For a variety of reasons, there has been a number of colts taking up stallion duties at the tender age of three in recent years. While it’s an unsatisfactory situation in many regards, not least in depriving racegoers of seeing what the best two-year-olds are capable of in their Classic seasons and beyond, some notable success for these young stallions makes it harder and harder to argue against the practice.

But for the serious subfertility of George Washington, Holy Roman Emperor would almost certainly have attempted to gain revenge for his head defeat in the Dewhurst Stakes back at the Rowley Mile the following spring.

Instead, he had almost finished covering his first book of mares at Coolmore by the time the 2,000 Guineas was run. Had he lined up for the race he would not have met his Dewhurst conqueror as injury prevented Teofilo from running at three and he too went off to stud.

The 2006 Dewhurst was described in the Racing Post’s analysis at the time as “the definitive two-year-old race of the season”, but the disappointment of seeing neither colt race again has been abated somewhat by the impressive starts made by each in their stud careers. Having retired a year later, Teofilo was quicker to make an impression – his first runner Parish Hall won on debut in April and went on to emulate his sire by winning the Dewhurst – but those who knocked Holy Roman Emperor when his first-crop runners were in action at two have subsequently been served giant slices of humble pie.

The neat son of Danehill numbers 1,000 Guineas winner Homecoming Queen among his three Group 1 winners in two hemispheres, while the smart Moyglare Stud-bred pair Designs On Rome and Rich Tapestry have been advertising his worth this winter with Group wins in Hong Kong and Dubai.

Those who knocked Holy Roman Emperor when his first-crop runners were in action at two have subsequently been served giant slices of humble pie

Teofilo’s stock has also risen after a profitable 2013 season, which included Irish Classic wins for Trading Leather and Voleuse De Coeurs, while Havana Gold won the Prix Jean Prat and is now covering his first book of mares at Tweenhills Stud.

We saw plenty of Dark Angel through his busy two-year-old campaign, which included a Craven meeting debut and late-season Group victories in the Mill Reef and Middle Park Stakes among his nine outings. We’ve also seen plenty from his three crops to race to date. Lethal Force led the sprint rankings in last season’s QIPCO British Champions Series and now resides in splendour at Cheveley Park Stud’s stallion yard. Slightly more surprisingly, Dark Angel is also the sire of dual Grade 1-winning hurdler Guitar Pete.

The turn of Zebedee?
A similarly bright start is anticipated from another grey, the first-season sires’ title favourite Zebedee, who has not disappointed so far at this early stage in the season. He became the first of the freshmen to sire a winner when Magical Roundabout emulated his father by winning the same Windsor maiden for Julie Wood and Richard Hannon. Among Zebedee’s contemporaries with first runners is Dark Angel’s Morristown Lattin Stud mate Approve, whose ten juvenile appearances included a brace of Group 2 victories in the Gimcrack and Norfolk Stakes.

Commercial factors, including an increasing obsession with young speedy types, doubtless play a huge part in the decision-making process for owners of horses with the profile to attract offers from stallion masters, and the lack of a decent racing programme for three-year-old sprinters is also frequently cited when a well-credentialed colt is retired to stud at the end of his juvenile season. And, just as with the exodus of talented individuals to Hong Kong and beyond, there is absolutely no doubt that proper returns through prize-money in this country would go a long way to stemming the flow of youngsters either to stud or overseas.

It’s a drum that will continue to be banged until British racing really owns the right to call itself Great British racing with a prize-money pool to rival the best racing nations in the world.

That said, the phenomenon of horses racing only as two-year-olds is not restricted to Britain and Ireland. Currently dominating the second-season sires’ table in Australia is the former dual Group 1-winning juvenile Sebring, whose racing brilliance was cut short by soundness issues which prevented his reappearance at three but do not appear to have prohibited his stock from representing him in fine style.

The son of More Than Ready was, at the time of writing, almost A$2 million clear of his nearest rival, Northern Meteor, by progeny earnings, thanks in part to Criterion adding the ATC Australian Derby to his Rosehill Guineas victory, while another son, Dissident, landed the Randwick Guineas.

Sebring has also been represented this term by Group winners Believe Yourself and Clifton Red, and was responsible for third-placed Bring Me The Maid in the world’s richest juvenile race, the Golden Slipper.

It’s not solely a modern-day occurrence either, as The Tetrarch’s great legacy to the breed testifies. It is, however, one which is almost certain to intensify in the coming years. And for those who love to see the best take on the best at the races before attempting to breed the best to the best at stud, it’s a worrying trend.