It’s not like Wootton Bassett has had a significant weight of two-year-old runners so far this year. With July upon us, 15 have made an appearance in Europe, exactly half that of No Nay Never. Yet so successful is this select group that the son of Iffraaj sits at the top of Europe’s leading two-year-old sires’ list.

Of those 15 two-year-old runners, nine are winners and more importantly, three have already struck at stakes level

Of those 15 runners, nine are winners and more importantly, three have already struck at stakes level. Indeed, his progeny dominated the outcome to Sunday’s Railway Stakes at the Curragh as Bucanero Fuerte and Unquestionable battled it out in a duel that took them almost five lengths clear of the third His Majesty. At the line it was Bucanero Fuerte, less than two weeks on from his third in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, who had his nose down at the right time over Unquestionable. Both appeal as colts capable of holding their own at the top level, where they will no doubt at some point meet the Coventry winner River Tiber, yet another son of Wootton Bassett. Like Unquestionable, he is housed at Ballydoyle, their purchases as yearlings by the Coolmore partners coming in the aftermath of the operation’s high-profile, multi-million euro deal to acquire Wootton Bassett in the summer of 2020. 

The rise of Wootton Bassett from €4,000 stallion to leading European influence is well known. From the first crop of Iffraaj and out of a mare by former Cheveley Park Stud stalwart Primo Dominie, one of the last scions of the Dante sire line via Dominion, Wootton Bassett mopped up a pair of sales races for Richard Fahey before capping a busy and unbeaten juvenile campaign with victory in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. However, he failed to fire in four starts at three, a fall from grace that didn’t help the early stages of his second career when he retired to Haras d’Etreham in 2012.

Wootton Bassett: pictured at Haras d’Etreham before his sale to Coolmore, the son of Iffraaj has risen to become one of Europe’s premier stallions. Photo – Haras d’Etreham

“Wootton Bassett was hard work to start with,” recalled the stud’s Nicolas de Chambure in an interview with Owner Breeder. “He was from the first crop of Iffraaj and when his first two-year-olds turned three, some of them didn’t train on as much as people thought they would. So when Wootton Bassett retired, Iffraaj was a bit cold – obviously that has all changed since then.

“It was a struggle to attract mares. But little by little, people got to see that he threw a good type and so his books in years three and four started to increase.

“The amazing thing about him is his consistency, and the evidence says he upgrades his mares. They’re tough, they’re very good mentally. They’re very good doers and they enjoy their work.”

By ‘hard work’, de Chambure is alluding to a first crop that consisted of just 17 foals. But among them was a real champion in Almanzor, who backed up his win in the 2016 Prix du Jockey Club by taking the Irish and British Champion Stakes. A €4,000 crop of 47 foaled in 2016 further highlighted Wootton Bassett’s ability by containing the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf and Prix Saint-Alary heroine Audarya as did the following year’s €6,000 crop, which is the source of 13 stakes winners led by the top-class speedster Wooded. Wootton Bassett has continued to keep pace as the size and quality of his books have grown; the Group 1 winners Incarville and Zellie are two of nine stakes winners out of his first two €20,000 crops while last year’s National Stakes winner Al Riffa, who was a little underwhelming on his belated reappearance when second in Saturday’s International Stakes, and Derby runner-up King Of Steel, subsequently the dominant winner of the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, belong to a crop of 81 three-year-olds bred off a fee of €40,000.

A 2021 book of 229 mares means that there are progeny out of the likes of Albigna, Alexandrova, Best In The World, Clemmie, Deirdre, Even Song, Found, Immortal Verse, Life Happened, Mabs Cross, Peeping Fawn, The Fugue and Was on the ground

This current crop of 127 two-year-olds were bred in Wootton Bassett’s final season at Haras d’Etreham when he was still ‘only’ €40,000. In addition to River Tiber, Bucanero Fuerte and Unquestionable, the group also includes Listed Prix des Reves d’Or winner Balsam and Salva Mea, who fell only a nose short of winning the Listed Prix Yacowlef at Deauville on Sunday just minutes before the quinella result in the Railway Stakes.

All of which is likely to be music to the ears of not only Coolmore, who have invested so heavily in the horse as a potential roster flag-bearer, but also those breeders who jumped on the bandwagon at his revised fees of €100,000 and €150,000. For instance, a 2021 book of 229 mares means that there are progeny out of the likes of Albigna, Alexandrova, Best In The World, Clemmie, Deirdre, Even Song, Found, Immortal Verse, Life Happened, Mabs Cross, Peeping Fawn, The Fugue and Was on the ground. He covered another similarly high-profile book of 249 mares in 2021 at €150,000, so expectations are going to be running extremely high; while hype has hindered a number of stallions over the years, at least Wootton Bassett is already proven at the top level and as de Chambure outlined in his appreciation of the stallion, his progeny tend to be tough, resilient horses who are well liked by trainers.

“Not all of them are going to be champions but they are racehorses and they won’t disappoint their trainers,” he told Owner Breeder.

Another appealing aspect to Wootton Bassett is his pedigree, which offers direct access to the Gone West sire line via Zafonic. He is inbred to Northern Dancer three times but that is far removed. As such, it won’t have taken much imagination to identify him as an outlet to Galileo mares, a cross that has already yielded Al Riffa and Zellie (out of a mare by Nathaniel). That cross will certainly get an airing when the first Coolmore-bred crop hits the track next year but it is also worth keeping in mind how successful Wootton Bassett was in his early years when inbred back to either Gone West or his sire Mr Prospector. 

There are 25 Group or Graded stakes winners worldwide inbred to Gone West, four of whom are by Wootton Bassett. He has forged a particularly fruitful partnership with daughters of the Elusive Quality horse Elusive City, most of which boils down to Gestut Zur Kuste’s mare Frida La Blonde, the dam of Wooded, Group 3-placed Beat Le Bon and now Bucanero Fuerte. However, Elusive City also features as the damsire of Listed winner Wootton City and the Group 1-placed Mageva.

Others inbred to Gone West include the Group 1-placed pair Chindit and Trident as well as the Prix la Rochette winner The Black Album, who is actually inbred 3×3 to Iffraaj’s sire Zafonic (as well as 4×4 to Park Appeal’s granddam Park Appeal).

Wootton Bassett’s overall body of work, however, shows a horse capable of clicking with a variety of lines while demonstrating the ability to upgrade his mares. The likes of River Tiber, Bucanero Fuerte and Unquestionable, not to mention whatever else might be waiting in the wings, will ensure that he remains a formidable foe when it comes to this year’s European champion two-year-old sires title. Yet there is the very real possibility that they are only a taster of what is to come once his first Irish crop are unleashed.

River Tiber pictured with the Coolmore partners and Ryan Moore following his win in the Coventry Stakes. Photo – Bill Selwyn