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…

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….

Coolmore 2020 Fees- An Honest Appraisal- Part 1

Coolmore has 25 flat stallions on their roster for 2020. I’ve assessed each of their fees as either representing good value, fair value or poor value. I can be honest because I don’t get paid to run full colour page ads for their stallions 🙂 Given the number of stallions, I will consider 12 stallions this week…

Stallion 2020 fee (2019 fee)
Australia €27,500 (€35,000)- (2011 by Galileo ex Ouija Board by Cape Cross)
Verdict: Poor ValueOverpriced:

Australia was a superior Derby winner out of an outstanding Oaks winner and a gorgeous mover and physical specimen. I thought he was the natural successor to Galileo but I was wrong. He has done respectably but the market is unforgiving and fickle and his progeny are showing too much stamina for our speed obsessed industry. His average winning distance is 11.9 furlongs and he has yet to sire a Group 1 winner. His sales median held up surprisingly well this year but unless he comes up with some superstars next year, he will be in trouble. He is a high risk proposition for any commercial breeder who would be looking to sell a yearling by him in 2022. In my view, given the risks involved he is overpriced and closer to €20,000 would be more appropriate.

Calyx €22,500 (na)- (2016 Kingman ex Helleborine by Observatory)

Verdict: Fair Value: (surprisingly)

Surely €22,500 is too much for a horse who never won or even ran, in a Group 1? Surely its too much for a horse who was so fragile he only managed four runs in two seasons? Actually, its probably about right. Calyx was brilliantly fast and he is the first high profile son of Kingman to go to stud in Ireland. He comes from a strong Juddmonte family and he was precocious enough to win the Coventry at Royal Ascot. He is ticking the right commercial boxes ie fashionable, precocious and speedy and he should prove popular. That said I would expect the usual slight dip in fee in years 2,3 and 4 especially as more sons of Kingman hit the market. However as a purely commercial play (as opposed to someone looking to breed a racehorse), I think his fee is about right and can be justified.

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

Verdict: Poor ValueOverpriced:

He stood for €25,000 for his first three seasons so he clearly has done something right. This season was a case of ‘close but no cigar’- Pink Dogwood was beaten just a neck in the Oaks and the following day Sir Dragonet started favourite for the Derby and was beaten just under a length. Currently he has 25 stakes winners (a creditable 5% of racing age offspring) and Camelot is the main hope for the Montjeu sireline on the flat. His yearling sales median dipped to 60000 guineas from 80000 guineas in the preceeding year. I would have expected a downward adjustment in his fee for 2020 to either €30000 or €35000.

Caravaggio €40,000 (€35,000)- (2014 by Scat Daddy ex Mekko Hokte by Holy Bull)

Verdict: Poor ValueOverpriced:

Stood for €35,000 for his first two seasons and it is customary for fees to decrease not increase in the third season. He was an unbeaten two year old who won the Coventry and Phoenix Stakes and he defeated Harry Angel in the Commonwealth Cup at three. And of course, he was a son of Scat Daddy. It is this fact that accounts for the rise in his fee for his third season. People are assuming that he will replicate the success of Scat Daddy’s son, No Nay Never. He may well be a success but the risk/reward ratio for a third season sire doesn’t appeal to me.

Churchill €30,000 (€35,000)- (2014 by Galileo ex Meow by Storm Cat)

Verdict: Poor ValueOver Priced

Churchill won seven consecutive races including 4 consecutive Group 1’s in 2016 and 2017. Alas, I still had to rewatch videos of his Guineas wins and Dewhurst to refresh the memory. That tells me that although he compiled an impressive cv, he lacked the star quality you would expect from a dual Guineas winner. His pedigree is typically high class Coolmore, with the plebian Airwave family having now arrived at the top table. His sister Clemmie also won a Group 1 in the Cheveley Park. He was high class, is well bred and has as good a chance as any third season sire of proving successful, but perhaps is a bit pricey compared with Gleneagles.

