. Given that Kitten’s Joy is a grandson of Sadler’s Wells and the dam has Storm Cat as a grandsire, it wasn’t the first thought that crossed my mind…

First Crop Results: Bobby’s Kitten had his first runners this year and they did reasonably well with 12 winners from 45 runners. There were no stakes winners, although his best performer Monaasib was runner-up in the Gr 2 Beresford Stakes. That was over a mile and Bobby’s Kitten’s second and third highest Racing Post rated runners, also won over a mile which seems to indicate that his progeny will stay well. It is perhaps worth noting that although he finished his career as a sprinter, as a juvenile he was a Grade 3 winner over 8.5 furlongs and was a close third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile turf over a mile.

Sales Results: He had 14 yearlings sell in 2020 with a median of just £6,000 and an average of £10,165. That crop was conceived at £12,500 so it was not a good outcome for breeders.

Conclusion: It is too early to dismiss him as a sire of racehorses and it is perfectly possible/probable that his progeny will improve at three. He deserves a chance before we make final judgement. I think the market may be a little too dismissive of him which means there may be value in being a buyer of his offspring. However, there isn’t value for the commercial breeder and it is impossible to justify his fee based on sales returns.


2. Sea The Moon £22,500 (£15,000)- (2011 by Sea the Stars ex Sanwa by Monsun)
Verdict: Fair Price

Winner of his first four races including an 11 length triumph in the German Derby . He was made favourite for the Arc but never made it to Paris, being retired after a sub-par showing in the Grosser Preis Von Baden. His dam is a daughter of Monsun and a sister to no less than three German classic winners (Samum, Schiaperilli and Salve Regina). He was from the excellent first crop of Sea the Stars and his first son at stud. He was an interesting addition to the stallion ranks at £15000 and had a sizeable 118 foals in his first crop. Not untypically that initial glow faded and he had reduced crops of 83, 39 and 54 in succeeding years.

Progeny Record: It’s fair to say that Sea the Moon has exceed expectations. His star performer to date is Coronation Stakes winner Alpine Star and she was a little unlucky to just come up short in the French Oaks, Jacques Le Marois and Prix de l’Opera. I wouldn’t have expected him to sire a top miler. He has had a pair of champion two year olds in Germany, another Group winning miler in Hamariyna and he is not a one dimensional stamina influence (although he gets plenty who do stay well) but he imparts that great intangible, class.

Sales Results: He had 14 yearlings sell in 2020 with a median of £37,275. That’s a good return off a covering fee of £15,000. His yearling median has risen steadily since his first two year olds hit the track. It is probably good for his sales figures that there will be a thriving resale market for his ex-flat racers as jumps prospects.

Conclusion: Coming from a German family and having a dam by Monsun and her dam by Old Vic, it wasn’t difficult to envisage him ending up as a National Hunt sire. He has already shown his ability in that role via Allmankind but his future in the flat ranks is now secure. He may go a little quieter with his smaller current crop of two year olds and three year olds but there should be a bright future ahead with bigger and better crops in the offing and he covered 164 mares in 2020..


3. Sir Percy £7,000 (£7,000)- (2003 by Mark of Esteem ex Percy’s Lass by Blakeney)
Verdict: Overpriced

A cracking racehorse, he won the Dewhurst, the Derby and was runner up in a Guineas, but an ordinary sire. He had St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco to represent him in 2020 but he has failed to sire a Group winner in every crop since 2015. He is advertised as the sire of two Group 1 winners but I suspect most people would struggle to tell you anything about either Sir John Hawkwood (Australian Group 1 in 2016) or Wake Forest (2016 Man O’War stakes).

Sales Results: He had 13 yearlings sell in Europe in 2020 with a median of £31,366. It’s a very good return but might be an aberration as his medians were £15,324 and £21,543 in the preceding years. His GB/Irish sales median was £19,425. Maybe it was the national hunt folk trying to source the next Presenting Percy:)

Conclusion: It’s nice to see an active sire from the Mill Reef line but he hasn’t produced the goods in his stud career and I don’t see that changing.


