What Goes Up? Recession Busters

Chicken Little aka Chicken Licken wasn’t wrong, she was just ahead of her time. Nowadays it seems that the sky really is falling down as asset values crash around the world. Stallion fees are understandably under pressure as the recent sales season showed falls in the grosses, averages, and medians. However there are still some stallions bucking the trend, who’s fees for 2009 are showing increases on 2008. So in the words of Bugs Bunny “Whats up doc?”

Starting with Coolmore- Montjeu and Danehill Dancer are both now listed as private from last years fees of €125,000 and €115,000. Both sires had good years with Montjeu adding another classic winning colt in Irish Derby winner Frozen Fire and the very impressive Grand Prix de Paris winner Montmartre. His older horses included Group 2 winners Honolulu and MacArthur and the Autumn saw him reveal some promising 2 year olds including a one-two in the final Group One of the Season at Saint Cloud with Fame and Glory and Drumbeat, alongside the Royal Lodge success of Jukebox Jury who also finished second in the Racingpost Trophy. Danehill Dancer had a great year in Ireland where his star turns were Mastercraftsman who won the Phoenix and National Stakes as well as Again who won the Moyglare. These had a large back up cast including Ice Queen who  was just touched off in the Irish Oaks, Caribbean Sunset who was narrowly beaten in the Irish 1000 Guineas and Westphalia who won the Group 2 Champagne Stakes. Both stallions have the offspring of better books of mares on the way and normally you would say that the fee hikes could be justified but in the current environment it is more questionable.  In the case of Danehill Dancer I would contrast his situation with that of Pivotal who sired Guineas winners in three countries but saw his fee cut from £85000 to £65000- and Danehill Dancer whilst a good sire is no Pivotal. It is possible, indeed probable that the decision to list the fees as private is just the famed Coolmore spin machine at work. I strongly suspect that any breeder prepared who offered last years fees for either Danehill Dancer or Montjeu would have no problem getting an appointment for his mare. The other Coolmore giant is Galileo and his fee is advertised as private in 2009, the same situation as 2008.  Galileo had a fantastic year with his three year olds New Approach and Lush Lashes, older horses Soldier of Fortune and Red Rocks and promising two year olds Kite Wood, Cuis Ghaire and Rip Van Winkle. Although there is no advertised change in his fee, with the retirement of Sadler’s Wells he is probably ‘more private’ now than he was before!

Darley have raised two of their stallions. Kheleyf has gone from €5000 to €12000 and Exceed and Excel was raised from €10000 to £12000. It’s easy to understand these increases given the success of both stallions with their two year olds, finishing first and second with 27 and 21 individual winners respectively, including a respectable number of stakes performers.

The Irish National Stud also had a good year with its first season sires. Elusive City was responsible for Group winners Elusive Wave and Soul City and it was no harm that Soul City also won the Goffs million. The success of Raven’s Pass, another son of Elusive Quality was also timely. His fee has now moved from €8000 to €12500 which seems pricey to me. Indian Haven also had two Group winners in Ashram and Aspen Darlin and has fee has increased slightly from €6000 to €7500. I would expect his progeny to train on well and I think he is represents very good value and could be the one to replicate the success enjoyed his sire Indian Ridge and grandsire Ahonoora at the Irish National Stud.

Amongst the second season sires Dalakhani was the star. Two classic winners in Moonstone and Conduit were backed up by Group 2 winners Centennial and Democrate and four other stakes winners. His results justify an increase from €40000 to €50000.

Nayef matched Dalakhani by siring two Group 1 winners in Lady Marian and Tamayuz. Like Dalakhani he is free from Northern Dancer and he represents very good value at his new fee of £15000 up from £10000 in 2008.

Bizarrely Shadwell also increased the fee for Sakhee from £10000 to £12000. He had a few useful performers in Samuel and the Italian Permesso who was twice Group 1 placed but it hardly constituted a successful season. I certainly can’t see the rationale behind this increase.

Juddmonte have not increased any of their fees, nor have Rathbarry or Lanwades, although Lanwades would have been forgiven had they given Hernando an increase after the exploits of Look Here and Casual Conquest.

 The National Stud raised Bahamian Bounty from £9000 to £10000. This was surprising as although he had plenty of winners he had no Group winners all year and his best performer was Gallagher who finished runner up in the Prix Morny. Time will tell whether this decision was brave or foolhardy, but I found it surprising.

The brevity of the above list tells you all that you need to know about the current state of the market.  Confidence is in short supply but no doubt commercial breeders are hoping that when it comes to selling the outcome of their 2009 matings that the financial outlook will be a lot rosier. I hope they will be proved right but I’m always reminded of the saying “anyone who wants to make a small fortune out of horses, needs to start with a big fortune”……..

Eurosavers- Best Bargain Basement sires in Ireland

With so many stallions in Ireland, I thought it would be easy to compile a list of five or six of the best value sires in Ireland standing for less than €7000. I was wrong and I’m not sure why. Maybe it is just my methodology that is suspect, as I define bargain basement sires as those standing for a published fee of less than €7000. I would imagine that with the right mare and cash in my hand I would gain access to a great many sires with a published fee much greater than 7k.

