Racing to the exit?

There is an unusual amount of negativity around racing at the moment with some even questioning its prospects of survival. Optimists will suggest that racing has survived world wars, depressions, recessions and all sorts of upheavals over the past 250 years and it will continue to do so. They are probably right but racing needs to get its house in order.

Below are ten issues and outline solutions to these problems. I will keep my thoughts on racings dreadful environmental record for another post…

1.Small field sizes– Recent stats have shown a reduction in field sizes (although they tend to be smaller in the Summer months regardless). This is more of a UK problem as the less congested Irish racing calendar sees greater demand for starting berths with balloting a regular feature of Irish racing.

Conclusion- fixable (eventually)

This needs

a)better race planning that matches race types to the abilities of the horse population.

b) Britain needs fewer races and to stop allowing the bookies to determine fixtures. The convuluted levy system has the tail wagging the dog when it comes to fixture setting.

c)Prize money and appearance money to offset travel costs could also help.

d) Breed sounder horses….. The reduced soundness of horses leads to a consistent decline on average starts per horse. Germany has a requirement that stallions were sound and never raced on medication (there is a good article on the subject at https://www.thoroughbredracing.com/articles/2147/country-where-stallions-who-have-ever-had-lasix-are-disqualified-breeding/ ) . In the UK and Ireland, breeders prioritise speed and precocity over soundness. We have a host of stallions in the UK and Ireland who do not transmit soundness yet attract three figure books of mares and breeders seem in thrall to first season sires..Racing insiders need to look in the mirror before blaming all of this issue on the fixture setters. When did you last see an advert for a stallion that referenced average runs per offspring? Breeders need to start breeding horses that are good for racing not just the sales ring….

2. UK levels of Prize Money

UK prize money is derisory and uncompetitive globally. It has been for decades. For most owners, horse racing isn’t an investment but a hobby. In terms of Government support, it is difficult to win an argument that more State supports should go to funding prize money for the relatively affluent. In Ireland the begging bowl/special pleading to Government has been more successful on the basis of the importance of the wider industry to the rural economy.

Conclusion: fixable but not readily.

There is no magic money tree to provide more funding for prizemoney- it needs to come from owners, bookmakers, media rights, racecourses or Governments-someone needs to pay more…The UK pie clearly needs to be resliced to see more directed to prizemoney from other stakeholders. No one wants to pay more and previous efforts at reform (in particular getting more from bookies under levy reform) have come up short. I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting change but an improved BHA could deliver on this front.

3. Interference Rules

The UK rules are not fit for purpose and encourage interference. There seems to be little risk of disqualification unless the margin is a head or less.

Conclusion: Easily fixed

Revised guidelines that give the benefit of the doubt to the victim of interference rather than the agressor. Disqualifications and severe penalties for dangerous riding will end this problem.

4. Whip concerns-

Animal welfare advocates view racing as cruel and the idea of using a whip on horses is abhorrent for them. Rebranding as a ‘pro-cush’ sounds daft to many horse folk, but it’s being done to placate a different audience who could do long term damage to racing. Most racing people are perhaps unaware of how some animal welfare groups portray racing on social media (see for example https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/horse-racing/ ) . This is the accepted narrative for many non-racing people. Some US legislators seem open to greatly restricting racing and its worth remembering that greyhound racing (a comparatively similar industry) is now banned in 42 US states over welfare concerns.

Conclusion: Fixable-

It may seem like capitulation to the ‘enemies’ of racing but racing will have to seriously consider banning the whip or restricting its use exclusively to circumstances where a safety issue is involved for jockeys (controlling a wayward horse). From a PR point of view, the whip is ironically a big stick with which to beat racing. Racing will adapt without the whip and life will go on…

5. Declining Attendances-

Lots of tracks have shown declining attendances post Covid. Racing struggles to attract a younger audience and is still predominately a white male sport (pale, stale and male)…

Conclusion: Fixable

There have been lots of reports, marketing plans, committees, taskforces in various countries on this issue. It is a marketing issue- there is a good product (if rip off prices, poor catering, toilet facilities etc are resolved) and racing is a fascinating sport on many layers that can absorb and entertain. There is a glamour and aspirational element to racing that should be utilised and gambling is part of the attraction for many. I wrote about the poor effort at marketing the Irish Derby https://www.montjeu.com/saving-the-irish-derby/ but there are other examples of what can be done to reverse the slide such as https://www.racingpost.com/news/more-than-4000-at-downpatrick-in-midweek-so-what-are-they-doing-differently/568067 . Incidentally, I think the fact that children are no longer allowed to bet on the tote (whilst undertandable) has removed the gateway that started many peoples interest in racing…Bring back underage gambling – it never did us any harm:)

6. Reduced number of trainers– There has been an ongoing reduction in the number of licensed trainers in Ireland. There were 805 trainers in 2007 and we now have 577 (363 public licence and 214 restricted licence). This in itself may not seem like a concern but a wider spread of stables and trainers allow more people exposure and access to racing.

Conclusion: Not so easily fixed.

The desire to send horses to big name trainers means owners are eschewing the smaller trainers who can provide a real personalised service and behind the scenes access. In Ireland we have an unhealthy concentration of resources between Mullins/Elliott in the NH sphere and the O’Briens on the flat. It might be anti-competitive but regulators could look at having a maximum number of horses allowed per stable. The growing concentration of resources with a smaller pool of trainers for me is like the takeover of the retail scene by the multiples and not something to be welcomed.

7. Staffing Issues

Most trainers are lamenting the lack of competent staff, particularly work riders

Conclusion: fixable but not easily

There is no magic wand to suddenly find hundreds of capable and committed stable staff and riders. Accommodation issues compound the problem. Staff shortages are not unique to racing but are now apparent in most service industries. Trainers have improved staff conditions and there is a notable upturn in the wages available but it hasnt solved the problem. Staff can point to anti-social hours and weekend work, the physically demanding nature of the work and the general lack of career progression opportunities which are areas that can be worked on. Stable design and process changes could improve efficiencies as basic stable mucking out and feeding regimes are still labour intensive and little changed in centuries. In the short term bringing in overseas workers seems the only solution and this needs a political will to issue lots of working visas for stable staff. That should be interesting with the current anti-immigration hysteria so prevalent in UK politics..

8. Regulatory/ Structural Issues

In Ireland we still have the private gentlemans club that was the Turf Club (rebranded as the IHRB) running many aspects of Irish racing. It takes large chunks of State funding but is not subject to Freedom of Information legislation and is largely unaccountable. It should be absorbed into the HRI as a first step towards transparency and accountability. I don’t know enough about the BHA to comment on its performance but I’m assuming it is not as bad as Twitter users state but open to improvement on a number of fronts. Racing needs competent leadership in the HRI and BHA and I haven’t seen anything inspiring in either jurisdiction in recent years.

9. Welfare Issues

Images of mistreated/emaciated former racehorses are obviously hugely damaging to the industry. A proper system for rehoming horses needs to be put in place.