4. Study of Man £12,500 (£15,000)- (2015 by Deep Impact ex Second Happiness by Storm Cat)
Verdict: Fair Price

He won the Gr 2 Prix Greffuhle and a weakish renewal of the Prix du Jockey Club but failed to win again in 7 subsequent starts. He did however finish runner up in both the Prix Ganay and the Prix d’Ispahan as four year old. He was high class (Timeform 122) but just a few lengths short of being truly top class.

On the other hand, his pedigree is truly top class. He is a very welcome son of Deep Impact to join the European stallion ranks. The dam was a non-winner but as a daughter of Storm Cat and Miesque, it is a pedigree to drool over. Miesque was an exceptional race-mare and just as good a broodmare. Her legacy would have been secured with Kingmambo, never mind her other offspring East of the Moon and Miesque’s Son. Her daughters are just as prominent and their descendants include Karakontie, Rumplestiltskin, Tapestry, Alpha Centauri and Alpine Moon with the list growing each year. Even if he had been unraced, his pedigree almost warranted a slot at stud.

Conclusion: He was a contemporary (and occasional rival) of another son of Deep Impact, Saxon Warrior, but was a few pounds inferior to him. His pedigree however stands up to the closest scrutiny and I think his £12,500 fee compares well with Saxon’s €20,000 fee (and I wouldn’t quibble with Saxon’s fee). Its always a gamble using an unproven sire but I think he is well worth a punt at the price and I would expect sons of Deep Impact to make er a Deep Impact.

Coolmore 2021 fees reviewed

Coolmore Stud has a massive 26 flat stallions on its Irish flat roster for 2021. There are four new additions: Arizona, Circus Maximus, Sottsass and big money signing Wootton Bassett. The only departure was Caravaggio who is now in Ashford. The roster includes six 2000 Guineas winners and three Derby winners.

Coolmore has stood the champion sire in Ireland/UK every year since 1990 but apart from Galileo, only Zoffany made the top ten in the 2020 leading GB/Irish sire list. Their quest for a worthy successor to 23 year old Galileo still remains elusive, despite standing six of his sons. The purchase of Wootton Bassett is an effort to fill that void in the elite bracket.

Bloodstock publications are very dependent on advertising revenue. This naturally limits their impartiality and candour. Without such constraints, I am free to give an impartial value rating of their 26 stallions.

Stallion 2021 fee (2020 fee)

  1. Arizona €7,000 (na)- (2017 No Nay Never ex Lady Ederle by English Channel)

Verdict: Slightly overpriced (my fair price would be €5000)

He was ‘only’ a Group 2 Coventry winner, but he was a good second to Pinatubo in the Dewhurst. His dam side is reasonable and he made £65,000 guineas as a foal and €260,000 as a yearling. The negative is that he didn’t train on at three. He provides cheaper access to a son of No Nay Never than Ten Sovereigns. If Ten Sovereigns is the poor mans No Nay Never, Arizona is the even poorer mans Ten Sovereigns 🙂 I suspect there may not have been room for him on the roster, if Wichita hadn’t died in Australia. Whatever my reservations, I suspect he will be popular with breeders looking for a commercial source of cheap speed/precocity.


2. Australia €25,000 (€27,500)- (2011 by Galileo ex Ouija Board by Cape Cross)
Verdict: Overpriced (should be max €20,000)

If stud fees were set in August, this fellow would have been €15,000. However he had a strong end of season with Galileo Chrome giving him a first Group 1 in the St Leger and that was followed up with a Breeders Cup mile winner in Order of Australia. There was a good supporting cast headed by Irish Oaks runner up Cayenne Pepper and interestingly both Joseph O’Brien and Jessica Harrington seem to have a lot of success with his offspring. Commercially his yearling median was €46k this year which wasn’t much of a return on a conception fee of €35,000. I wrote last year that I thought he should he €20000 and that remains my view. That said, I do think he is a credible sire and a good option if the price is right.

