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….

Kildangan fees 2020 Part 2-Profitable to The Last Lion

Kildangan Stud 2020 fee (2019 fee)

  1. Profitable €12,000 (€12,000) 2012 Invincible Spirit ex Dani Ridge by Indian Ridge)

Verdict: Overpriced (slightly)

I don’t know whether to look on Profitable in a glass half full or glass half empty way. He won a Kings Stand Stakes at 4 and was runner up in the same race at 5 to Lady Aurelia. He ran 23 times over 4 seasons but 21 of those runs were over 5 furlongs and only twice did he venture as far as 6 furlongs. By the end of his three year old season, he was still to win beyond Listed class. Although he took time to mature, so did Invincible Spirit who was 5 before he won his Group 1. Profitable ‘only’ cost 95000 guineas as a yearling which was around average for yearling colts by Invincible Spirit in 2013. It is an unremarkable female line which had me googling some unfamiliar names such as Shelter Half, the sire of his grand-dam (turns out he was a Grade 3 winner who stood in Maryland and sired 18 stakes winners from 381 foals). There is no duplication in Profitable’s pedigree until the fifth generation and Northern Dancer only appears once on his page so that increases the range of suitable mares around these parts.

In defence of his fee, the sales results from his foals were strong with a median of 29,000 guineas. On the other hand, he is entering his third season when a reduction is customary and I would have expected €10,000 for 2020.

2. Raven’s Pass €10,000 (€10,000) (2005 Elusive Quality ex Ascutney by Lord at War)

Verdict: Overpriced

He retired at a fee of €40,000 and the fall to €10,000 tells its own story. On the face of it his percentages are surprisingly good with 7% stakes winners (33 from 485 foals of racing age). He had his first Group 1 winner in 2018 when Royal Marine won the Prix Jean Lagardare and had a second this year when Tower of London won a Group 1 sprint in Japan. However despite this mini-renaissance the market has lost patience with him and this year he had a yearling median of 12,750 guineas. He has had his chances with high quality books of mares and he didn’t deliver, so for me he is one to avoid.

3. Ribchester €20,000 (€25,000) (2013 Iffraaj ex Mujarah by Marju)

Verdict: Fair Price (for now)

An admirable racehorse he won or was placed in 14 of his 16 races. He won the Mill Reef at two, was placed in the Guineas, won the Jersey Stakes and Jacques Le Marois at three and won a Lockinge Queen Anne and Prix de Moulin at 4. He was top rated European miler for two seasons and he is the best son to date of Iffraaj.

He comes from a high class female line. His fifth dam is the legendary Fall Aspen, his third dam is Irish Guineas winner Mehthaaf. It’s a live family and the grand dam Tanaghum produced this years Group 3 winner Bangkok (by Australia). Iffraaj has sired a surprisingly good stallion in Wootton Bassett (sire of Alamanzor) and Ribchester’s first foals sold well with a median of 36,500 guineas. He is free of Sadler’s Wells, Danehill and Green Desert so he will suit lots of Irish mares. The odds are against any new stallion succeeding but for now he seems reasonably priced to me.

4. Shamardal Private (Private) (2002 Giant’s Causeway ex Helsinki by Machiavellian).

Verdict: That depends..

The star of the Kildangan operation who had an unbelievable season. To sire three unbeaten Group 1 winning two year old colts including the exceptional Pinatubo is remarkable and he did this from a juvenile crop of ‘just’ 82. The supporting cast included Blue Point and a French classic winner in Castle Lady.  Shamardal’s reputation has never been higher and he has also carved out a growing reputation as a broodmare sire and sire of sires via Lope De Vega. He has effectively been a private stallion for the Maktoum family for the past few seasons but did cover 16 outside mares in 2019. Kildangan can be very picky indeed about what outside mares they allow to Shamardal for 2020.  As regards a fee, we are in the realms of pure speculation but I would imagine it will be greater than Sea the Stars at €150,000 and probably exceed Frankel at £175,000 but fall short of Dubawi at £250,000 (if anyone hears, please let me know). Whether that represents value hardly matters for the uber-wealthy people involved at that level. 

5. Slade Power €7,500 (€7,500) (2009 Dutch Art ex Girl Power by Key of Luck)

Verdict: Overpriced

Most people would struggle to name anything that he has sired apart from Raffle Prize and that is because she is his only stakes winner from 176 foals of racing age. He stood for €20,000 in his first two seasons so he is clearly a big disappointment. His yearling median dropped to 8000 guineas in 2019. The only glimmer of hope is that he improved with age but I wouldn’t be holding out too much hope for a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of his offspring in the ring anytime soon. His record may improve (it can’t get much worse) but you would imagine that foreign shores beckon for him soon.

