National Hunt Sire Lines- 1st Monsun, 2nd Montjeu, 3rd Galileo

With the world in the grip of a pandemic, it may seem crass to write about something as trivial as horse racing, but we all need our distractions.

I was asked via Twitter to look at the overall performance of grandsons of Galileo in National Hunt Racing (I recently wrote about their performance at Cheltenham). As the overuse of sons of Galileo is a bugbear of mine, I didn’t take much persuasion to accept the challenge.

To make a meaningful comparison, I looked at the performance throughout the 2019/2020 season of sire sons of Galileo, Montjeu and Monsun. The numbers confirm that sire-sons of Galileo are nothing special in the world of National Hunt racing. In fact their performance is inferior to that of sires by Montjeu and especially by Monsun.

Methodology:

I looked at the sire standings for National Hunt in 2019/2020 for the top 550 sires from the Racing Post website. I then extracted and aggregated the results for the sons of Galileo, Montjeu and Monsun. The summary results are shown below:

SIRELINEWnrsRnrsW/R %WinsRuns%Stks Wnrs
GALILEO SIRES TOTAL12752224.3%174172110.1%11
MONSUN SIRES TOTAL22479728.1%322263712.2%15
MONTJEU SIRES TOTAL16561326.9%235202311.6%13

Summary of Findings:

Sons of Galileo fare poorly in terms of winners to runners and wins to runs compared with sons of Montjeu and especially sire sons of Monsun. There may be some reasons to account for the difference such as a younger age profile of the representatives of the Galileo tribe but there is nothing in the figures to suggest that National Hunt breeders should be flocking to sons of Galileo…

Blindly believing in sire lines on the flat or in National hunt racing will lead to lots of disappointments. There are individual sons of Galileo who could be promising jumps sires (Nathaniel especially) but overall the figures suggest that most sons of Galileo are not that welcome an addition to National Hunt pedigrees. The real concern is that sending one third of mares to sons of Galileo may eventually cause long term damage the National hunt breed by narrowing the gene pool. National Hunt breeders may feel reassured in using sons of Galileo ( everyone else is doing it) , but as the Corona virus has shown, being part of the crowd isn’t always such a good idea….

Detailed Workings: Stallions listed by their placing in the sires table by earnings- figures as shown on Racing Post website on 28/03/2020 and referring to UK and Irish earnings for 2019/2020 season

RankStallionWnrsRnrsW/R %WinsRuns%Stks WnrsEarnings £
13Mahler5321325%7275210%2£949,163
49Nathaniel173944%2211719%4£328,541
98Sixties Icon53415%71216%0£146,624
114Rip Van Winkle102934%1410114%0£121,731
135Sans Frontieres64115%91178%1£98,224
141Teofilo83921%91257%1£92,078
148New Approach72429%98211%0£87,972
164Soldier Of Fortune31127%64513%1£71,857
240Cima De Triomphe11100%2450%1£42,105
246Imperial Monarch21613%4469%1£40,774
253Australia3933%32811%0£37,282
255Heliostatic3560%41233%0£36,694
259Battle Of Marengo2633%42615%0£35,329
294Finsceal Fior21217%32811%0£27,716
390Vendangeur1425%1205%0£14,971
435Frankel090%0240%0£11,521
444Noble Mission1333%2633%0£11,039
451Roderic O’Connor1714%1157%0£10,552
465Intello090%0190%0£9,464
485Feel Like Dancing11100%1520%0£8,178
512Ruler Of The World1425%11010%0£6,607
529Cape Blanco030%060%0£5,688
537Red Rocks030%0120%0£5,478
GALILEO SIRES TOTAL 12752224.3%174172110.1%11


RankStallionWnrsRnrsW/R %WinsRuns%Stks WnrsEarnings £
11Getaway7525829%9886611%5£1,100,603
16Network216134%3219616%3£845,837
29Arcadio3014121%454819%1£541,960
30Shirocco3914826%5543613%2£531,547
57Schiaparelli105020%141549%1£283,101
63Gentlewave61250%83921%1£233,923
72Samum4667%81942%1£201,211
82September Storm93327%1714911%0£181,315
133Salutino51436%116517%0£102,638
149Aizavoski93030%127915%0£87,690
167Manduro51436%84916%0£69,827
220Noroit31619%4557%0£48,225
254Lauro3560%41429%0£37,087
264Axxos2367%21513%0£34,877
303Ocovango1425%2825%1£26,632
367Speedmaster22100%21217%0£17,480
MONSUN SIRES TOTAL 22479728.1%322263712.2%15