3. Calyx €16,000 (22,500)- (2016 Kingman ex Helleborine by Observatory)

Verdict: Undecided

Like Arizona a Coventry winner but this guy had a lot more brilliance about him. Kingman mania has waned since last year so he has taken a chunky price cut. The question is whether the price cut is enough in a fickle and difficult marketplace? Breeders now have another son of Kingman option in the Classic winning (and sounder) Persian King in France and Palace Pier will presumably be retiring in 2022, to further reduce the novelty factor. You can expect his fee to be shaved again next year and the year after so when you come to sell he will be standing at a lower fee and he will be one of a number of sons of Kingman. He is no bargain at this fee but I’m struggling to think what he should be and I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

4. Camelot €45,000 (€40,000)- (2009 by Montjeu ex Tarfah by Kingmambo)

Verdict: Poor Value– Overpriced:

One of the few stallions on the roster to get a price increase. This year he was represented by an Irish Oaks winner in Even So, and a German Group 1 winner in Sunny Queen. He also had a fancied Derby contender in English King, along with Group 1 winners in Australia in Russian Camelot and Sir Dragonet (who couldn’t win a Group 1 in Europe). He has decent percentages of black type horses and he had good sales results with a median of €55,000 for yearlings conceived at €30,000. However these results are no more that you would expect from stallions in this price bracket. In the current market, I don’t think an increase was warranted and in relative terms, Australia is better value at their respective prices.

5. Churchill €30,000 (€30,000)- (2014 by Galileo ex Meow by Storm Cat)

Verdict: Poor Value– Over Priced

Churchill won seven consecutive races including 4 consecutive Group 1’s in 2016 and 2017. He was high class, is well bred and has 126 two year olds in 2021. He covered an incredible 250 mares in 2020 so a lot of breeders have more faith in him than I do. His yearlings sold well with a median of almost €70,000. However using a sire in his fourth season is for gamblers and I would have expected a decent reduction, to reflect this and the general state of the market.

6. Circus Maximus €20,000 (na)- (2016 by Galileo ex Duntle by Danehill Dancer)

Verdict: Poor Value– Over Priced

After winning the the Dee Stakes, Circus Maximus ran reasonably well to finish 6th in the Derby. At that stage, it was hard to picture him as a putative top miler but kudos to Aidan O’Brien who ran him 17 days later in St James Palace where he defeated King of Comedy. He added the Prix de Moulin later that season (should have been demoted) and at four he won the Queen Anne on his seasonal reappearance. He had a number of good placed efforts including seconds to Too Darn Hot and Motaather in the Sussex Stakes and he finished his career with a second place in the Breeders Cup mile. His dam, Duntle was high class. Ironically she was demoted from a Group 1 she should have retained (the Matron Stakes). His stud mate, the Gurkha is another son of Galileo out of a Danehill Dancer mare who has made a poor start at stud. Circus Maximus was high class and genuine but for me he lacked a little star quality. There are no shortage of high class sons of Galileo at stud and I’m not sure why this one should succeed above any other.

7. Fastnet Rock €50,000 (€60,000) (2001 Danehill ex Piccadilly Circus by Royal Academy)

Verdict: Poor Value– Overpricedshould be €25,000

Verdict: His European record is nothing special. For the third consecutive year his best performer was One Master and there are no Group winners to date far from his 2017 and 2018 European crops. For some reason his sales results remain strong and he had a median of nearly €62,000. I wrote last year, that he should be a €25,000 sire and I haven’t seen anything to change that position.

8.Footstepsinthesand €12,500 (€15,000) (2002 Giant’s Causeway ex Glatisant by Rainbow Quest)

Verdict: Overpriced – should be 8k

He stood at €10,000 for 9 consecutive years before getting a hike in 2020 to €15,000 following the performances of Threat and Mum’s Tipple. That duo failed to train on and nothing new emerged in 2020. He has always had his limitations and there have been no Group 1 winners in his last 10 crops! Trainers like his progeny and he had a median of €25,000 in 2020 but to me he is at best an €8,000 sire.