Conclusion: fixable but not easily

Animal welfare standards in racing are in general exceptionally high. Animal cruelty cases are rare and not condoned by anyone in the industry. Blanket Veterinary restrictions on racehorses being sent to abbatoirs cause problems with horse disposal. We need to look at how to deal with horses no longer suited to racing or breeding . There have been excellent initiatives involving the retraining/ rehoming of horses and these need to be properly supported. As an occasional syndicate member, I always hope that former horses end up in good homes but it would be preferable if there were a proper industry scheme guaranteeing a proper home for any ex-racehorses. This can be funded by a levy on owners/breeders or perhaps voluntarily supported by one of the super rich people who inhabit the sport. If 3,000 horses were supported each year at a keep cost of c. €5,000 each that would be €15 million per annum which should be fundable by the industry given the importance of this issue in emotional and welfare terms.

10. Drugs/Doping

The biggest single issue threatening the integrity of the sport. The media may have moved on after Jim Bolger’s comments shone a spotlight on the issue but it is still unresolved and corroding the sport. The circling of the wagons and the lack of support given to Jim by his fellow trainers and industry figures was dispiriting. Nothing to see here- please move on seemed to be the wish of many old and young farts in the industry. Doping is not a new phenomenon nor is it unique to horse-racing. Athletics, baseball, tennis and especially cycling seem to be unable to rid themselves of drug cheating. US racing has an even bigger problem as its training regime rely on the use of a range of medications regardless of medical need eg Lasix. The evidence revealed in the Servis and Navarro cases showed the ease with which designer and undetectable drugs were available . Why does anyone believe in Irish (or UK) horse racing exceptionalism? There are the same incentives to cheat as elsewhere, the drugs can be relatively obtained and in many cases they cannot be detected. Why wouldn’t a trainer use them? Why wouldn’t a breeder or consignor give hormones to a yearling to ensure a better price at the sales ring? In both cases you would be very unlucky to be caught and you can usually escape meaningful penalties by blaming inadvertent use/ a mix up of medications or getting your vet to take the rap.

Conclusion: Not fixable but can be improved

Over the past decades we have had eGH (equine growth hormone) EPO, cobalt, milkshakes, micro dosing and God knows what else.The cheaters are usually ahead of the regulators and testers. By the time testing is in place for something, the cheaters will have moved on or developed masking techniques. Our regulators are stuck in a misguided belief that by simply doing more tests, they are doing their job. In truth they will most likely just get more negative results as the testing regime is limited in what it can reveal. An alternative approach is needed, based as much on human psychology as pharmacology.

Catching people requires better information and targetting. Unscrupulous vets and some alternative practitioners (such as John Warwick) seem central to some of the cases that have been uncovered.

A) Cutting out this element of the supply chain would be a huge win.

B) Target trainers who utilise these vets.

c) Target trainers who have sudden changes in strike rate or abnormal strike rates.

d) Look for protocols with the veterinary regulators that would see vets struck off for the inappropriate supply of medications.

e) Look for patterns of horses going for long lay offs.

f) Introduce a focus on non race day testing.

All of these changes should help but I fear they won’t be enough.

If you are serious about stopping it, you need better information. Its difficult to see the Gardai in Ireland or UK police (who haven’t a good record in racing investigations) devoting resources to surveillance or indeed having the powers that allowed the FBI to catch Servis et al.

g) Racing needs to put in place financial incentives to counteract the incentives to cheat. A large bounty (€50k+) for each conviction should incentivize some to blow the whistle on what they may know or have witnessed. The culture of omerta might start to crumble. It would be the best few million that the sport could spend. As Mark Twain said ‘two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead’ and there are nearly always other actors involved.

h) The different forms of doping need different approaches. Doping to lose (nobbling) is relatively rare although in Ireland we are still waiting on CCTV in stable areas ?

Therapeutic use of medication and pain killers is often legitimate and necessary but sometimes abused. Our testing regime only seems good at catching people who made a mistake over the correct withdrawal period for medication.

i) Where our regime falls short is in detecting performance enhancing drugs that are only detectable for a very short window but which leaves long term benefits to the horse in terms of muscle mass or endurance. You can’t test every horse on every day so information is key to dealing with this problem…

‘Saving’ the Irish Derby…

Alan Sweetman is proposing that the Irish Derby should become a 10 furlong race. He argues that it is now a diminished sporting and social occasion. He is right that it is a diminished occasion. He is wrong that dropping the distance by two furlongs will address the problems. The main problems with the Irish Derby lie with the Curragh management. They spent €80 million redeveloping the Curragh but don’t know how to attract crowds.

The Irish Derby as a social occasion has completely lost its way. As a student, I remember attending when it gave those of us in baggy jumpers a chance to admire the well heeled and beautiful. It was the Irish Royal Ascot a place to be seen. That reputation is now gone. Over the past decades we have seen the Irish Derby flip flop between Saturday and Sunday slots and between day time and evening post times. What did all that tinkering achieve?
It was a further mistake to run the Derby at the Curragh during the redevelopment phase. The temporary facilities were more akin to a point to point. It cheapened the brand. When the Curragh reopened, we had long queues that led to a lousy customer experience. Then Covid came along and crowds were banished. The memory of the Irish Derby as a must attend event became even hazier..
Getting the crowds back should have been the priority. Instead Brian Kavanagh stated that €50 is a reasonable admission fee. He argued that it was cheaper if it was booked in advance- so that’s alright then.. Brian should be told that you can charge those premium prices for a premium event but its now just a race with no social element. They are soaking die hard racing fans. They don’t know how to appeal to racing savvy customers or the fashionable set looking for a social occasion.
The Melbourne Cup is a must attend/must watch event despite being a two mile handicap. Crowds attend Listowel and Galway because of the atmosphere- everyone goes because everyone goes. The Curragh management need to get crowds and atmosphere back to Derby. They seem clueless as to how to do so. The great race is not in good hands.

Champions Weekend at the Curragh and Leopardstown have outstanding cards and struggle to breach 12,000 attendees each day. I would like to see tweaks to the cards on Derby Day but realistically these changes will only appeal to a small racing cohort. There is no such limit on what a popular well marketed social event could attract.


The race itself should not be dropped in distance. Dropping the distance will make no material difference to attendance figures and will be throwing away a century of tradition. We have a well earned reputation for producing outstanding middle distance horses and yet its being proposed that we abandon our only Group 1 for colts over 12 furlongs! International participation may have waned in the past two decades but we lived through an unprecedented period of Ballydoyle dominance. Galileo drove much of that domination and that (boring) domination is now over and we can expect competition to increase and return.

Change because of a few unremarkable winners isn’t a good policy. Serpentine, Anthony Van Dyck, Wings of Eagles won Epsom Derbies between 2017 and 2020. You could just as easily argue that the Epsom Derby is finished based on those results…It’s not finished just as there is nothing fundamentally wrong with a 12 furlong mid Summer Irish Derby, that showcases the best of Irish breeding and training.

The Irish National Stud Accounts: Notes to Note

The 2020 accounts of the Irish National Stud can be viewed at https://irishnationalstud.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/INS-CONSOL-FY20-Financial-Statements.pdf .

The accounts themselves don’t contain too many surprises but there are a few interesting revelations contained within the notes to the accounts:

  1. The Directors of the Stud during that period included Jessica Harrington and Mark Weld. They were each paid €8,100 for attending 5 meetings- so it’s a nice gig. As the above note shows, Jessie Harrington and Dermot Weld were selected to train horses owned by the INS in 2020 or 2019. Jessie and Mark Weld may have excused themselves from the deliberations regarding the selection of trainers but it’s a situation that should be avoided. A new policy should be introduced that Board members or their families are precluded from training horses of the stud. It might also be worth asking what tendering process was undertaken before deciding that the best trainers happened to be those sitting at the Board table? The amounts involved are small in the overall context of the stud but the optics in terms of ‘insiders’ are not good…

The INS could go a step further and deliberately place horses with smaller trainers/regional trainers/younger trainers. The trainers used should be rotated every few years. The loss of a few horses isn’t going to impact on a Dermot Weld or Jessie Harrington but it would be a nice boost for someone at an earlier stage of their career.