RankStallionWnrsRnrsW/R %WinsRuns%Stks WnrsEarnings £
17Scorpion4218922%557198%1£810,218
35Walk In The Park82730%98011%4£483,862
36Fame And Glory3313624%4938013%1£473,569
37Authorized225937%3220016%1£451,972
77Pour Moi113037%189020%0£195,358
92Montmartre72726%128814%2£155,773
96Maxios81747%115122%1£150,255
97Motivator72035%125920%1£148,850
103Papal Bull83126%101139%1£139,334
105Davidoff2540%41822%1£135,129
120Jukebox Jury61060%123139%0£114,475
153Camelot52818%5836%0£84,328
352Honolulu2450%21020%0£19,342
375Frozen Fire2633%22110%0£17,080
400Hurricane Run0110%0320%0£14,439
455Masked Marvel1250%1714%0£10,104
461Spider Flight050%0200%0£9,735
484Recital1617%1215%0£8,221
MONTJEU SIRES TOTAL 16561326.9%235202311.6%13

Cheltenham and Galileo..

I recently wrote about the deeply concerning rush by National Hunt breeders to use sons of Galileo http://www.montjeu.com/archives/1122. The results at Cheltenham don’t lessen that concern.

Herd mentality will see one third of NH mares go to sons of Galileo this year. Looking at the results at Cheltenham, where Galileo had 3 runners and his sons sired 17 runners, there is nothing to justify such faith.

Nathaniel did very well with 2 winners (albeit Burning Victory was fortunate that Goshen unseated) from 3 runners. However, he is a £25000 flat sire and if you take him out the results are very ordinary. If Irish and UK breeders want to reclaim some of the ground they have lost to French breds then they will have to put less trust in the adverts from the stud farms and look at supporting a more varied range of NH stallions… The full listing of runners by Galileo and his sons is shown below.

HorseSirePositionRunnersClassType
WhatsnotoknowMahler815Grade 1Hurdle
SupasundaeGalileo717Grade 1Hurdle
SacchoaandvanzettiFinsceal Fior1122Grade 3Hurdle
Fraser IslandAustralia1822Grade 3Hurdle
Ocean WindTeofilo623Grade 1NHF
Mahler AllstarMahler1223Grade 1NHF
Annie McMahler912Grade 1Chase
Itchy FeetCima de Triompheur12Grade 1Chase
ConcertistaNathaniel122Grade 2Hurdle
Vienna CourtMahler822Grade 2Hurdle
Bob MahlerMahler323HcpChase
Deise AbaMahler523HcpChase
Le MuseeGalileo1323HcpChase
Like the SoundSoldier of Fortunepu23HcpChase
Burning VictoryNathaniel113Grade 1Hurdle
Navajo PassNathaniel413Grade 1Hurdle
Lord LamingtonAustralia1013Grade 1Hurdle
BuildmeupbuttercupSixties Icon324Grade 3Hurdle
Chris’s DreamMahler1012Grade 1Chase
Big BlueGalileo1923HcpHurdle

Galileo, Groupthink, National Hunt Breeding And A New Heresy….

Back in 1633, Galileo was convicted of heresy for his espousal of the heliocentric view of the universe. He was sentenced to house arrest which lasted until his death in 1642.

Sadler’s Wells transformed National Hunt breeding, so breeders seem to assume that Galileo will do the same. Here is my heresy; when it comes to National Hunt breeding, I don’t believe in Galileo… The Catholic Church admitted it was wrong in 1992. I wonder if it will take as long to admit to a mistake by National Hunt breeders?

Grounds for Concern:

1. Sadler’s Wells was a great sire of jumpers, Galileo isn’t.

Looking at Racing Post Ratings, from 294 runners over jumps, Galileo has sired just two runners rated over 155, Celestial Halo on 167 and Supasundae on 165 . In contrast from 362 runners, Sadler’s Wells has 11 runners including the imperious Istabraq on 181, Synchronized on 171, Pridwell on 169, Essex on 165 and Theatreworld on 164 .

Galileo also suffers in comparison with Montjeu. Montjeu had fewer National Hunt runners at 249, but has sired 8 horses rated 155 or above, headlined by Hurricane Fly on 173. To date sire sons of Montjeu have also achieved more than sons of Galileo in the National Hunt realm(eg Douvan, Min, Tiger Roll, Might Bite aka Does Bite) but that’s a discussion for another day. The fact that Galileo hasn’t sired good jumpers doesn’t mean that his sons won’t succeed, but it does create a doubt. Where there is doubt, you would expect caution but instead we have a reckless herd mentality on an almost unprecedented scale.

