140-A Useful Restriction?A Straw in the Wind?

At a time when people are complaining about lockdowns and restrictions, the Jockey Club of North America has introduced what could be an intelligent and helpful restriction. Limiting book sizes to 140 for stallions born during or after 2020 is a first step in regulating the market. It is surprising that the ultra-capitalist USA has intervened in the free market, whereas European countries don’t act. US racing is no exemplar having failed utterly to deal with its drug problem and it has serious welfare issues but this is welcome example of intelligent leadership coming from Trump’s America. Alternatively, maybe there is a secondary motive that is in line with Trump’s protectionist policies. It might not be a coincidence that ‘foreign’ owned Coolmore is likely to be most impacted by this change…..

Gradual Introduction:

The new rules only apply to foals born in 2020. That means it is unlikely to affect any new stallions until the 2024 breeding season.

To see its potential impact, I looked at the 2019 covering figures in the US. IN 2019, 46 sires in the US covered 140 or more mares (see table at end of this article) . If the 140 mare limit was imposed on all of those stallions then 1397 mares would have gone to alternative stallions . However, under the terms of the phased introduction it would have applied to just 4 stallions (Justify, Mendellsohn, Bolt d’Oro and Good Magic) who collectively covered 322 mares over the cap. If the logic is to help improve diversity in the gene pool, then it’s not going to transform the landscape dramatically. It is a small step in the right direction and the impact will increase over time.

Implications for Stallion Values

A decrease from 252 to 140 equates to a 44% reduction in mares covered for Justify and Mendellsohn. In absolute terms, had the cap been in force there would have been a notional loss of over $20 million to Coolmore (assuming these mares didn’t switch to alternative Coolmore stallions). Justify was standing for $150000, and based on 112 mares this equates to $16.8 million and for Mendelssohn at $35000 the loss would have been $3.9 million. The excess over the cap equates to $1.8 million for Bolt D’Oro (74 mares at €25000) and €840000 for Good Magic (24 @$35000).

It doesn’t automatically follow that their values or purchase prices would have dropped by 44%. They can still shuttle to the Southern Hemisphere where their earning potential will not be impacted. Stallions are typically less popular after their first season so the impact will be reduced in those years. Most stallions can only dream of attracting more than 140 mares so for the majority of stallions it will have no implications.

Coolmore’s Modus Operandi

In the past Coolmore could outbid rivals for stallions but still recoup the higher price through greater utilisation of those stallions (ie more mares covered). Coolmore usually recoup the majority of their investment in the initial years before the first runners arrive.

They can still outbid rivals but the ‘stack ’em high’ advantage will be gone, at least in the US (shuttle coverings won’t be impacted). The phased introduction of the cap, lessens the threat to Coolmore and they have time to adjust their purchasing decisions and pricing strategies for new recruits. I suspect, they would prefer if the cap wasn’t introduced but they will adapt to it’s introduction.

Implication for Genetic Diversity

The stated reason for the rule is to improve genetic diversity and to avoid the narrowing of bloodlines that we have witnessed in recent decades.

I think quotas are to be welcomed and the intervention is warranted. For 200 years, the unwritten cap on stallion books was 40 mares. It is only since the 1980’s that we have seen the relentless rise in what is considered acceptable. Given the multiple variables at play it is hard to definitively prove that larger books have damaged the soundness of the breed, as measured by starts per runner.

However, the lack of definitive proof doesn’t mean that nothing should be done. It is reasonable to suggest that a more prudent and precautionary approach should have been adopted. To me it makes sense to avoid situations whereby 1% of all US mares are bred to a single unproven stallion (as was the case with both Justify and Mendellsohn).

The Situation in Europe

The European regulatory environment is complicated by differing national laws and possible the need to comply with EU competition law. Changes could be implemented by industry agreement and self-regulation. Hopefully this US initiative may prompt debate and action on the issue.

In the National Hunt sphere there are some ridiculous book sizes, particularly amongst unproven sons of Galileo (see http://www.montjeu.com/1122/ for a full discussion on that issue). Ireland’s National Hunt breeding environment would benefit most from book size restrictions.

