With the first entry stage for the Derby closing when the contestants are still yearlings, it is hard to extract any meaningful information from the entries, from a pedigree viewpoint. As most owners and breeders learn to their cost, high hopes usually prove misplaced, with the wished-for Classic contender proving to be ordinary. Even so, it’s impossible not to be fascinated when other countries’ Classic entries are made at a more informative time, early in the contenders’ three-year-old season. The American Triple Crown entries were published in early February, with the French equivalents following later that month.
Any breeder who has paid considerable sums to access one of the top stallions will no doubt hope to see these stallions dominating the Classic entries and generally they won’t be disappointed.
France’s impressively detailed daily internet bulletin, Jour de Galop, compiled a list of the stallions with the most entries in this year’s four French Classics confined to three-year-olds. Unlike in America, where the figures are for individual horses, the Jour de Galop statistics include each individual entry, giving much higher totals.
There are no prizes for guessing that Galileo – a stallion who is out on his own in terms of European stallion fees – tops the list. What might be surprising is the scale of his dominance. With 57 entries, he has more than double the total of his nearest pursuer, Dansili, who has a still-impressive 25 entries.
These 2012 three-year-olds were conceived in 2008, when Galileo had already donned the mantle of Europe’s highest-priced stallion by a substantial margin. Dansili’s rise through the ranks had seen him move into second place behind Pivotal among the British-based stallions. Pivotal himself has ten French Classic entries, his lower figure no doubt reflecting the fact that his progeny are less likely to shine at around a mile and a quarter.
The Dansili contingent in the Prix du Jockey-Club includes several dark horses belonging to Juddmonte, notably the impressive maiden winners Top Offer and Wrotham Heath, and Proviso’s promising once-raced brother Navarre. They are among Dansili’s nine Jockey-Club entries, which places him second in this Classic to Galileo, with 16. It is the Prix de Diane, though, which Galileo totally dominates, his 27 entries being 12 ahead of his nearest pursuer (Dylan Thomas, of whom more later).
No doubt thanks largely to Godolphin, who must have high hopes of Discourse and Lyric Of Light, Street Cry ranks third on the list, with a total of 22, despite being based in the US. It is worth remembering that his fee in 2008 had doubled from 2007’s $50,000 but had yet to reach $150,000, which he has maintained ever since. Could the best still be to come?
Those who rightly consider Rock Of Gibraltar to be one of the best-value stallions around at his 2012 fee of €17,500 will be reassured to see that his progeny have 17 Classic entries. Among them are his 2011 Group winners Sofast, Rockinante and Samitar. This total of 17 puts him one ahead of his fellow Coolmore stallion Montjeu, who has those excellent prospects Camelot and Wading among his squad. Montjeu’s 2009 crop numbers ‘only’ 77, compared to Galileo’s 183 and Rock Of Gibraltar’s 164.
Inevitably, one of the most fascinating aspects of the table concerns the stallions who have their first three-year-olds in 2012. I doubt whether Dylan Thomas’s numerous admirers were happy about the lack of a stakes winner among his first two-year-old runners – a lapse which has helped his fee drop to €12,500, a mere quarter of his original price tag. However, it mustn’t be forgotten that Dylan Thomas’s Timeform rating went from 102 as a two-year-old to 129 at three and then to 132 at four, when he was Europe’s champion older horse.
This type of progression could be expected of a horse of his size (16.2hh) and the fact that his progeny have been given 18 French Classic entries (with 12 fillies in the Prix de Diane) suggests that there may be plenty of improvement to come.
The next first-crop sire with substantial entries is Manduro, whose total of 14 includes his Group 1 winner Mandaean and the promising Bonfire. Then comes Teofilo, whose total of 13 includes seven fillies in the Diane, and Lawman. Himself a winner of the Prix du Jockey-Club, Lawman has four Jockey-Club entries among his total of 12. His Poulains and Jockey-Club entries feature his Group 3 winner Loi and Dewhurst Stakes third Most Improved.