2. Galileo’s National Hunt Stallion Sons are unproven

Galileo has no proven, established National Hunt stallion sons. Mahler has made a good start (eg Chris’s Dream, Ornua) but not enough to warrant 227 mares in 2019. Soldier of Fortune attracted 275 mares in 2019 and 290 in 2018. That is a lot of faith to put in a stallion who still has to deliver a really top horse but who at least has Busted and Lord Gayle as his dams grand-sires.

Displaying even more faith, but without a comparable female line or any racecourse evidence, were the 275 breeders who used Order of St George, the 225 who went to Idaho and the 190 mares who went to Telescope. That is around 1200 mares from those 5 sons of Galileo. Am I the only person who thinks this might be insane?

3. The sheer scale of the problem

Next season those five stallions will be joined by Leger winners Capri and Flag of Honour, who can both expect significant books. There are a host of others including Finsceal Fior, Imperial Monarch, Proconsul, Vendangeur, Sans Frontieres, Shantaram also in the marketplace. The total foal crop in the UK (4655) and Ireland (8788) in 2019 was 13,443 foals. In Britain it is estimated that 23% of the foal crop is intended as NH or dual purpose and in Ireland it is 48%. This would equate to 5,288 national hunt or dual purpose foals. We could be looking at over 1,700 or around one third of the National Hunt crop being by sons of Galileo.

Conclusion:

I’m sure that there will be many good horses sired by the sons of Galileo. The sheer weight of numbers make that almost inevitable. However, the percentages may be less than expected.

No one is asking about the implications of having so many foals from the same sire line. Half of the foals will be fillies so we are the changing the National Hunt breed forever.

French National Hunt breeding has outperformed the UK and Irish sectors over the past two decades. There are a lot of factors at play, but a willingness to embrace diversity in sire lines and smaller books that allow more stallions a chance have an impact. Irish breeders acting individually think they are being rational but the cumulative effect of their group-think could damage everyone in the National Hunt sector…

Ballylinch Stud’s 2020 fees reviewed

Image result for ballylinch stud kilkenny
An impartial review of their 2020 Stud Fees

These are good times for Ballylinch Stud. Owned by American billionaire John Malone, the stud has assembled a small but select stallion roster. Lope de Vega’s reputation continues to climb and he is joined by some interesting younger prospects. They have secured a top class Arc winner in Waldgeist and they provide two nice Dubawi line stallions in Make Believe and New Bay. They provide some welcome competition in Ireland to the Coolmore and Darley mega-rosters.

Fascinating Rock €7,000 (7,500) (2011 Fastnet Rock ex Miss Polaris by Polar Falcon

Verdict (overpriced)

Fascinating Rock has his first runners in 2020, so anyone using him this season is taking a gamble. There is no arguing with his ability as a racehorse, as he was high class at four and five winning a Champion Stakes and Tattersalls Gold Cup. Although not precocious, he won a couple of early season Derby trials at three. He was the first son of Fastnet Rock at stud in Europe. He has since been joined at stud by Merchant Navy at Coolmore and Fas in France. Both of these were sprinters but there are some stamina influences in Fascinating Rock including his grandam being by Ela Mana Mou. This might explain how his half brother Quick Jack (by Footstepsinthesand) won a Galway Hurdle. Overall, Fascinating Rock comes from an ordinary female line. He had a yearling median of 12,000 guineas in 2019 so the market is already circumspect about his prospects. I would have expected more of a fee reduction to entice breeders. He was well supported by his breeder Newtown Anner Stud but still ‘only’ had books of 62 and 64 mares in the past two years. I don’t see that number increasing in 2020.

Lope de Vega €100,000 (80,000) (2007 Shamardal ex Lady Vettori by Vettori

Verdict Good Value

Lope de Vega has risen rapidly through the ranks. He stood for €15,000 in his first two seasons before dropping to €12,500 in 2013 and 2014 . He then went to €40,000 in 2015 and his fee has risen every subsequent season. 2019 saw him sire a major classic winner in Phoenix of Spain and there were Group 1’s for Zabeel Prince in France and Santa Ana Lane in Australia. Four stakes winning two year olds also contributed to a good season. The only real disappointment was the failure of juvenile superstar Newspaperofrecord to train on. Lope De Vega has credible percentages with 50 Black Type Winners from 645 foals of racing age in the Northern Hemisphere (8%) and this should improve, as more of his 2016 and 2017 crop win Stakes races. His sales record showed a median of 120,000 guineas for his yearlings last year (they were conceived off a €50,000 cover) and I expect his averages to continue to rise. He may not get the prettiest sales horses but purchasers now presumably realise that handsome is as handsome does. He is a versatile sire who gets two year olds , sprinters, milers and middle distance horses and to me his fee has a bit more to go before he is fully priced.