6. Teofilo €40,000 (€40,000) (2004 Galileo ex Speirbhean by Danehill)

Verdict: Overpriced

A reliable sire with 86 stakes winners (7%) from 1316 foals of racing age. Depended on older horses such as Cross Counter, Flight Risk and Exultant for most of his success in 2019.  There was no stakes winner amongst his 95 two year olds and he has smaller crops of 64 and 65 coming through ( presumably a consequence of his underwhelming fertility levels) .  His yearling sales median in 2019 was only 25,500 guineas . He is a good sire but at those sales levels you are better off buying his offspring than trying to breed to him…

7. The Last Lion €7,500 (€7,500) (2004 Choisir ex Mala Mala by Brief Truce)

Verdict: Overpriced

A tough precocious two year old who won the Brocklesby and then on his 10th start of the season won the Middle Park (incidentally beating Blue Point). He was then shipped off to stud in the hope that he would be the next Dark Angel who also retired after the Middle Park. He comes from a respectable female line that seems to throw up quality performers in most generations. Choisir has a good sire son to his name in Starspangledbanner and a less successful one (to date) in Olympic Glory. The Last Lion had a solid yearling median of 21,000 guineas in 2019. Using him in 2020 (his fourth season) may prove inspired but it is for gamblers only and the odds don’t look particularly attractive to me.

Kildangan 2020 fees reviewed: Why Blue Point is overpriced and other thoughts-Part 1 Belardo to Night of Thunder

Darley stands 16 stallions in Kildangan for 2020. It has a preponderance of sprinters/milers with only Teofilo being a noted middle distance sire. Either by accident of design, Darley’s elite middle distance sires (Dubawi, Golden Horn and New Approach) are homed in Dalham where they don’t compete head on with Coolmore’s array of middle distance sires. In this article, I gave a frank review of 9 sires on its Irish roster and will review the remainder over the Christmas break.

Kildangan Stud 2020 fee (2019 fee)

1.Belardo €10,000 (€10,000) 2012 Lope De Vega ex Danaskaya by Danehill)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

A Dewhurst winning son of Lope De Vega, he was second in the QE2 at three and won the Lockinge at four. That makes him sound very exciting but he actually only won five of his 16 starts and he seemed to lose his way at three, failing to win in 7 starts. His dam Danaskaya is listed as a Champion Irish two year old, but that honour was rather cheaply won and her best performances were placed efforts in the Cheveley Park and Lowther Stakes. It is a useful rather than exceptional female line.

Commercially, the markets didn’t seem in love with his first yearlings. The median was 20,000 guineas which is less than breeders would have expected off an initial €15,000 fee. At €10,000 he gives low cost access to a son of Lope De Vega, he was a Group 1 winning two year old and he compares well with Phoenix of Spain (by Lope de Vega ex Lucky Clio by Key of Luck) who will commence in the Irish National Stud for €15,000.

2. Blue Point €45,000 (€na) (2014 Shamardal ex Scarlett Rose by Royal Applause)

Verdict: Overpriced

There was a fair bit of speculation about Blue Point’s likely fee. His retirement with ‘nothing to prove’ was announced after Royal Ascot. Had Blue Point’s fee been announced in July, I suspect it would have been 25-30k. The arrival of Pinatubo, Earthlight and Victor Ludorum moved Shamardal’s reputation to a whole new level. Of his sire sons, Lope de Vega continues to climb the ranks, so if ever there was a good time to launch a son of Shamardal at stud it is now.

Blue Point was magnificent this year winning his five starts. These included 3 races at Meydan and then a Royal Ascot double in the Kings Stand over 5 furlongs and the Golden Jubilee over 6 furlongs. He has always been high class, winning a Gimcrack at 2, two Group races at three and the Kings Stand at 4. He ran twenty times, winning eleven and placed 6 times, so he was durable as well as classy. His dams pedigree is about speed. Scarlett Rose produced a Railway Stakes winner in Formosina, the second dam produced the tough and durable Tumbleweed Ridge but it’s not a particularly classy female line.

So why do I think he is overpriced?

Blue Point’s fee compares unfavourably with Caravaggio. Caravaggio was a better two year old, beat Blue Point in the Commonwealth Cup, is by an equally fashionable sire in Scat Daddy. Caravaggio has a slightly stronger distaff line yet he stands for 40k (and I think that is overpriced).

Blue Point was best at 5 and didn’t win his first Group 1 until he was four. Who is looking to breed four and five year olds? If you want a recent reminder of outstanding 5 year old sprinters failing at stud, check out stud mate Slade Power 🙂 Blue Point is an atypical Shamardal in terms of his distance preference and his distaff line is not top class. He may well succeed but there are just too many caveats for my liking to justify €45k…

3. Buratino €5,000 (€5000) (Exceed and Excel ex Bergamask by Kingmambo)

Verdict: Overpriced.