2. The stud has received a derogation from the Dept of Agriculture to avoid listing the number of employees by salary bands, which is not good practice and should be reviewed. This is the same evasion as practiced by the IHRB and prevents proper scrutiny of the appropriateness of the management structure and payscales.

3. On a positive note, the salary of the Chief Executive Cathal Beale is fully disclosed as is a requirement under the Code of Practice for Commercial State Bodies. This salary amount might attract outrage on Liveline (an Irish chat show in which the callers complain about everything) but it doesn’t seem outlandish for the role and for someone who has brought some energy to the role.

Casting an Expert Eye over the Juddmonte Sires…

If you’ve waited with Bated Breath, for me to cast my Expert Eye over Frankel to check if he is now the King-Man of European stallions, well you are in for treat. This is no mirage or Oasis Dream, this is my review of the Juddmonte sire fees for 2022… 🙂

1.Bated Breath £15,000 (£12,500) (2007 Dansili ex Tantina by Distant View)

Verdict: Overpriced

He was unraced at two, a progressive handicapper at three, before coming into his own at four and five. He won the Group 2 Temple Stakes and was four times a runner up in Group 1’s. Dansili’s progeny having an average winning distance of 9.7f and his dam produced 9 furlong Group 1 winner and underrated sire Cityscape, but this fellow was a pure sprinter equally adept at 5 and 6 furlongs.

His record to date isn’t particularly exciting. He stood at £8,000 for his first two seasons and has gradually crept upwards to reach a new peak of £15,000 for 2022. A lot of his success is in the US with Gift List and Viadera both notching Grade 2’s in 2021 and Space Traveller being Grade 1 placed. In Europe, Sacred Bridge looked like a potential superstar for Ger Lyons but she flopped when favourite for the Cheveley Park . To date, despite 6 crops having run and mostly 3 figure crops, he has a solitary Group/Grade 1 winner in Viadera. His tally of 20 stakes winners from 619 foals of racing age is a modest 3%. There are better value options on both sides of the Irish sea….

2.Expert Eye £10,000 (£12,500) (2015 Acclamation ex Exemplify by Dansili)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

Entering his fourth season at stud so he will have his first runners next year. He finished his career with a record that included wins in the Vintage Stakes at two, and a Jersey Stakes and a Breeders Cup mile at three. His final tally showed five wins and three places from 10 starts. His Breeders Cup mile wasn’t the best running of that contest and in truth, he was a little short of being a truly top miler (well beaten in the Guineas, 2nd in the Sussex to Lightning Spear and 3rd in the Moulin to Recoletos).

On the plus side, he comes from a typically deep Juddmonte family and Acclamation’s reputation as a sire of sires has grown again now that Mehmas has joined Dark Angel as a successful sire-son.

Using any fourth season sire is a risky strategy, but I think he is reasonably priced for the package on offer..

3.Frankel £200,000 (£175,000) (2008 Galileo ex Kind by Danehill)

Verdict: Good Value

Had a stellar year in 2021, ending Galileo’s reign as champion sire in GB/Ireland and also topping the table in Europe. He was represented by Derby winners in Adayar and Hurricane Lane, top fillies in Alpinista and Snow Lantern, a classic prospect with Inspiral and enjoyed a season total of 8 Group 1 winners (2 of them in Australia). He now has 83 stakes winners from 791 foals of racing age. This equates to 10.4%, which is very impressive in the modern era.

The future looks even brighter for Frankel. Just as Galileo replaced Sadler’s Wells as the sire of choice for elite mares, Frankel is now poised to assume that role. Dubawi will be 20 next year and access to him is likely to be increasingly restricted. With longevity, Frankel looks well set to add a few more championships to his record. There are still many gaps in his cv (Guineas winners, top two year old colts etc ) but we can expect these to fill in over time. Noble Truth (by Kingman) finished 2nd in the Prix Jean Luc Lagardere to give rise to expectations that he will make his mark as a broodmare sire as well.

How to assess his fee? His yearling median was ‘only’ £241,500 (Dubawi’s was £446,250) but he is now entering a price point well beyond the typical commercial breeder. Given the year he enjoyed, I expected a bigger hike than £25k. He may only be an option for the super-rich for whom price is less of a consideration but he is a relative bargain at the price…

4.Kingman £150,000 (£150,000) (2011 Invincible Spirit ex Zenda by Zamindar)

Verdict: Fairly Priced…

Had a good year with 20 stakes winners. Palace Pier added 3 new UK Grp 1’s, Domestic Spending won two Grade 1’s in the US and Schnell Meister won a Grp 1 in Japan. In addition, he had 6 Grp 2 winners, 4 in the States, 1 in Japan and Kinross in the UK.

Kingman’s success to date has been based on his initial crops conceived at £55k. There will be 149 two year olds bred at £75k to run in 2022 and his £150k crops will follow. Despite being a young sire, he will have 5 sons at stud in Europe next year (Palace Pier, Persian King, Calyx, Roseman and Headman).

Commercially, his yearling median dropped to £178,500 from £236k in 2020. That however is still a good return off a £75k cover. His percentage of black type winners is currently running at 9% (43 from 474 foals) and those figures deservedly place him amidst the elite European sires.

With the retirement of Palace Pier, he could do with a new star emerging in Europe. Kingman is not cheap at his current price, but it’s reasonable to assume that he will capitalise on his better and bigger books of mares (116 of the 178 mares he covered in 2020 were elite mares) and on that basis he is probably reasonably priced.

5.Oasis Dream £20,000 (£20,000) (2000 Green Desert ex Hope by Dancing Brave)

Verdict: Good Value..

Now entering his 19th season at stud, the National Stakes & Dewhurst winner Native Trail showed he can still produce a top horse. The supporting cast was not as impressive but there were 3 other Group winners and a total of 8 stakes winners in the year.

He now has lifetime figures of 127 stakes winners from 1631 foals of racing age, which is a very respectable 8%. His yearling median was £69,300 off a covering fee of £30,000 which is also a healthy return.

He has also done respectably as a broodmare sire with 65 stakes winners produced by his daughters to date. He has a good sire son in Showcasing, along with his share of disappointments as well (Arcano, Morpheus, Naaqoos, Muharrar etc). He won’t be around forever and assuming his fertility remains strong, he represents very good value as a proven, reliable sire.

Final Word/Future of Juddmonte/What is it worth?

