Not long after this issue of the magazine hits the streets we’ll know whether a Triple Crown bid is on for Saxon Warrior.
If he manages to bridge a 48-year gap between Triple Crown winners, so nearly achieved in 2012 by Camelot, whose stable at Ballydoyle Saxon Warrior now inhabits, the son of Deep Impact will not have been ridden in every leg by Ryan Moore.
The number one jockey at Ballydoyle was at Churchill Downs on 2,000 Guineas day attempting to spark a transatlantic Triple Crown challenge aboard Mendelssohn, giving Donnacha O’Brien his chance for a first Classic win. While Newmarket basked in the sun, Louisville endured a day of ceaseless rain which made the Kentucky Derby an unedifying spectacle. Only those horses and riders who managed to grab a spot in the vanguard and remain there came home uncovered in slop from the dirt track.
Mendelssohn, like the winner Justify, is of course a son of Scat Daddy, whose ability to sire top-class dirt and turf runners has ensured that his offspring have become highly sought after, not least because after this crop of two-year-olds there will be no more.
The offspring of American-bred stallions are becoming increasingly prevalent in the European breeze-up sector. Scat Daddy dominated the Craven Breeze-up at Tattersalls, where he was responsible for the top three lots, while Street Sense and More Than Ready provided the next two on price. Those five juveniles alone brought 3.55 million gns, a little over 25% of the sale’s entire turnover.
The story was a similar one at Europe’s other premier two-year-old sale, the Arqana Breeze-up, in mid-May. There, six of the top ten lots were by American sires — Scat Daddy once again ruling the roost with a colt selling for €825,000 to Coolmore — and that sextet also sold for more than €3 million.
In the following day’s Poule d’Essai des Poulains, Olmedo became the first Classic winner for his young sire Declaration Of War. The son of War Front stood his first season in Ireland for €40,000 but has subsequently been relocated to his birthplace, where his fee is now $25,000. It hasn’t been all one-way traffic to Ashford Stud, however, as the Irish 2,000 Guineas and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician has made an unusual late-season switch from Kentucky back to Ireland, where he joined Castlehyde Stud in time to start covering European mares from May 12.
The reason for this move from Coolmore’s American base, where his fee had dropped from an opening $12,500 to $7,500, is apparently predominantly because of his first-crop son named Cardini, thought to be one of the shining stars of Ballydoyle’s two-year-old division.
Bred in Kentucky by Chad Schumer, who bought his 90-rated dam Perfect Step at Keeneland’s November Sale for $31,000, Cardini was pinhooked from the same sale a year later for $95,000 by Michael Fitzpatrick, who then sold him on to Amanda Skiffington and MV Magnier for 210,000gns. If he lives up to expectation — which has been enhanced hugely by Coolmore taking the unprecedented step of featuring the (at the time) unraced juvenile in advertisements for Magician — then it will have been money well spent.
A prize-money mountain to climb
In columns earlier in this issue, both Howard Wright (page 28) and Danny Power (Around The Globe, page 35) make reference to British prize-money levels in comparison to other racing nations.
Power highlights the fact that The Everest, run for the first time in October 2017 and which has had a A$3 million prize-money boost to A$13m this year, is having an impact in ensuring that some Australian sprinters which might otherwise have come to Royal Ascot will stay at home. Shoals and last year’s Everest winner Redzel are at least two who will not be joining the Ascot shuttle.
Similarly, Wright airs his concerns that the recent increase in prize-money at the grassroots level will have a detrimental effect on our crown-jewel contests, warning that “high-end British racing cannot live by prestige and history alone”.
He’s right, of course, but it cannot be denied that the £8 million directed by the BHA into grassroots racing was much needed, while there remains an insistence that there can be no let-up in the number of fixtures each year. Horses are needed to fill these races and to try to coax greater support at the sales for those horses beneath the top tier is vital to prevent breeders at all levels becoming disillusioned with the business.
This year’s breeze-up sales have further illustrated the fact that overproduction – or lack of demand, call it what you will – is once again a very real concern. If this theme continues at the yearling sales, as seems likely, then breeders will have to think hard about covering fewer mares next year, though a drop in foal crop numbers is not a statistic that will please the BHA.
One sector of the sales which appears to be thriving is that of the boutique in-training auction tied to a major racing festival, and on the Flat this is helped by a demand from overseas. The latest addition to the calendar for this year is the Goffs UK sale on the Wednesday of Glorious Goodwood, which is very much tailored to appealing to international buyers.
A more encouraging aspect of this season so far is the fact that the winners of both the 1,000 Guineas and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches — Billesdon Brook and Teppal — are by sires well within the financial reach of most breeders. Billesdon Brook’s sire Champs Elysees stood for just £5,000 in 2014 and is now €6,500 since his move to Ireland. Teppal’s sire Camacho, who in 2013 stood his sole season in Britain for £2,750, is now back in Ireland at €7,500, the fee at which Teppal was conceived.