10 things we’ve learnt so far this season

1. Havana Grey (Havana Gold ex Blanc de Chine (Dark Angel) is the real deal. This is a proper breakthrough sire who just had his first Group 1 winner with Vandeek (ex Mona Misa by Exceed and Excel) . Rags to riches sires are a rarity and he is following in the recent footsteps of his broodmare sire Dark Angel, along with Showcasing and Mehmas who all established themselves as quality sires of two year old and sprinter/milers. His current crop of two year olds includes Group 2 July Stakes winner Jasour (ex Twilight Thyme by Bahamian Bounty) and Group 3 winner Elite Status (ex Dotted Swiss by Swiss Spirit) . Encouragingly five of his three year olds have won Stakes races so they are also training on. He should go gangbusters at the sales and there will be no surprises if his fee deservedly reaches £40,000+ for next season.

2. Charlie Appleby and Dubawi: Charlie Appleby is 7th in the UK trainers championship and Dubawi is 6th in the UK & Ireland sire tables. These would be stellar results for most trainers and sires but with a stud fee of £350,000 more is expected of Dubawi. Similarly, having topped the table in 2022 and 2021 it is relatively slim pickings for Charlie. With so many of Dubawi’s offspring trained in Moulton Paddocks the two events are highly correlated. So is Charlie suffering because of a bad crop of Dubawi’s or is Dubawi struggling because of a stable that is not firing for whatever reason? It’s probably a little bit of both. Ironically, the best two year old by Dubawi seen so far this season is the Futurity Stakes winner Henry Longfellow (Dubawi ex Minding by Galileo) is on track to become the first son of Dubawi to stand at Coolmore whenever his career ends.

3. Sons of Dubawi : Dubawi has garnered a reputation as a sire of sires. Night of Thunder and New Bay were the poster boys and are clearly very good sires. Night of Thunder looks to have a potential new star in Vespertilio but New Bay has had a quiet season so far. Zarak continues to post excellent percentages but could do with a Group 1 winner. Time Test has gone cold and Postponed is facing the exit. Too Darn Hot (ex Dar Ra Mi by Singspiel) looked to be disappointing early in the season but he has come nicely to the boil in recent weeks with a pair of a Group winning fillies in Fallen Angel and Darnation. Too Darn Hot defied his pedigree by being so precocious and not improving with age so it will be interesting to see what road his progeny follow.

Incidentally, I think Dubawi’s most interesting and best value son may be Frontiersman (Dubawi- Ouija Board by Cape Cross) who stands for just £1,000 at Overbury. He was runner up in a Coronation Cup, has a pedigree to die for and has sired two decent flat winners from three runners this year. That’s a lot of pedigree and performance for a pittance compared with many speedier sires. Who knows what he might achieve with better support from flat breeders?

4. Kodiac and sons: For a number of years, Kodiac was the two year old sire par excellence. However, the rise of No Nay Never, Mehmas and now Havana Grey have changed the two year old landscape. The appropriately named Lowther winner, Relief Rally (ex Kathoe by Fayruz) showed he can still produce top two year olds and with the three year old Good Guess (ex Zykina by Pivotal) winning a Prix Jean Prat and Zarinsk winning three Group races he has had a decent season.

Many of Kodiac’s sire sons started their careers with a flurry and outperformed their fees. However, things have quietened down since then with Kodi Bear not building on his strong start, Ardad not following up on Perfect Power and Coulsty must await his bigger crops. Prince of Lir was sold to India before Live In the Dream’s success in the Nunthorpe, Adaay is modest and Kessaar hasn’t thrown much. He has a few more sire sons to come on stream, notably Hello Youmzain, but it might serve as another reminder not to get too carried away (in a positive or negative way) with the notion of sires of sires.

5. Frankel will comfortably reclaim the sires championship and is out on his own in Europe. His dominance will only increase in the next few years. Dubawi’s quiet year has removed any doubt about who is the best sire around.

6. Galileo– still a force to be reckoned with . A 1-2-3 for Galileo in the Yorkshire Oaks was like a step back in time. Sadler’s Wells success waned in his final crops but Galileo’s fillies are still top drawer. 100 individual Group 1 winners will happen.

First Season Sires: We are quick to condemn the hasty rush to judgement on sires, but that’s not going to stop me donning my judges wig..

