2023 was a good year on the track for Ballydoyle with 20 Group/Grade 1 winners. Results weren’t nearly as impressive for Coolmore’s stallion roster. Their best placed stallions on the GB/Ire sires table were Galileo in 5th and No Nay Never in 10th. Disappointment with their Irish sires, will have been tempered somewhat by the performance of the Ashford based Justify. He impressed with 4 Group/Grade 1 winning two year olds this year, in a second crop that was considerably better than his first crop. It would be intriguing to see him spend a few seasons in Tipperary but that doesn’t seem to be on the cards.
The Irish roster now comprises 21 stallions. During the year we saw two departures in US Navy Flag and Circus Maximus (even before he had runners) and three new arrivals in Little Big Bear, Paddington and The Antarctic . Coolmore may never reclaim its dominance of the past few decades but it is still a formidable roster that covers a large percentage of Irish broodmares. There are no bargains at the published fees but presumably bar the most popular stallions there is room for negotiation which may make them better value.
Below is my assessment of their published fees for 2024, starting with the priciest sires. As the Beatles are once again in the charts I have also included a Beatles lyric that seems apt for each sire.
Stallion €2024 fee (€2023 fee)
1. Wootton Bassett €200,000 (€150,000) (2008 Iffraaj ex Balladonia by Primo Dominie)
Verdict: Repaying their investment but no upside at price
Beatles Lyric Verdict: I’m fixing a hole
Wootton Bassett had a good year on the track. The imposing King of Steel (ex Eldacar by Verglas) was runner up in the Derby and subsequently triumphed in the Champion Stakes. His 131 two year olds featured Group 1 winners Bucanero Fuerte (ex Frida la Blonde by Elusive City) and Unquestionable (ex Strawberry Lace by Sea the Stars) and Group 2 winner River Tiber (ex Transcendence by Arcano).
His current career tally is 40 stakes winners from 620 foals of racing age (6%). This is not an elite sire percentage but he has covered large books of better credentialed mares (particularly Galileo mares) since his move to Ireland. He has 205 two year olds of 2023 and 170 yearlings waiting in the wings. In 2023 he covered he covered a mammoth book for 221 mares, including 49 of Coolmore’s own mares. With these crops to come,we can expect him to improve significantly on his 11th position in the sires table this year. He is a difficult sire to pigeon hole as his runners vary across the precocity and distance spectrum and he has worked with all sorts of broodmare sires. A €200,000 fee is steep for a sire who had a median of €220,000 this year (95 sold) -albeit off a €100,000 covering fee. Galileo was irreplaceable. Wootton Bassett is a stopgap who is being given every support. However, he is not that attractive as a commercial proposition and his stakes winning progeny percentage is modest, making him overpriced at his new fee.
2. No Nay Never €150,000 (€175,000) (2011 Scat Daddy ex Cat’s Eye Witness by Elusive Quality)
Verdict: Overpriced and definitely not Danzig
Beatles Lyric Verdict: I’m coming down fast, but don’t let me break you
No Nay Never (NNN) had a marvellous season in 2022 with 3 Group 1 winning two year olds. In 2023, he had no Group 1 winners but he had three Group 2 winners (Les Pavots, Lake Forest and Matrika) and two Group 3 winning two year olds. In 2022, he seemed set to dominate the two year old sire rankings for a number of years. This no longer seems likely as that space has become much more crowded. He now faces competition from his stud mate Wootton Bassett, breakthrough sires like Havana Grey (£55,000) and Mehmas (€60,000) and 2023 first season sires like Blue Point (€60,000) and Too Darn Hot (£65,000). His yearling median was €157k off a €125k cover fee so his risk/reward ratio for commercial breeders is not appealing. Six figure fees are typically the preserve of potential classic sires and despite Meditate placing in the Irish Guineas this year, he is still (correctly) perceived as a two year old/sprinter sire. His career record is now 57 stakes winners from 958 foals of racing age (6%). He was unwisely compared with Danzig last year (18% stakes winners) but there is no comparison. There is also a view that his progeny can be ‘hot’ and difficult to handle. He attracted 190 mares this year with 101 of them being black type mares so there will be plenty of well bred representatives over the coming years. Coolmore is approaching saturation point with four of NNN’s sons on the roster (Arizona, Blackbeard, Little Big Bear and Ten Sovereigns) and its hard to think we need any more. As a two year old/sprinter sire he is overpriced relative to his competitors and he should be closer to €100k.