Khalid Abdullah died in January 2021 casting in doubt the future of the Juddmonte operation. In a statement, the family committed to continuing his legacy but there does not seem to be an obvious successor with the same interest as Prince Khalid. If there are any multi-billionaires looking to buy a seat at the very top table a lock, stock and barrel purchase of Juddmonte would be an excellent place to start. There are plenty of precedents for such moves. In 2008 Sheikh Mohammed paid $460 million for the Inghams operations in Australia and the Aga Khan purchased the Dupré, Boussac and Lagardére bloodstock interests. Juddmonte would be a step up again for any purchaser. It’s interesting to speculate on what it might cost. The broodmare band comprises some 200 mares including the likes of Enable. If we took an average mare value of £400k that would equate to £80 million (a snip). Valuing the stallions is obviously tricky but if we took 500 times their combined stud fees we get a figure of around £200 million with almost all of that accounted for by Frankel and Kingman. This will have to be reduced if there are substantial breeding rights held by third parties. Add in another £100 million or so for the land, yearlings and racing stock and there is a deal to be done for little more than the cost of a struggling Premier League club such as Newcastle… Someone should go for it…..

Tally-Ho Stud- leading the chasing pack?…

Coolmore and Darley dominate the Irish flat stallion ranks and there is quite a gap back to the chasing pack. Tally- Ho stud has made significant progress in recent years and now has claims to be the ‘best of the rest’ in terms of their stallion roster. Their roster would be even more impressive if they hadn’t prematurely lost Red Clubs and Society Rock.

The stud was founded by Tony and Anne O’Callaghan (a sister of John Magnier). They are commercially astute and know how to maximise their assets. The covering figures for 2021 illustrate that point with Mehmas covering 292 mares, Kodiac 239, Inns of Court 184 and Cotai Glory 113…. A portion of these numbers can be accounted for by foal shares and their own band of mares but they are also clearly very good at sourcing, pricing and making stallions that the market desires.

Below is my review of the seven stallions on their roster for 2022.

1.Cotai Glory €8,500 (€5,000) (2012 Exceed and Excel ex Continua by Elusive Quality)

Verdict: Overpriced (slightly)

Stayed in training until he was five and retired with a record of 4 wins from 30 starts. He never won above Group 3 level although he did everything but win the Flying Childers (Grp2), as he swerved and unseated his jockey just before the line. He was also only beaten a neck by Profitable in the Kings Stand as a four year old. He cost 75,000 guineas as a yearling which was below the median for Exceed and Excel that year and indicates that he comes from a relatively ordinary distaff line.

He retired at €6,000 and had 126 foals in his first crop. At the time of writing he has had 84 runners and 34 winners headlined by Atomic Force who won the Grp 2 Prix Robert Papin. He also had an Italian Listed winner and Eldrickjones who was runner up in the Coventry. His good results on the track saw his yearling median jump from €10,894 to €29,216. There are quite a few sons of Exceed and Excel all at stud for under 10k including Bungleinthejungle, Buratino, Kuroshio, James Garfield and Burwaaz. The expectation with them is that they will produce speed and precocity and these are popular traits in the market. Cotai Glory has delivered so far and to be fair, his results warranted a price increase and his yearling median did likewise. My slight quibble is that although he got plenty of winners, I’d have liked to see a bit more quality. He has a smaller crop of two year olds for 2022 (69) and I’m not sure he will still be as in demand when selling yearlings in 2024.

2.Galileo Gold €7,000 (€5,000) (2013 Paco Boy ex Galiciux by Galileo)

Verdict: Good Value

I thought he had an excellent first crop that exceeded expectations. Ebro River won the Phoenix Stakes, Oscula who cost just €4,000 as a yearling won a Grp 3 and System won a Listed race. In addition, there were 3 other horse who picked up placed black type. At the time of writing his record stood at 24 winners from 61 runners from a total crop of 108 foals conceived off a €15,000 opening fee. He will have a smaller second crop of 62 two year olds in 2022 conceived at €10,000.

His sales returns rebounded after his first crop success with his yearling median increasing from €16,350 to €26,240.

Galileo Gold won the Vintage Stakes at 2 (Grp 2) but was better at three winning the Guineas on his reappearance and later adding a St James Palace. He was kept in training at four but he managed only one disappointing start in the Lockinge.

The big concern about Galileo Gold was his pedigree or more particularly his sire Paco Boy . Paco Boy was banished to Turkey and with only 3% stakes winners no tears were shed at his departure.

Galileo Gold’s female line is solid. He is out of a Galileo mare and Goldream is under his second dam. His fourth dam is Floripedes, the dam of Montjeu.

Paco Boy didn’t stop Galileo Gold being a top class horse and he doesn’t seem to be stopping him as sire. I think he is underrated and represents good value.

3.Inns of Court €5,000 (€5,000) (2014 Invincible Spirit ex Learned Friend by Seeking the Gold)

Verdict: Undecided

A useful sort from 5 furlongs to a mile, he won his only start and two, stood up to 4 seasons of training and compiled a decent looking record of 7 wins and 7 places for 18 starts. His best runs were probably when just touched off in the Prix Jacques le Marois (8f) as a three year old and in the Prix de la Foret (7f) as a four year old. He won the Prix du Gros-Chene (Grp 2) over 5 furlongs as a five year old so he was clearly versatile regarding trip. His female line is good, with his grand-dam Lune D’Or winning the Premio Lydia Tesio when it carried Grp 1 status and she in turn was dam of top class Japanese performer Fierment.

There are no shortage of sons of Invincible Spirit to choose from in Europe (19 listed on stallionguide.com). Invincible Spirit is described as a successful sire of sires based on Kingman and I Am Invincible in Australia but he has had his fair share of disappointments as well (Born to Sea, Charm Spirit, Shalaa) and others who were somewhere in between (Lawman, Mayson). Just as it would be a mistake to dismiss Galileo Gold because of Paco Boy, it would also be a mistake to assume a son of Invincible Spirit will succeed. I certainly don’t think as an unproven sire he warranted 184 mares this year but arguably such demand shows he is competitively priced.

 4. Kessaar €5,000 ( 5,000) (2016 Kodiac ex Querulous by Raven’s Pass size 15.3h

Verdict: Fairly Priced

Retired at the end of his two year old career. He ranks as one of the better sons of Kodiac on the track winning the  Grp 2 Mill Reef Stakes and the Grp 3 Sirenia Stakes. His overall record was three wins from 7 starts and he was 4th on his only run in a Grp 1 (the Criterium International).

Sons of Kodiac are very fashionable right now with Ardad, Kodi Bear and Coulsty all delivering good results and he does seem to have a better strike rate with his sons than many other sires (including the previously mentioned Invincible Spirit). This may account for Kessaaar’s yearlings selling well in 2021 with a median of €28,152 off an €8,000 initial fee. Kessaar will have his first runners in 2022 so there is added risk/potential reward to using him next year . He come from an unremarkable female line but so are many of the early sire sons of Kodiac. If you think he is going to be the next son of Kodiac to out-perform then the fee he probably represents a fair bet at the price.

5. Kodiac €65,000 ( €65,000) (2001 Danehill ex Rafha by Kris size 16. 0 1/2h

Verdict: Overpriced

The Kodiac story/fairytale is well known now. He never won a stakes race, raced until he was five and only got his chance at stud because of the first crop success of his half brother Invincible Spirit. He started at €5,000 and was available at €4,000 in his third and fourth seasons. Despite this, he has become the golden goose that has brought Tally-Ho stud to new heights. He is an ultra reliable sire of two year old winners and he is now acquiring a reputation as a sire of sires. He has attracted very large books at €65k since 2019 and €50k since 2017.