Conclusion

If this change was in effect in 2019 only 322 mares out of c.20,000 would have been redirected to other stallions. It is a modest initial intervention but a significant ideological shift and an acknowledgment that the market isn’t always right. It will hopefully spur other countries to act and follow the US example…

List of stallions covering more than 140 mares in 2019

StallionMares BredMares over capYear born
Justify2521122015
Mendelssohn2521122015
Into Mischief2411012005
Uncle Mo2411012008
Goldencents239992010
Bolt d’Oro214742015
Munnings202622006
Practical Joke200602014
Sharp Azteca195552013
Cross Traffic188482009
Klimt187472014
American Pharoah178382012
Mor Spirit176362013
Cloud Computing171312014
Kantharos171312008
Violence171312010
West Coast168282014
Accelerate167272013
Gun Runner166262013
Always Dreaming165252014
Good Magic164242015
Good Samaritan162222014
Candy Ride (ARG)161211999
Collected156162013
Nyquist156162013
Hard Spun155152004
Union Rags155152009
Quality Road154142006
Tapwrit154142014
Twirling Candy154142007
Cairo Prince152122011
Arrogate14992013
Girvin14992014
Kitten’s Joy14992001
Stay Thirsty14772008
Street Sense14772004
Uncaptured14772010
City of Light14662014
Frosted14442012
Mo Town14442014
California Chrome14332011
Mastery14332014
Speightstown14221998




Total74171397

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.

Shout It Out- we need Sunday Silence…

The two richest turf races on Dubai World Cup night were won by Just A Way (Heart’s Cry ex Sibyl by Wild Again) and Gentildonna (Deep Impact ex Donna Blini by Bertolini). Both Heart’s Cry and Deep Impact are sons of Sunday Silence whose dominance in Japan matched Sadler’s Wells in Europe and their sons Deep Impact and Galileo are now equally pre-eminent.

European breeding is urgently in need of some new options and it lacks even the limited diversity available in the US. Crossing and recrossing Sadler’s Well and Danehill surely can’t go on forever.
We have quickly seen the decline of sire lines such as Sharpen Up, Ahonoora, Busted and Blushing Groom. Nijinsky as an atypical Northern Dancer was to be welcomed but is almost gone. The bright spot that was the total outcross Monsun is perhaps likely to end up as a National Hunt influence as his sons are pushed into that space. Mill Reef’s influence is on the wane and the Roberto line is barely hanging on.
It would be nice to see some new options emerge and to me the failure of any major European stud to go all out for a top representative of the Sunday Silence line is surprising. Vita Rosa spent had a year at Lanwades without much support or success but Divine Light was a lesser son of Sunday Silence who still sired a classic winner in Natagora and Hat Trick sired Dabirisim before being moved to Kentucky. The Wildenstein’s sent their mare Bastet to be bred to Deep Impact and were rewarded with Beauty Parlour who won a French Guineas. Overall that is a good strike rate for the Sunday Silence line in Europe and it is not difficult to see a well credentialed sire backed by a major European stud making a major impact (a deep impact even 🙂 ) on the European scene.
Coolmore have done deals in Japan in the past (even Danehill spent a year there in 1996) and maybe they would consider swapping a top son of Galileo (how many do they need?) for a high class representative of the Sunday Silence line. Just a thought….

Can you have too much of a good thing?

Frankel’s first foal was born on the 11th of January.  The dam Chrysanthemum was a Group 3 winner trained by David Wachman for Coolmore connections. In truth, in terms of racing performance and pedigree Chrysanthemum was no more than a middle ranking member of Frankel’s stellar first book of mares.

However what is far more interesting is the pedigree cross it represents.  We are by now, well used to seeing variants of the  Sadler’s Wells (and sons) by Danehill cross , the cross that reached its pinnacle with Frankel himself. It has proved hugely successful with Galileo alone having sired  8 Group 1 winners out of Danehill mares. Chrysanthemum is by Danehill Dancer out of a daughter of Sadler’s Wells and it begs the question can you have too much of a good thing?

Sadler’s Wells and Danehill are the giant names of European breeding in recent decades. Coolmore achieved considerable success with the likes of Horatio Nelson (Danehill ex Imagine), Peeping Fawn (Danehill ex Maryinsky and Chevalier (Danehill ex Legend Maker) bred on this cross.  Given the number of high class broodmares they possess with both names in the pedigree it is perhaps unsurprising that they are considering doubling up what has worked in the past.

They would have been encourage by the results to date for Teofilo (Galileo ex Speirbhean by Danehill) who is similarly bred to Frankel. Teofilo has made a good start to his stud career highlighted by Group 1 success for Parish Hall  (ex Halla Siamsa by Montjeu) and Irish Derby success  with Trading Leather who is out of a Sinndar mare and thus has another cross of Danzig as does Voleuse Des Coeurs (ex Vadorga by Grand Lodge). This new foal is just gone a little further in terms of duplication.

