It’s that time of year when the chatter on the first stock thrown by those next sires in line takes on a momentum of its own. There is little that the industry likes more than to debate the merits of such stallions and as such their early progeny do not escape scrutiny, whether it be during those first few months of life before they come under the eyes of the market or once they hit the track.
For the stallion farms who have invested both financially and emotionally, the arrival of a stallion’s first foals is an exciting yet nerve-wracking time. For while the confirmation that a stallion is stamping his stock does not guarantee success – there are countless examples of such horses fading into oblivion – such an attribute is a good start and liable to ensure repeat business in those tricky second and third seasons.
Stockmen by their very nature tend to be positive but, even taking that into account, there seems to be a real confidence at Coolmore behind St Mark’s Basilica. The son of Siyouni was, after all, an exceptionally good-looking yearling, as underlined by his 1,300,000gns price tag. Add in the fact that he’s a multiple Group 1-winning half-brother to 2,000 Guineas hero Magna Grecia, and it’s easy to see how his first book of 176 mares contained over 30 Group 1 winners and/or the dams of Group 1 winners.
‘As a type, they are very like him. Paul Shanahan, along with Harry King, likes what he sees here of the ones with us and it’s the same when you speak to the teams in the foaling yards’
“He was a precocious horse, a champion two-year-old who went on to be one of the best horses in the world at three,” says Coolmore’s Mark Byrne. “He was precocious and kept going. And he got some serious mares.”
St Mark’s Basilica was the most expensive new stallion of 2022 at €65,000, a figure he commands again this season.
“The breeders are liking his foals and they’re going back to him,” says Byrne. “He’s a correct, good-looking horse and he’s throwing that. As a type, they are very like him. Paul Shanahan, along with Harry King, likes what he sees here of the ones with us and it’s the same when you speak to the teams in the foaling yards. The foals are generally all very athletic – when they walk they put their head down. They have lots of quality with good, strong shoulders.”
He adds: “Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Again had a good filly by him, as did Anthony Van Dyck’s dam Believe’N’Succeed. She actually went back to him on the strength of her filly. Chenchikova, the dam of Fancy Blue, and Mr Tabor’s Keep Busy, a very fast filly herself, also have good fillies.
“He also got unbelievable outside support. David and Diane Nagle have a filly out of Remember You, the dam of Sovereign. Cecil and Martin McCracken’s queen Al Andalyya [dam of Best Solution] has produced a very good filly, as has the Niarchos’ [Group 1 winner] Fiesolana.
“Our French representative, Hermine Bastide, was also recently at Monceaux, where Henri Bozi has two foals that he really likes.
“People are liking what they’re seeing from him and he’s getting more serious outside support this year – operations like Godolphin, Cheveley Park Stud, Juddmonte Farms, Monceaux, Hascombe and Valiant Stud, Moyglare Stud Farm and Wertheimer et Frere are all using him.”
In Britain, meanwhile, a first book of close to 160 mares belonging to some of the world’s top breeders went the way of Palace Pier at £55,000.
The Dalham Hall Stud resident emulated his sire Kingman by developing into one of the best milers of recent times, his championship career highlighted by wins in the St James’s Palace Stakes, Lockinge Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes and two renewals of the Prix Jacques les Marois.
He’s been understandably well supported by Godolphin and Rabbah Bloodstock, who between them sent him around 40 mares in his first season. However, there has been an impressive volume of outside support as well, with mares hailing from such breeders as the late Queen, Shadwell, the Aga Khan Studs, Juddmonte Farms, Peter Brant, Katsumi Yoshida and the Niarchos family.
Also keen supporters were Fergus and Farran Anstock of Clearwater Stud, who sent their homebred stakes-placed Tiburtina, a daughter of Holy Roman Emperor. The resulting foal is a pleasing filly.
“The foal is very well put together, with lots of strength and quality,” says Farran Anstock. “She’s very correct with a great temperament on her, definitely a character. She looks a bit like him, which can only be a good thing, and although it’s early days she seems to move well.”
He adds: “He was an exceptional racehorse with speed that caught everyone’s eye. We were always huge fans of Kingman, so that helped in choosing him. We thought he would suit Tiburtina well on conformation. She was fairly quick but stems from a staying family, a bit like him, so we’re hoping for a nice blend of speed and stamina.”