9. Galileo Private (Private) (1998 Sadler’s Wells ex Urban Sea by Miswaki)

Verdict: price doesn’t matter for anyone using him

Sired a record breaking 5th Derby winner in Serpentine, a dual classic winner in Love and won a 12th consecutive sires championship. With 146 three year olds and 135 two year olds in 2021 he won’t be relinquishing his title in a hurry. It will be interesting to see how many mares he covers and gets in foal at 23 years of age. The downside of his domination, is that it has made top class racing less competitive and interesting for everyone outside Ballydoyle.

10. Gleneagles €25,000 (35,000) (2012 Galileo ex You’resothrilling by Storm Cat).

Verdict: Significantly Overpriced

I was sanguine about the prospects of Gleneagles following his first two year olds. That optimism is now gone following a disappointing year on the track. Market sentiment has also cooled with his yearling median dropping from €64,700 in 2019 to €30,000 in 2020. It’s hard to see him turning things around and it would be hard to justify the gamble of using him at this price.

11. Gustav Klim€4,000 (€6,000) (2015 Galileo ex Massarra by Danehill)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

‘Only’ a Group 2 winner but placed in the Irish Guineas, St James Palace and Haydock Sprint Cup. His granddam is Rafha, the dam of Invincible Spirit and Kodiac. He may uphold the family tradition but those two tend to be influences for speed and precocity. I’m not sure about a son of Galileo doing likewise but at that price point it’s hard to quibble.

12. Highland Reel €10,000 (€12,500) (2012 Galileo ex Hveger by Danehill)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

Despite a tremendous racing career that saw him run 27 times and record 7 Group 1’s, I always assumed that he was going to end up as National Hunt sire. His 2020 yearling median was €21,000, off a stud fee of €17,500 so it needed a reset. I would have been dismissive of him but I’ve been listening to a few shrewd judges who tell me that they like his stock on the ground. On that basis, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

13. Holy Roman Emperor €12,500 (€15,000) (2004 Danehill ex L’On Vite by Secretariat)

Verdict: Fairly Priced:

A better sire on almost every metric than the similarly priced Footstepsinthesand. In 2020 he had a new group winner in Valeria Messilina, a Stakes winner in Numerian, a high class two year old in Jadoomi and Romanised continued to show high class form. His yearling average was €26,000 and he is a solid proven sire.


14. Magna Grecia €18,000 (22,500)- (2016 by Invincible Spirit ex Cabaret by Galileo)
Verdict: Fairly priced

A Guineas winner who also won the Vertem Trophy at two. His pedigree received a nice boost when his half brother St Mark’s Basilica won this year’s Dewhurst. I thought his initial fee was a touch high (180 mare owners disagreed!) but it’s starting to come back into more reasonable territory.

15. Mastercraftsman €15,000 (€25,000) (2006 Danehill Dancer ex Starlight Dreams by Black Tie Affair)

Verdict:Overpriced

Took a big reduction but it was necessary after an underwhelming year on the track. Extra Elusive won a Group 3, Cabaletta won a Listed race, Quian won a German Group 2 and Barrington Court won a Listed race but there was nothing exciting. In addition, his better horses are often slow to mature and/or stayers- neither an attribute likely to endear a sire to the market. The market is starting to forget that he was once the sire of Alpha Centauri and The Grey Gatsby, although his median held up pretty well at €29k (albeit off a crop conceived at €25k). His crop conceived post Alpha Centauri will be two year olds in 2022 so there is a chance he could rebound but he is now in risky territory.