3. Paddington €55,000 (na) (2020 Siyouni ex Modern Eagle by Montjeu)
Verdict: Would need to tick a few more boxes at that price
Beatles Lyric: “You say you got a real solution, Well, you know, We’d all love to see the plan”
This time last year he was just the winner of a back end Curragh maiden. He started 2023 in a handicap, before going on an unbeaten run that took in the Tetrarch Stakes, the Irish Guineas, the St James Palace, the Eclipse Stakes and the Sussex Stakes. At that stage he was inviting comparisons with Giant’s Causeway but his career finished tamely with defeats in the Juddmonte International and the QE2 Stakes.
Paddington cost €420,000 as a yearling. His dam was a Listed winner and granddam was runner up in the Prix De Diane (French Oaks) but its not a page that overly excites. He was undoubtedly high class and tough. On the other hand, his lack of precocity, the loss of prestige by his final two defeats and reservations about his pedigree mean that he is at a higher starting price than I expected. They are advertising him as being comparable on the track to Giant’s Causeway but he didn’t quite have that same toughness/constitution. St Mark’s Basilica offers a better package of performance and pedigree at a slightly cheaper price.
4. St Mark’s Basilica €50,000 (65,000) (2018 Siyouni ex Cabaret by Galileo)
Verdict: a well credentialed but expensive gamble
Beatles Lyric: All I can tell you brother is you have to wait
A predictable dip in his fee for his third season and now facing internal competition from another son of Siyouni in Paddington for high end mares. Covered 173 mares this year and 160 in 2022 and his 10 foals sold had a median of c€94k so the market is still sanguine on his prospects. As I said in previous years he has a lot to recommend him on performance and pedigree and looks. I’d rate him as better relative value than Paddington but he is still a high risk and expensive gamble. Time will tell.
5. Camelot €50,000 (€60,000)- (2009 by Montjeu ex Tarfah by Kingmambo)
Verdict: The quest for the holy grail continues
Beatles Lyric: Don’t You know that you can count me out
His fee has gone into reverse in the past few seasons after reaching €75,000 in 2022. Luxembourg added another Group 1 (Tattersalls Gold Cup) to his collection and Los Angeles picked up a late season Group one in the Criterium de Saint Cloud to give some respectability to his season. Blue Stocking went close in the Irish Oaks and overall there were 9 stakes winners this season. His yearling median increased to €98,451 albeit off a €60,000 fee so there was little room for error. His career stats are now 59 black type winners from 947 foals of racing age a ratio of 6%. He is undoubtedly a useful sire but as I said in previous years, I think his progeny flatter to deceive.
6. Starspangledbanner €45,000 (€50,000) (2006 Choisir ex Gold Anthem by Made of Gold
Verdict: Pricey given his black type percentages
Beatles Lyric: Get back, Get Back to where you once belonged
I would have expected a greater reduction after a modest year on the track. Group 2 Rockfel winner, Carlas Way was the best of his European results and his career stats are now just 37 stakes winners from 869 foals of racing age (a very modest 4%). His yearling median in 2023 was almost unchanged at €60,000 which was a good return from a €22,500. However the value is now well gone for commercial breeders.
7. Saxon Warrior €25,000 (€35,000) (2015 Deep Impact ex Maybe by Galileo)
Verdict: Disappointing and the battle seems lost
Beatles Lyric: Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.
Breeders flocked to him after a strong end to 2022 by his first two year olds and he covered 264 mares. I can safely say he wont be attracting anything like those numbers this season after a very underwhelming year on the track. His best results were a Group 2 win for Lumiere Rock and a Group 3 for Greenland. His yearling average stayed respectable at €40,000 but he is a very hard sell at his current fee.
8. Churchill €30,000 (€30,000)- (2014 by Galileo ex Meow by Storm Cat)
Verdict: A two hit wonder but loads of dud tracks
Beatles Lyric: Oh dear, what can I do?