Fastnet Rock €60,000 (€70,000) (2001 Danehill ex Piccadilly Circus by Royal Academy)

Verdict: Poor ValueOverpriced (Massively)

Verdict: His overall European record is nothing special given the quality of mares he received. Coolmore had hoped he would be a suitable consort for their many Galileo mares, but he didn’t really deliver. He can get a top notcher but even his best performers last season such as Torcedor, One Master and I Can Fly don’t exactly excite. His yearling median in 2019 was 51000 guineas so I don’t know how anyone thinks he is good value at €60,000. To me he is a €25,000 sire.

Footstepsinthesand €15,000 (€10,000) (2002 Giant’s Causeway ex Glatisant by Rainbow Quest)

Verdict: Poor ValueOverpriced

He stood at €10,000 for 9 consecutive years before getting a 50% hike for 2020.  The justification was the emergence of two high class two year olds in Threat and Mum’s Tipple. This racecourse success also saw a rise in his yearling median to 27000 guineas from 20000 guineas. However both Threat and Mum’s Tipple were beaten in the Middle Park. That is the story of Footsteps, he is a reasonable stallion, who progeny are popular with trainers. However his best progeny fall short of being truly top class. He has a place in the market but his fee for the previous 9 seasons is about right.

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

Verdict: Value 🙂

We take his extraordinary results each year for granted. Another four classic winners in 2019 with Hermosa, Anthony Van Dyck, Sovereign and Search for A Song. The supporting cast included Circus Maximus and Japan. His fee has been private for over a decade now and supposedly over €500,000. At this level, the saying ‘if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’ springs to mind, so his actual fee is of little relevance to anyone who does their own shopping.

Gleneagles €35,000 (30,000) (2012 Galileo ex You’resothrilling by Storm Cat).

Verdict: Value

What’s not to like? A dual Guineas winner, first past the post in 5 Group 1’s and out of a full sister to Giant’s Causeway. He has had a very nice first crop with Group 2 winners in Royal Lytham and Royal Dornoch and a Royal Ascot winner in Southern Hills. Overall there were an impressive 25 winners from 111 foals. In the sales ring he had a yearling median of 75,000 guineas. No superstars (yet), but a promising start and less of a risk than some of his studmates.

Gustav Klimt €6,000 (€7,500) (2015 Galileo ex Massarrah by Danehill)

Verdict: Overpriced

‘Only’ a Group 2 winner but placed in the Irish Guineas, St James Palace and Haydock Sprint Cup. His place on the Coolmore roster is due to the fact that 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 and I’m not sure about a son of Galileo doing likewise.

Highland Reel €12,500 (€17,500) (2012 Galileo ex Hveger by Danehill)

Verdict: Overpriced

A really admirable racehorse. He ran 27 times. He won the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at two, won two Group 1’s at three, two Group 1’s at four and two Group 1’s at five. His successes included a King George, a Breeders Cup Turf, a Prince of Wales Stakes a Coronation Cup and a Hong Kong Vase. He is bred on the Galileo Danehill cross and his siblings include a Group 1 winner in Cape of Good Hope and an Irish Derby runner up in Idaho. We bemoan the fashion for speed and the lack of respect for soundness and toughness in our sires. However, I would be surprised if Highland Reel proves a successful flat sire. Nor does he appeal as an obvious choice for a commercially minded breeder. He lacked a striking turn of foot, improved with age and I expect him to be in Coolmore’s National Hunt division in a few years time!…

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

Verdict: Fairly Priced:

Romanised helped show his sire in a positive light with his victory in the Jacques Le Marois and a controversial defeat by Circus Maximus in the Moulin (the placings should have been reversed in my opinion). Overall though it was an unremarkable year on the track. He got a new two year old Group winner in Roman Turbo and Listed two year old winner in Piece of Paradise. His yearling median last year was a solid 31500 guineas and his stats of 85 stakes winners from 1746 foals of racing age is a healthy 5%. He can sire a top class horse, can get two year olds and deliver a return in the sales ring so I think it’s fair enough to price him at €15000.

