It’s all systems go in the North American and European flat seasons from next weekend, with the start of the turf programs in Britain and Ireland and the first of the 100-point trials (the Louisiana Derby) as the Road to the Kentucky Derby enters the home stretch. Here Nancy Sexton explains why this looks a particularly intriguing year for the bloodstock industry.
A new racing year brings a new wave of hopes. Often investments are running high and such is the nature of the bloodstock business that those involved will know pretty swiftly whether their decisions are to be rewarded or not.
If anything, 2018 has the potential to be of greater significance for various major operations than other years. At Coolmore, for instance, hopes will be running high that Australia can become their heir to Galileo while, at Juddmonte’s Banstead Manor Stud, there is the mouth-watering prospect of Kingman’s first 2yos hitting the track.
Over in the U.S., plenty of eyes will be on Airdrie Stud’s Cairo Prince, a member of the hot Empire Maker sire line who made such a sparkling impression with his first crop at the sales. Breeders should also go some way to receiving a definitive answer as to whether Galileo’s sire line can gain a stable foothold in the U.S. as the first foals by Frankel’s brother Noble Mission and Coolmore’s Magician take to the track.
Below is an outline of the various names for whom 2018 could become an important year.
The 2014 edition of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket is widely regarded as one of the best of recent years. Under an inspired drive from Kieren Fallon, the 40/1 shot Night Of Thunder came with a rattling run to swoop and deny Kingman, by that stage well clear of his rivals on the other side of the track. Australia was another head away in third with a cluster of other G1 winners in behind.
That was the last and only time that Kingman and Australia clashed on the course. Kingman went on to establish himself as a truly exceptional miler, capturing the Irish 2000 Guineas on bad ground before turning the tables on Night Of Thunder in the St. James’s Palace Stakes. A resounding victory in the Sussex Stakes followed before a career-capping win in the Prix Jacques le Marois.
Meanwhile, Australia had followed up his Newmarket run with bloodless victories in the Epsom and Irish Derbys. Nor did a drop down to 1m2f hold any fears as he easily went on to account for The Grey Gatsby in the Juddmonte International before running a creditable if controversial second to the same horse in the Irish Champion Stakes.
Kingman stood his first season at Banstead Manor Stud for £55,000 while Australia was priced by Coolmore at €50,000.
Kingman, who boasts exceptional connections as an Invincible Spirit son of Zenda, a classic-winning half-sister to Banstead Manor linchpin Oasis Dream, attracted a first book of 143 mares. The list included 17 belonging to Juddmonte, among them Workforce’s dam Soviet Moon (foaled a filly named Strelka) and the G1 winners Passage Of Time (foaled a colt named Tempus), Proportional (foaled a filly named Racine) and African Rose (foaled a colt named Imotep).
The stallion also unsurprisingly attracted hefty support from outside breeders, including Sheikh Hamdan, who sent his Oaks and King George heroine Taghrooda, subsequently the dam of a filly named Jahafil, and Ballymacoll Stud, who sold a half-sister to listed winner Abingdon for 1.7 million guineas to Moyglare Stud out of their dispersal at Tattersalls. Later named All Our Tomorrows, she was the highlight of a bold auction showing for Kingman, who ended 2017 with a yearling average of 236,256gns.
While Kingman bids to follow Frankel as a stallion capable of enhancing Juddmonte’s future standing, many will be looking towards Australia, beautifully bred as a son of Ouija Board, as a potential heir to Galileo for Coolmore.
Galileo has 11 G1-producing sons at stud, including Frankel in addition to Darley’s New Approach and Teofilo, yet only one of that group, the ultimately disappointing Rip Van Winkle, has passed through Coolmore hands. However, they have a stack of sons waiting in the wings, starting with Australia and fellow Derby winner Ruler Of The World.
Australia’s first 2yos include the half-siblings to Rekindling, Coronet and Order Of St George as well as progeny out of Peeping Fawn, Rags To Riches and Virginia Waters. It has to help that a sizeable number, including the 525,000gns half-brother to Rekindling, have headed to Ballydoyle.
In what could become a pivotal year for Coolmore, 2018 also sees the spotlight turn to the first 2yos by their Prix Morny winner No Nay Never.