Blue Rose Cen added three Group 1’s to her tally this year but Vadeni failed to add to his stellar 2022 season. Churchill is not a good sire but these two top performers have glossed over an otherwise very modest stud career. His current statistics show 201 winners from 677 foals of racing age and a woeful 14 stakes winners (2%). He still has large books in the wings having covered 227 mares this season, 108 in 2022 and 198 in 2021 so there could be more good horses to come but for me his limitations are such that he is well overpriced.
9. Sioux Nation €27,500 (€17,500) (2015 Scat Daddy ex Dream the Blues by Oasis Dream)
Verdict: Don’t follow the herd on this
Beatles Lyric: “Well you can celebrate anything you want”
He has somewhat outperformed expectations and had a good year on the track with 3 Grp 2 winners and 5 Group three winners. He lacks a real superstar with the classic placed and Challenge Stakes winners Matilda Picotte being his best runner to date. His sales results have been encouraging with a yearling average of over €45k in 2023 so you can see why Coolmore were tempted to increase his fee. However, he will have his smallest crop of two year olds next season, so he may go a little quiet next season. His stakes winning percentage is currently 4% (13 from 301 foals) which is nothing special. He started out marketed as a sire of cheap speed/precocity but at his new fee he will have to start throwing his share of Group 1 winners. There are big crops to come after he covered an insane 289 mares in 2023 and 221 in 2022 and I think he will struggle with these loftier expectations.
10. Little Big Bear €27,500 (na)- (2020 by No Nay Never ex Adventure Seeker by Bering)
Verdict: Like Paddington, another overpriced bear
Beatles Lyric: “Roll up, for the mystery tour”
An impressive two year old who put up a top performance in winning the Phoenix Stakes by 7 lengths along with three other victories. Trained for the Guineas, he ran no sort of race before redeeming himself somewhat in the Grp 2 Sandy Lane Stakes. He was runner up in the Commonwealth Cup to Shaquille before ending his career with a flop in the July Cup. He has an interesting pedigree as his third dam is the great middle distance mare All Along. His dam is by Bering and was best over 10 furlongs but ran respectably over 12. None of these maternal influences seem to have had much bearing (or Bering :)) on Little Big Bears aptitudes which mirrored his sires profile linked to speed and precocity. Its impossible to say if he will succeed as a sire but we can predict big crops, a gradual reduction in fee over the next few years, early crops to sell better than later crop, limited support from Coolmore themselves and then the performances of his first runners determining if he has a future or not. The market likes speedy two year olds and he was very good in that capacity but he is more than fully priced.
11. Sottsass €25,000 (25,000) (2016 Siyouni ex Starlet’s Sister by Galileo)
Verdict: One for gamblers but a reasonable bet
Beatles Lyric: “Let it be”
Sottsass has his first runners in 2024 so anyone using him this season will quickly have a fair idea of their fate,albeit his progeny would be expected to improve at three. He was a top racehorse winning an Arc, Ganay and French Derby out of a Galileo mare who is proving to be a top producer. Her record includes 7 time Grp 1 winner Sistercharlie, Grp 1 placed My Sister Nat and now Sottsass’s full brother Shin Emperor emerged as one of the top two year olds in Japan. With three sons of Siyouni on their roster, Coolmore will be hoping that he makes a mark as a sire of sires. His fee hasn’t officially dropped for the 2024 season but anecdotally they are willing to negotiate more than with some other fees. I think he is the best value (in relative terms) of their sons of Siyouni.
12. Blackbeard €20,000 (20,000)- (2020 by No Nay Never ex Muirin by Born to Sea)
Verdict: Doubt he is a source of treasure
Beatles Lyric: “Where do they all belong”
Ran 8 times and won 6 times including a pair of Group 1’s in the Prix Morny and Middle Park. Noticeably quirky, he was odds against improving his record at three and was dispatched to stud. His dam Muirin is by a disappointing sire in Born to Sea but she was 4th in the Moyglare. Despite these reservations, he attracted 195 mares in 2023. Coolmore have 4 sons of No Nay Never on their books and you have to wonder if Ireland is repeating the mistakes of Australia. In 2019, Plusvital published research that showed a halving in the number of horses with stamina markers (TT horses) and a 70% increase in horses with C:C speed indicators. With the huge numbers of mares being bred to these speed sires these worrying trends are gathering momentum. As a temperamental sort from an unexceptional female line I wouldn’t be in a hurry to use him at his current fee.