It’s a pretty safe bet that by the time you read this many of the studs standing new stallions for 2013 will have hung out the ‘book full’ sign. Such was the clamour for the offspring of first-season sires at the recent foal sales, that the guessing game as to which of them is going to make his mark at stud will continue to be played with gusto.

There are plenty to choose from this year. Frankel is out of reach for many and we are told his fellow Juddmonte retiree Bated Breath is already oversubscribed. Devotees of Frankel’s three-parts-brother Bullet Train will have to send a mare to America in order to support him at Wintergreen Stallion Station in Kentucky. The long-term companions may have been separated but at least each now has a feline friend in their new homes.

Harbour Watch and Nathaniel received plenty of visitors at the National Stud during the December sales and there will be a chance to see fellow new boys Delegator, Mayson and Foxwedge in Newmarket next month at the TBA Stallion Parade immediately before Tattersalls’ February Sale (Thursday, February 7). The last-named will have an advantage over his winter-coated contemporaries as he will have only recently arrived from the sun-drenched southern hemisphere, where he started his stud career at Newgate Stud in the Hunter Valley.

A thoroughly tested and admirable campaigner, Famous Name has thankfully stayed put in the country where he spent six seasons in training

Foxwedge’s sire Fastnet Rock is the reigning champion sire in Australia and 2013 will see him shuttle for the fourth time to Coolmore’s Irish farm. His first northern hemisphere yearlings were well received in 2012, recording an average of just over £90,964 for 23 sold, and any reflected glory can only be a positive factor for his first son to stand in Europe.

At the risk of being accused of being hopelessly outdated, it’s hard not to feel saddened that there is no place at a British stud for a horse such as the mighty Twice Over, who is standing at Klawervlei Stud in South Africa. Admittedly, the Banstead Manor roster is choc-a-block with proven and new sires but it would have been good to see a horse with the now-rare credentials of having raced for six consecutive seasons remain within the British Isles. And, as much as I love Flat and National Hunt racing in equal measures, it’s also a surprise to see Fame And Glory retired immediately to Coolmore’s jumps roster, which includes another new addition in his sire Montjeu’s unraced full-brother Gold Well, who started his career at Arctic Tack Stud.

Both Twice Over and Fame And Glory were unbeaten two-year-olds, though neither ran until the October of their juvenile seasons. Between them, however, they notched 26 victories, four at Group 1 level over ten furlongs for Twice Over and five Group 1s from the ages of two to five for Fame And Glory, starting off in the Critérium de Saint-Cloud and culminating in the Ascot Gold Cup. Time was that they would have been among the most sought after of the new intake of the Flat crop on home turf but times change and, as we have seen, the demand for freshman stallions with precocious form is now unprecedented.

However, at a time when an oft-heard lament is that the thoroughbred breed is becoming increasingly unsound, is it a good thing that an increasing number of stallions are being retired to stud with so little racing behind them? That’s not to say that they are retiring because they are not durable, it’s just that they haven’t been given the chance to prove themselves otherwise. This makes the guessing game for breeders that much harder, but it doesn’t seem to be an off-putting factor in many matings deliberations, as the youngsters are being supported in droves.

As a matter of necessity, commercial breeders have different considerations to owner/breeders when it comes to deciding on which stallion to use. The potential desirability of the resultant foal or yearling at the sales several years
hence depends as much on whether that horse’s sire is ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ as it does on the individual’s conformation. And, unless it’s Galileo, there’s nothing more fashionable than a first-season sire.

One of this year’s newcomers who certainly deserves to be well patronised is the Irish National Stud’s Famous Name – a thoroughly tested and admirable campaigner who has thankfully stayed put in the country where he spent six seasons in training. Now eight, his first win came on debut, in the July of his juvenile season and, lest he be accused of never winning outside Ireland, it’s worth remembering that he failed by only a head to add ‘Classic winner’ to his CV when being narrowly outpointed by Vision d’Etat in the Prix du Jockey-Club.

Bill Oppenheim’s assessment of Famous Name in the TDN read, “You want tough? You want sound? You want consistent? And for €4,000? That really is a gift.” There’s not much one can add to that, other than “Hear, hear”.