The A-Z (Australia-Zoffany) of Coolmore’s 2016 Stud Fees..

This is the time of year in which studs announce their 2016 fees. In the coming weeks, I will consider the prices announced by the major operators and whether they match my idea of value. In the words of Warren Buffett “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get”. I will begin with Europe’s dominant player, Coolmore.

Stallion 2016 fee (2015 fee)
Australia €50,000 (€50,000)- (2011 by Galileo ex Ouija Board by Cape Cross)
Verdict: I thought that there might have been a slight reduction in his second year but obviously they are confident demand will remain strong. Australia has everything you would want in a prospective stallion being a superior Derby winner out of an outstanding Oaks winner so difficult to really quibble with his fee.

Camelot €25,000 (€25,000)- (2009 by Montjeu ex Tarfah by Kingmambo)

Verdict: His reputation when he went to stud was a long way removed from what it was for most of his racing career. He was narrowly denied the honour of being the first triple crown winner since Nijinsky by Encke a horse who was subsequently caught up in the Mahmood Al Zarooni steroid scandal.  On that basis you could argue that he represents good value, however to date Montjeu’s sons are more miss than hit, and he seems fully priced.

Canford Cliffs €17,500 (€12,500) (2007- Tagula ex Mrs Marsh by Marju)

Verdict: A good season with his first two years olds has seen him deliver plenty of winners (30 to date) and a good sprinkling of quality as well with two group winners in Painted Cliffs and Most Beautiful and a Listed winner in Aktoria. His sales results were unexceptional to date and I’m not sure his runners have done enough on the track to justify the increase.

Excelebration €15,000 (€17,500): (2008 Exceed and Excel ex Sun Shower by Indian Ridge)

Verdict: . A superb miler who was unfortunate to live in the era of Frankel. Excelebration’s fee has dropped slightly each year and his sales medians are unremarkable. Will have his first runners in 2016 so using him involves a punt on their likely performance.

Fastnet Rock Private (did not shuttle) (2001 Danehill ex Piccadilly Circus by Royal Academy)

Verdict: Had a good season with three Group 1 winners in Qualify, Fascinating Rock and Diamondsandrubies and a promising two year old in Turret Rocks. To me his overall European record is still modest given the quality of mares he covered in his first few seasons  His last reported European fee was €30000 in 2011 and despite his recovery this season I wouldn’t pay more than half that for him and I doubt very much Coolmore would trade at anything like that price.

Footstepsinthesand €10,000 (€10,000) (2002 Giant’s Causeway ex Glatisant by Rainbow Quest)

Verdict: Has stood at this level for a number of years. Commercially is facing a decline in popularity as new kids arrive on the block.  A reasonable stallion but wouldn’t be high on a wish list of stallions at that price.

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

Verdict: For much of the season it seemed he was going to be usurped by Dubawi in the race for the title of European champion sire. However in the end it proved another remarkable year for Galileo who sired an incredible 10 Group or Grade 1 winners. His fee is rumoured to be around the 300k mark and although you could never say that such a fee represents a bargain it can certainly be justified.

Gleneagles €60,000 NEW (2012 Galileo ex You’resothrilling by Storm Cat).

Verdict: A dual guineas winner, first past the post in 5 Group 1’s and out of a full sister to Giant’s Causeway- what is there not to like? Well firstly his career ended in two underwhelming performances in the QE2 at Ascot and in an overly optimistic attempt at the Breeders Cup Classic. In addition the failure to run him from June to October using the ground as an excuse gave rise to a suspicion that he wasn’t quite the superstar his connections had described him as being.  To me his fee is too rich and I would have expected at most a 45k fee. Given the choice of unproven stallion sons of Galileo, I’d opt for Australia over Gleneagles at their respective prices.

Henrythenavigator €7,500 (€15,000) (2005 Kingmambo ex Sequoyah by Sadler’s Wells)

Verdict: A better horse than Gleneagles but his fee has come down from an initial $65000 (when he stood at Ashford) to next year’s €7,500.  The reason for the decline is simply the lack of sufficient quality offspring (c. 1% stakes winners!). His two year olds of 2016 will have been conceived from a 30k covering fee so he might show a small rebound but all aspects of his career to date show him to be a poor stallion that you could not recommend.

