French Sires for 2023- Reviewing the créme de la créme
A decade ago, things were pretty grim in the French flat stallion ranks. At that time, the forgettable Elusive City, standing at €15,000, was the most expensive French based sire. Things have improved greatly since then and there is now a decent selection of credible stallions. The generous French premium system help to underpin their breeding sector and the success of French National Hunt breeders shows the potential of the French industry.
Other changes have been less positive. The death of Le Havre and the sale of Wootton Bassett were big blows. Book sizes have increased dramatically with 17 flat sires covering 100+ mares in 2022 and this level of concentration isn’t good for diversity. With the epic World Cup final between France and Argentina still fresh in the memory, I have used footballing references for my sire verdicts.
2023 fee (2022 fee)
1. Siyouni €150,000 (€140,000) 2007 Pivotal ex Sichilla by Danehill
Football Comparison: A footballer who scores some spectacular goals but doesn’t score often enough
If the Aga Khan wasn’t one of the world’s richest men, this could be considered a rags to riches story 🙂 Retired at a fee of €7000, there were no great expectations for Siyouni. Pivotal had failed to deliver a top class sire son and Siyouni’s race record was good (he won a Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere), but unremarkable.
Since his first runners in 2014, Siyouni has delivered stars such as St Mark’s Basilica, Sottsass, Laurens and Ervidya. This ability to get superstars helps to gloss over the fact that his 6% percentages of stakes winners (66 from 1052 foals of racing age) is modest enough for a sire at his fee.
Siyouni had 63 yearlings sold this year for a median of €210,000 and he covered 132 mares this year. On the track he had a healthy 9 Group winners and 14 Stakes winners, so it was understandable that he was popular in the sales ring. A sire who has risen from such a modest opening fee clearly belongs in any discussion of the elite European sires. However for me a career tally of 7 Group 1 winners in the Northern Hemisphere is a little underwhelming. Three of his best performers were also siblings to other top horses so he got plenty of help on the dam side. This was the situation with Sottsass (1/2 brother to MySisterCharlie) , St Mark’s Basilica (1/2 brother to Magna Grecia) and Tahiyra (1/2 sister to Tarnawa), . When his progeny are good, they tend to be very, very good but I would like to see him converting his quality books of mares into top performers with a little more regularity.
2. Zarak €60,000 (€25,000) 2013 Dubawi ex Zarkava by Zamindar
Football Comparison: A young player with famous parents who is overpriced
Another Aga Khan owned sire is the second most expensive sire in France. Unlike Siyouni, Zarak was always expected to make a big impact. That expectation is understandable, when you are by Dubawi out of Zarakava who was one of the greatest fillies of our lifetimes. On the track, he almost lived up to his stellar pedigree winning a Grand Prix de Saint Cloud and finishing runner up in Prix de Jockey Club (to Almanzor) and Prix Ganay (to Cloth of Stars). At stud he has produced 9 stakes winners led by Grp 2 winner Purplepay. His yearling median has risen to €56,500 and he covered 159 mares this year at €25,000. Sons of Dubawi are very fashionable and his pedigree is free from Danzig and Sadler’s Wells so he can suit most mares. However, I was surprised at the size of the price hike. He stood for €12,000 for his first four season and then got a hike to €25,000 after his first two year olds did well. He lacks a superstar and his sales results don’t justify the hike he received. Those facts may change but I would have thought something around €35,000 would have been more appropriate for now.
3. Galiway €30,000 (€30,000) (2011 Galileo ex Danzigaway by Danehill)
Football Comparison: Overrated like Paul Pogba at Man Utd
He covered 170 mares at €30,000 this year which goes to show that French breeders can be just as influenced by a foolish herd mentality as their Irish/ UK counterparts. 🙂 Galiway never won above Listed level and his half brother Silent Name was disappointing as a sire. In total he has 9 Stakes winners from 190 foals of racing age. This is 5% which is arguably a very good outcome given that he stood at €3,000 for his first four seasons. I’m more sceptical about his merits. His popularity is primarily down to Sealiway who won a soft ground Champion Stakes in 2021 but whose trainers (Frederic and Cedric Rossi) are caught up in the ongoing French doping investigation. His next best progeny are Grp 3 winners Esope and Kenway. He also has a high class hurdler in Vauban. I simply can’t see the wisdom of paying €30,000 for him when you have a much better son of Galileo like Nathaniel standing for £15,000.
4. Almanzor €25,000 (€30,000) (2013 Wootton Bassett ex Darkova by Maria’s Mon)
Football Comparison: Hoping to hang on for extra-time to see if he can turn things around
An outstanding winner of the Prix de Jockey Club, Irish Champion Stakes and Champion Stakes, he was an exciting addition to the French stallion ranks. When his sire was sold to Coolmore, Almanzor was perfectly positioned as the heir apparent. Alas his first crop hasn’t set the world alight and he badly needs some top runners to emerge to remain relevant. He has no winners above Listed level in Europe although he does have some nice prospects. His yearling median fell back to €35,500 from more than double that amount. He still has some big crops waiting in the wings so he could yet turn things around but its odds against at this stage. He covered 129 mares this year but he will prove a harder sell for next year. It would have been better to shave some more from his fee as his star is waning.
