Bearing in mind that the owners of roughly 150 mares were prepared to pay €120,000 to access Invincible Spirit in 2016, it is easy to forget that this same stallion received a lukewarm reception when he first started shuttling to Australia in 2003.
The situation was all the more surprising in light of the success already enjoyed by other sons of Green Desert in Australasia. Sunline, an extraordinary daughter of Desert Sun, had gained the last of her 13 Group 1 successes as recently as 2002, while Volksraad had already notched up the first of his many sires’ championships in New Zealand.
The bare facts, though, are that Invincible Spirit attracted only 48 mares at a fee of AUS$13,200 in 2003. He did better in 2004, covering 73 mares at a lower fee of $11,000, but couldn’t maintain the progress in his third year, when 63 mares visited him.
It was only in the autumn of 2006, when he was well on his way to taking the title of leading first-crop sire in Britain and Ireland, that Australian breeders finally paid full attention. With his fee still set at only $11,000, Invincible Spirit was tasked with 153 mares.
That busy 2006 season proved to be the last in Invincible Spirit’s career as a shuttle stallion. With his Australian legacy amounting to 259 foals, it would be nice to be able to report that his four Australian crops proved as effective as their Irish counterparts, which included the Group 1 winners Lawman, Fleeting Sprit and Vale Of York, as well as half a dozen Group 2 winners.
The truth is that the Australian crops generally fell short of that high standard, although there was one notable filly in Yosei, whose 41 career starts yielded three Group 1 successes, including the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes at two and the Thousand Guineas.
Altogether there were just four Group winners among those 259 Australian foals, with only one of the four being a colt.
Happily, that colt – the Group 3 winner I Am Invincible – is rapidly ensuring that Invincible Spirit has left an indelible mark on the Australian industry. Like his sire before him, the 16.2-hands I Am Invincible was at his most successful as a four-year-old after a light three-year-old campaign. His finest effort was arguably his second, receiving 7lb from the veteran Takeover Target, in a Group 1 handicap over six furlongs.
Although clearly well above average, I Am Invincible didn’t stand out from the crowd when he retired to Yarraman Park Stud and he spent his first four seasons at a fee of only $11,000. It was in his favour that he is a big, handsome individual and this no doubt helped him enjoy increasing numerical support, with books of 133, 140, 154 and 175.
These early crops have done so well that his fee has been multiplying at a rapid rate. Indeed the first crop did so well that, in 2013/14, I Am Invincible matched his sire’s feat of becoming champion first-crop sire in his homeland (by a substantial margin). This bright start led to his spending his fifth season at $27,500, since when his fee doubled to $55,000 for 2015 and 2016.
Now it has doubled again, to $110,000 for the upcoming 2017 Australian season. This rise in his fee has been accompanied by even greater demand for his services, with his last three books standing at 211, 198 and 212.
I Am Invincible’s 2017 fee puts him up among the big boys. He is on the same mark as the tried and tested Exceed And Excel and the accomplished American horse Medaglia d’Oro.
With Fastnet Rock’s fee listed as private, the only ones with a higher published fee are Redoute’s Choice ($137,500) and his champion son Snitzel ($176,000). That means he ranks above such as American Pharoah, the former champion sire Lonhro and the dependable More Than Ready, all of whom are priced at $66,000.
Another indication of how far I Am Invincible has progressed came on April 22, when he accomplished a feat normally achieved only by the likes of Sadler’s Wells and Galileo. Not only did he supply the winner of the Group 3 R.N. Irwin Stakes over 1,100 metres at Morphettville but also the second and third, with Viddora proving too strong for Illustrious Lad and I Am Gypsy.
Another indication of his progress was that he notched up stakes winner number 20 from his four crops sired at $11,000 when the two-year-old Kobayashi won a Listed race at Caulfield at the end of April. At the time of writing, on May 2, I Am Invincible ranked fourth behind Snitzel, Street Cry and Fastnet Rock on the general sires’ table, as well as fourth on the two-year-old list. The scale of his success has resulted in considerable demand for his fifth-crop yearlings, sired at $27,500. Individuals have sold for as much as $1,500,000 and $1,400,000.
Twelve of I Am Invincible’s 20 stakes winners have scored at Group level, the best known in Europe surely being his first-crop son Brazen Beau. This very fast horse was rated at least 3lb superior to Australia’s other three-year-olds in the 2014/15 season. Timeform rated Brazen Beau 126 after he travelled to Europe to contest a pair of Group 1 six-furlong events, his better effort coming in the Diamond Jubilee.
The Racing Post said “he must be considered unfortunate” to finish a half-length second to the American raider Undrafted after racing virtually alone from his high draw.
Despite this fine effort at Royal Ascot, there is a sizeable difference between the fees being charged for Brazen Beau at Darley’s Australian and English branches. His fee at Dalham Hall stood no higher than £10,000 in his first two seasons but it costs Australian breeders AUS$44,000 to use the son of I Am Invincible.
This equates to more than £25,000, which suggests that Brazen Beau could prove a bargain for European breeders. Perhaps he will follow the example of Exceed And Excel, another Australian star whose career ended with a disappointing effort in the July Cup.
Exceed And Excel spent his first two European seasons at fees of €10,000 and £7,500, whereas his early seasons in Australia were spent at $55,000. Of course Exceed And Excel has lived up to his name sufficiently for his Australian fee to rise as high as $110,000 and his European fee to €50,000.
I Am Invincible is set to face some stiff competition over the next few years from Shalaa, another of Invincible Spirit’s fastest sons, although I Am Invincible enjoys the advantage of being a proven sire. When Shalaa shuttles to Arrowfield Stud after completing his first season in France, 2015’s Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes winner will be priced at $33,000.
Zebedee is another son of Invincible Spirit heading for Australia (South Australia to be precise). The sire of Ivawood and Magical Memory is priced at $16,500 in his third season.
Clearly there are many chapters yet to be written in Invincible Spirit’s Australian story, even though he was last seen himself in the country in December 2006.