2022 was a disappointing year overall for Coolmore’s Irish sires. No Nay Never did well, but no other sire really enhanced his reputation. Coolmore lost their 30 year grip on the UK/Irish sires championship in 2021 and they seem unlikely to reclaim that championship anytime soon. Their best placings in the sires table were the irreplaceable Galileo in 4th and No Nay Never in 10th.
Ballydoyle was light on top three year old colts so the only addition to the roster was the temperamental two year old Bluebeard. The roster saw the departure of Highland Reel (to Japan) and Rock of Gibraltar (to horsey heaven) leaving a roster of 21 sires for next year. In terms of pricing, they were conservative with only minor tweaks. The best mares in Europe are now earmarked for Frankel/Dubawi/Sea the Stars/Siyouni rather than Coolmore sires, but Coolmore is still the destination of choice for a significant proportion of the Irish and UK broodmare band. .
Below is my assessment of their published fees for 2023, starting with the priciest sires.
Stallion 2023 fee (2022 fee)
1. No Nay Never €175,000 (€125,000) (2011 Scat Daddy ex Cat’s Eye Witness by Elusive Quality)
Verdict: Had a very good year but he is no Danzig
No Nay Never (NNN) was the real bright spot of the year for Coolmore. A stellar crop of two year olds conceived at €100k included three Group 1 winners in Little Big Bear, Blackbeard and Meditate and Group 2 winners in Aesop’s Fables and Trillium. The four year old Alcohol Free added the July Cup to her haul, so his offspring can also train on. MV Magnier was reported as saying his father was comparing NNN with Danzig. NNN is now 6% stakes winners to foals of racing age (45 stakes winners from 809 foals of racing age), a figure which will improve in time. In an era of much smaller books, Danzig sired 198 stakes winners from 1099 foals (18%) and almost 50 Grp 1 winners. No Nay Never has to date sired 7 Grp 1 winners so in truth the comparison is very much a case of wishful thinking. A closer comparison is probably Danzig’s son War Front (11% stakes winners) who also rose from a modest opening fee to the top ranks of sires.
I previously wrote that to justify his six figure fee he needed to produce 2-3 Group 1 winners each year. He succeeded admirably in that regard this year. He covered a book of 178 mares this year and 183 mares last year so he won’t be short of well bred representatives on the track in the coming years. Commercially he remains in the high risk category. Despite his results on the track, his yearling median this year was €153k- from a 2020 covering fee of €175k. Sprinters/two year olds are simply never going to attract the same blockbuster yearling prices as elite middle distance sires. Coolmore will be hoping that Little Big Bear will train on to become a Guineas winner as he will need to start producing classic milers to alter the perception of him as a two year old/sprinter sire. No Nay Never is going to be a big player for Coolmore/Balldoyle in the coming years but despite his qualities he is not attractively priced for outside breeders.
2. Wootton Bassett €150,000 (€150,000) (2008 Iffraaj ex Balladonia by Primo Dominie)
Verdict: Little upside at that price
Coolmore’s faith in No Nay Never was repaid on the track this season. Big money signing Wootton Bassett still has to deliver for them but he is being given huge support.
His first 8 crops led to 488 foals. In contrast, he has covered 249 mares in 2022 and 244 mares in 2021. It must have been a relief for Coolmore to see Al Riffa win the National Stakes as his dam is by Galileo and he has covered an abundance of Galileo mares in the past seasons. On the track, the supporting cast wasn’t that exciting with Group/Grade 2’s for Chindit and Speak of the Devil the best of them. His yearling median in 2022 was €150,000 which was a good out-turn for a crop conceived at €40,000. At €150,000 he will need to deliver 2-3 new Group 1 winners each year and produce classic contenders. He may well do so but I wouldn’t be rushing to invest at this stage as he is priced as if he has already delivered on the potential shown by his earlier crops.
3. St Mark’s Basilica €65,000 (65,000) (2018 Siyouni ex Cabaret by Galileo)
Verdict: a well credentialed but expensive gamble
Kept at the same fee for his second season after attracting 176 mares this year. He has lots to recommend him as a top class racehorse at two and three who won a Dewhurst, two French classics and a high quality renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes (albeit the stewards should have reversed the placings with Tarnawa in that race). He was a 1.3 million Guineas yearling and he is a half brother to Magna Grecia . With a strong book of mares he will be given every chance of succeeding but history tells us that most sires don’t live up to expectations. On the basis of historical probability rather than a reservation about his individual merits I would rate him as too risky at that price.
4. Camelot €60,000 (€75,000)- (2009 by Montjeu ex Tarfah by Kingmambo)
Verdict: Flatters to Deceive
There was a lot of expectation around Luxembourg this year but he had mixed year. He was 3rd in a Guineas, missed the Derby, won the Irish Champion Stakes and finished 7th in the Arc. He remains in training to embellish his record before presumably retiring to Coolmore for the 2024 season. In contrast Sammarco won the two German group 1’s with little fanfare. Waterville won a Ceaserwitch which wasn’t the plan early in the season when he was touted as a classic contender. That for me is the story of Camelot, he flatters to deceive a little- with horses like Sir Dragonet, Santa Barbara, Pink Dogwood and English King all disappointing in classics when fancied . His yearling median somehow reached €160,000 in 2021 before dropping back to €90,000 this year. I suspect the market may continue to cool on him in the coming years and he makes little commercial appeal at that price.