16. No Nay Never €125,000 (€175,000) (2011 Scat Daddy ex Cat’s Eye Witness by Elusive Quality)

Verdict: Overpriced

I thought someone had a massive rush of blood to the head when they decided that No Nay Never (NNN) was worth 175k last year. He still covered 193 mares which shows what I know. He had a good year on the track with Alcohol Free winning the Cheveley Park, Witchita training on to win a Group 2 and being placed in the Guineas and Group wins for Vitalogy, Nay Lady Lay and Love Locket. He had a median of €67k which is a great return for those breeders who used him at €25k in 2018.

I wrote last year that he is being priced as if he had already fully delivered on his promise and that remains the situation. His fee leaves limited upside and quite a few risks attached. Ten Sovereigns, Alcohol Free, Land Force and Arizona all won their Group races over 6 furlongs and although Wichita placed in a Guineas, he had to drop back to 7 furlongs to win his Group 2. NNN is a quality sire, whose record can only improve with the better mares that have come his way. However, it’s a big ask to pay 125k for a sire who has yet to really prove he is more than a sire of sprinters. There is a finite market for 200k plus yearlings and these sort of prices are typically for classic prospects. I’m not sure that NNN will reward those using him in 2021 like he did the early adopters.


17. Rock Of Gibraltar €5,000 (€6,000) (1999 Danehill ex Offshore Boom by Be My Guest)

Verdict: Should be Retired…

He is at a bargain basement fee which makes some appeal for a reasonable sire. His yearlings had an impressive median of 25k (but only 4 sold) and that could be an aberration as his 2019 median was 6k. He will be 22 this year and you wonder why he isn’t retired as there is very little demand from breeders.

18. Saxon Warrior €20,000 (€27,500) (2015 Deep Impact ex Maybe by Galileo)

Verdict: Fair Price

A good Guineas winner who also won a Racing Post Trophy and had some great battles with Roaring Lion over 10 furlongs. The only son of Deep Impact in Ireland his dam was a Moyglare winner. He has had a major price cut this year and seems reasonably priced to me. That said for anyone willing to travel, Study of Man at £12,500 is a more attractive option to access a high class son of Deep Impact.

19. Sioux Nation €10,000 (€12,500) (2015 Scat Daddy ex Dream the Blues by Oasis Dream)

Verdict: Overpriced

Has covered very big books and being a son of Scat Daddy has been touted as the next No Nay Never. He was a Group 1 winner but his overall record was only 4 wins out of 15 and his female line is unremarkable. Using him in his third season you are taking a risk that his first runners will have performed well and I thought he might have had a bigger price cut to reflect that risk.

20. Sottsass €30,000 (na) (2016 Siyouni ex Starlet’s Sister by Galileo)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

At three he won the French Derby (beating Persian King) and was 3rd in the Arc. At four he won a Prix Ganay and an Arc (albeit a weakened Arc run in heavy ground. He is the best son of Siyouni (who will be standing for €140k this year) and his dam also produced the 7 time Grade 1 winner Mysistercharlie. That is a lot of positives. He will no doubt drop back in price next year as the memory of his exploits fade and other sons of Siyouni (most likely St Marks Basilica) compete for patronage, but for an opening ask it is in line with expectations.

21. Starspangledbanner €22,500 (22,500)  (2006 Choisir ex Gold Anthem by Made of Gold

Verdict: Fair Price

A quieter than hoped for year on the track. Aloha Star was a Group 2 winning two year old, however Millisle didn’t really enhance her reputation despite a Group 3 victory and there were no other Group wins in Europe. His fertility issues are now behind him and his yearling median held up well at €39k. Although I thought he might have seen a reduction to 20k, I do like him as as sire and think his fee can be justified.

22. Ten Sovereigns €20,000 (25,000) (2016 No Nay Never ex Seeking Solace by Exceed and Excel)

Verdict: Overpriced

A Middle Park and July Cup winner, who failed to stay in the Guineas and was beaten in the Commonwealth Cup, Nunthorpe and in the Everest. He has an unremarkable female line. Attracted 214 mares last year so plenty of people believe in him , or maybe it’s the No Nay Never hype. If you use him in 2021 you will be hoping that sentiment remains in your favour.

