Among the many ramifications of racing’s enforced shutdown was the inability to test the potential of young stallions.

In the grand scheme of things there were obviously far greater problems for the sport and the outside world to contend with. But for those studs having to support a stallion with first two-year-olds on the ground, the shutdown could not have come at a worst time.

Come springtime, the first-crop sire chat is in full swing, often fuelled by whispers emitted by the breeze-up community, none of whom are afraid to voice their opinions either way. Last year, for instance, they were spot on in their support of Night Of Thunder. However, there have also been occasions when the hype machine gets in the way and the horse in question fails to deliver. Therefore nothing will ever beat assessing a young sire’s progeny on the racecourse, which naturally made doing business for some of the independent studs with such horses much harder than usual – and frustrating.

Speaking in the May edition of Owner Breeder, Whitsbury Manor Stud director Ed Harper summed up their situation with the stud’s young stallion Adaay by recalling the importance of those early spring winners for Showcasing.

“I remember Showcasing’s first winner arrived in early April that season and then several days later, Cappella Sansevero won easily on his debut at Dundalk,” he said. “I think we booked an extra 45 mares that year in May to him off the back of those early winners. And it was not just us who benefitted, but the breeders who had supported him too.”

Muker, by Mehmas, winning at Newcastle in early June – Photo: Tony Knapton

By the time this year’s strange season got underway, the breeding season was more or less over, and so any horse that did pick up an extra clutch of mares was most likely doing it on chat and sale performance alone.

We are well enough into the season now to have a good idea of how the land lies among the first-crop stallions of 2020, and which horse might have piqued the attention of breeders had the season been able to start earlier.

Using the leading first-crop sires list available on the Owner Breeder site, it perhaps comes as no surprise to see Tally-Ho Stud’s Mehmas falling into that category.

Firstly, few studs support their stallions as strongly as Tally-Ho, who have a large band of quality and often speedily-bred mares at their disposal. As a tough Group 2-winning juvenile by Acclamation, Mehmas’s profile was also music to the ears of commercial breeders, and thus he has immense ammunition to go to war with, as we saw on the first day of racing’s return in Britain, when he was represented by no fewer than nine runners.

Since then, Mehmas has supplied 47 runners in in Europe, who between them have made a staggering 113 starts. A tally of 11 winners translates to 24% but they include one of the most exciting two-year-olds seen so far in Method, winner of the Listed Rose Bowl Stakes at Newbury, Newmarket scorer She’s So Nice and Phillip Makin’s tough two-time winner Muker.

On Thursday at Goodwood, Supremacy emulated Mehmas with an impressive performance to land the

Mehmas is one of five first-crop stallions to have already sired a stakes winner. Of the other four, two are sons of Mehmas’ studmate Kodiac.

Kodiac’s squad

With four sons represented by their first juveniles this season, 2020 was always going to rank as a potentially landmark season in the evolving legacy of Kodiac. Given how his half-brother Invincible Spirit has excelled in this department, notably as the sire of Kingman and I Am Invincible, there were grounds for thinking that Kodiac might also fare well and the early signs are indeed promising.

Each of the quartet – Prince Of Lir, Coulsty, Adaay and Kodi Bear – have already supplied stakes horses.

Ballyhane Stud’s Prince Of Lir was quick off the mark as the sire of The Lir Jet, who emulated his sire by winning the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. Another black-type runner, the Listed-placed Puerto Princesa, has since followed to provide an eye-catching start for a horse who stood his first season for just €5,000.

2020 was always going to rank as a potentially landmark season in the evolving legacy of Kodiac”

Similarly, Group 3 winner Coulsty was another accessible horse at a first-year fee of €5,000 at Rathasker Stud. His first crop consists of just 44 foals, but he will now undoubtedly gain an upswing in interest following his bright start, one that took another leap forward on Sunday when his daughter Santosha won the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot.

In all, it was a productive weekend for sons of Kodiac since in addition to Coulsty, Rathbarry Stud’s Kodi Bear came close to stakes success when Cobh ran second in the Listed Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot, while Adaay supplied the third home in the Listed Criterium de Bequet, Tea Dance.