5. Starspangledbanner €50,000 (€35,000) (2006 Choisir ex Gold Anthem by Made of Gold
Verdict: Pricey given his black type percentages
His fee has risen steadily over the past five seasons from €15,000 in 2018 to a heady €50,000 next year. He has gone from being a value sire to an overpriced sire. He made his name as good sire of sprinters/two year olds but surprisingly his two Group 1 winners in 2022, Aristia and State of Rest both triumphed over 10 furlongs and he has just had a third group 1 winner in the Hong Kong Mile victor California Spangle. His fertility has improved markedly from his early days but his percentages have gone in reverse. He is now showing 25 Stakes winners from 722 foals of racing age, a rather modest 3%. His yearling median in 2022 was just over €60,000 which was a good return from a €22,500. However I’m not sure he will rise much further. He is a sire I liked and his recent Grp 1 winners are changing perceptions of him but the price increases were overdone.
6. Saxon Warrior €35,000 (€20,000) (2015 Deep Impact ex Maybe by Galileo)
Verdict: Interesting but overpriced
Victoria Road got up on the line to win the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf by a nose. I suspect if the photo finish had gone the other way, Saxon Warrior would be listed at 25k for next year and that would be a more realistic fee for him. He had three stakes winners with Grp 3 winners Moon Ray and Lumiere Rock joining Victoria Road. He also sired Gan Teorainn who was runner up in the Prix Marcel Boussac and was later sold for a cool million. In total he had 22 first crop winners which was a decent outcome given that his progeny can be expected to do better at three. His yearling median was just over €40k so the market wasn’t entirely bowled over by his first crop. He was an admirable horse winning a Guineas and Racing Post Trophy and losing out narrowly to Roaring Lion over 10 furlongs. His pedigree is top notch being a son of Deep Impact and his dam was a Moyglare winner so there is plenty to like about him but the price increase was overdone.
7. Churchill €30,000 (€25,000)- (2014 by Galileo ex Meow by Storm Cat)
Verdict: A poor sire despite Vadeni
Vadeni showed that Churchill can sire a really top horse. His two year olds included Prix Marcel Boussac winner Blue Rose Cen and Royal Lodge winner The Foxes. Yet despite those successes Churchill is not a good sire. He has covered huge books throughout his career – 211 mares in 2018, 214 mares in 2019, 250 mares in 2020, 198 in 2021 and 108 in 2022. His yearling median dipped slightly to €50,000 so the market hasn’t abandoned him yet. However his overall record (8 stakes winners and 96 winners) is far from impressive and for me he is one to avoid.
8. Sottsass €25,000 (25,000) (2016 Siyouni ex Starlet’s Sister by Galileo)
Verdict: Fairly Priced
Sottsass race record of an Arc, Prix Ganay and French Derby is impressive. His pedigree is impressive with the dam also producing 7 time Gr. 1 winner Sistercharlie and Gr. 1 placed My Sister Nat. St Mark’s Basilica is the more high profile son of Siyouni but at their respective prices Sottsass is better value.
9. Australia €25,000 (€35,000)- (2011 by Galileo ex Ouija Board by Cape Cross)
Verdict: Slightly overpriced (should be €20,000)
Had a new Grp 1 winner in Ocean Road and Nachtrose won the Oaks D’Italia. However, overall it was an underwhelming year on the track. At this stage in his career we have a fair idea of the true merit of Australia. He is a decent sire of 5% stakes winners but he has his limitations. He has covered 173 mares in 2022 and 162 in 2021 with many of these reportedly foal shares. His yearling median dropped back to €33k this year and I suspect he will struggle to regain the love of the commercial market.
10. Blackbeard €25,000 (na)- (2020 by No Nay Never ex Muirin by Born to Sea)
Verdict: Overpriced– Ten Sovereigns is better relative value
Ran 8 times and won 6 times including a pair of Group 1’s in the Prix Morny and Middle Park. He was an early two year old, debuting in April, winning a Listed race in early May and a Group 3 later that month. His dam Muirin won at two and was 4th in the Moyglare but never won again in five later career starts. Blackbeard cost 270,000 guineas as foal and following his exploits his sister cost an eye popping €2.6 million as a yearling. Blackbeard was also notably quirky (see video of his antics below https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JirvdmHzh84&t=9s) and it was hard to envision him improving his record at three. The fact that Little Big Bear was kept in training and Blackbeard retired is a good indicator of who they perceive as being the better horse/better prospect. Taking everything into account, I think he is well overpriced. If you really want to use a son of No Nay Never at Coolmore then Ten Sovereigns is standing at €17,500 and he was both a better horse than Blackbeard and he trained on at three.