Make Believe €12,000 (12,000) (2012 Makfi ex Rosie’s Posy by Suave Dancer

Verdict Fairly Priced

Make Believe won both his races at two before annexing the French Guineas and Prix de la Foret at three. He was a son of Guineas winner Makfi, who enjoyed only modest success in Europe. Make Believe comes from a good female line featuring names like Irish Guineas third My Branch and Tante Rose. Make Believe’s had 16, two year old winners from 51 runners out of a total crop size of 89 (a very high percentage of runners to foals). Encouragingly, those winners included Group 3 winners, Rose of Kildare and Ocean Fantasy and Listed winner Tammani. With so many two year old runners, trainers obviously viewed them as early types but I would expect them to improve with age.

Despite the three stakes winners, he didn’t however prove popular at the yearling sales with a 2019 median of 19,500 Guineas (only 10,000 guineas for fillies). There is a great line in Blackadder where mad Captain Rum says ‘opinion is divided on the subject…. all the other captains say it is, I say it isn’t’ 🙂 In the case of Make Believe, I may be in a minority (and hopefully not mad), but I think the market has underestimated him and he is due a reassessment. If you are buying his offspring, there is value to be had…

New Bay €15,000 (15,000) (2012 Dubawi ex Cinnamon Bay by Zamindar

Verdict Overpriced (slightly)

New Bay was high class from 8-12 furlongs. He won the Prix de Jockey Club, was runner up to Make Believe in the French Guineas and was a close third in the Arc to Golden Horn. As a son of Dubawi, improvement would have been expected in his four year old season, but instead he only added a weak Group 3 to his record. We were starting to wonder about stallion sons of Dubawi after relative disappointments such as Makfi, Poets Voice and Worthadd but now Night of Thunder looks like he could be the real deal. New Bay’s dam was a stakes winner and she is from one of the top Juddmonte family’s descending from Bahamian. This brings in names such as Oasis Dream, Zenda (who won the French 1000 Guineas and is the dam of Kingman) and Beat Hollow. New Bay’s yearlings had a median of 28,000 guineas last year but they were conceived off a €20,000 initial fee. He has 72 two year olds running for him this season but although he doesn’t appeal as a two year old sire, he is a very interesting prospect.

In defence of his 2020 fee, New Bay is by a top sire, he is from a high class female line and he demonstrated top class form from a mile to a mile and half. He should suit most of the mares in the Irish population with no Danzig in his pedigree and Sadler’s Wells in the third generation. He may well prove to be a great bargain like Night of Thunder but I thought they might have dropped him to €12,500 in this risky season for breeders.

Waldgeist €17,500 (n/a) (2014 Galileo ex Waldlerche by Monsun

Verdict Overpriced (but only because the market is irrational)

It’s a strange world, when a well bred Arc winner, by the dominant sire of our era, retires at a stud fee less than that of Calyx- a horse who never won a Group 1 and only ran four times. Waldgeist showed top class form over four seasons. He was a Group 1 winner at two, he was just touched off in the Prix de Jockey Club at three, he won a Grand Prix de Saint Cloud at four and a Prix Ganay and Arc at five. He comes from a high class German ‘W’ family. His dam won the Prix Penelope, his grand dam produced St Leger winner Masked Marvel and his third dam produced German Derby winner Waldpark. It’s not Waldgeist’s fault that stamina influences such as Monsun are deemed undesirable, nor that there is suspicion about horses who seemingly improved with age (even if he was a Group 1 winner at two and all horses physically peak at four or five). I think Waldgeist is an attractive package, but I don’t think he will find favour in our speed and precocity obsessed markets. He might be an interesting option for those breeding to race but commercial breeders might need a little convincing at that fee. An interesting comparison might be with Decorated Knight, who also won two Group 1’s at five. Decorated Knight wasn’t quite as good a racehorse as Waldgeist but he comes from a superior female family and stands for just €9,000.