Holy Roman Emperor €17,500 (€20,000) (2004 Danehill ex L’On Vite by Secretariat)

Verdict: Had a very quiet year on the track in Europe and is proving to be an inconsistent sire. His fee deserved a bigger reduction than the one he received. His yearling averages held up well in 2015 but the market may not be so forgiving if 2016 does not prove more rewarding on the track.

Ivawood €9,000 NEW (2012 Zebedee ex Keenes Royale by Red Ransom)

Verdict: Really! Zebedee has had his fee reduced to €8000 and although this guy was classic placed and was the most expensive Zebedee yearling, his overall record shows that he never won after July of his two year old days and was beaten in his final 7 runs. His fellow Coolmore stallions should be insulted by his presence on the roster 🙂

Kingston Hill €6,000 NEW (2011 Mastercraftsman ex Audacieuse by Rainbow Quest)

Verdict: Unfortunate in that injury kept him off the track in 2015. Winner of the Racingpost Trophy at two, runner up to Australia in the Derby, winner of the St Leger and a close up fourth to Treve in the Arc. Ironically if he hadn’t won the St Leger his fee would probably be higher. His overall pedigree is unexceptional but given his quality as a racehorse I wouldn’t quibble with his fee.
Mastercraftsman €35,000 (€40,000) (2006 Danehill Dancer ex Starlight Dreams by Black Tie Affair)

Verdict: A stellar first crop saw him provide two classic winners in 2015 in Kingston Hill and The Grey Gatsby.  Amazing Maria become the third Group 1 winner to emerge from that crop when she notched a Group 1 double in 2016. Nothing comparable emerged from his subsequent crops to reach the track which explains the reduction in fee. Still has a few crops conceived at much lower fees to work their way through the system so might be quiet for a period, before his better bred crops emerge.

Most Improved €4,000 (€5,000) (2009 Lawman ex Tonnara by Linamix)

Verdict:  Although he won a St James Palace Stakes this guy must be a hard sell even for the Coolmore marketing team. A modest fee for a modest performer.

No Nay Never €17,500 (€20,000) (2011 Scat Daddy ex Cat’s Eye Witness by Elusive Quality)

Verdict: A big powerful precocious two year old who dominated his contemporaries in the Norfolk Stakes and the Prix Morny. To be fair he also showed useful form at three including when runner up in a Breeders Cup Sprint Turf. His sire Scat Daddy had a very good year in 2015 and his fee has been hiked from $35000 to $100000. Regardless its a no nay never from me at the quoted fee.
Pour Moi €10,000 (€12,500) (2008 Montjeu ex Gwynn by Darshaan)

Verdict: Interesting at the price but still not quite cheap enough to represent value. The expectation was that he was not going to sire two year olds so it was a bonus that he sired a nice Listed winner in Only Mine, however it is a decision for the brave to invest for next year.

Power €8,000 (€8,000) (2009 Oasis Dream ex Frappe by Inchinor)

Verdict:
Attractively priced for a Group 1 winning two year old who went on to win an Irish 2000 Guineas and comes from a strong family. I’d certainly use him over Ivawood.

Requinto €5,000 (€4,000) (Dansili ex Damson by Entrepreneur)

Verdict: Was an unusual Dansili in being so speedy and precocious (just like his dam). I have a prejudice against atypical sons of stallions so that puts me off him and I’m not sure what he did to justify an increase in fee for his fourth season

.Rip Van Winkle €12,500 (€25,000) (2006 Galileo ex Looking Brill by Stravinsky)

Verdict: Interestingly he remains the second highest rated son of Galileo after Frankel. Had a Group 1 winner in his first crop with Dick Whittington but had a very quiet year in 2015. Seems destined for export unless things change quickly in 2016.
Rock Of Gibraltar €10,000 (€12,500) (1999 Danehill ex Offshore Boom by Be My Guest)

Verdict: Overall record is modest given the opportunities he received. Has had his moments as a sire but not enough to still warrant a 10k fee.