Maybe Irish breeders are more commercially astute than some of their European counterparts and there is very little discrepancy between price and value, with studs correctly pricing their stallions. Coolmore in particular are expert at stallion pricing and while you could argue that some of their stallions are slightly over-priced it is very hard to think of one that is underpriced. The best I could manage is as follows:

Proven Stallions under €7000

None, nada,nil, zip,zilch. I went through the full list of stallions in Ireland standing in Ireland and could not honestly recommend one of those stallions as being a proven and reliable source of quality offspring. If I’m missing one, please let me know.

Promising Start- 1. Redback at €6500 Tally-Ho stud

Redback was a decent racehorse winning the Solario Stakes at 2 and the Greenham at 3. He also finished 3rd to Rock of Gibraltar and Hawk Wing in a very good 2000 Guineas. He went to stud without great expectations. His own sire Mark of Esteem was seemingly in decline at the time but Sir Percy has since restored some credibility to his record. His dam Patsy Western is by Precocious, by Mummys Pet and would be associated with cheap speed. . His results to date are very promising. His first crop included Gilded who won a Queen Mary, backed up by Sonny Red who won a listed race. His second crop is headed by Redolent who has won at listed level and looks up to Group level. Redbacks pedigree has only one cross of Northern Dancer in the fourth generation so he should have no problem crossing with mares with Northern Dancer close-up. However Interestingly all 3 of his best runners are out of mares from other sire lines with Gilded being out of an Aragorn mare, Sonny Red being out of a Petong mare, and Redolent out of a Highest Honour mare. Whether this is a reflection of the opportunities afforded to him or evidence of bias is too early to say. We can however categorise Redback as a useful sire of tough, speedy types and he is capable of upgrading his mare. His results should also improve as he benefits from the better mares sent after his very promising first season. At €6500 he represents good value. Incidentally Tally-Ho stud obviously don’t believe in the internet as a means of promoting their stallions as their website http://www.tallyhostud.net/ is an embarrassment and badly needs an upgrade. (Note since this article was written tally-ho stud have notified me of their bright new shiny website at www.tallyhostud.com )

Promising Start 2:- er, nobody else springs to mind.

I was going to write about Modigliani who sired group winner Magritte and sales race winner Sudden Impact in his first crop but Greentree Stud have pushed his price up to €7500 which takes him out of the bargain basement and to be honest might be too much too soon.

Unproven but might prove cheap.

Trying to pick winners from amongst the ranks of new stallions is a foolish activity but it won’t stop me trying…. If I had to spend my own money on nominations to some unproven stallions in Ireland I would choose the following; Alamshar at €5000 and Indian Haven at €6000 both at the Irish National Stud.

Maybe this is a sign that the Irish National Stud is taking seriously its obligations to small Irish breeders. Alamshar and Indian Haven are both Irish classic winners and both seem competitively priced. I fondly remember watching Alamshar win his maiden at Listowel and he is certainly the best flat horse to ever win there. He followed up by winning the Beresford. At three he finished third in the Derby but subsequent event showed he was the best horse in the field. He became the only horse to ever beat Dalakhani when out-battling him in the Irish Derby. He followed up by routing the field in the King George where his Derby conqueror Kris Kin was over five lengths in arrears. His career fizzled out when he was unplaced in both the Irish and Newmarket Champion Stakes. However he had proved himself to be an outstanding middle distance horse. At the end of his career the Aga Khan accepted an offer from Japan and it was surprising that he found his way back to these shores before his Japanese offspring had a chance to fully prove themselves. His fee is probably a reflection of the fact that he is by far the best offspring from his sire Key of Luck. As is typcial with Aga Khan families you don’t have to go far to find some class and his granddam is Aliysa who won the Oaks only to be controversially disqualified later for drug infringements, a disqualification that prompted the Aga Khan to withdraw all his horses from Britain.  Aliysa was already the dam of Desert Story who earned a berth at stud with wins in the Horris Hill at two and the Craven at three. His stud career in these parts never really got off the ground and he is now exiled to Alamshars former home of Japan. It might not be what everyone looks for in a stallions pedigree but given his race record he is certainly not overpriced.

Indian Haven is the Irish National Studs hope to continue the successes they enjoyed with his sire Indian Ridge and his grandsire Ahonoora. Indian Ridge has yet to sire a stallion son as good as himself despite some promise from Compton Place and Namid. However Indian Haven seems to have a better chance than most. He was at as best in the Spring of his three year old season when he won the Free Handicap, got crucified in the Newmarket Guineas and then won well in the Irish Guineas. His form then tapered off and a decision to keep him in training at four failed to add to his record. His dam Madame Dubois won the Park Hill Stakes and she is also dam of Count Dubois (by Zafonic) who is doing well at stud in South Africa.  His first two year olds have now hit the track and at the moment he has one winner from 7 runners. However although this is hardly an exciting start it wouldn’t be a surprise if his progeny took after his example and improved markedly between two and three. At €6000 it might be worth taking a chance that he could be the one to continue the Ahonoora success story at the Irish National Stud.