When is a stallion past their prime?

Older Sires are treated with suspicion

Ageism : noun “prejudice or discrimination on the basis of age”

In the bloodstock world, there is often a suspicion of any stallion out of their teens. Supporting this theory, a friend recently mentioned that even Sadler’s Wells had no Group 1 winner from his last three crops. Is this just coincidence (and a very small sample size) or are older sires less effective? A quick internet search, didn’t reveal any serious research on the subject (please let me know if I missed something). Without proper data, we are in the realms of speculation but I am happy to speculate….

My own thoughts are as follows:

  • Perceptions matter and if people doubt older stallions, then it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Owners of high quality mares may be wary of visiting older stallions and this well lead to weaker crops, reduced success and ‘prove’ the theory.
  • Owners of high quality mares may be wary of visiting older stallions if their fertility is lower. Their is a natural decline in fertility as stallions age, so it could be a legitimate risk aversion to ensure the best chance of getting their mares in foal. However again the behaviour of the mare owners will end up ‘proving’ the theory.
  • Owners of high quality mares may be wary of visiting older stallions not because they doubt them but because they worry that many buyers have that bias against older sires. Breeders can’t ignore the marketplace. Again a weaker book will lead to less success on the track.
  • If the market does reduce the value of the offspring of older sires then those offspring will tend to go to fewer top end trainers. This could reduce the actual level of success.

  • Older stallions are probably covering a number of older mares who are trying to replicate a previously successful mating with that stallion. We do know that the progeny of older mares (specifically mares who have had more foals) are less successful than younger mares (albeit not as much of a difference as some people think). If a stallion covered the same 100 mares for ten consecutive years, I would expect a decrease in the number of stakes performers in the later crops due to the ageing of the mares, not the ageing of the stallion.
  • Later crops by stallions are competing against grandchildren of the same stallion. This years St Leger was a good example as Galileo’s best finisher was the third place horse, Nayef Road. The first two places were filled by his grandsons in Logician (by Frankel) and Sir Ron Priestley (by Australia). Similarly, when Galileo sired the first three home in the 2006 St Leger (Sixties Icon, The Last Drop and Red Rocks) the next two home were sons of Sadler’s Wells in Ask and Tusculum).
  • As for Sadler’s Wells last few crops, it is true that his success dimmed near the end. However, it is also worth remembering that Sadler’s Wells himself was part of a crop of 31 foals by Northern Dancer in 1981- so Northern Dancer was 20 when they were born. From those 31 foals there was Sadler’s Wells, El Gran Senor, Secreto and Northern Trick so not bad for an old sire! Mr Prospector also did well in his latter years- his only Kentucky Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, was born when Mr Prospector was 27.

Conclusion: Without proper data, it’s hard to be dogmatic on the subject. A simple crop by crop analysis with the percentage of black type winners in each crop isn’t sufficient. The quality and age of the mares in each crop would also have to be included in calculations. In humans, research on the children of older fathers shows some negative correlations so it is plausible that this would apply in horses also. If there is a negative correlation in horses, I think it would be slight and might perhaps be overestimated by the market. If that is the case, there could be some value to be had at the sales. One man’s prejudice, can be another man’s opportunity…….

Irish National Stud- 2020 Fees reviewed

The 2018 accounts of the Irish National Stud show net assets of €19.3 million (you can view the accounts here if interested). There are 4.88 million Irish people, so I reckon I have a stake worth around €4 🙂 Hopefully, it won’t impair by impartiality…

My favourite story (hopefully true) about the Irish National Stud involves the late Michael Osborne. During his stint as Managing Director he was in US and wearing an Irish National Stud cap. Seemingly he was asked by one American lady “are you really?”…

The current roster includes 9 stallions and they are reviewed below.

  1. Decorated Knight €9,000 (€12,000) (2012 Galileo ex Pearling by Storm Cat)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

A triple Group 1 winner with one of the best pedigrees in the book. His dam is a sister to Giant’s Causeway making him a brother in blood to Gleneagles. Comparing the the two, in terms of peak ratings there wasn’t a huge gap between them (Timeform 124 vs 129) but Decorated Knight lacked the sort of precocity desirable in the marketplace. Decorated Knight didn’t win a Stakes race until he was 4 and didn’t win his Group 1’s until he was five. Hence, Gleneagles retired at a fee of €60,000, Decorated Knight at €15,000….