No Nay Never, a horse whose G1 record was underpinned by the precocity so typical of his sire line, was the first major son of Scat Daddy to stud so, should he hit the ground running, it will lend confidence to those looking to support the likes of Caravaggio while providing Coolmore with a proven option away from Sadler’s Wells and Danehill blood. And, while it is still very early days for Scat Daddy as a sire of sires, some encouragement should be taken from the promising start made by Royal Lodge Stakes winner Daddy Long Legs in Chile.
No Nay Never’s first crop are scattered across some of Europe’s best trainers and include the half-siblings to Rule Of Law, The Last Lion and The Wow Signal. The latter, a colt, sold for 850,000gns to the JS Company at Tattersalls last October; he contributed to an overall average of 114,643gns for his sire, who in turn stands for an increased €25,000 this season.
2018 is also the year when we have the chance to evaluate the first runners by Lanwades Stud’s German Derby hero Sea The Moon, the first son of Sea The Stars to stud, as well as Charm Spirit, another top miling son of Invincible Spirit who has alternated between Tweenhills Farm and Haras du Bonneval during his stud career to date.
Meanwhile in the U.S., few young stallions standing for under $15,000 have caught the imagination in the manner of Cairo Prince.
Successful in the Nashua and Holy Bull Stakes, the son of Pioneerof The Nile made an immediate commercial impact when his first yearlings made up to $900,000 and averaged $138,279 - off a fee of just $10,000. By the same sire as American Pharoah and from the Empire Maker sire line also responsible for Bodemeister, it’s not hard to see how he has gained such a depth of support.
“The Cairo Princes are a very uniform, consistent group,” says Cormac Breathnach, of Airdrie Stud. “He throws his own likeness, which is everything you could hope for. Physically they are leggy and athletic with good minds, and they move very well – all the attributes the market wants to see. His temperament is a bonus. His progeny were so professional throughout the sales season. We have seen that professionalism continue during the breaking-in process at the farm.”
Airdrie are renowned for strongly supporting their stallions to the extent that they have bred and/or campaigned many of the leading runners by past and present stallions. This year, the farm has five homebreds by Cairo Prince with which to go to war.
“It is such an exciting group,” says Breathnach. “There is a beautiful filly out of the granddam of American Pharoah, as well as half siblings to stakes winners My Boy Jack, Divine Miss Grey and Atigun, and a filly out of a War Front mare who is as nice as any of them.”
He adds: “There is a great deal of excitement about how well his first 2-year-olds are training. We have heard from a variety of the leading pre-trainers and pinhookers and everything so far has been extremely positive. Cairo Prince will have strong representation at the 2-year-old sales, but also has a lot of progeny in the hands of end-users, including the Airdrie homebreds. Ours were broken in on the farm, and just recently started track work at the Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike. They are coming along very well. There is a great sense of excitement and anticipation. He couldn’t be set up any better.”
Cairo Prince’s fee has since been raised to $25,000, the same figure initially commanded by Frankel’s brother Noble Mission at Lane’s End Farm. A tough campaigner who swept the Tattersalls Gold Cup, Champion Stakes and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud of 2014, Noble Mission has benefitted from the support of his powerful connections, including breeder Juddmonte Farms, who have exported several to race in Europe. With Frankel having made such an exceptional start, there must be real hope within the Noble Mission camp that he can become that anticipated successful Kentucky-based son of Galileo.
There was also a good word for the first crop of Coolmore’s Verrazano, the 2013 Haskell Invitational and Wood Memorial winner whose yearlings averaged $96,820 and sold for up to $650,000, as well as Three Chimneys Farm’s Will Take Charge, whose performances in 21 starts included a win in the Travers Stakes and narrow defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With a strong pedigree to back him up, some investors were willing to take the view that this sound horse might just be the son of Unbridled’s Song that clicks, and his first yearlings averaged $166,015 as a result.
In Japan, the tribe of first-crop names are led by Shadai Farm’s Just A Way, winner of the 2014 Dubai Duty Free. By the Sunday Silence stallion Heart’s Cry, he returned a yearling average of 46,400,000 yen ($426,000) at last year’s JRHA Select Yearling Sale.