Ruler Of The World €10,000 (€15,000) (2010 Galileo ex Love Me True by Kingmambo)

Verdict: A beautifully bred Derby winner who finished close up in a Champion Stakes. Being a half brother to the now South African based Duke of Marmalade is also starting to look like a positive after Duke of Marmalade had a good season in Europe. Obviously his merit is still unknown but he is competitively priced given his pedigree and performance.

So You Think €12,500 (€12,500) (High Chapparal ex Triassic by Tights)

Verdict: A big beast of a horse but hard to argue with 10 Group 1’s between Europe and Australia. I didn’t think much of High Chaparral as a sire and the Australian side of his pedigree will be unfamiliar to many here but did enough as a racehorse to justify his fee at least until his runners hit the track.

Starspangledbanner €15,000 (25,000)  (2006 Choisir ex Gold Anthem by Made of Gold

Verdict: A quality sprinter on two continents and a very good first crop of two year olds. Didn’t have a similar impact with his current two year olds and some of the initial fanfare has faded. Also suffers from fertility issues so that will dissuade some mare owners but his fee probably reflects the additional risks.

War Command €15,000 (€15,000) (War Front ex Wandering Star by Red Ransom)

Verdict: An impressive Coventry winner and subsequent Dewhurst winner but one who disappointed at three. The War Front bandwagon rolls on, so commercially you can see how he would appeal.
Zoffany €45,000 (€12,500) (2008 Dansili ex Tyranny by Machiavellian)

Verdict: Probably surprised even his biggest supporters at Coolmore when he landed a Royal Ascot treble with Waterloo Bridge, Washington DC and Illuminate. Champion first season sire and plenty of runners who look like they will train on including Royal Lodge winner Foundation . Its a huge fee increase but you can’t say he didn’t deserve it.

2014 End of Season Awards- ‘The Victors’

Now that the European season is almost over, it’s time to hand out my end of year awards (The Victors)

1. Stallion of the year: Galileo who else? It’s easy to take for granted his year on year domination, but it really is extraordinary. This year so far he has sired another Derby winner in Australia, classic winner Marvellous, Group 1 winners Tapestry and Adelaide. Amongst his older horses Noble Mission has earned the right to stop being referred to as simply Frankel’s brother. More significantly the pipeline looks incredibly strong with Group 1 winning two year olds in Gleaneagles, Together Forever and Found and an even more exciting prospect in John F Kennedy. He does have all the advantages of the best mares and large books but he keeps producing the goods in a way few stallions in history could match.

2. Flop of the Year: Fastnet Rock. Just to show that Coolmore don’t always get it right. Sensational in Australia, Coolmore reverse shuttled him and patronised him with some of their elite mares. He had a slow start with his European two year olds in 2013 but we waited and waited for them to burst onto the scene in 2014 but it never really happened. The Coolmore boys recognised the game was up and sold a job lot of 9 of his yearlings to the Australian OTI syndicate. He has fallen far short of expectations (I would have expected at least 2 Gr 1 winners from that book of mares) and no tears will be shed if he doesn’t return to Ireland.

3. Breakthrough sire of the year: Kodiac. When he retired to stud in 2007 Kodiac had a modest race record with no Stakes wins to his name and his best run being a fourth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. However he had plenty to recommend him on pedigree being a son of Danehill out of a classic winner in Rafha who was the dam of rising stallion Invincible Spirit. His initial fee was €5000 and that dropped in year 3 and year 4 to €4000. Plenty of winners started to follow and after a proliferation of two year old winners in 2013 his fee reached €10000 in 2014. This year, since the beginning of the season he has been an unstoppable force with his two year olds and more importantly some have demonstrated considerable quality notably. The highlight for Kodiac was the speed machine that is Tiggy Wiggy and for good measure Kodi Bear stepped up on his previous runs to come second in the Dewhurst. In addition the 3 year old Coulsty won a group 3 as did the 6 year old Jamesie. His recent sales results include a large number of six figure sales and he is set for a very significant and justified fee hike in 2015.