Palace Pier wasn’t the only top miler to join Darley for 2022 since Kildangan Stud welcomed the tough Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Space Blues, while Haras du Logis added Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Victor Ludorum, the recipient of 154 mares. The pair are sons of Darley stalwarts Dubawi and Shamardal, and interestingly are both inbred to their sire’s respective families.
As we know, breeders vote with their feet and it tells you something that when the progeny of Space Blue’s first 160-strong book started appearing earlier this year, it didn’t take long for his second book to swell to 170 mares.
“For a horse at his price point, he attracted an impressive cross-section of breeders in his first season,” says Eamon Moloney, nominations manager of Kildangan Stud, on the three-time Group 1 winner. “You had the likes of the Aga Khan, Moyglare Stud, Cheveley Park, Ballylinch and Airlie using him alongside support from Godolphin and Rabbah Bloodstock. William Buick even bought a mare to go to him.
“He’s a racy type of Dubawi but, from what we’ve seen, he’s throwing good size and substance into his foals, perhaps more than might have been expected. And that is something our clients are liking as well. He’ll get a full book of 170 mares this year, and that’s off the back of people chatting amongst themselves about his foals.”
It certainly aids the confidence of breeders if the stallion in question is good-looking, and for that there is no doubt in the case of Lope Y Fernandez, who stands at the National Stud as the property of a partnership between the Newmarket outfit, Coolmore, Whitsbury Manor Stud and Nick Bradley. A high-class two-year-old, he was Group 1-placed on multiple occasions and is well-bred as a son of Lope De Vega from a deep black-type family. However, also enticing is the fact he was a €900,000 yearling purchase by MV Magnier, thereby underlining his quality as an individual. A number of breeders certainly believe he possesses the attributes for the commercial market given that his first book consisted of close to 140 mares.
One stud which knows what it takes to appeal to the commercial foal market is Overbury Stud, an annual presence among the successful vendors at the Tattersalls December Sale. The stud sent Siralen, a relation to Barathea, and are delighted with the result.
“The foal has plenty of quality, balance and presence, is very strong with a great hind quarter and looks all speed,” says Overbury Stud manager Simon Sweeting. “He’s the best foal the mare has produced so far and is the type of foal any commercial breeder would hope for.”
Joe Bradley, head of bloodstock at the National Stud, concurs. “Their athleticism and bone just take your eye straight away and this is consistent throughout all of the foals we have seen to date,” he says. “They will flourish into gorgeous yearlings, just as Lope Y Fernandez was. We are already looking forward to the foal sales later on this year.”
As we all know, the idea of raw speed is a key element when it comes to fuelling the market. A number of this generation fulfil this criteria, among them Yeomanstown Stud’s Supremacy, the first son of Mehmas to stud.
Long established as masters of their trade, Yeomanstown can be relied upon to bring a depth of support to their young horses that gives them every chance of success. The same has been afforded to Supremacy – like Yeomanstown stalwart Dark Angel, a Middle Park Stakes-winning member of the Acclamation sire line – whose first book consisted of approximately 190 mares.
“Much like himself, they have quality, strength and great action too,” says Yeomanstown’s David O’Callaghan. “He is an exciting sire for us being a Group 1-winning son of Mehmas with a big pedigree. He has the credentials to go all the way.”
Newsells Park Stud’s A’Ali also possessed speed in spades, winning the Prix Robert Papin, Flying Childers Stakes and Norfolk Stakes as a two-year-old, and Sapphire Stakes and Coral Charge at three having cost £135,000 as a breezer. A son of the much-missed Society Rock, he is backed by a powerful ownership group that includes Newsells Park, whose own first foals by the stallion include a colt out of Fred Darling Stakes winner Maureen.
“Maureen was an obvious type of mare for A’Ali and we’re delighted with the end result,” says Julian Dollar, the stud’s general manager. “This colt is very strong, balanced and well put together.
“Our hope was always that A’Ali’s foals would be in the same model as himself and so far from everything we’re seeing and hearing, that’s exactly what we’re getting.”
Dollar’s thoughts are mirrored by Keith Harte. Speaking on his filly out of Polight, he said: “We’re bowled over by our exceptional first foal by A’Ali, and we have a couple more very good foals on the farm by him. The stallion is giving his foals great size and strength. We will be back with more mares this year.”
Like A’Ali, Ubettabelieveit was another talented breezer who went on to win the Flying Childers Stakes. He shares his sire Kodiac with the likes of Ardad, Kodi Bear and Coulsty, and as is typical of Mickley Stud residents, is set to benefit from the enthusiasm and support of Richard Kent and his family; around 25 of his near 100-strong first book came from Mickley and its associates.
