In the world of breeding, one of the most valuable accolades a stallion can earn is the description ‘sire of sires’.
One stallion fully worthy of this title is Green Desert, who – together with Danehill – has done the most to extend the influence of the great Danzig throughout Europe. However, proving himself in this role wasn’t as straightforward as one might have expected.
His first Grade 1 winner, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Sheikh Albadou, didn’t excel with his American crops and then died soon after his return to Europe. Later we saw one of his Sprint Cup winners, Tamarisk, prove largely infertile, and another of his fastest sons, the July Cup winner Owington, died in the same year that he covered his first mares.
Another sizeable setback was the surprising failure of Desert Prince to pass on the ability that had made him a champion at three.
Fortunately, Owington’s all-too-brief stallion career hinted at what might be possible. From only 37 named foals, he sired the Group winners Jemima and Gateman, plus a handful of Group-placed performers, and elsewhere we saw a couple of Green Desert’s first-crop sons, Volksraad and Desert Sun, start to make their mark in Australasia. Volksraad ultimately did so well that he became champion sire in New Zealand for six consecutive seasons, while Desert Sun’s principal gifts to Australian racing were his daughters Sunline and Helsinge.
Sure enough, the tide eventually turned, thanks largely to three Irish stallions who retired at comparatively modest fees
Sunline notched up 13 Group 1 victories in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, whereas Helsinge has found fame as the dam of the magnificent Black Caviar and her highly talented half-brother All Too Hard.
Sure enough, the tide eventually turned, thanks largely to three Irish stallions who retired at comparatively modest fees. Desert Style started at only IR£3,000 following a career which saw him win a trio of Group 3 events. He quickly proved his worth, his first crop including Bachir, winner of the 2,000 Guineas in France and Ireland, and Cape Town, third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Since then Desert Style has boosted his total of Group 1 winners to six, with such stand-outs as Mandesha and Paco Boy among them.
Next came Cape Cross. The Lockinge Stakes winner began his career at Kildangan Stud at IR£8,000 but did so well with his cheap crops that his fee climbed to €50,000 for four seasons. He will be standing his fifth season at €35,000 in 2013. The highlights of his stallion career have been those exceptional performers Ouija Board and Sea The Stars.
Cape Cross landed the title of champion sire of two-year-olds with his first crop, in 2003, and three years later the champion first-crop sire was Invincible Spirit, another of Green Desert’s comparatively inexpensive sons. The winner of the Sprint Cup spent his first four years at a fee of €10,000 but his success propelled his fee as high as €75,000 in 2008. He has subsequently proved himself worthy of a place among the elite with a string of Group 1 winners, including three in 2012 – Mayson, Rosdhu Queen and Moonlight Cloud.
There was nothing bargain-basement about Oasis Dream, Green Desert’s next success story. Having proved himself a champion at two and three, Oasis Dream started out at £25,000 and it has virtually been onwards and upwards since then, although his 2013 fee of £80,000 is £5,000 lower than in 2011 and 2012. With nine Group 1 winners to his credit, he has been Green Desert’s most successful son at the highest level in the northern hemisphere.
New recruits favoured
With a history like this, it was only to be expected that breeders would jump at the chance of using any new, inexpensive stallion son of Green Desert and we saw Kheleyf join Kildangan Stud at a fee of €7,000 in 2005, with Byron exactly following his example two years later. The 2007 breeding season also saw the smart but luckless Diamond Green recruited to Ballyhane Stud at a fee of €8,000.
While none of these three has so far proved himself to be a Cape Cross or an Invincible Spirit, all three enjoyed Group success towards the end of 2012. Kheleyf had looked guaranteed to do well with his 2012 juveniles, as they were conceived after he had enjoyed widespread success with his first two-year-olds in 2008. They didn’t disappoint. Kheleyf was represented by more domestic juvenile winners – 27 – than any other sire and they included stakes winners in Britain (two), France and Italy. The most successful of them was the fast French colt Penny’s Picnic, who took the Group 3 Prix Eclipse in October and the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte.
Byron, now based in County Galway, was represented by his first Group 1 winner when Gordon Lord Byron took the Prix de la Foret and he also has a speedy filly, Byrama, representing him in the US.
It was also in the US that Diamond Green has done well. Runner-up in the French 2,000 Guineas, St James’s Palace Stakes and Prix du Moulin, he is now back in France, where he was trained, and he will have been boosted by the exploits of his daughter Watsdachances.