7. Advertise (Showcasing ex Furbelow by Pivotal) : Coventry winner by Showcasing who trained on to win a Commonwealth Cup and Prix Maurice de Gheest. He has 103 two year olds conceived at £25,000. I thought he would be near the top of the first season sire table but he has made a really slow start with only 2 winners to date, particularly in contrast with another son of Showcasing in Soldiers Call.

8. Ten Sovereigns (No Nay Never ex Seeking Solace by Exceed and Excel) had big numbers (150 two year olds) and as a speedy son of No Nay Never, would have been expected to get off to a quick start. He has done reasonably well with two Stakes winners and 15 winners to date but it’s going to be a tricky to accommodate all of the sons of No Nay Never/ Scat Daddy on the Coolmore roster next year. Ten Sovereigns, Little Big Bear, Arizona, Blackbeard and Sioux Nation will all be vying for patronage so there may be some outward transfers.

Ahead of expectations:

9. Blue Point (Shamardal- Scarlett Rose by Royal Applause) improved with age so he wasn’t necessarily just going to be a sire of two year olds but he has done well with 29 winners so far and has a buzz about him. That said people might be getting a bit carried away as he does have 161 two year olds conceived at €45,000 to represent him.

10. Phoenix of Spain (Lope de Vega ex Lucky Clio by Key of Luck). Haatem has already provided him with a Group 2 winner. He has strong percentages of winnners/runners and his horses are improving as they move up in trip which augurs very well for this resident of the Irish National Stud. Expect a strong performance at the sales and he deserves a good support from breeders for next year.

Whitsbury Stud Fees 2023- After Due Diligence, what sires will be Showcased as havn’ a greyt price?

Whitsbury Stud were quick off the mark with their fees for 2023. The stud was founded by the bookmaker William Hill in the 1950’s and is now run by Ed Harper. Their website https://www.whitsburymanorstud.co.uk/index.html is surprisingly basic but they are fortunate that their stallions progeny are doing the business on the track and they don’t need flashy websites 🙂

Below is my assessment of their published fees for 2023..

Stallion 2023 fee (2022 fee)

  1. Showcasing £45,000 (£45,000)- (2007 Oasis Dream ex Arabesque by Zafonic)

Verdict: Slightly Overpriced

Showcasing retired for a fee of £5000 which was reduced to £4500 for the subsequent three seasons. As he now stands at ten times that price its fair to say he has greatly exceeded expectations. He is now well established in the top division of stallions on these islands.

He retired as the winner of the Gimcrack, he ran to a similar level when third in the Middle Park. As a three year old he was placed in Duke of York before flopping in his final two starts. He came with a typically strong Juddmonte pedigree and was a half brother to Camacho who has had his moments at stud from low fees.

His first crop included Cappella Sansevera and Prize Exhibit and his second gave him a Group 1 winner with Quiet Reflection and a Group 2 winner in Tasleet. There weren’t a lot of stars in his third and fourth crops but triple Group 1 winner Advertise led his 2016 crop and an even better horse in Mothaater followed in his 2017 crop along with Soldier’s Call. These sort of results saw his fee hit £55,000 in 2019 and 2020 before dipping back again to £45000.

In general he is a good sire of sprinters/milers, many of them precocious. For a relatively young sire who started at bargain basement fees, it’s surprising that he has five sons at stud (Capella Sansevera, Tasleet (who sired a Coventry winner in his first crop) and a trio yet to have runners in Advertise, Soldiers Call and Mothaater).

In 2002, Showcasing had plenty of success with his two year olds. Belbek won the Grp 1 Prix Jean Luc Lagardere and he was backed up by the Group 2 winning fillies Swingalong (Lowther Stakes) and Dramatised (Queen Mary). He has 77 yearlings sold this year for an average of £74000 and a median of £52,500. Given their conception fee was £55,000 commercial breeders weren’t covering costs. It seems that the market appreciates the merits of Showcasing but isn’t willing to pay silly money for his progeny. It is for this reason I rated him as slightly overpriced but he is undoubtedly a very useful sire.