Decorated Knight’s first foals were well received with a median of 30,000 guineas. Given the good start made by Gleneagles with his first runners, I think a fee of €9,000 for Decorated Knight seems pretty good value. He is just another unproven stallion son of Galileo, and most will disappoint, but I think his pedigree gives him an edge over other wannabes.

2. Dragon Pulse €6,000 (€6,000) (2009 Kyllachy ex Poetical by Croco Rouge)

Verdict: Overpriced

As a two year old, he was trained by Jessie Harrington to win the Grp 2 Futurity Stakes and he was runner up to Dawn Approach in the National Stakes . At three he moved to France to Mikael Delzangles and won the Prix Fontainbleu before defeats in French Guineas and the St James Palace. It wasn’t a profile that had studs queuing up for him but he has carved out a place for himself in the Irish marketplace. He is free of Sadler’s Wells and Danzig which makes him suitable for a wider range of mares in Ireland and he attracted 131 mares in 2019.

Dragon Pulse has a reasonable winners/runner ratio. Trainers seem to like his stock and for me he is sort of a lesser version of Footstepsinthesand who similarly is favoured by trainers, despite lacking real stars. The fact that he has only had three modest stakes winners from his first four crops is the big negative for me. Commercial breeders might also be concerned that he had a yearling median of 10,000 guineas last year.

3. Elusive Pimpernel €3,000 (€1,000) (2007 Elusive Quality ex Cara Fantasy by Sadler’s Wells)

Verdict: Fairly Priced (for National Hunt purposes)

He stood for €1,000 for his first 8 seasons and received a tripling of his fee on the back of some good recent results over hurdles (Coeur Sublime and Soviet Pimpernel) and fences ( Ex Patriot). He has a very modest record on the flat, even taking into account the low quality of mare that he was covering. You would be very brave/foolish to use him for flat purposes. To date he hasn’t covered very big books but that could all change now that National Hunt breeders have him in their sights.

4. Famous Name €1,000 (€1,000) (2005 Dansili ex Famous At Last by Quest For Fame) standing at Anngrove Stud

Verdict: Fairly Priced (for National Hunt purposes)

21 wins from 38 runs over 5 seasons and only beaten a head in the French Derby. Disappointed as a flat sire, but at that fee you can see why National Hunt breeders might take a chance on him transmitting soundness and some ability.

5. Free Eagle €12,500 (€12,500) 2011 High Chaparral ex Polished Gem by Danehill

Verdict: Fairly Priced

Free Eagle was lightly raced but highly regarded. After winning on debut he was 2/5 when well beaten by Australia as a two year old in a Group 3. He was off the track for a full year before winning a Group 3 and running a good third in the Champion Stakes behind Noble Mission. He won his Group 1 on his four year old reappearance in the Prince of Wales but failed to win again, despite running well in third in the Irish Champion Stakes and not being beaten far in the Arc. As a son of High Chaparral, I didn’t expect much precocity from Free Eagle’s first crop of 88 but they did quite well. He had 12 winners from 42 runners and these included two classy, Ger Lyons horses in Listed winner Justifier and Stakes placed filly Auxilia . It is reasonable to assume that his progeny will be better at three so it was surprising to see his yearling median drop from 25,000 guineas in 2018 to 10,750 guineas in 2019. At those prices you are better off buying one of his offspring than trying to breed one.

Incidentally, his pedigree got a boost during the year, when his three parts sister Search For A Song (by Galileo) won the Irish St Leger and the dam has now produced a very impressive six Stakes winners including Custom Cut and Sapphire.
Thatcher may have said “you can’t buck the market” and I’m sure she would have strongly disapproved of a State owned stud farm as well 🙂 It’s easy to conclude that he is overpriced on the basis of the sales returns, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he is fairly priced on the basis of progeny performance and their potential for improvement. It’s the yearling market in 2022 you need to consider and he is undoubtedly in the risky category but perhaps worth a punt.

6. Invincible Spirit €100,000 (€120,000) (1997 Green Desert ex Rafha by Kris)

Verdict: Ovepriced (slightly)

The balance sheet of the Irish National Stud would be a lot less healthy without him. Had a good year on the track with Magna Grecia winning the Guineas and Invincible Army and Inns of Court winning Group 2’s. Being touted as a sire of sires with the success of Kingman and I Am Invincible and an encouraging first crop by Cable Bay (although his results aren’t that exceptionally good) should also have boosted his reputation. He is now 23 but age is no barrier to siring a good horse. Despite the success on the track his yearling median dropped to 110,000 guineas so he is commercially risky as older stallions lose ground to more fashionable new arrivals. He is undoubtedly a very good sire with 126 stakes winners (6%) to his name. You could debate whether his fee should be dropped back somewhat based on his sales results or can be justified based on the track results and sire of sires spin, but I thought it would be pared back a little more.