It’s small money but I think he is slightly overpriced given the risk/reward ratio. This is a sire heading into his fourth season with an initial yearling median of 6,000 guineas. Buratino was a precocious two year old who made his debut in March. When he won the Coventry in June from Air Force Blue it was his 6th race! Air Force Blue reversed the placings in the Phoenix Stakes but Buratino ran another fine race when only beaten half a length in the Middle Park. His subsequent three year old career was disappointing. As a son of Exceed and Excel, he can be expected to deliver early speedy types and his third dam Mira Adonde produced a rags to riches sire in Danehill Dancer. A few cheaper sons of Exceed and Excel have done well including Bungle intheJungle, Kuroshio and Sidestep and he may join their ranks, but I thought they would have dropped him to €4,000.

4. Dawn Approach €10,000 (€15,000) (2010 New Approach ex Hymn of Dawn by Phone Trick)

Verdict: Overpriced

He stood at €35,000 for his first three seasons, so his 2020 fee tells you that he hasn’t lived up to expectations. He was a champion two year old, a Guineas winner who won four Group 1’s but it’s his stud record that matters- and his stud record isn’t impressive. His winners to foals of racing age percentage is only 22% (120 from 544) and he is on 2% stakes winner to foals of racing age. He can sire a top horse but he is something of a ‘nearly sire’. Madhmoon is top class, having nearly won the Derby. Musis Amica nearly won the Prix de Diane and Mary Tudor was third in an Irish Oaks. Dawn Approach has yet to sire a Group 1 winner and only Madhmoon has won at Group 2 level. Commercially, he is dead in the water and he had a yearling median of 8500 guineas in 2019. I actually think there is good value in buying his yearlings at those sort of prices but you couldn’t advise a commercial breeder to pay €10k for next season.

5. Exceed And Excel €40,000 (€50,000) (2000 Danehill ex Patrona by Lomond)

Verdict: Overpriced

To start with the positives, Exceed and Excel is a successful stallion in two hemispheres, a real two year old sire, commercially popular and now achieving success as a broodmare sire and sire of sires. He had a very good year in Australia but was much quieter in Europe. This saw his yearling median dipped from 80000 in 2018 to 52000 guineas in 2019. At this stage, we know Exceed and Excel is a good sire with 164 (7%) stakes winners, but I don’t think his Northern Hemisphere results have justified his lofty fee. He still only has three Group 1 winners (Excelebration, Margot Did and Outstrip) to his name. There are better sires out there for the money and the market may be falling out of love with him….

6. Fast Company €12,000 (€12,000) (2005 Danehill Dancer ex Sheezalady by Zafonic)

Verdict: Overpriced

Was brought back to Kildangan for the 2017 after the classic success of Jetsetting and a Group 2 win for Devonshire in 2016. There was nothing comparable in 2019, with his top performer being the 6 year old Safe Voyage who won a Group 3 and finishing third in the QE2.

Fast Company had respectable sales returns this year with a yearling median of 17000 guineas. Anyone thinking of using him in 2020, will have to hope that the better mares he covered since 2017 will translate into track success. I’m not so convinced. He stood for €7000 in 2017 after his breakthrough season. I don’t understand why he is now worth €12,000 with little of note in the interim.

7. French Navy €4,000 (€4000) (2008 Shamardal ex First Fleet by Woodman)

Verdict: Overpriced

Had his first runners this season with a sprinkling of decent winners and there is hope that his progeny will improve with age. A likeable sort, French Navy managed 22 runs and 11 wins in a career that saw him running until he was 7. However, even at €4000 unless he gets a breakout horse he is going to be a very hard sell for the nominations team. His yearling median was an insulting 2350 guineas. Looking into my crystal ball, I see that if Casamento (another son of Shamardal) does ok as a jumps sire this fellow will follow him down that road.

8. Fulbright €4,000 (€4,000) (2009 Exceed and Excel ex Lindfield Belle by Fairy King)

Verdict: Overpriced

Like French Navy had his first runners in 2019. Unlike French Navy there was nothing of any quality and in terms of precocity much more would have been expected of Fulbright’s offspring. His median was 3000 guineas. I can’t think of any good reason to use him at any fee.

9. Night Of Thunder €25,000 (£15,000) (2011 Dubawi ex Forest Storm by Galileo)

Verdict: Unbelievably Good Value

Night of Thunder had an exceptional first season. That could turn out to be a statistical anomaly based on a small sample size but I don’t think so. A fee of €50,000 wouldn’t have seemed outrageous to me. It may be the case that his published fee is bit like those ‘limited special offers’ to get you in the door and they will try to sell you something else (because he is full) but hopefully they aren’t that cynical! I did a full review (probably reads like a love letter ) to Night of Thunder earlier this month and you can read that at http://www.montjeu.com/archives/903 . To summarise, I’m a big fan and if you can access him at €25,000 well that should make for a happy Christmas and New Year.