We’ve seen one star addition to the stallion ranks in recent years and 30 yearlings by Sea The Stars will go under the hammer in Tattersalls October Book 1 alone. If the market has been in thrall to the first offspring of the six-time Group 1 winner, imagine the hysteria that is likely to surround what will certainly be a glittering first book for Frankel.
By the end of this month it seems likely that we will have said goodbye to Frankel the racehorse. As a Newmarket resident I’ve been making the most of seeing him on the heath these rapidly darkening mornings. The thought of him no longer being a daily feature among the town’s horses in training is saddening but, with luck, he won’t go far. The likelihood is that Frankel will be retired to his birthplace at Banstead Manor Stud. One thing is for sure – he won’t struggle to attract blue-blooded mates.
The same can be said for another son of Galileo, New Approach, who has certainly had a leg-up in his secondary career, with 27 Group 1 winners or producers in his first book, but he looks to be making the most of this opportunity. The headache for Darley’s nomination sales team ahead of the next breeding season won’t be how to encourage the best mares to return to him but how not to upset the many breeders who will want to use him in 2013 but whose mares may not make the cut.
His unbeaten Group 1 winner Dawn Approach is a chip off the old block, except that he was even more precocious than his sire, who also had five unbeaten runs at two but didn’t race until July 15. Owner/breeder/trainer Jim Bolger wasted no time in putting Dawn Approach to the test, sending him out on the first weekend of the Irish Flat season. He knew exactly what he was doing, of course, and his young charge never looked in danger of losing.
Now Dawn Approach has also followed his sire by being bought to race for Sheikh Mohammed’s team, although in unusual circumstances: like his sire (who raced from Bolger’s stable as a three-year-old in Princess Haya’s colours) he will remain with his original trainer, but he will sport Godolphin’s royal blue silks, normally only borne in the British Isles by horses trained in the two Godolphin stables.
Dawn Approach is not the only speck of light on the horizon for New Approach. Tha’Ir and Newfangled played their part in an unprecedented juvenile stakes hat-trick at Royal Ascot. The runaway performance of the latter hinted at many better days to come but, cruelly, she was lost on her next start in the Lowther Stakes, suffering a fractured pelvis.
Sheikh Hamdan’s €350,000 purchase Rasmeyaa has been tested only once – in Listed company on the Curragh – but duly earned black type with a third-place finish and will doubtless add her name to the eight winners already recorded by New Approach before long.
So while Sea The Stars still has it all to prove, it is satisfying to see the previous year’s Derby winner looking like a proper stallion in the making, while the three winners of the Classic before New Approach – Authorized, Sir Percy and Motivator – are also enjoying solid if not outstanding seasons.
Old rivalries renewed
The challenge for this season’s freshman honours is fascinating, however, and reignites the on-track battles of 2008 through the fresher legs of the next generation.
New Approach, the winner of eight of his 11 starts, including five Group 1s, is currently tussling at the top of the table with his old foe Henrythenavigator, his conqueror in both the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas. The Coolmore stallion is laying down an impressive challenge to the European title, which is good going for a horse who has spent his stud career to date in Kentucky. He became the first of the new boys to sire a Group 1 winner this season when Pedro The Great won the Phoenix Stakes.
Add to the mix Raven’s Pass, who twice beat and was thrice beaten by Henrythenavigator at Group 1 level. The son of Elusive Quality could have earned a Kentucky stud berth himself when outpointing both ‘Henry’ and Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but Darley retired him to Kildangan Stud and he too is already the sire of a stakes winner, Steeler.
Third in the European table at the time of writing is the Aga Khan-bred Sageburg, the winner of the Prix d’Ispahan who got the better of Henrythenavigator in the Prix du Moulin but had to settle for third best behind super-fillies Goldikova and Darjina.
Tamayuz, with Group winners in England and Japan to his credit already (though, sadly for Derrinstown Stud, Meiner Eternal’s Japanese earnings do not count in Europe), is also looking an interesting prospect and his formlines, too, are entangled with his rivals in the table. He won five of seven starts, beating Raven’s Pass in the Prix Jean Prat, with Sageburg behind him in fourth in the Prix Jacques le Marois, while Tamayuz himself took fourth behind Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Looking back, it was a golden year on the track and those former stars could well be on the way to creating a golden era for young stallions, with St Leger winner Sixties Icon also making an emphatic case in support of the Classic winners with his eye-catching start from relatively few runners.
Barring unforeseen disasters, it is hard to imagine that Frankel won’t add to the already burgeoning sire-of-sires reputation of Galileo, and let’s hope that a decent place at stud is ensured for ‘lead horse of the year’, dear old Bullet Train, one of the few remaining sons of Sadler’s Wells in training. I have to admit that I love seeing him on the heath as much as I love seeing Frankel. Never has an older brother been so reliable and so important in his nurturing role. They are quite a double act and we’ll miss them when they’re gone.