Both have made good starts; Adaay has sired eight winners, including three black-type performers, while Kodi Bear is the sire of five winners.

Colleville strikes again with Goken

As far as the European standings are concerned, however, nothing can yet come close to Goken, whose progeny have won just over £200,000 in earnings. Yet another example of Guy Pariente’s Haras de Colleville successfully launching a stallion, it is hard not to be impressed with his quick start, for all that the son of Kendargent gained an advantage with the earlier return of French racing.

Goken was a very fast horse for Pariente, winning a pair of Group 3 sprints and running third in the King’s Stand Stakes, and the early indications point to the horse throwing such speed and precocity to his progeny; nine of his 19 runners have already won and they include the top two finishers in the Group 3 Prix du Bois in Livachope and Axdavali. All in all, excellent results for a horse that has never stood for more than €5,000.

Twilight Son: won’t be long before his runners are off the mark in Britain and Ireland – Photo: Zoë Vicarage

Group 3 landmark for Twilight Son

Cheveley Park Stud’s Twilight Son gained an early boost with the victory of his daughter Aria Importante in the Group 3 Premio Primi Passi at Milan. The son of Kyllachy had his break through in Britain or Ireland when Spirit Of Bermuda won a 7f maiden at Goodwood on Thursday. His runners over here also include the Listed-placed Grammata and the Windsor Castle Stakes fourth Get It.

A black-type runner has also come the way of Shalaa in the form of Coventry Stakes third Saeiqa. A brilliant two-year-old himself, Shalaa has caught the imagination of breeders at Haras de Bouquetot and was highly popular at the sales, where his yearlings sold for up to €600,000. The sire of three winners to date, it will be disappointing if he does not take higher order as the season progresses.

Meanwhile, another fast horse, Lanwades Stud’s Group 1-winning sprinter Bobby’s Kitten, is the sire of four winners. The first son of Kitten’s Joy to stand in Europe, his winning quartet includes recent easy Curragh scorer Monaasib.

Promise abounds for Territories

As a Classic-placed son of Invincible Spirit from the family of Street Cry and Shamardal, hopes have understandably long run high for the prospects of Darley’s Territories. And anyone with an investment in Territories has plenty of reason to be encouraged.

His early runners already include two Italian Listed-placed juveniles but perhaps even more importantly, there are also a group of promising debut scorers in the pipeline, notably Royal Scimitar (won at Newbury) and Teresa Mendoza (won at the Curragh) to complement the unbeaten French colt Rougir.

The Darley umbrella also covers Belardo, whose five winners include Sunday’s Princess Margaret Stakes fourth Isabella Giles, Buratino, the sire of four winners, and The Last Lion, the sire of three.

New Bay winning the Prix Niel

New Bay: Ballylinch Stud resident has made a good start with his first runners – Photo: George Selwyn

New Bay’s hot strike-rate

Prix du Jockey Club winner New Bay may not have broken into the European top five by prize-money just yet but there are grounds for thinking that Ballylinch Stud’s son of Dubawi, who is related to Kingman and Oasis Dream, will wind up as one of the most successful of his year.

With a winners-to-runners strike-rate in Europe of 64% (78% in Britain and Ireland), there are shades of Night Of Thunder about New Bay. One representative, Imperial Yellow, has already been Listed-placed while others among his six winners look capable of attaining similar heights, notably Jumbo (who led home a one-two for the sire on debut at Ascot), Leopardstown winner Vafortino and Saturday’s Gowran Park scorer Amber Kite.

New Bay certainly has the firepower to aid his stud career, having been well supported by his powerful connections, among them Ballylinch Stud, Juddmonte Farms and the China Horse Club. He only ran once at two himself, when second in a backend Longchamp maiden, so his start has to be regarded as highly encouraging at the very least.

Speaking of eye-catching strike-rates, it might also pay to keep an eye on Tara Stud’s dual Group 2 winner Estidhkaar. The son of Dark Angel has sired six winners to date, good for a winners-to-runners strike-rate of 46% in Europe.