23. The Gurkha €5,000 (€12,500) (2013 Galileo ex Chintz by Danehill Dancer)

Verdict: Overpriced

He had a very slow start with his two year olds. From a crop of 105, 59 raced to give 16 winners and one Stakes horse in Best of Lips who won a German Group 3. If you think his progeny will be transformed at three (and he was unraced at two), €5000 is a bargain fee for this French Guineas and Sussex Stakes winner. Surprisingly his sales returns held up with a median of €23000 (albeit a lot went unsold), so maybe some people are still optimistic for his prospects. I’m not one of them.

24. U S Navy Flag €12,500 (17,500) (2015 War Front ex Misty For Me by Galileo)

Verdict: Fair Price

His stud fee is now half what it was in his first season. To me he compares favourably with Ten Sovereigns, having a much stronger female line, winning three Group 1’s and staying well enough to be placed in an Irish Guineas. He wore headgear but was tough and genuine. The market has cooled on War Front’s sons and that is reflected in his fee.

25. Wootton Bassett €100,000 (€40,000) (2008 Iffraaj ex Balladonia by Primo Dominie)

Verdict: Overpriced- thought it would be 80k

This was the most interesting move in the bloodstock market this year. Purchasing a 12 year old stallion for a rumoured €50 million was a surprise, but on reflection you could see the logic. He will suit the Coolmore broodmare band and he is an upwardly mobile stallion who will get bigger books in Ireland. If the reported price is close to correct, then the decision to price him at €100k was simply a matter of dividing his cost by the 500 mares they would expect to cover in the next 4-5 years. Coolmore are not averse to buying stallions that were proven elsewhere, with Ahonoora and Alzao coming to mind on the flat and Walk in the Park on their NH roster. Their timing was also impeccable. After the deal was done in August, Audarya landed the first of her two Group 1’s, Wooded landed the Prix de l’Abbaye and the two year old Chindit landed the Champagne Stakes. Wootton Bassett is a proper rags to riches sire who managed to get a superstar in his first crop of 24 foals in the form of Almanzor. No other Group 1 winners emerged until Audarya and Wooded struck this Autumn, but he served reminders of his ability with classic placed The Summit and Speak of the Devil in 2020. Given that his fee was €6000 or less for his first five seasons before reaching €20,000 in 2017 when Chindit was conceived, that is impressive. He also stood at €20,000 in 2018 before reaching 40k for the past two seasons. He deserves his place at the top table and it will be fascinating to see how far he can go with superior mares. I’m a fan of Wootton Bassett and his purchase again shows why Coolmore are the shrewdest in the business, but I would have thought that 80k would have been about right.

Zoffany €20,000(€22,500) (2008 Dansili ex Tyranny by Machiavellian)

Verdict: Overpriced

This year National Stakes winner, Thunder Moon, put a gloss on his record and Mother Earth was another Group winning two year old. However, he had plenty of ammo to fire as he had 158 two year olds in 2020 to go with his 169 three year olds, so some have to hit the target. His record in Europe of 4% stakes winners (36 from 829 foals) is unremarkable, as his tally of 3 Group 1 winners. His yearling median dropped back to €29k and he has a smaller crop of two year olds for the coming season (a still chunky 105). He has his place in the market but he has his limitations and there are better value options out there.

Book Review: “The Black Horse is Dying” by William Jones

This is an important book. The issue of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) in Irish racing is now a hot topic following recent articles by David Walsh in the Sunday Times and Paul Kimmage in the Sunday Independent. Both journalists have rightly credited the work of William Jones in documenting the issue. William Jones is a former journalist who spent a number of years working with Coolmore before becoming a whistleblower about what he saw as unacceptable practices in Coolmore. These were documented in his first book ‘The Black Horse of Coolmore”, that led to a lengthy and bitter legal dispute with Coolmore.

