A decade ago, while working for Darley, I set off on an epic bike ride around Northumberland to ‘celebrate’ a significant birthday of my then-colleague Dawn Laidlaw.

A welcome pause in the day’s activities was presented when we scrambled to Dawn’s friend’s house in time to watch the Irish 2,000 Guineas and see Dubawi become the sole Classic winner for his sire Dubai Millennium.

After writing this column, my next task will be to scribble a list of items to take with me for the forthcoming weekend’s celebrations for another of Dawn’s big birthdays. With padded shorts vying with my hipflask to be top of the list, it’s not hard to guess that we’re off on yet another torturous bike ride. We may be ten years older but we’re certainly not ten years wiser.

Makfi’s good start to this season is a lesson to us all to reserve judgement on young stallions, at least until their first three-year-olds are properly up and running

What’s changed in those years is that Dawn, in her role as Darley’s Nominations Manager, now spends a considerable amount of time working out how not to offend the breeders who want to send mares to Dubawi – whose book could almost certainly be filled many times over each season – but don’t quite make the cut. At the time of writing, admittedly with plenty of major prizes to be contested this month, Dubawi heads the European sires’ table, with his fellow Darley sire and contemporary Shamardal in hot pursuit, narrowly ahead of Galileo.

The reigning champion sire’s dominance is in no doubt and he has Teofilo, New Approach and Rip Van Winkle to enhance his claims as a sire of sires, with Frankel, Australia, Nathaniel, Intello and co waiting to bolster this position. It will be interesting to see how Dubawi and Shamardal fare in this regard, but they already have Makfi and Lope De Vega representing them admirably.

Makfi was Dubawi’s first Classic winner in the 2,000 Guineas of 2010 and he emulated his sire by going on to land the Prix Jacques le Marois later that summer. Further comparisons abound in that Makfi is now a Classic sire himself, courtesy of the front-running victory of his first-crop member Make Believe in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains – a British-bred triumph for Simon and Margaret Hope’s Aston Mullins Stud.

It’s fair to say that at last season’s yearling sales, Makfi suffered a similarly indifferent welcome from buyers as that received by Dubawi in his early years at stud. Makfi’s first-crop yearlings averaged 56,900gns, while the equivalent figure for the second batch to hit the sales ring in 2014 dipped to 31,909gns. Incidentally, his most expensive yearling to date – Godolphin’s Ijmaaly, who cost 300,000gns at Tattersalls in 2013 and is out of a half-sister to Dubawi’s Poet’s Voice – looked highly impressive when winning by 12 lengths on debut at Lingfield in May.

French move made sense
Makfi’s switch for this season from Tweenhills to the Aga Khan Studs’ Haras de Bonneval is looking to be something of a masterstroke, as runners such as Listed winner Cornwallville and Prix de Diane entrant Zvarkhova have done wonders for his profile in France. He is currently shaded in the European second-crop sires’ list only by his stud-mate Siyouni, though Makfi has sired more individual winners at a better strike-rate than his fellow young Classic sire.

Lope De Vega and Siyouni were quicker out of the gates with their first two-year-olds and consequently saw the value of their yearlings rise sharply last autumn. Many of Makfi’s runners to date follow a similar profile to his own racing career – a late debut at two followed by significant improvement at three – and his good start to this season is a lesson to us all to reserve judgement on young stallions, at least until their first three-year-olds are properly up and running.

However successful Makfi becomes – and he has also already sired a Group 1 winner in New Zealand from his shuttle stint at Westbury Stud – he is guaranteed his place in history as the foundation stallion of Sheikh Fahad Al Thani’s Qatar Bloodstock operation, which now stands Harbour Watch, Havana Gold and Charm Spirit at stud. Indeed, the first time many of us saw Sheikh Fahad at a racecourse was at Deauville ahead of Makfi’s Prix Jacques le Marois victory. We’ve seen plenty of him since then.