Victory at Navan earned the filly a ticket to the US, where she won a stakes race at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont as a prelude to her second to Flotilla in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
One last chance
Sadly there are no more stallion sons of Green Desert in the pipeline, though that could change if Mazameer – a colt conceived when Green Desert was 26 – builds on his win in the Group 3 Prix de Cabourg. Fortunately, there is no shortage of well-qualified grandsons poised to carry on Green Desert’s good work.
Whether Sea The Stars can emulate Cape Cross’s feat of becoming champion first-crop sire remains to be seen
All eyes will be on Cape Cross’s brilliant son Sea The Stars, who appears eminently qualified to succeed in his new role. As a son of the brilliant broodmare Urban Sea, he is a half-brother to the unique Galileo.
Whether he can emulate Cape Cross’s feat of becoming champion first-crop sire remains to be seen. As an inexpensive stallion, Cape Cross received a speedier, much-less-classic type of mare early in his career, whereas the broodmare sires of Sea The Stars’s higher-priced yearlings included such as Montjeu, Caerleon, Rainbow Quest, Sadler’s Wells, Theatrical and Darshaan. That said, Sea The Stars’s size didn’t stop this sound horse from making his debut as early as July, or from winning his second start a month later. This raises the welcome possibility that some of his progeny will be forward enough to make their mark in the summer of 2013.
We have already seen Lawman, Invincible Spirit’s Prix du Jockey-Club winner, create a highly favourable impression with his first two crops, which have produced seven Group winners headed by Most Improved, Just The Judge and Law Enforcement.
The omens, therefore, must be good for Invincible Spirit’s younger stallion sons, which include Mayson, at Cheveley Park Stud, and Sea The Stars’s three-parts-brother Born To Sea, at Rathasker. These studs have proved their ability to ‘make’ a young commercial sire.
Invincible Spirit’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Vale Of York had his first foals at the 2012 sales, achieving a best price of €60,000 at Goffs and 50,000gns at Tattersalls. There was even stronger support for Zebedee, who covered his first mares as a three-year-old at Tally-Ho Stud, after winning six of his seven juvenile starts. Considering his fee was only €5,000, he did well to have ten youngsters sold for sums ranging between €33,000 and €82,000 at Goffs. He ended up with an average of over 21,000gns with 36 sold.
Another first-crop sire at the foal sales was Desert Style’s admirable son Paco Boy, who never fetched more than 30,000gns in four visits to the sales ring. There were no such reservations about his first foals – of the 22 offered, 21 found buyers and they averaged more than 30,000gns, off a fee of £8,500, with a median of 31,000gns.
Although Oasis Dream is now out of the financial reach of many smaller breeders, these breeders have plenty of choice among his sons. Three of them – Aqlaam, Naaqoos and Captain Gerrard – were represented by their first yearlings at the 2012 sales.
Although Aqlaam won the Prix du Moulin, it is possible that we never saw the best of him, as his career was twice interrupted by injury. Standing at £7,000, his yearling average of 42,338gns, median of 36,000gns and top price of €160,000 are encouraging.
I was captivated by Naaqoos’s extravagant action when he won the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere in 2008, so I was disappointed when his second season proved anti-climactic. Perhaps the Haras de Mezeray resident will make amends as a stallion. His first yearlings included a €120,000 colt at Arqana, where three daughters of Naaqoos sold for €75,000.
Captain Gerrard’s busy racing career divided roughly into two halves. The first half saw him win the Cornwallis Stakes and Palace House Stakes.
Unfortunately the second half was much less successful, which can’t have helped him when he retired to stud. It would be no surprise, though, to see his progeny make a quick start in 2013, especially in auction races.
Three other Oasis Dream stallions were represented for the first time at the foal sales. All three had been important two-year-old winners, with Arcano’s best win coming in the Group 1 Prix Morny, whereas the other two – Showcasing and Approve – both won the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes. Arcano created the greatest interest, with colts selling for 160,000gns and €140,000 to help boost his average to more than 40,000gns.
A good juvenile, Showcasing retired to Whitsbury Manor at a fee of £5,000. He achieved an average of 18,252gns and a median of 17,250gns, with a colt selling for 55,000gns and a filly for 49,000gns.
Approve didn’t risk his reputation at three, as he was retired to Morristown Lattin Stud at the end of his ten-race juvenile season. He was another who proved popular, with 26 of his 28 foals finding buyers, for an average of nearly 20,000gns (off a fee of €5,000). His best price was a 62,000-guinea colt.
With Power also joining Oasis Dream’s burgeoning team of stallion sons, this branch looks poised to became a major factor in the commercial sector.
It is going to be interesting to look back in a few years to see how strong this Green Desert line has become.