American breeders have the option of two real stars among the new intake of stallions for 2018. Arrogate and Gun Runner are at the head of 25 new stallions for Kentucky, a group that also includes fellow G1 winners Astern, Battle Of Midway, Classic Empire, Connect, Cupid, Gormley, Hootenanny, Keen Ice, Klimt, Lord Nelson, Mastery, Midnight Storm and Practical Joke.
Haras d’Etreham’s triple G1 winner Almanzor, meanwhile, leads the way among an astonishing 28 new stallions in France this season. At €35,000, he sits at the same level as Coolmore’s Anglo-Irish 2000 Guineas winner Churchill and Commonwealth Cup hero Caravaggio, two leading lights for Ballydoyle of the past season. Not far behind on £30,000 is the Eclipse Stakes and Juddmonte International winner Ulysses, who is new to Cheveley Park Stud.
However, perhaps the most accomplished horse to retire anywhere in the world is Japanese icon Kitasan Black, who signed off his career with a popular victory in the Arima Kinen on Christmas Eve. The seven-time G1 winner - currently the fourth-highest-earning Thoroughbred in racing history - is sure to attract the attention of Japan’s major breeders when he starts his second career at the Shadai Stallion Station alongside the Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Drefong.
2013 Unbridled’s Song - Bubbler (Distorted Humor)
Stands: Juddmonte Farms, Kentucky
Arrogate’s outstanding 3yo season will live long in the memory - an astonishing 12-length victory in the Travers and his Breeders’ Cup Classic win after that memorable duel with California Chrome - as will his dominant displays in the Pegasus and Dubai World Cups at four.
Maybe that early season schedule took its toll. For whatever reason, he failed to reach that colossus level of form in three further starts, all at Del Mar, a track that most likely didn’t play to his strengths.
On his day, however, Arrogate was one of the greats of the modern era for Bob Baffert. The world’s all-time leading money winner, he is the last major son of Unbridled’s Song to stud and as befits a horse of such brilliance, is set to serve an exceptional first book of mares that will include champion Songbird.
2013 Candy Ride - Quiet Giant (Giant’s Causeway)
Stands: Three Chimneys Farm, Kentucky
The Gun Runner story is far from over as the multiple G1 winner will take in the Pegasus World Cup on January 27 before retiring for stud duty at Three Chimneys Farm.
The son of Candy Ride possesses a durability that makes him almost a throwback to another era. A two-time winner at two, he rattled off wo G2 victories before running third behind Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby. He signed off his 3yo career with a deserved first G1 win in the Clark Handicap. The past year has been something of a tour de force for Steve Asmussen’s colt, culminating in his Breeders’ Cup Classic triumph (by two-and-a-quarter lengths).
Gun Runner is a member of the resurgent Fappiano line via his Argentine-bred sire Candy Ride, the leading active North American sire of 2017. He also hails from one of Edward Evans’ best known families as a grandson of Quiet Dance, whose short-lived champion son Saint Liam sired Horse of the Year Havre De Grace in his only crop.
2013 Wootton Bassett - Darkova (Maria’s Mon)
Stands: Haras d’Etreham, Normandy
The most expensive stallion to retire to stud in France next season is Almanzor, who is standing at Haras d’Etreham as the property of a powerful syndicate. He retires following a frustrating 4yo season ravaged by the EHV outbreak that hit Jean-Claude Rouget’s yard in April. It was a low-key end to the racing career of a horse who was a real champion of the 2016 season, when he won both the Irish and British Champion Stakes.
Although Almanzor peaked as a 3yo, he was also a listed winner at two, thereby demonstrating a level of precocity that was the hallmark of his sire Wootton Bassett, the French champion 2yo of 2010, who is now one of France’s most upwardly mobile stallions.
A member of the Gone West sire line from a good Aga Khan family, he promises to suit a variety of mares and will undoubtedly be well supported by connections.
2014 Scat Daddy - Mekko Hokte (Holy Bull)
Stands: Coolmore, Ireland
Coolmore’s roster is bolstered by the addition of two Ballydoyle stars of the past season in Caravaggio and Churchill, both advertised at €35,000.
Gifted with tremendous speed, Caravaggio rattled off four wins during an unbeaten 2yo campaign achieved in a manner reminiscent of his grandsire Johannesburg. Kept to sprinting at three, he captured the G1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. After two subsequent below-par efforts he won a G2 at the Curragh and ran third on soft ground on his final start in the G1 British Champions Sprint Stakes.
Caravaggio is the best son of the much-missed Scat Daddy to retire to stud. For that very reason, if he comes to impart his share of precocity and brilliance, he will become an extremely important asset to an industry in Europe that is saturated with Sadler’s Wells and Danehill blood.
2014 Galileo - Meow (Storm Cat)
Stands: Coolmore, Ireland
Few champions of recent years have displayed such durability as Churchill, described by the world’s #1 jockey Ryan Moore as one of his favourite horses.
Europe’s champion 2yo of 2016, during which he won two G1s, Churchill went on to take both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas. For one reason or another, his win at the Curragh was to be his last. He did run several creditable races in defeat, however, notably when second to Ulysses in the G1 Juddmonte International.
Bred on the productive Galileo - Storm Cat cross, Churchill descends from a hardy, fast line that initially came to G1 prominence courtesy of his granddam, champion 2yo Airwave. His dam, Meow, won two races and is also responsible for last season’s G1 Cheveley Park Stakes winner Clemmie.
2012 Black Tide - Sugar Heart (Sakura Bakushin O)
Stands: Shadai Stallion Station
Fee: 5,000,000yen (£32,900)
The Japanese industry owes much of its increasingly powerful standing on the world stage to the achievements of Deep Impact. But spare a thought for his brother Black Tide, who is responsible for the icon that is Kitasan Black.
The prolific G1 winner and crowd favourite retires to the Shadai Stallion Station having bowed out on a high in the G1 Arima Kinen - the field for which is based on votes from fans - at Nakayama in late December. That was his seventh G1 victory.
Kitasan Black’s appeal is also enhanced by the fact his female family contains the successful stallion Cee’s Tizzy, sire of Tiznow. In short, breeders shouldn’t need much persuasion to use this horse, the most exciting of the new intake to Japan for 2018.
Meanwhile, the Breeders’ Stallion Station welcomes two-time G1 February Stakes winner Copano Rickey, another bred - like Kitasan Black - by Yanagawa Bokujo. One of the best dirt horses in recent Japanese history, the popular son of Gold Allure signed off his career with victory in the Tokyo Diashoten at Ohi in late December and retires as the winner of 16 races overall.