7. National Defense €8,000 (€8,000) (2012 Invincible Spirit ex Angel Falls by Kingmambo)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

It’s understandable that the INS would want to stand a son or sons of Invincible Spirit. National Defense looked very good winning the Jean Luc Lagardere (Grand Criterium) on Arc weekend but in retrospect it was a weak field. Prior to that victory he had won a maiden and been beaten in a Group 3 but ended up rated as champion French two year old. He made a nice three year old reappearance in the Prix Djebel finishing second to Al Wukair and started favourite for the French Guineas only to finish last and never be seen again on the track.

National Defense has a solid female line with plenty of decent back type performers and he cost €280,000 as a yearling. He had a good first book of mares conceived at €12,000 and his first foals were well received with a median of 26,000 guineas. The success of Kingman and the good season enjoyed by Cable Bay will have helped push the idea of Invincible Spirit as a sire of sires, whilst helping to obliterate the memory of Born to Sea, Mayson, Swiss Spirit, Zebedee, Vale of York and the unremarkable records of Charm Spirit and Lawman 🙂 It’s a gamble using him in his third season but at €8000 it stacks up reasonably well compared to some of the newer sons of Invincible Spirit on the market .

8. Palavicini €1,000 (not listed) (2006 Giant’s Causeway ex Cara Fantasy by Sadler’s Wells)

Verdict: Fairly Priced (for National Hunt purposes)

A Group 3 winner and a half brother to Elusive Pimpernel. Another of the stallions associated with Cristina Patino. He won’t be doing a Big Bad Bob and becoming an unlikely success story. Very few foals to date and nothing of note so far, I’m not sure why you would use him but what are you expecting for €1,000?

9.Phoenix of Spain €15,000 (na) (2016 Lope de Vega ex Lucky Clio by Key Of Luck)

Verdict: Overpriced (slightly)

Looked really good when winning the Irish Guineas on his three year old reappearance. Too Darn Hot was well beaten in second and Magna Grecia was back in fifth. At that stage it looked as if the INS had pulled a master stroke by buying into Phoenix of Spain during his two year old days. In a marketplace where so few stallion prospects are available, they certainly did well in purchasing him. Unfortunately, he failed to win after his classic success and in truth was disappointing in all of his subsequent four runs. His two year old form had been promising, winning an Acomb Stakes,finishing a good second to Too Darn Hot in the Champagne Stakes and beaten a head after being bumped by Magna Grecia in the Vertem Futurity Trophy. In his favour, he is by an upwardly mobile stallion in Lope De Vega. His dam side is reasonable with the granddam having produced a Group 2 winner in Special Kaldoun and he cost 220,000 guineas as a yearling. He could easily make the grade as a stallion but being picky , I think Belardo is a better value son of Lope De Vega at 10k.

Ten predictions for 2030

Looking ahead to 2030 here are some predictions that can eventually be thrown back at me….

1. Bloodstock writers will be bored of trying to find something interesting to write about all the major winners incorporating versions of Galileo/Dubawi and Dubawi/Galileo crosses

2. Coolmore will no longer be home to the GB/Irish champion sire. It is remarkable that they have homed the champion every year since 1990 via Sadler’s Wells, Danehill, Danehill Dancer and Galileo. However, I don’t see anything in the current roster that looks like following in those big shoes. Amazingly Galileo was their only sire in the top 10 by earnings in the UK/Ireland for 2019.

3. Coolmore will find compensation for the relative decline of their dominance in Europe with the success of their US stallions. To purchase two triple crown winners is a serious statement of intent and sooner or later, their US investments will pay off.

4. Trainers will properly embrace technology. All trainers will use wearable tech for real time data monitoring of horse health and fitness. Trainers will spend as much time looking at an app with data about the horses workouts as they did watching them gallop.

5. Winning the battle over animal welfare concerns will be the key battleground of the decade. Racing needs to not just lobby politicians, but to employ a well resourced team of social media professionals to tackle the opposing arguments. If a State such as California bans racing (and see the petition at https://www.change.org/p/governor-gavin-newsom-outlaw-horse-racing-in-california to get a sense of the arguments involved ) , then pressure grows in other areas (the domino effect), sponsors leave the sport, the overall industry shrinks and decline sets in. Greyhound racing found itself banned in most countries and it is the sport most comparable to horse racing. Racing needs to manage its PR very carefully and professionally. That applies even more so to National Hunt racing, which is a particular target for animal rights groups.