2. Havana Grey £18,500 (£6000)- (2015 Havana Gold ex Blanc de Chine by Dark Angel)

Verdict: Bargain

Ed Harper is quoted as saying they thought long and hard about what fee to set for Havana Grey. To be fair it’s a tricky decision. He set a blistering pace in the first season sires championship with a very impressive 50% winners to runners (40 winners from 80 runners) , 5 stakes winners and 3 Group horses. The only slight reservation was the lack of a real superstar with no winners above Group 3 level and his highest rated horse being the 108 rated Eddie’s Boy.

This crop of two year olds was conceived off an £8000 fee. His fee dipped to £6500 and then £6000 for his third and fourth season. Doubtless breeders who patronized him then are delighted now. His 2022 yearlings sold for an average of £59000 with a median of £43000, which is a great result off a £6000 fee.

Havana Grey was a tough two year old running eight times highlighted by a win in the Molecomb and a runner up spot in the Prix Morny to Unfortunately. He ran a similar number of times at three and added the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes and the Group 1 Flying Five both at the Curragh. In third place in that Flying Five was Sioux Nation, his closest rival for the first season title.

Havana Grey’s pedigree is unremarkable. His sire Havana Gold is doing well but is still available at £12500. Blanc de Chine, his dam by Dark Angel has produced little of note and you need to go well back in the pedigree to find any real quality via Chain Store (dam of Al Bahathri).

It’s interesting to watch the change in stamina through the generations. Sadler’s Wells progeny had an average winning distance of 11.4f, Galileo 11.2f, Teofilo 10.8f, and Havana Gold’s is 7.8 furlongs . Havana Grey was best at 5 but ran well in the Morny over 6. This is a good example of the figures quoted by Emmeline Hill of Plusvital who estimated that there is a 50% reduction in T:T horses (stamina) in the general population and a 70% increase in C:C (sprinters).

I believe his 2023 fee is a bargain as for me his runners are greatly exceeding expectations across all metrics. Having 80 runners is hugely impressive from a crop of 116 foals (103 quoted in some reports). Having 40 winners already is hugely impressive. Having 5 stakes winners is impressive. When those results come from a fee of £8000 he gets extra kudos. We obviously don’t know yet whether his runners will train on but it’s encouraging that he trained on well. His subsequent crops will have slightly lesser books of mares so he may dip in terms of profile. However, I think all the signs are that this is a breakthrough sire in the mould of a Dark Angel or Mehmas. I was expecting a £25000 fee and for me he represents a very attractive risk/reward profile. I expect his fee to be comparable with Showcasing in another few years.

3. Sergei Prokofiev £6,000 (£6000)- (2016 Scat Daddy ex Orchard Beach by Tapit)

Verdict: Your guess is as good as mine

Cost $1.1 million as a yearling. He had his moments on the track notably winning a Cornwallis Stakes (Grp 3) and two Listed races but he was short of being top class. UK Breeders must believe that being a son of Scat Daddy is enough to guarantee success as he has attracted bumper books of 150+ in his first two seasons. The rise of No Nay Never and good starts by Sioux Nation and Justify support that theory.

I would be cautious as even the best sires of sires have plenty of dud sons and Scat Daddy isn’t at that level. Those big books though give him every chance to succeed and he could easily make his mark despite his lack of top class racing ability.

4. Due Diligence £5,000 (£5,000)- (2011 War Front ex Bema by Pulpit)

Verdict: Overpriced

A better racehorse than Sergei Prokofiev, he ran a huge race to be runner up in the Golden Jubilee. Whereas Sergei Prokofiev benefits from the reflected halo effect of Scat Daddy , Due Diligence suffers from the distaste that now exists for sons of War Front. Market prejudices may be irrational but commercial breeders cannot be oblivious to them. Due Diligence had a yearling median of just £7875 in 2021 but this recovered to £16275 in 2022. This was somewhat surprising as he had nothing decent emerge on the track in the year. His overall record is reasonable with 54 winners from 120 starters and 164 foals of racing age as he has struggled for patronage compared to some of his stud mates. To date he has 3 stakes winners led by a pair of Group 3 winners but its difficult to imagine him rising too far up the ranks.

For me the most interesting thing about this sire is his record with Compton Place mares. He has a pair of Group 3 winners in Good Vibes and Streamline ex Compton Place mares and his highest rated horse on Racing Post Ratings, Diligent Harry is out of a Compton Place mare. In total there are only seven foals of racing age bred on this cross so for nicks fans despite the small sample size this has got to be a really interesting option.