The downside is that his percentages are not great for a horse at his fee. He has now had 1586 foals of racing age and 77 Stakes winners, working out as a modest 5%. His tally of only 6 Group 1 winners is underwhelming and to me he has plateaued despite getting better mares. Commercially, if anyone is paying the list price and not on a foal share then there is not a lot of profit in him at his listed fee. His yearling median was €92,850 in 2021 but was only €54,766 in 2020. He will be 21 in the next covering season and I would have thought something around €50k would be more appropriate at this stage.

6. Mehmas €50,000 ( €25,000) (2014 Acclamation ex Lucina by Machiavellian size 16.0 h)

Verdict: Overpriced

He stood at €7,500 in 2020 so the hike to €50,000 tells you that he has made a very impressive start to his stud career. He has obvious parallels with Dark Angel, both being by Acclamation out of Machiavellian mares and retired at the end of their two year old career. Dark Angel won a Middle Park (Grp 1) and Mill Reef Stakes (Grp 2) , Mehmas won the Richmond and July Stakes (Grp 2) and was third in the Middle Park. Comparing stats and accounting for book sizes, Mehmas has made a more impressive start. He has two Grp 1 winners in his first crop (Supremacy and Going Global) and an impressive 12 Stakes winners from the 141 foals in that crop. He has continued the good work with his two year olds of 2021 which included three Grp 2 winners (Lusail, Malvath and Caturra) .His yearlings median in 2021 jumped to €65,242 a great return off a €10,000 fee.

He has a smaller crop of two year olds next year 57 foals so his star may dim a little . I thought he deserved a chunky hike but felt that €40k might have been better. Commercially the massive/excessive crops (292 mares covered this year ) are bound to have an impact at the sales and I don’t see huge upside at his €50k price. To move to the next level commercially he will have to start showing he can get classic prospects rather than just two year olds/sprinters and a wait and see approach might be more prudent at his new price.

7. Starman €17,500 ( na) (2017 Dutch Art ex Northern Star by Montjeu size 16.0 h)

Verdict: Overpriced

Unraced at two, ‘only’ and only a Listed winner at three he showed his best form at four. This year he won a Duke of York Stakes (Grp 2)before an impressive performance in the July Cup that earned him champion sprinter status. He failed to follow up that success though, finishing 3rd in the Prix Maurice De Gheest and a short head second to Emaraaty Ana in the Haydock Sprint Cup. His final career stats were 8 runs, 5 wins and two places.

His pedigree is reasonable with its share of black type but Starman is easily the best in the family. His dam was a modest winner over 10f at Bath who also produced a stakes performer by Kodiac. The second dam was unraced but produced two Stakes horses.

Dutch Art at times promised to be an important sire through the likes of Slade Power, Garswood and Mabs Cross but he proved unreliable both with his fertility and with his runners on the track. His sire son Garswood failed to make the grade as a sire and was sold for just 40,000 guineas this summer and previously a first crop son Caspar Netscher suffered fertility issues.

With doubts over his lack of precocity, his relatively modest page and his unproven sire line I think he is too risky at that price…

Final Word:

With Kodiac entering the twilight of his career, Tally-Ho are fortunate to have another money making machine emerge in Mehmas. One criticism of the stud is that they don’t participate in the ITM Irish Stallion Trail. It’s obviously an inconvenience to open the doors but it’s the right thing to do to help showcase the industry to racing and bloodstock fans. It’s disappointing that Tally-Ho have opted out as they could well afford it…..

Kildangan Stud’s 2022 fees (where is the value?)

Godolphin are enjoying a resurgence of success on the track. Their European trained tally of Group/Grade 1 wins (17 by Charlie Appleby) almost matched Ballydoyle’s total for the year (18). I’m not sure how those numbers make Charlie Appleby ‘the best trainer in the world’ but that’s another debate.. Success on the track, ensures a pipeline of new stallions for the Darley operation.

Darley will stand 10 stallions in Kildangan for 2022. Over the past two years they have dropped/lost Shamardal, Slade Power, The Last Lion, Buratino, Dawn Approach, Exceed and Excel, Fast Company, French Navy and Fulbright from their Irish roster. Only Shamardal and Exceed and Excel are significant losses. The Irish roster is slightly weaker than its sister stud in Dalham Hall which houses 13 stallions including Dubawi. Nonetheless, It is still a decent roster with a number of interesting prospects,

Kildangan Stud 2022 fee (2021 fee)

1.Belardo €9,000 (€10,000) (2012 Lope De Vega ex Danaskaya by Danehill)

Verdict: Overpriced

He had a very promising start with his first two year olds in 2020 with a trio of Group winners. This led to a big increase in demand for his services and he covered 182 mares in 2021. Those breeders will now be fretting as he had a quiet year on the track in 2021 and failed to build on that momentum with no new Group/Stakes winners. His own racing career was a bit inconsistent as after winning a Dewhurst, he failed to win in 7 outings at three before coming good again in the Lockinge at 4.

His yearling median increased slightly to €18,633 in 2021 from €14,141 but that is a poor enough return from a crop conceived at €10,000. After his poor season, there will be no queue to use him at €9,000 and he looks a bit overpriced for now.

2. Blue Point €40,000 (€40,000) (2014 Shamardal ex Scarlett Rose by Royal Applause)

Verdict: Overpriced

Blue Point was a superb racehorse, winning a Gimcrack at 2, two Group races at three and the Kings Stand at 4. At five he was unbeaten in five starts including 3 Group 1’s. He ran twenty times, winning eleven and placed 6 times, so he was durable as well as classy. Now entering his third season, he covered 196 mares in his first season and it was a very strong initial book.

The negatives are that he is from an unexceptional female line, he is an atypical Shamardal in terms of distance preference and he didn’t win his first Group 1 until he was four and was at his best at 5. He has every opportunity to succeed and may very well do but I thought they might have shaved some more of his fee given it’s his risky third season.

3. Earthlight €18,000 (€20,000) (2017 Shamardal ex Winters Moon by New Approach)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

Shamardal had his annus mirabilis in 2019 with three top class unbeaten two year old colts in Pinatubo, Earthlight and Victor Ludorum. Earthlight won his five starts at two including a Prix Morny and a Middle Park in which he beat Golden Horde. Covid interrupted the 2020 season and he reappeared in July 2020. He won two of his 4 races that year (a Listed race and Grp 3) but was beaten in the Prix de la Foret (2nd to One Master) and Prix Maurice de Gheest (4th to Space Blues), running creditably in defeat. His dam was placed in Fillies Mile, his granddam bred two Group 1 winners and his fourth dam produced Golden Fleece so its a good female page. Shamardal now has no less than 17 sons at stud due to stand in Europe in 2022 but only Lope De Vega is a proven sire son. I’m not sure what to think of Earthlight’s fee but in relative terms I think he is better value than Blue Point, being more precocious and from a stronger distaff line.

4. Ghaiyyath €25,000 (€30,000) (2015 Dubawi ex Nighttime by Galileo)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

I was a big fan of Ghaiyyath on the track. His career stats are 9 wins and 3 places from 13 stats with his only unplaced run being on very soft ground in Waldgeist’s Arc. He was capable of some exceptional performances including winning the Grosser Preis Von Baden by 14 lengths, and he was very good in the Summer of 2020 winning the Coronation Cup, Eclipse and Juddmonte International. His pedigree is impressive, as you would expect from a colt who cost €1.1 million as a foal and is out of Galileo’s first classic winner Nighttime. Dubawi is starting to motor as a sire of sires with Night of Thunder and New Bay doing well and promising starts from Time Test and Zarak. The doubt about Ghaiyyath is that he was best at 5 but in his defence he won the Autumn Stakes at two and didn’t get to show his worth at three as he only had a solitary start in September in the Prix Prince D’Orange which he also won. Ghaiyyath is the highest rated son of Dubawi , he is bred on the same cross as Night of Thunder and all things considered I think he is fairly priced.