5. Persian King €25,000 (€30,000) (2016 Kingman ex Pretty Please by Dylan Thomas)
Football Comparison: A nice prospect but not cheap
High class on the track, he won the Autumn Stakes at two, the French Guineas at three, and he was runner up in the Prix de Jockey Club. At four he won the Prix de Moulin and the Prix D’Ispahan at four and he stretched his stamina to finish a very creditable third in the Arc. He comes from a good Wildenstein family that includes Peintre Celebre under his 4th dam, Policy Maker under his third dam and Planteur under his 2nd dam. Covered 115 mares this year. He lacked the brilliant turn of foot of Kingman but he still rates an interesting prospect.
6. Mishriff €20,000 (na) (2017 Make Believe ex Contradict by Raven’s Pass)
Football Comparison: Should have looked to transfer a year earlier when he was hot property
Connections probably regret not retiring Mishfriff at the end of 2021. At that point, he was after annexing the Sheema Classic and the Saudi World Cup on Dirt. For good measure back on turf he won an International Stakes and he was just touched off in a King George to complement the Prix de Jockey Club he won as a three year old. It was an appealing story for the marketplace, a classic winner who could perform on turf or dirt and who had Rafha (dam of Invincible Spirit and Kodiac) as his 3rd dam. Keeping him in training as a five year old did nothing to improve his cv. His best effort in 2022 was a narrow defeat in the Eclipse. His sire Make Believe has also failed to sire anything else above Group 3 level and will be standing for his lowest fee of €10,000 for 2023. It will be interesting to see what level of support he attracts and I think he may struggle, despite his many fine attributes as a racehorse. Incidentally, It seems hard to believe that his foals will have the still active Dubawi as their great, great grandsire.
7. Hello Youmzain €22,500 (€25,000) (2016 Kodiac ex Spasha by Shamardal)
Football Comparison: : Could go either way -like a penalty shootout
A Grp 2 winner as a two year old in the Criterium de Maison Lafittes, he won the Sprint Cup at 3 and the Diamond Jubilee at 4. Sons of Kodiac have outperformed expectations at stud with Ardad, Coulsty and Kodi Bear doing well this. This fellow was Kodiac’s best performer on the track but for me he is a little pricey for an unproven sprinter. His distaff line has a lot more stamina influences than you might expect with his first three dams by Shamardal, Sadler’s Wells and Mill Reef respectively. It will be interesting to see if he is a pure influence for speed and precocity or if those other elements come through. He received 128 mares in 2022 and is likely to remain popular for the coming season.
8. Kendargent (€17,000 ) Kendor ex Pax Bella by Linamix
Football Comparison: A game of two halves and he hasn’t had a good second half
His first crop of 19 foals were conceived at a fee of €1,000. Despite such humble beginnings, his first crop included Group winners Restiadargent and Kendam. Given that Kendargent had never even won a Stakes race (he was placed 2nd in Grp 3 and 4th in Grp 1) it seemed like we were witnessing the emergence of an extraordinary and unlikely success story. His fee was hiked in the coming years to €22,000 and he started covering three figure books. However his progress stalled. To date, Skalleti is his only Grp 1 winner and Kendargent has sired just 38 Stakes winners (4%) from 873 foals of racing age. He has failed to deliver on that initial promise.
9. Goken (€15,000, €15,000) Kendargent ex Gooseley Chop by Indian Rocket
Football Comparison: Has come from the lower leagues and doesn’t look at home in the top flight
He has mirrored his father in many ways. Like Kendargent he was owned by Guy Pariente and he has a wonderful outcross pedigree. He was the first son of Kendargent at stud but he can boast a better race record than his sire, as he was a dual Group 3 winning sprinter and he was 3rd in a Kings Stand. He was retired at fee of €5,000 and like his sire he had a strong first crop of two year olds which saw his fee hiked to €15,000. His oldest runners were four in 2022 and his stakes winners include three Grp 3 winners and four Listed winners from 116 foals of racing age (6%). A yearling median of €18,500 doesn’t justify his current fee and he will need to start delivering more on the track.
10. Victor Ludorum €15,000 (€15,000 ) 2017 Shamardal ex Antiquities by Kaldounevees
Football Comparison: “When the seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea“- Eric Cantona
Victor Ludorum was popular with French breeders (the seagulls) covering 154 mares in his first season, so he will have lots of opportunities to succeed (sardines) 🙂 He was one of the three unbeaten Group 1 winning two year old colts by Shamardal in 2019 (along with Pinatubo and Earthlight). In the case of Victor Ludorum he won the Prix Jean Luc Lagardare and followed up at three in winning the Poule d’Eassi des Poulains. He was kept in training at four when he added a Grp 3 from 6 starts that year. He is from a predictably strong Darley family with Irish Oaks winner Helen Street (the dam of a very good sire in Street Cry and Grand-dam of Shamardal) as is his third dam (and Helen Street appears 3X3 courtesy of Shamardal). He is pitched at the same price as Earthlight and it’s probably reasonable for what he offers.
11. Zelzal €15,000 (€15,000 ) 2013 Sea the Stars ex Olga Prekrasa by Kingmambo
Football Comparison: More likely to be relegated than promoted
Won a Prix Jean Prat at three and was 3rd in the Prix de Moulin at four. Has sired a pair of Grp3 winners this year in Dolce Zel and Ouraika. He may have benefited from the successes of Baaed who is also bred on the Sea the Stars/Kingmambo cross. However this guy whilst not bad, is not Baaed either! In truth his tally of 3 stakes winners from 104 foals of racing age isn’t that impressive and I’m not sure the big hike in fee from €6000 in 2020 to €15,000 in 2021 was warranted. His yearling median this year was €13,000 and I think he is well overpriced.