6. Chinese racing will grow but not as much as the number of articles about the new gold rush in the Chinese mainland. I wouldn’t be pinning too much hopes on this market offsetting declines elsewhere.

7. Speaking of decline- I can’t imagine Brexit doing much good for the British bloodstock industry. Firstly, there will be the practical problems that any sort of border checks and delays will cause to horse/mares travelling between Britain and Ireland. The economic shock/decline caused by Brexit will impact on funding to the sport. Perceptions matter, and if the perception is that Britain is unwelcoming to outsiders, then that will discourage foreign owners who previously overlooked the low prize-money due to the traditional prestige of British racing. The quality of British racing could quickly fall due to a lack of investment.

8. On course bookmakers could be gone by 2030. They are already on life support in most mid-week meetings and it is difficult to imagine that the traditional model will survive much longer. The decline in the use of cash merely exacerbates the issues they face. People complain about them, but they will miss them when they are gone..

9.AI will happen eventually:

AI (that’s artificial insemination not artificial intelligence for the benefit of the nerdier readers) should/will happen. If it does happen, it will not be driven by the industry but by external events. The most likely catalyst is a disease outbreak that restricts the travel of mares. In the new era of climate change awareness, the carbon cost of transporting hundreds of mares to a stallion farm rather than shipping semen straws should be re-examined. Compared with live covers, AI is

  1. Cost efficient
  2. Environmentally friendly
  3. Improves disease control
  4. Improves choice for breeders

With a global pick of stallions, even for low value mares, we can reverse the narrowing of the equine gene pool which has occurred. The ‘traditionalists’ chief concerns have been

a) the fear of huge crop sizes

b) a reduction in stallion diversity

c) the practical issue that foals conceived by AI are not eligible for inclusion in the stud book

These fears can be overcome. Taking these issues in turn:

a) Huge crop sizes are already a reality (Soldier of Fortune covered 341 mares in 2017 and 261 in 2019). The marketplace will find a level at which demand (finite) will equal the new level of supply (almost infinite).  After an adjustment period, I do not envisage the top stallions greatly exceeding some of the current crop sizes. Alternatively a cap can be put in place in terms of the maximum number of foals registered for each sire in a given year.

b) Available stallion options will increase. To take an example, Irish breeders will have ready access sons of Sunday Silence or AP Indy, without having to ship the mares to Japan or the US.

c) The rules around registrations are not unalterable and previously Kentucky considered allowing AI during a disease outbreak. Faced with the prospect of a dramatically curtailed foal crop or a legislative change, what do you think will happen?

AI is still unthinkable for many, but once it has happened, people will wonder what all the fuss was about. With a few sensible rules regarding the timelines for the use of semen after the death of a stallion and limitations on crop sizes the industry can continue largely as before. The benefits outweigh the costs.

10.Beware the impact of science/technology – The predictive tests offered by Plusvital and other equine-tech firms haven’t transformed the training and breeding world just yet. This is probably a good thing, as if they become too accurate then our traditional breeding industry model will simply collapse. Variability, uncertainty and hope are the bedrocks of our breeding industry, betting and sport( I’d like to be remembered for that quote). Good luck trying to persuade someone to buy a horse, which a test predicts (with 98% accuracy) won’t achieve a rating above 45 :). The tests may not be there yet, but there is no reason that they can’t continue to improve and if they do, then expect serious market turbulence with lots of unsaleable horses.

It may sound like the plot of an unwritten Dick Francis novel but what happens when gene editing techniques such as CRISPR are adopted by unscrupulous types on thoroughbreds? We are familiar with racehorses being tested for illegal substances but there is no testing undertaken for genetic doping. There was always an incentive to cheat in racing and there is no reason to think this avenue won’t be explored by some, given the huge potential rewards.

Conclusion:

Racing has been around for centuries but the future is uncertain and industry leaders shouldn’t be complacent that the industry will continue on as before. The Nobel Prize winning novellist John Galsworthy once said “If you don’t think about the future you cannot have one”. Incidentally you can read an interesting description of racing at Newmarket by Galsworthy at http://www.online-literature.com/john-galsworthy/country-house/4/ .

Happy New Year….