5. Night Of Thunder €75,000 (£75,000) (2011 Dubawi ex Forest Storm by Galileo)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

Got a belated first Group 1 winner in Europe this year with the Pretty Polly winner Thundering Nights. His yearling median this year was €81,757 a nice return on a crop conceived at £15,000. Night of Thunder had an exceptional first crop (17 stakes winners from a crop of 112) but he hasn’t maintained that blistering pace (3 stakes winners to date from his smaller second crop and none to date amongst his two year olds of 2021. His bigger and better crops are in the pipeline and its reasonable to assume he will benefit from the upturn in quality and quantity. The only quibble I would have is his lack of a real superstar, with his highest rated horse being the Group 2 winning sprinter Suesa. I did a detailed review on Night of Thunder back in 2019 when I said he seemed destined for the very top (see http://www.montjeu.com/night-of-thunders-lightning-start/) and I see no reason to change that view now.

6.Profitable €12,500 (€10,000) 2012 Invincible Spirit ex Dani Ridge by Indian Ridge)

Verdict: Overpriced (slightly)

Profitable won a Kings Stand Stakes at 4 and was runner up in the same race at 5 to Lady Aurelia. He had 129 foals in his first crop and a truly remarkable 85 of them ran this year. There were 25 winners and three stakes horses headlined by Queen Mary winner Quick Suzy. It was a solid start yet the market saw fit to drop his yearling median to €31,722 from €36,955 in 2020. I’m not sure he did enough to warrant a fee increase and thought they might have kept it steady but he did improve markedly with age so its possible his offspring could follow suit..

7. Raven’s Pass €7,500 (€7,500) (2005 Elusive Quality ex Ascutney by Lord at War)

Verdict: Overpriced

Had a new Group 1 winner this season in the five year old Romantic Proposal who won the Flying Five and Lemista was placed in the Beverley D. However his yearling median has been in steady decline for the past number of years and was only €12,370 in 2021 off a €10,000 covering fee. He has very good percentages for a stallion at this fee with 37 stakes winners from 555 foals (7%) but he has never attracted big books despite being an outcross pedigree for most mares. He is unlikely to recover the market’s affections at this stage and he is not an attractive commercial option for breeders (although his progeny are worth a second look at the sales for purchasers).

8. Ribchester €12,500 (€17,500) (2013 Iffraaj ex Mujarah by Marju)

Verdict: Overpriced

On the eve of Royal Ascot, Ribchester seemed likely to end up as one of the top first season sires. Ruthin from Wesley Ward’s yard was favourite for the Windsor Castle and Gisburn was strongly fancied for the Coventry. Neither figured in their respective races and the rest of the season was somewhat underwhelming for Ribchester with no real stars emerging. He now has 16 winners from 59 runners and Flaming Rib was his sole stakes winner. His yearling median dipped but was still pretty strong falling from €46k to €34k. The hope for his supporters is that his progeny will improve like he did with age. He won the Mill Reef at two, the Jacques Le Marois at three and the Lockinge, Queen Anne and Prix de Moulin at 4. He is the best son of Iffraaj (sire of Wootton Bassett) from a high class female family. He may well deliver on his potential and by the end of next year his 2022 fee could look an absolute bargain but for now there are safer bets out there.

9. Space Blues €17,500 (na) (2016 Dubawi ex Miss Lucifer by Noverre).

Verdict: Fairly Priced

Retires on a high after winning the Breeders Cup mile. Prior to his victory at Del Mar he had won the Prix de la Foret over 7f. In 2020 he won a high quality renewal of the Prix Maurice de Gheest defeating Hello Youmzain, Earthlight, Golden Horde, Wooded etc. His overall record was 11 wins and 4 places from 19 runs. In many ways, he was a typical Dubawi who improved each season. He won his only race at two, had group 1 placings at three, improved again at four and showed his best form at five.

His dam, Miss Lucifer was a quality performer who won a Challenge Stakes (Grp 2). His pedigree should also suit most of the mares around and he is free of Sadler’s Wells and Danzig. Darley are advertising him as Dubawi’s fastest son and he was seen as a specialist 7f horse for much of his career. His Breeders Cup mile victory was a big plus in increasing his attractiveness to breeders. Sons of Dubawi are doing well but Space Blues lack of precocity has held back his commercial appeal. His fee will probably be gradually reduced each year until he has runners but his opening fee seems quite reasonable for now.

10. Teofilo €30,000 (€30,000) (2004 Galileo ex Speirbhean by Danehill)

Verdict: Overpriced for commercial breeders

A good reliable sire who has joined the exclusive ranks of sires with 100 or more stakes winners. His current figures are 100 stakes winners (7%) from 1492 foals of racing age. He had a stellar year in 2020 with 6 Group 1 winners and added two more in 2021 (Gold Cup winner Subjectivist and Prix Royal Oak winner Scope. He has sired high quality milers and middle distance horses and even a Dewhurst winner but the perception is that he is a sire of stayers and horses who get better with age(reinforced this year). His yearling median was €53,500 last year an increase on the €29,596 median in 2020. Unfortunately for breeders these crops were conceived off €40,000 covering fees. He is overpriced for commercial breeders but as a sire of racehorses he is much better value than many other sires who won’t ever match his record.

Coolmore’s Fees for 2022 (read, before you breed…)

2021 was a challenging year for Coolmore. Galileo died, and for the first time since 1990, a stallion outside their roster became the champion sire in Ireland/UK. None of their younger stallions made a significant impact. It felt like watching Man Utd in the post Alex Ferguson era (of all people). The elite sires of Europe are no longer in Coolmore with that status now belonging to Frankel and Dubawi. Wootton Bassett is in the middle of a chasing pack that includes Sea the Stars, Kingman and Siyouni.

There will be 22 stallions on their roster for 2022, a reduction on the 26 that stood in 2021. Aside from Galileo, they also lost Zoffany and Mastercraftsman. Fastnet Rock is remaining in Australia and The Gurkha was banished. The single addition is the well credentialed St Marks Basilica. The roster still includes seven 2000 Guineas winners and two Derby winners so it is still a very strong squad. Below is my assessment of their published fees for 2022..

Stallion 2022 fee (2021 fee)

  1. Arizona €6,000 (7,000)- (2017 No Nay Never ex Lady Ederle by English Channel)

Verdict: Same as last year- slightly overpriced (my fair price would be €5,000)

No Nay Never hype has subsided and Arizona is now a second season sire so a reduction was inevitable. Arizona has his plus points as a Coventry winner who was second to Pinatubo in the Dewhurst. The negative is that he didn’t train on at three. He will suit breeders looking a commercial source of cheap speed/precocity.


