How refreshing it is to see the European Pattern back to its normal timeline. Last season was certainly unorthodox with traditional Classic trials coming after the Classics themselves and virtually no juvenile racing in the first two months of the season. Not only did this altered state cause problems for trainers, it also impacted on the fortunes of some stallions.
At the time of writing, the leading sires of juveniles this year are already up to eight winners, many of them attracting many more mares to cover this breeding season as a result. Last year no stallion had that opportunity. Those that have exploited their stock’s precocity in this normal calendar include Ardad, Cotai Glory and Caravaggio, all with high number of winners, Ribchester, whose early winners are all Royal Ascot fancies, and Profitable, who was the first freshman to produce a Group horse.
Among the more established sires, even elder statesmen are still capable of embellishing their career records. Dutch Art’s excellent sprinting son, Starman, has been assessed by Timeform at 126 for his victory in the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes. That puts him just one pound behind Dutch Art’s best ever racehorse in Slade Power. Certainly, Starman has a lot more to achieve if we are to talk about him in the same breath, but he’s clearly full of potential.
Dawn Approach is another that sired his best-ever racehorse this spring in 2,000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare. It was his first Group 1 winner, his three previous crops clearly having failed to deliver on breeders’ high expectations. Dawn Approach’s 2.8% stakes winners to runners, from mares that produced over 10% stakes winners with other sires sums up why breeders were forced to look elsewhere in the end.
The impressive sprinter Suesa, who has scored an early Group double this spring in France could conceivably make it to the top of her sire’s resume at Royal Ascot. This daughter of Night Of Thunder has only a few pounds to find to join Thunderous and Molatham as his best-rated stock. Of course, a victory in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup would be a first at this level for the popular Kildangan stallion.
Another sire with what seems like an endless supply of progressive three-year-olds this season is Frankel. As we know, this particular crop is the one bred on the back of Frankel’s early success. His elite mare count provides us with some idea of how the market switched on to him in 2017 after being somewhat critical of his early sales stock. His number of elite mares went through the roof from 74 in year four to 168 the following spring.
The Cazoo Derby success of Adayar is a welcome addition to Frankel’s impressive resume. No one could have faulted the quality of his stakes winners, nor the rate at which he has sired them, but if there was a gap in his achievements, it was at the very top. Now he has a Derby winner in the bag, Frankel’s top ten racehorses by Timeform rating is set to look a lot different by the end of this year.
Frankel’s stud companion Kingman has also been making hay with three early Group 1 winners. It’s hard to fault Palace Pier from any perspective. Clearly a gorgeous specimen, he’s a top-class miler with a brilliant turn of foot. Kingman’s other two Group 1 winners came in Japan and the US. Kingman’s 12% stakes winners is impressive, but even more impressive is his 18% score from elite mares, the type that have always been in good supply, but have gone off the scale in the past three covering seasons.
Sea The Stars is another with a potential new top-class horse in Al Aasy. His current Timeform rating of 128, following wins in the Group 3 John Porter and Group 3 Aston Park Stakes, puts him behind only Crystal Ocean (133), Cloth Of Stars (132), Stradivarius (130) and Sea Of Class (129) among his sire’s best progeny. And you wouldn’t bet against him going further up the scale when he meets worthier opposition.
No one can overlook the bright start to 2021 made by Australia. He already has six stakes winners and five Group winners on the board, featuring a quartet of smart older horses in Mare Australis (TF123), Broome (TF122), Sir Ron Priestley (TF122) and Bangkok (TF121). To put his early efforts in context, only Galileo and Dubawi have as many European-raced Group winners so far this term. All bar the Group 1 Prix Ganay winner Mare Australis are from a pretty good first crop that inexplicably failed to produce a Group 1 winner. He has now got three from his second.
Finally, a word of praise for Awtaad, who has begun 2021 the way he needed to, producing a pair of classy stakes-winning fillies, including the impressive Primo Bacio, who has plenty of potential to move up through the grades.