Lawman is a grandson of Green Desert, who exerts a strong influence on the French Classics. Three of his sons account for 38 of the entries, with Oasis Dream’s team of 14 putting him just one ahead of Invincible Spirit and three ahead of Cape Cross.
Nowadays it is easy to think of Oasis Dream as Britain’s highest-priced stallion, as he has owned or shared that distinction in each of the last three years. However, his 2012 Classic contenders were sired at £30,000, whereas Invincible Spirit’s were sired at €75,000 and Cape Cross’s at €50,000. With a total of six, Oasis Dream has the most entries of any stallion in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, but Galileo shares that honour with Street Cry in the Pouliches. Oasis Dream’s ability to sire animals who stay much better than he did is reflected in his five entries in the Jockey-Club.
Other stallions on the list who deserve a mention are Zamindar and Muhtathir. It is fair to say that Zamindar is held in much higher regard in France than in the UK, thanks to his feat of siring three winners of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in Zenda, Darjina and Zarkava.
Zarkava, of course, went on to win the Prix de Diane and the Arc, while Darjina took the Prix du Moulin. Zamindar has an interesting colt this time, in the runaway Redcar maiden winner Starboard, but he also has four fillies, headed by the smart Zantenda, bidding to provide him with a fourth Pouliches.
It was in 2007 that Muhtathir enjoyed international success with the likes of Doctor Dino, Satwa Queen and Mauralakana, so his 2009 crop – his largest – represents his best chance of capitalizing on those successes. He has a total of 12 entries, including five in the Diane, to make him the best represented of the French-based stallions.
In addition to Street Cry, several other American-based stallions featured prominently among those with French Classic entries,
these being Hard Spun (9), Distorted Humor (8), Giant’s Causeway (8), Mr Greeley (8), Elusive Quality (7), Street Sense (7) and Dynaformer (6).
Unsurprisingly, several of these also ranked among the most prolific sires of American Triple Crown nominees. Darley must be pleased with the progress being made by Street Sense, the impressive 2007 Kentucky Derby hero who is the highest-ranked of the first-crop sires, with two more than Hard Spun. Street Sense already has two Graded stakes winners to his credit in Motor City and Castaway, and he has several other good prospects, including the impressive American maiden winner Street Life and the British-trained Prince Alzain, who is among his Triple Crown nominees.
It is a measure of the progress made by Horse of the Year Tiznow that he shares top billing on the Triple Crown list, with 12 representatives from a crop sired at a comparatively modest fee of $30,000. His co-leader, Unbridled’s Song, stood the 2008 season at $150,000. Tiznow, who will always be remembered for defeating European challengers in consecutive Breeders’ Cup Classics, is currently standing his fourth consecutive season at $75,000, so he is ideally placed to enhance his reputation still further.
Another stallion making great strides is the twice-raced Malibu Moon, who has 11 nominees. Having started his career in Maryland at a fee of only $3,000, the very well-connected son of AP Indy is standing the 2012 season at a career-high of $70,000, but his Classic contenders were sired at a fee of $40,000. With the advantage of a slightly bigger crop, Malibu Moon has four more nominees than Bernardini, the next-highest-ranked son of AP Indy on the list. Sadly, Bernardini’s Algorithms, winner of the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes, has been knocked off the Kentucky Derby trail by a splint injury, but Bernardini has another live contender in Alpha, winner of the Grade 3 Withers Stakes.
Arguably the finest achievement of any American stallion comes from Claiborne Farm’s War Front. The fast son of Danzig has only around 60 named foals in his second crop. However, no fewer than ten of them have been Triple Crown-nominated.
Add this to the widescale success enjoyed by War Front, which features the likes of The Factor, Soldat and Summer Soiree, and it is beginning to look as though Claiborne may finally have found a worthy heir to Danzig. The ten-year-old stallion now commands a fee of $60,000, having stood his first five seasons at a fraction of that amount.