4. Second Crop Sire of the Year: Le Havre. Hard to call this award as it could have gone to Sea the Stars, Mastercraftsman or Le Harve. Sea the Stars had a huge amount to live up to being one of the outstanding horses of the era, being a half brother to Galileo and having covered an outstanding book of mares. He has not disappointed having sired a superstar filly in Taghrooda, and a scintillating winner of the German derby in Sea the Moon as part of a very impressive haul of 10 stakes winners. Mastercraftsman had a lesser book of mares than Sea the Stars ((althought not a bad book of mares given his initial fee was €20000) but surpassed expectations by delivering two classic winners in Kingston Hill and the Grey Gatsby. However my selection is Le Havre who despite having won a Prix du Jockey Club was retired at a fee of just €5000. He has repaid his supporters in spades with a dual classic winner in Avenir Certain, a Group 2 winner in Auvray and the high class Le Hoguette amongst 6 stakes winners. He has earned the right to much bigger and better books in 2015.

5. First season sire of the year: Lope de Vega. For most of the season I had the name Starspangledbanner pencilled in for this award. He looked like he had the makings of a fine stallion getting a pair of impressive Royal Ascot winners in The Wow Signal and Alexander Anthem from a depleted first crop (due to fertility issues). However although The Wow Signal added a Group 1, the lustre has slightly faded from this pair and no other stakes winners have emerged. In contrast the offspring of Lope De Vega have really come good as the season progressed and he can already boast of four Group winners headed by recent Dewhurst winner Belardo, backed up by Italian Group 2 winner Here Look and a pair of Group 3 winners in Burnt Sugar and Royal Razalma. In addition Endless Drama put up a most impressive performance when winning today at Naas as he towered over his rivals in every sense. Given that Lope de Vega was better at three when he emulated his own sire Shamardal by winning the French Guineas and Derby Ballylinch Stud must be hopeful that his momentum will continue. Lope de Vega retired at a fee of €15000 and stood for €12500 for the past two years but a big hike is to be expected.

6. Performance of the Year: Sole Power in the Nunthorpe Stakes. Sole Power is a standing dish in the top sprints and won the Nunthorpe back in 2010 (at which time I wrote about his pedigree (http://www.montjeu.com/archives/295). His winning performance in this year’s edition really had to be seen to be believed as he showed remarkable acceleration against high class sprinters.  Enjoy it for yourself here

 

Bracelet- Another Jewel for Urban Sea

Bracelet put herself into the classic picture with a smart success in the Group 3, 1000 Guineas trial at Leopardstown, run over 7 furlongs on soft ground. She quickened nicely from the highly regarded Balansiya (Shamardal ex Baliyana by Dalakhani) who was bidding to give Dermot Weld an important success for his new owner the Aga Khan.

Bracelet is a representative of the best female line in the book, that of Urban Sea . The list of stars descending directly from the Arc winner include Galileo, Sea the Stars, Born to Sea, Black Sam Bellamy, My Typhoon, Masterstroke and Wonder of Wonders. Bracelet is a full sister to Wading to won the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at two and was expected to make into a classic contender but never ran again. Their dam Cherry Hinton retired as a maiden but that doesn’t do justice to her level of ability which saw her finish runner up in a Group 3 and finish fifth in the Oaks. She has a two year old filly by Giant’s Causeway called Simply A Star. Cherry Hinton’s 2010 foal was colt subsequently name Lake Michigan. Injury meant he was unraced but he has just secured a place at stud in Park House Stud, Co Carlow as a National Hunt sire.