This foal will have Sadler’s Wells 3X3, and Danehill 3X3.  In the first 6 generations Northern Dancer’s name appears 5 times and he appears once more in the 7th generation. Given that Danehill features 2 crosses of Northern Dancer’s dam Natalma, her name appears 8 times in the pedigree! If this was  a human we would be appalled, even if it was a pedigree dog we would be concerned yet when it comes to our friends the thoroughbreds we just think it’s interesting!  As regards the question, whether you can have too much of a good thing,  we will obviously just have to wait until he finishes his racecourse career to answer that one…

Frankel's first foal
6 generation pedigree

Hurricane on a run

Hurricane Run (Montjeu ex Hold On by Surumu) was his father’s truest son. I have never seen a better example of a horse whose career almost totally mirrored that of his sire. It is worth listing their respective careers from the time of the French Derby in the Summer of their three year old careers. 

Race  
Montjeu  
Hurricane Run  
Prix de Jockey Club 
1st 
2nd 
Irish Derby
1st 
1st 
Prix Niel 
1st 
1st 
Prix de l’Arc 
1st 
1st 
Japan Cup 
4th 
na 
Tattersalls Gold Cup 
1st 
1st 
Grand Prix de Saint Cloud 
1st 
2nd 
King George 
1st 
1st 
Prix Foy 
1st 
2nd 
Prix de l’Arc 
4th 
3rd 
Champion Stakes 
2nd 
3rd 
Breeders Cup Turf 
7th 
6th 

As you will see Hurricane Run ran in 11 of the 12 races that his sire contested- an incredible statistic. They differed in that Hurricane Run did not contest the Japan Cup at the end of his three year old season.  In addition their runs  in the French Derby are not entirely comparable as that classic was shortened in distance to 10 furlongs in 2005, a change that almost certainly cost Hurricane Run victory in that classic. However their careers are remarkably similar and at his peak Hurricane Run came within a few pounds of his sire. Timeform rated Hurricane Run at 134 as a three year old and 130 as a 4 year old compared to 137 for Montjeu at three and four. The hope at Coolmore is that he will achieve similar success as a sire. The good news for Coolmore is that his three year olds are stepping up considerably on their two year old form and he looks set for a good season.

First Crop 2 year old Results

Hurricane Run has 147 representatives in his current crop of three year olds. 18 of them managed to win as two year olds which was a creditable outcome. The best of last years runners was the filly Cochabamba (ex Bolivia by Distant View) who finished her campaign with a close second to Cape Dollar (Cape Cross ex Green Dollar by Kingmambo) in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes. Both of those fillies have genuine classic aspirations and to me represent good ante-post bets for the Oaks for which they are available at around 80-1 on betfair.

First Crop Three Year Old results

The table below shows the results for all of the three year olds by Hurricane Run to have raced in the UK so far this year. The races involved are low class affairs, mostly run on the all-weather but the results could hardly be much better. From 11 runs, there have been five wins, four seconds and one third an outstanding strike rate. In addition his early season result in France include Stakes placings for Don’t  Hurry Me (ex Beringold by Bering) and Kreem (ex En Public by Rainbow Quest). It was always to be hoped that his progeny would improve significantly with age and they seem to be fulfilling that promise. This time last year Dubawi started the season with a lot of early low grade winners and it proved a harbinger of an outstanding season and it will be interesting to see whether Hurricane Run can match his success.

Date
Track
Horse
Dam & Damsire
Pos.
Dist.
03/01/2011
Wolverh.
Roi de Boeuf
Princess Killeen by Sinndar
5th
9 f
08/01/2011
Lingfield
Hurricane Higgins
Mare Aux Fees by Kenmare
1st
10 f
17/01/2011
Wolverh.
Sheila’s Star
Yaselda by Green Desert
2nd
9 f
17/01/2011
Wolverh.
Roi de Boeuf
Princess Killeen by Sinndar
1st
9 f
26/01/2011
Kempton
Sheila’s Star
Yaselda by Green Desert
2nd
10 f
26/01/2011
Kempton
Roi de Boeuf
Princess Killeen by Sinndar
3rd
10 f
25/02/2011
Wolverh.
Barbican
The Faraway Tree by Suave Dancer
1st
9 f
26/03/2011
Lingfield
Viking Storm
Danehill’s Dream by Danehill
2nd
10 f
03/04/2011
Doncaster
Barbican
The Faraway Tree by Suave Dancer
1st
10 f
06/04/2011
Beverley
Pretty Diamond
Cheal Rose by Doctor Devious
1st
12 f
07/04/2011
Kempton
Swindy
Red Passion by Seeking the Gold
2nd
10 f