THE OLDER BRIGADE
Among the older brigade in Europe, it is hard to imagine any horse preventing Galileo from landing yet another champion sires’ title.
As has become the annual norm, Galileo headed into winter with an abundance of 2yo talent - think Clemmie, Happily, Gustav Klimt and The Pentagon among others - although he may not have it all his own way across the classics given that Ballydoyle also houses Saxon Warrior and September, two top-class prospects by Deep Impact.
There is also the ongoing upward ascent of Galileo’s own son Frankel to consider. Frankel signed off 2017 having sired the year’s highest-rated European 3yo colt, Cracksman, out of his first crop and with the likes of Elarqam, Rostropovich, Nelson and impressive Leopardstown debutant Contingent among his 3yos for 2018, he looks certain to assume even higher ranking.
As ever, Galileo also has a regal crop of newly turned 2yos to represent him, including Gloam, the filly out of Dank who topped the Tattersalls October Sale at 4 million guineas. She was one of several by her sire at auction last year to head to Godolphin in a move that confirmed the end of their sale-ring boycott of Coolmore-sired progeny. In return, Coolmore themselves came away from Tattersalls with the Dubawi colt out of 1000 Guineas heroine Sky Lantern, who cost 2 million guineas.
Dubawi’s current crop of 2yos were bred when he stood for £125,000 and also include Calculation, the first foal out of The Queen’s Ascot Gold Cup winner Estimate, who is with Sir Michael Stoute, Ambition, the first foal out of Oaks heroine Talent, who is with Richard Hughes, and Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber’s Fughetta, the first foal out of their multiple G1 winner The Fugue.
“Fughetta is a very nice filly,” says Simon Marsh, general manager of the Lloyd-Webber’s Watership Down Stud. “She’s very like her mother - she has similar markings - but hopefully she might be a bit more precocious.
“She’s already with John Gosden whereas The Fugue didn’t go to him until the first week of September. And what is lovely is the fact that she’s being ridden by Gary Foster, who rode The Fugue every day, and looked after by Emily Scragg, who also did The Fugue.”
Frankel’s band of newly turned 2yos includes one very special filly in the half-sister to Talent who commanded 2.5 million guineas at last year’s Tattersalls October Sale. The filly was snapped up by Alastair Donald on behalf of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s King Power Racing, a new force within the sport whose horses are split between Andrew Balding, Richard Hannon and Ralph Beckett.
King Power tasted early success through the private purchase of Beat The Bank, who progressed under Balding’s guidance from a Newmarket conditions race win to a five-length success in the G2 Joel Stakes. However, Srivaddhanaprabha is set to assume far greater prominence this season if last year’s auction presence is anything to go by. In addition to the Frankel - Prowess filly, who has been handed the ambitious name of King Power, their string includes a Dubawi filly out of listed winner Soon bought for 1.3 million guineas and Beat The Bank’s 2yo half-sister, a daughter of Exceed And Excel who was acquired for 500,000gns.
Another new force, Phoenix Thoroughbreds, was also quick out of the blocks in 2017. One of the first regulated Thoroughbred investment funds in the world, Phoenix Thoroughbred were significant players in the breeze-up market through Kerri Radcliffe, notably when paying a sale-topping $1.7 million for a Congrats filly at the OBS March Sale and €1.4 million for a Street Sense colt at Arqana’s May Sale.
Results were swiftly forthcoming. The Congrats filly, Diamondsandpearls, ran out the easy winner of her first start at Santa Anita, while the Street Sense colt, Walk In The Sun, recently lived up to the hype with a winning debut for Jeremy Noseda at Kempton.
The young operation also has a live chance for the Kentucky Oaks in the unbeaten Starlet Stakes winner Dream Tree. She complements a cluster of promising European-based 3yos with Noseda that include Lansky, Take Me With You and Gronkowski, allowing for the real prospect of a breakthrough season in 2018.
It also promises to be an interesting year for Peter Brant, a returning player to the sport, whose burgeoning string with Chad Brown in the U.S. includes the Prix de Diane and Belmont Oaks Invitational runner-up Sistercharlie.
Brant also has a legitimate European classic contender on his hands in Albany Stakes winner Different League, purchased in partnership with MV Magnier for 1.5 million guineas at the Tattersalls December Sale.