Bracelet is a further reminder that Montjeu isn’t entirely useless as a fillies sire! His reputation with fillies benefited from the victory in the Irish Oaks of Chicquita, who is now a Ballydoyle stablemate of Bracelet having sold for for 6 million euros during Paul Makin’s disposal sale. It’s hard to know how far Bracelet will stay, she will certainly stay the extra furlong of the Guineas, should stay 10 furlongs and after that who knows. Bracelet is now best priced 16-1 for the 1000 Guineas and as low as 8-1 for the Oaks. To my mind the 16-1 looks a good price for a filly who should progress considerably from her first run of the season and who has a pedigree that screams classic contender (pedigree listed below). Make up your own mind on her potential by watching the video of her race below

 

Bracelet (IRE) 2011 f b

Montjeu
(IRE) 1996
Sadler’s
Wells (USA) 1981
Northern
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Nearctic
(USA) 1954
Natalma
(USA) 1957
Fairy
Bridge (USA) 1975
Bold
Reason (USA) 1968
Special
(USA) 1969
Floripedes
(FR) 1985
Top
Ville (IRE) 1976
High
Top (IRE) 1969
Sega
Ville (USA) 1968
Toute
Cy (FR) 1979
Tennyson
(FR) 1970
Adele
Toumignon (IRE) 1971
Cherry
Hinton (GB) 2004
Green
Desert (USA) 1983
Danzig
(USA) 1977
Northern
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Pas
De Nom (USA) 1968
Foreign
Courier (USA) 1979
Sir
Ivor (USA) 1965
Courtly
Dee (USA) 1968
Urban
Sea (USA) 1989
Miswaki
(USA) 1978
Mr
Prospector (USA) 1970
Hopespringseternal
(USA) 1971
Allegretta
(GB) 1978
Lombard
(GER) 1967
Anatevka
(GER) 1969

Coolmore-dominance in decline?

Back in April 2010 everything must have seemed rosy down in Tipperary. Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway ex Aldebaran Light by Seattle Slew) looked set to finally provide one of their sires with a coveted Kentucky Derby victory. In Europe, St Nicholas Abbey (Montjeu ex Leaping Water by Sure Blade) was favourite for the Guineas and Derby. Galileo, Montjeu and Danehill Dancer were established members of Europes elite and the stallion roster contained plenty of unproven but exciting young stallions.

Fast forward to November and just like the Irish economy, things are looking somewhat grim despite Galileo helping them to an incredible 21st consecutive UK & Ireland sires championship. Galileo had a stellar year with Cape Blanco, Rip Van Winkle, Sans Frontiere, Lily of the Valley and three Group 1 winning 2 year olds in Play Misty for Me, Frankel and Roderic O’ Connor. It was a season comparable with any that Sadler’s Wells enjoyed in his heyday. That however is the end of the good news. After a recent stud visit one source told me that Galileo seemed to be in poor physical shape and had lost a lot of condition. If anything was to restrict his capacity to serve large books next year it would be a serious setback.

Montjeu

Montjeu had a disappointing year. St Nicholas Abbey failed to reappear after his Guineas fifth and Jan Vermeer was somewhat disappointing. Fame & Glory did add two Group 1’s but his season ended in disappointment in the Arc. Joshua Tree won the Canadian International but no obvious stars emerged from his two year old crop. He hasn’t suddenly become a bad sire but a Guineas win for St Nicholas Abbey would have helped fill one of the major gaps in his cv. The other gap is of course his relative lack of success with fillies, something which reduces his popularity with breeders.

Danehill Dancer

Danehill Dancer had two Group 1 winning fillies in Lilly Langtry (ex Hoity Toity by Darshaan) and Ave (ex Anna Amalia by In The Wings). However his results did not do enough to justify his private fee and to my mind he ranks behind Dansili, Pivotal, Dubawi and Oasis Dream amongst the top miler sires in Europe. Although they still refer to him as the best sire son of Danehill in Europe, Coolmore are aware of his limitations. This is evidenced through their use of Dansili rather than Danehill Dancer for many of their elite mares .

The Young Guns

Oratorio and Footstepsinthesand both had their first crop of three year olds. Both could have been expected to see their offspring improve with age. Both disappointed and they now seem pricey at €15000 and €12500 respectively. It would be no surprise to see either or both sold abroad.