 Hurricane Run’s Pedigree

Hurricane Run was part of the sensational first crop of Montjeu that also included classic winning colts Motivator and Scorpion. To date we have little evidence of Montjeu’s prowess as a sire of sires, apart from the slightly disappointing Motivator. In his defence we should probably withhold judgement on Motivator as his stud career has been hampered by injuries. Hurricane Run’s dam Hold On was Listed placed and second dam Hone was dam of Group 2 winner Hondo Mondo (by Caerleon). However this is an unexciting female line, largely unfamiliar to UK & Irish breeders. This meant that despite his racecourse prowess Hurricane Run’s stud fee could not be set at more than €30,000 on his retirement. It remained at that level in his second season at stud but is listed as €15,000 for 2011.  It is interesting that Hurricane Run’s dam sire is the 1977 German Derby winner Surumu, who occupies the same place in the pedigree of outstanding German sire Monsun and decent sire Lomitas.

Conclusion

This is a critical year for Hurricane Run. He wasn’t expected to make a big impact with his two year olds and they performed respectably but not exceptionally. However the very early signs are that his progeny are coming into their own as three year olds.  It is hoped that just as he was almost a replica of his sire as a racehorse he may come to replicate his success as a stallion. If that comes to pass, his current fee of €15,000 will look like value.

HURRICANE RUN (IRE) 2002 c 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
Hold
On (GER) 1991
Surumu
(GER) 1974
Literat
(GER) 1965
Birkhahn
(GER) 1945
Lis
(GER) 1960
Surama
(GER) 1970
Reliance
(FR) 1962
Suncourt
(GB) 1952
Hone
(GB) 1974
Sharpen
Up (GB) 1969
Atan
(USA) 1961
Rocchetta
(GB) 1961
Lucy
(GB) 1966
Sheshoon
(GB) 1956
Laverock
(GB) 1961

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.

A vintage crop?

When we think of races involving horses that became successful stallions, the standout event is the 1984 French Derby that famously saw Darshaan defeat Sadler’s Wells and Rainbow Quest.  The 1996 July Cup won by Anabaa, had Danehill Dancer and Pivotal back in fifth and sixth places.  It is early days yet, but we might soon be adding races from the 2005 season to the above list as the likes of Dubawi, Shamardal,  Oratorio, Motivator and Footstepsinthesand were all in their classic year, whilst Azamour was enjoying a very successful four year old season. Arakan never competed against the aforementioned horses but he is also enjoying a good start with his first three year olds.

The above thoughts are prompted by the results of the French 2000 Guineas which resulted in a 1-2-3 for second season sires with Lope de Vega (by Shamardal), defeating Dick Turpin (Arakan ex Merrily by Sharood) and Shamalgan (Footstepsinthesand ex Genevale by Unfuwain). Following on from the classic successes of Dubawi’s offspring Makfi and Worthadd and some promising results for Azamour and Oratorio, it looks as if we have an unusually large number of promising sires coming on stream at once. It is much too early to be dogmatic about any of these sires but we can make some reasonable assumptions.

1. Arakan is the least likely to succeed. In one sense he has already surpassed expectations and he has sired a horse (Dick Turpin) of superior racing merit to himself. Arakan never won above Group 3 level despite being kept in training until the age of five, and as a son of Nureyev (who many regard with suspicion as a sire of sires) he didn’t immediately appeal as a likely sire success. The challenge will be to remain above the radar for the next few years until he can hopefully capitalise on the success of Dick Turpin.

2. Motivator has been plagued by bad luck. Injury restricted his first crop size and he has now missed the 2010 breeding season.  He had some promising two year olds last year notably Pollenator and Prompter and he seems capable of getting a decent horse but in a fickle market place he needs a big horse to appear quickly.

3. Azamour seems the best source of quality stamina at this stage. Despite being a son of Night Shift who sired more than his fair share of sprinters the early signs are that Azamours progeny will stay as well as he did himself. To date he has sired two Derby trial winners in Azmeel and Puncher Clynch. Eleanora Duse also ran well when a close third in the Musidora Stakes.

4.  Darley are currently outscoring Coolmore amongst the younger brigade.  The achievements to date of Dubawi outrank those of any of the other sires listed. Shamardal has also achieved more than  Coolmore’s Oratorio or Footstepsinthesand.  Coolmore will be hoping that Steinbeck can be the big horse that Footstepsinthesand needs, whereas Oratorio looks as if he has a good spread of possible top horses with Lolly for Dolly being a contender for the Irish Guineas and Fencing Master and Beethoven could add to last years achievements.  I doubt if they are panicking in Tipperary but it does seem to be a few years since they have added a real star to their roster.