First printed in the May edition of Owner Breeder magazine 

Every new season brings with it a fresh set of aspirations for stallion studs and 2024 is no different to any other. But there is a small cohort of stallions – those that breeders have placed their faith in after initial early successes – that will be held to account more than any others. There is also part two of the narrative begun by last year’s intake of new stallions especially those that stood at fees that guaranteed them access to the best mares. Much more will be demanded of this group whatever their achievements with their first set of two-year-olds.

Too Darn Hot falls into this category. Since 2013 when Frankel covered his first stellar book of mares, there is no other stallion before or since with a better first book of mares, with the possible exception of Baaeed. So, whatever Too Darn Hot achieved last term – and with four Group winners it was quite a lot – more will be expected of the son of Dubawi this term. But there is no doubting the promise of the Dalham Hall Stud sire and events in Australia recently just serve to whet the appetite even further. At the time of writing, Too Darn Hot is top of the Australian first-season sire leader board by both earnings and number of individual winners.

His first-crop star is the Godolphin colour-bearer and Group 1 Champagne Stakes winner Broadsiding, whose profile is that of a rapidly improving juvenile that looks very much like a Caulfield Guineas or Spring Champion Stakes winner in the making. Significantly, Too Darn Hot is also represented by Group-placed fillies Too Darn Lizzie, Silmarillion and Arabian Summer in Australia. Of course, he has already sired his first three-year-old Group winner in the shape of the Japanese filly Etes Vous Prets, who scored in the Group 2 Hochi Hai Fillies’ Revue at Hanshin before running a creditable fifth, beaten just over a length-and-half, in the Group 1 Oka Sho (Japanese 1,000 Guineas) at the same venue behind Stellenbosch.

Expectation also runs high for Darley’s Blue Point

Expectation also runs high for Darley’s Blue Point. He too was blessed with an excellent first book and all eyes will be on the Richard Hannon-trained Rosallion to see if Blue Point can generate traction as something other than just a source of speed and precocity. That said, it would be perfectly acceptable if Blue Point produced more crops of fast and classy two-year-olds and become a rival to the likes of No Nay Never, with one or two good older horses thrown in. The class of 2020 has several more, including middle-distance stars such as Masar, Waldgeist and Study Of Man, who will have been excused their first-year results but will be required to up their game considerably with their first three-year olds this term, if they are to endure.

Among the stallions that earned big upgrades to their mare quality after early success the expectation is even more intense. This year we see the first two-year-olds by Mehmas produced after his phenomenal first season in 2020 when he sired a world-record number of two-year-old winners (56) interspersed with plenty of high-achieving types, such as Group 1 winners Supremacy and later on Minzaal. By my calculations, Mehmas attracted just 29 elite mares in his first four years at Tally-Ho but look what has happened since. Among the 771 mares he covered in the past three years are 221 elite mares, nearly ten times the amount in his first four crops. His fourth book of mares had only five elite mares, but his fifth – those responsible for this year’s two-year-olds – feature no fewer than 59. There’s no question about it, Mehmas is due some very exciting times, starting in 2024.

The quality of his 2021 crop can be put down to his own fantastic start in 2019

Another Dubawi stallion with the potential to add to or even rewrite his story is Night Of Thunder. If you start to see some progressive three-year-old emerge by the Darley stallion – and there have already been some – don’t be too surprised. Like Mehmas, Night Of Thunder from this point onwards is dealing from a stacked deck. The quality of his 2021 crop can be put down to his own fantastic start in 2019 when he sired 28 juvenile winners, featuring seven stakes winners. That crop matured to feature 22 stakes winners in all, including his two Group 1 winners, Highfield Princess and Thundering Heights. His 22 first-crop stakes winners were produced at an outstanding rate of 24.2% from runners, which form the backbone of his career score of 10.1% stakes winners. Moreover, from his better mares, Night Of Thunder’s stakes-winner strike-rate is hovering around 13.5% and a brilliant 10.1% Group winners.

The extra ammunition in his fifth crop has already delivered a career-high 36 two-year-old winners last season, 12 more than he achieved from his first crop, including the Group 2-winning and Group 1-placed Vespertilio. Given that this fifth crop are from a book of mares that contained more elite mares than his first four put together, much more is required of this group now that they have turned three. For starters, it would be nice to see a top-class son or indeed more stakes-winning sons to counter the current filly bias on his cv. At this point in time, Night Of Thunder has sired 24 stakes-winning fillies (13.3%) and just 13 stakes-winning colts and geldings (7.0%).

To a lesser extent, New Bay is another Dubawi looking to kick on after the increase in his year-five mare quality. This batch of mares featured twice as many elites as either of his first two which together are responsible for 11 of his 13 career stakes winners. So, watch out for his current two-year-olds particularly in the second half of the season. They averaged €120,000 at the yearling sales last year, which was up from €96,000 the year before.

Belardo is another with greatly improved opportunities with this year’s two-year-olds, his mare quality easily the best of his career, following his three first-crop juvenile Group-winning fillies, Isabella Giles, Lullaby Moon and Elysium who have since been joined by Grade 1 Frank E Kilroe Mile winner Gold Phoenix. Unfortunately, the market has already decided his fate, sending him just 32 mares the year after he was sent 172. Will he redeem his reputation?