Amongst the first season sires there were no fireworks and no Group 1 winners. Holy Roman Emperor (Danehill ex L’On Vite by Secretariat) came second to Iffraaj but there was a distinct lack of quality amongst the quantity. Aussie Rules (Danehill ex Last Second by Alzao) probably did best of the newcomers with a few Group horses included amongst his winners. Hurricane Run (Montjeu ex Hold On by Surumu) did ok considering no one really expected him to get precocious types. Ad Valorem (Danzig ex Classy Women by Relaunch) produced nothing of note and a similar comment applies to Ivan Denosovich (Danehill ex Hollywood Wildcat by Kris S) who will probably be moved on quickly.

middle of the road sires

There is nothing wrong with Peintre Celebre (fee €15,000), Rock of Gibraltar (fee 22,500) or High Chaparral (€15,000) as stallions but their limitations are evident at this stage. High Chaparral should be moved permanently to Coolmore Australia where he is so much more successful and highly regarded.

Next Year

2011 sees the first runners for Strategic Prince (Dansili ex Ausherra by Diesis) and Dylan Thomas (Danehill ex Lagrion by Diesis). It has been a number of years since Coolmore have unearthed a promising new sire and the odds are against Strategic Prince making the breakthrough. Dylan Thomas has the advantage of plenty of well credentialled mares but there is a bias against the staying sons of Danehill.

The end comes quickly

Coolmore has dominated the European scene for so long that it is unsurprising that we start to raise eyebrows at any erosion of its dominance. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 they had 5 of the top 6 stallions in the UK and Irish rankings. In 2009 they had 3 of the top 6 and in 2010 this was down to 2 of the top 6. Their stranglehold has ended.

Reasons for decline.

1.It was inevitable that the massive Arab investment in bloodstock would eventually unearth some top class stallions. This year was a very good year for Darley. Amongst their young stallions Dubawi emerged as a superstar and Shamardal had a fine year. Iffraaj took first season sire honours. King’s Best had two Derby winners in Workforce and Eishin Flash. Cape Cross produced another top class colt in Behkabad. In addition Sheikh Mohammed owns significant stakes in “independent stallions” Invincible Spirit and Pivotal who were 6th and 11th respectively in this years Irish/UK sire table. Juddmonte are sitting pretty with two outstanding young stallions in Dansili and Oasis Dream.

2. You can’t just go out a find a replacement for either Sadlers Wells or Danehill:)

3.Too many eggs in one basket. The Coolmore roster was incredibly top heavy with sons of Danehill, and except for Danehill Dancer they have failed to strike gold with them. The assertion that he is an outstanding sire of sires is open to debate in a European context. Their faith in Danehill Dancer to found a sireline via Mastercraftsman, Choisir and Choisir’s son Starspangledbanner may also prove misguided.

4. Competitors have upped their game in terms of PR, marketing and deal making. Coolmore PR is also becoming a little jaded and it is starting to invite cynicism everytime we hear AP O’Brien describe his latest winner as showing”incredible natural speed but he is so relaxed and settles so well that you could run him in either the July Cup or the Ascot Gold Cup!”

5. The Maktoum boycott didn’t help and would have influenced some breeders decisions

6. The euro sterling exchange rate rose considerably over the noughties with a particularly sharp spike in 2008. This made using Coolmore stallions more expensive for UK breeders.

7. Lack of outcross options. All of the current stallions are Northern Dancer line stallions and breeders will want more options in time

The future

A world leader like Coolmore doesn’t just suddenly disappear into oblivion. Galileo is still only 12 and is poised for a period of dominance. However apart from Montjeu the supporting cast appears weak and similarly their American roster is unexceptional apart from Giants Causeway. However they still have the financial resources to buy the best yearlings and the best trainer in the world to manage them. The ending of the partnership with Johnny Murtagh indicates the pressure that is on everyone to produce results- 14 Group 1 wins this year was still deemed a disappointing year. Their dominance might be in relative decline but they are still the best in the game.