2. Australia €35,000 (€25,000)- (2011 by Galileo ex Ouija Board by Cape Cross)
Verdict: Overpriced 

One of the few stallions to get a fee increase. He had a good season on the track with new group 1 winners in the five year old Broome and the four year old Mare Australis. In total he had a creditable 8 Group winners. His yearling median was a respectable €58,000 and that may have encouraged the fee increase. Things might have been even better if Beresford Stakes winner Point Lonsdale hadn’t been outpointed by Native Trail in the National Stakes. Australia suffers from a perception that his progeny need time and/or distance (Order of Australia and Point Lonsdale seem like outliers). I like Australia as a solid proven sire and the best son of Galileo on the Coolmore roster but thought the price rise was overdone. At their respective prices Teofilo at €30,000 is a better value son of Galileo and in the UK the wildly inconsistent New Approach is listed as private (so there may be other issues) but is presumably cheaper and has a stronger overall record. Australia would benefit from getting access to the speedier mares previously sent to Galileo (Point Lonsdale is out of an Acclamation mare) and it will be interesting to see how much Coolmore get behind him with their own top mares.

3. Calyx €12,500 (16,000)- (2016 Kingman ex Helleborine by Observatory)

Verdict: Undecided

Reading back on previous years posts, I was clearly a bit impacted by Kingman mania and two years ago thought his first season fee of €22,500 was reasonable. If that was true then then €12,500 should seem a bargain -but it doesn’t. In the cold light of day, he is now a third season sire who managed only four career starts and never even contested a Group 1 race. Breeders now also have the choice of Group 1 winning sons of Kingman in Persian King and Palace Pier. Kingman hype has also quietened. That said, Calyx impressed me a great deal with his turn of foot and I’m inclined to keep the faith for now.

4. Camelot €75,000 (€60,000)- (2009 by Montjeu ex Tarfah by Kingmambo)

Verdict: Poor Value– Overpriced:

Camelot is now standing at three times his fee on retirement of €25,000. An excellent racehorse, he would have been the first Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky only for the presence of Encke (a horse who later tested positive for steroids). In 2021 he was the sire of impressive Futurity winner/ Derby favourite Luxembourg and the dual US Grade 1 winner Santa Barbara. He is doing his bit to keep the Montjeu sire line active on the flat. His yearling median rose from €55,000 in 2020 to €160,000 in 2021, so the market seems to have reassessed his merit.

I want to believe but I’m still not convinced by Camelot. Luxembourg may become the second grandson of Montjeu (after Wings of Eagles) to triumph at Epsom but there have been plenty of offspring of Camelot who disappointed in classics when fancied- including Sir Dragonet (5th at Epsom), Santa Barbara (beaten favourite in the Guineas and Oaks), Pink Dogwood (placed in Epsom and Irish Oaks when fancied in both), and English King (5th at Epsom). Luxembourg may be the real deal and the market may continue to pay top dollar for his yearlings but I’m not sure they will. His percentages of black type horses are decent at 6.5% BTW to foals for Northern Hemisphere crops aged 3 or more. Camelot will now come on the radar for really high class mares and should build on his record but at his new fee there isn’t much margin for error.

5. Churchill €25,000 (€30,000)- (2014 by Galileo ex Meow by Storm Cat)

Verdict: Poor Value– Over Priced

Churchill had his first runners this year. After a slow start things picked up a little and at the time of writing he had 24 winners from 73 runners and 3 Stakes winners (all Listed winners). There were 145 foals in that crop conceived at €35,000. He has some monster crops in the wings and I suspect those breeders who sent him 250 mares in 2020 will be getting a little nervy. His yearling median dropped back from €70,000 to €54,000. His progeny may well improve from two to three and it would be unfair to outright dismiss him at this stage. However, it was an underwhelming first season with runners and the risk/reward ratio at his advertised price is not favourable.

6. Circus Maximus €12,500 (20,000)- (2016 by Galileo ex Duntle by Danehill Dancer)

Verdict: Poor Value– Over Priced

Has taken a big reduction in price but one that doesn’t go far enough. The similarly bred The Gurkha has been banished from the Coolmore roster after proving very disappointing. As I wrote last year, Circus Maximus was high class and genuine but for me he lacked a little star quality. There are no shortage of high class sons of Galileo at stud and I’m not sure why this one should succeed above any other.

7.Footstepsinthesand €12,500 (€12,500) (2002 Giant’s Causeway ex Glatisant by Rainbow Quest)

Verdict: Overpriced – should be 8k

He has sired just one Group 1 winner in all of his crops since 2008. His yearling median last year was just over €22,000 which is high considering his limitations. His progeny are overrated by trainers which supports his sales price but I don’t know any good reason why you would use him at that price.

8. Gleneagles €15,000 (25,000) (2012 Galileo ex You’resothrilling by Storm Cat).

Verdict: Fairly priced

Gleneagles was a hot property when he retired at €60,000. Reality has now intruded and his 2022 fee is a quarter of that. 2021 saw him sire his first Group 1 winner in Prix de Royallieu winner Loving Dream. She was backed up by four Group 2 winners in Baby Rider, Insineundo, Velocidad and Novemba. Despite these successes, his yearlings were shunned in the market with a median of only €23,571. There is value in some of his offspring at those prices . I think he is now reasonably priced but as Keynes once said ‘the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent’.. It’s also interesting to note that his fillies seem to be outperforming his colts when it comes to Group and Stakes winner.

9. Gustav Klim€4,000 (€4,000) (2015 Galileo ex Massarra by Danehill)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

Has his first runners in 2022 so using him is obviously a gamble. I’m happy to repeat what I wrote last year namely that he was ‘only’ a Group 2 winner but placed in the Irish Guineas, St James Palace and Haydock Sprint Cup. His granddam is Rafha, the dam of Invincible Spirit and Kodiac. He may uphold the family tradition but those two tend to be influences for speed and precocity (unlike Galileo). His offspring are also supposedly small but so is the fee and I won’t quibble too much.

10. Highland Reel €10,000 (€10,000) (2012 Galileo ex Hveger by Danehill)

Verdict: Overpriced

Despite winning 7 Group 1’s, I always assumed he was going to end up as National Hunt sire. He had 126 foals in his first crop who were two year olds in 2021 (numbers dropped to 52 in his second). He had 48 runners, 11 winners and one Stakes winner in Atamisque who won a Group 2 in Italy. His yearling median dropped to €11,786 so it’s fair to conclude that the market was underwhelmed. There remains the possibility that his offspring will improve markedly with age and show some of the same durability that he did. However I wouldn’t risk €10,000 sending a mare to him based on that hope…..

11. Holy Roman Emperor €10,000 (€12,500) (2004 Danehill ex L’On Vite by Secretariat)

Verdict: Fairly Priced:

Had a quiet year on the track with only three stakes winners in the Northern Hemisphere and the highlight being the five year old Rockemperor winning a Grade 1 in the US. His yearling median dipped to €21,035. That said I think he is a solid proven sire and he is appropriately priced.


12. Magna Grecia €17,500 (18,000)- (2016 by Invincible Spirit ex Cabaret by Galileo)
Verdict: Fairly priced

Normally I would have expected a bigger cut in fee for his third year at stud but in this instance there were other factors at play. The most notable being the exploits of his half brother St Mark’s Basilica who landed four Group 1’s during the season. A Guineas winner who also won the Vertem Trophy at two, he is by a fashionable sire of sires and his price seems about right for now.