For followers of the Kodiac sire line, there is also the option of Coventry Stakes winner Nando Parrado at €6,000. Well supported by his connections, including his racing owners Paul and Marie McCartan, he covered 130 mares in his first year including Exempt, the dam of Group 3 winner Lola Showgirl.
Castlefield Stud’s Alkumait, meanwhile, was another to cover over 100 mares in his debut season. It’s not hard to see how he attracted the interest of breeders as a Mill Reef Stakes-winning son of Showcasing at an affordable €5,000, but his profile has received a further boost in recent months thanks to the emergence of his half-brother, Dewhurst Stakes winner Chaldean.
“It was already a very good family but it’s been great to see such a good update with Chaldean,” says Jerry Horan, part of the management group behind the stallion. “Alkumait is really stamping his stock – they’re good-looking with good size and scope. We’re very pleased.”
The first crop of LM Stallion’s Roseman, a €650,000 yearling by Kingman who was only a head short of victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, includes a half-brother to the well-regarded Liberty Lane. Another high-class miler, Group 2 winner Century Dream, stands at Norton Grove Stud for £3,000. Few horses boast the kind of durable career compiled by the son of Cape Cross, who won ten of 35 starts.
Such an attribute certainly wouldn’t be lost on German breeders, who themselves have access to a tough champion in Gestut Etzean’s Japan, whose seven victories for Aidan O’Brien included the Grand Prix de Paris and Juddmonte International. The only son of Galileo at stud in Germany, his first book of 83 mares included the dams of Group 1 horses Alter Adler, Miss Yoda, Olorda and Virginia Joy.
Closer to home, Chapel Stud’s Bangkok, an Australia son of blue hen Tanaghum, was another to retire sound in wind and limb following a lengthy racing career, in this instance highlighted by a win in the York Stakes. One of several interesting young dual-purpose stallions alongside Fifty Stars, a Group 1-winning son of Sea The Stars, and St Leger winner Logician, Bangkok has been well supported by his owner Simon Davies and Chapel Stud.
“He has a niche following in the owner-breeder market, but I hope when people see what great individuals they are, more will jump on the bandwagon,” says Chapel Stud’s Roisin Close. “They are strong, correct and good-looking – very much like their sire.”
For many then, that first hurdle of approval has been cleared. Next up, the market will have its say, allowing for an informative winter of selling.
‘The chatter on the street is very good’
A stud has to believe in a stallion if it is to stand one. Of course, support can be a double-edged sword, boosting the stud’s fortune if the horse is successful or dragging down a proportion of a broodmare band if not. Either way, such backing tends to inspire early confidence from the market.
Few operations in recent years will have backed a stallion so strongly as Zhang Yuesheng’s Yulong Investments. To say he has thrown his weight behind his Phoenix Stakes winner Lucky Vega would be an understatement, with the son of Lope De Vega receiving around 30 mares from the owner in his first book. They included the likes of Plying, the dam of Alcohol Free who cost €825,000, and multiple stakes producer Eytarna. That support is likely to be replicated this year, with the full or half-sisters to High Chaparral, Midday and Mukhadram among those earmarked for 2023.
Breeders also head to Tony and Anne O’Callaghan’s Tally-Ho Stud in the knowledge that their stallions will be supported to the hilt, whether it be in the covering shed or in the ring. It’s a strategy that has been key in the making of Danetime, Kodiac and Mehmas among many others, and now it is the turn of July Cup winner Starman. The five-time winner, who was the busiest new stallion of 2022 with 254 mares, not only has the support of Tally-Ho to bank upon but also that of his owner David Ward, who bred the son of Dutch Art out of his Montjeu mare Northern Star.
Ward has already reserved a number of Starman associated names in anticipation of racing the horse’s progeny.
“I had six in foal to him going into this year and they’re all going back,” he says. “I’m very pleased with the foals born so far, they’ve all got substance and scope with good temperaments. And speaking to others with them, they seem very happy as well.
“We also want to support those who had the belief in the horse to use him, and so we’ll be looking to buy some of his foals and yearlings.”
Whatton Manor Stud is another in a strong position to appreciate Starman having raised him on behalf of Ward.
“The chatter on the street about him is extremely good,” says the stud’s Ed Player. “People have also been ringing to say what nice Starman foals they have as well.
“We have six exceptional foals. They have great strength, substance and loads of quality and athleticism. They’re just very similar to him.”