His second book is especially damning in its portrayal of American racing. Reading the litany of positive tests/infringements in horses with US trainers such Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Doug O’Neill, Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis is both shocking and dispiriting. More concerning is the ongoing medication that is normal and legal within US training circles. A revealing extract from the medication history of seven Baffert horses who died at Hollywood Park, shows just how far removed US training is from the ideal of trainers using just water, hay and oats. He questions what he sees as the hypocrisy of European trainers and owners who follow the ‘when in Rome approach’ and run their horses on Lasix in the States despite condemning their use in Europe.

Lest, we get complacent in Ireland and the UK, Jones details various drug cases that occurred here and the trainers and vets who were sanctioned. He covers the high profile UK case involving Nicky Henderson and the Queen Mother’s horse Moonlit Pass. The book is revealing in highlighting inconsistencies in approach by the Irish authorities. The lack of accountability of the IHRB who are not covered by Freedom of Information legislation despite received c.€9 million in taxpayers money is an interesting anomaly that he raises. The author was instrumental in getting the Veterinary Council to change its rules about having fitness to practice hearings in public. He has been meticulous and no doubt an irritant to the authorities and yet Irish racing owes him a huge debt.

This book is not perfect; it could have done with better editing, the details of his legal battles and the repeat of some of his grievances with Coolmore might have been better left for another work. His belief that the UK administration and testing regime is more effective and impartial than the Irish system is also debatable. His criticism of some individuals can at times seem unduly harsh but he is a skilled polemicist and gets a lot right.

Reading this book it is easy to conclude that racing and breeding is ignoring a serious animal welfare/PED crisis. He covers the unacceptable behaviour of big bookmaker in exploiting problem gamblers and given the reliance of racing on these same bookmakers it is another area of concern. Whistleblowers are rarely thanked for the difficulties they cause those in power. If you want to thank Mr Jones you can purchase his book via Amazon or some independent booksellers. I urge you to do so….https://www.amazon.com/Black-Horse-Dying-Corruption-Exploitation/dp/1838536523

Nothing sporting about these team tactics

I’m a huge admirer of the unrelenting excellence of the Ballydoyle/Coolmore operation. However recent races have led to serious questions about their use of team tactics. Ballydoyle are arguably pursuing tactics that are against the spirit of the sport. Pacemakers have an acceptable and valuable role in the sport, however we are witnessing tactics that seem more akin to the use of ‘domestiques’ in cycling and that is objectionable.


The BHA’s rules on team tactics are as follows:
46: ASSISTING ANOTHER HORSE IN A RACE
A Jockey must not ride in such a way which is intended to, or does, give an advantage to or is in the interests of a horse which:
-shares one or more Owners in common with; or
-is from the same stable or team as the horse they are riding in the Race.
A Trainer is also responsible for any breach of Rule (F)46 by a Jockey riding one of their horses, except where they can demonstrate that they instructed the Jockey to treat every other horse in the Race equally.
Nothing in these Rules prohibits pure pace making.


Watch the ride on 50-1 shot Royal Dornach (see video below) and you have to wonder, was he more interested in riding his own race or in inconveniencing Threat?

This incident follows closely on the Irish 2000 Guineas where 6 of the 11 runners were Ballydoyle trained. Thankfully Siskin and Colin Keane were good enough to extract themselves from a phlanx of Ballydoyle runners and the best horse won on the day. However as Ger Lyons said “we were up against a football team”.

In 2008, Ballydoyle were fined in regard to the running of Red Rock Canyon who facilitated Duke of Marmalade in the Juddmonte International see https://www.britishhorseracing.com/press_releases/disciplinary-panel-result-and-statement/

Nobody expects Ballydoyle’s jockeys to adopt an ‘after you’ approach to their rivals, but they are sullying their reputation with this behaviour. Given their power in the industry the media give them a relatively easy time.

It is time for the British and Irish stewards to get serious about this issue.

Team Tactics in the St James Palace
Siskin versus ‘a football team’