13. No Nay Never €125,000 (€125,000) (2011 Scat Daddy ex Cat’s Eye Witness by Elusive Quality)

Verdict: Significantly Overpriced

No Nay Never is significantly overpriced and has been for the past few few years. In 2021, he had success on the track with Alcohol Free who trained on to win a Coronation Stakes, Zain Claudette won a Lowther (Grp 2) and Armor won Molecomb (Grp 3). These are decent results for runners conceived at €17,500 and €25,000 but there is limited upside at his current fee. His yearling median was €150,000 last year which sounds impressive but that was based on a €100,000 fee. At that level, he was covering high class valuable mares who are bringing a lot to the table and who expect a chunky return over the covering fee.

It’s worth looking at the figures for his black type winners to foals by crop.

Year FoaledFoalsRnrsWnrsBTW% BTW to foals
20169373531415%
20171301056097%
2018101794544%
2019102602544%

The figures above will improve considerably over the coming years especially for the 2019 crop as they get more opportunities to run. However, I don’t see them matching his exceptional first crop figures which are looking a bit of an aberration. At €125k, he will need to be producing 2 or 3 Grp 1 winners in each crop to keep people happy. He is a multiple of the fee for Dark Angel, Kodiac and Mehmas who all started from much lower fee levels to produce similar types of horses (quality two year olds/sprinters/milers) and at this stage I don’t think that differential is warranted…


14. Rock Of Gibraltar €5,000 (€5,000) (1999 Danehill ex Offshore Boom by Be My Guest)

Verdict: Should be Retired…

It’s strange that they continue to list him on the roster. He will be 23 this year and there is almost no demand from breeders.

15. Saxon Warrior €20,000 (€20,000) (2015 Deep Impact ex Maybe by Galileo)

Verdict: Fair Price

Will have his first runners in 2022. His yearlings sold well in 2021 with a median of €61,900 off a €30,000 fee. I would have expected a price cut given this is such a risky year to use him but these good returns probably prompted them to hold firm on the price. He was as a good Guineas winner who also won a Racing Post Trophy and had some great battles with Roaring Lion over 10 furlongs. He is the only son of Deep Impact in Ireland his dam was a Moyglare winner so there is plenty to recommend him.

16. Sioux Nation €10,000 (€10,000) (2015 Scat Daddy ex Dream the Blues by Oasis Dream)

Verdict: Overpriced

He was a Group 1 winner but his overall record was only 4 wins out of 15 and his female line is unremarkable. His first yearlings had a median of €26,000 off a covering fee of €12,500. The advertising highlights his similarities with No Nay Never (both good two year old sons of Scat Daddy). It’s possible that he will emulate NNN but I’m not convinced its worth taking a risk on him.

17. Sottsass €25,000 (30,000) (2016 Siyouni ex Starlet’s Sister by Galileo)

Verdict: Fairly Priced

His fee has had a predictable reduction in his second season. St Mark’s Basilica boosted the reputation of Siyouni. Sottsass race record of an Arc, Prix Ganay and French Derby is impressive. St Mark’s Basilica is now the sexy son of Siyouni at Coolmore but Sottsass is fairly priced at €25,000.

18. St Mark’s Basilica €65,000 (na) (2018 Siyouni ex Cabaret by Galileo)

Verdict: Over Priced

Had a flawless season in which he captured the French Guineas, French Derby, Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes. For good measure he ended his two year old campaign by annexing the Dewhurst. He was a 1.3 million Guineas yearling so he had the looks to go with his pedigree (he is a half brother to Magna Grecia). He is the most expensive first season to retire to Coolmore that I can remember in recent years (Gleneagles was slightly less at €60,000 in 2016, the same price as George Washington in 2007, Giant’s Causeway was 100,000 guineas in 2001) and even if I have forgotten someone it does indicate that it is an exceptional opening fee. The question is whether this chunky opening fee is justified? I wouldn’t dispute his merit as a racehorse (albeit he was fortunate not to be demoted in the Irish Champion Stakes) . If you are to quibble about something then you could point out that Siyouni is yet to establish his merit as as sire of sires and until the arrival of Magna Grecia and SMB it was a good rather than great female line. Comparing his fee to his similarly bred and similarly talented studmate Sottsass, also indicates that his opening price is perhaps a little frothy.

19. Starspangledbanner €35,000 (22,500)  (2006 Choisir ex Gold Anthem by Made of Gold

Verdict: Over Priced

Received a chunky hike after some good results on the track. State of Rest travelled to the States to win the Saratoga Derby and then travelled to Oz to win the Cox Plate. He had some nice two year olds with Castle Star and Flotus finishing runners up in the Middle Park and Cheveley Park respectively. His yearling median jumped to €60,000. He is a sire I like, but the increase was overdone.

20. Ten Sovereigns €17,500 (20,000) (2016 No Nay Never ex Seeking Solace by Exceed and Excel)

Verdict: Overpriced

A Middle Park and July Cup winner, who failed to stay in the Guineas and was beaten in the Commonwealth Cup, Nunthorpe and in the Everest. He has an unremarkable female line and No Nay Never hype is on the wane. Predictable drop in price in his third season but to me he has been overpriced each season.

21. U S Navy Flag €12,500 (12,500) (2015 War Front ex Misty For Me by Galileo)

Verdict: Over Priced (Slightly)

Will have his first runners in 2022 so using him is more of a gamble. His yearlings sold well with a median of €55,000 with 41 sold, so not everyone has given up on sons of War Front. This median was a good return on his opening fee of €25000. To me he is better value than Ten Sovereigns, having a much stronger female line, winning three Group 1’s and staying well enough to be placed in an Irish Guineas. I thought however he would have been cut a little for this season.

22. Wootton Bassett €150,000 (€100,000) (2008 Iffraaj ex Balladonia by Primo Dominie)

Verdict: Overpriced

Wootton Bassett sired two new Group 1 winners this year in Prix Marcel Boussac winner Zellie and Prix St Alary winner Incarville. I’m not sure that warranted a 50% increase in fee though. His yearling median reached €130,000 last year for a crop conceived at €40,000. It seems that Coolmore are looking to recoup their sizeable investment as quickly as possible and he is priced as the joint most expensive stallion in Ireland (Sea the Stars being the other) We know that he has bigger and better crops in the pipeline but I think the price increase is taking for granted that he will maximise that opportunity and prove himself to be an outstanding stallion. He may well do so but I think he is being priced a little too much on upside potential rather than actual achievement at this stage.

Final Thoughts

I think Coolmore pitch their advertised fees on the high side to create the psychological anchors that sales people use in negotiations. Deals should and will be available for many of the sires.

Looking at their roster, it is top heavy with Galileo blood. It contains no less than 6 of his sons on the roster and there are another five stallions of which he is broodmare sire. That looks excessive and much more diversity would be welcome. Coolmore also have the option of bringing some American stallions over here to provide some alternative sire lines.

Its also noticeable that neither Dubawi nor Kodiac are represented by any sons on the roster. These are the two sires who have done the most in recent years, to develop their reputations as sire of sires and it’s surprising Coolmore haven’t plugged these gaps in their roster.

Coolmore have lost ground to their rivals and John Magnier is now 73 and suffered health issues in recent years. It will be up to the next generation of the family to restore the fortunes of the stud to previous heights as that won’t happen overnight. The task is made easier as they an exceptional broodmare band to support their stallions. They also have the financial firepower to get whatever they fancy at the yearling sales or to purchase promising stallions from smaller operations. Are they too big to fail? Interesting times ahead….