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Shalaa Shaking It Up

Posted 7/6/2021

 

            In my analysis of the runners of the 2020 First Season Sires (FSS) during their first year, I noted three stallions that had underperformed despite receiving some of the best mares in Shalaa, The Gurkha and Awtaad, and whilst Awtaad has had a couple of black type winners and The Gurkha a couple of stakes placed performers during the first 5 months of 2021, it's Shalaa who is making the most significant move upwards. That is what my updated analysis is telling me in terms of the increase in the average rating of the 2020 FSS' runners as they started their 3yo careers. The top 5 improvers in terms of their 1st crop average rating in lbs are:-

Shalaa                 +5.0             72% of potential runners have raced

Belardo                +4.2             67%        "                "                "

Goken                  +3.5             75%        "                "                "

Territories           +3.4             72%        "                "                "

Twilight Son        +3.0             76%        "                "                "

 

            King Shalaa won two races as a juvenile but stepped up on that when he won a Listed event at Cagnes Sur Mer although he did subsequently disappoint in a G3 on soft ground whilst No Speak Alexander did even better with a G3 win followed by an excellent third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and is clearly Shalaa's best progeny to date. My Sea Cottage had an introductory run mid 2020 in the USA and then was put away for 7 months before making three appearances this year improving on each run which ended with a win at Gulfstream Park. It has been a similar story with Boomshalaa in the UK who was off the track 9 months after his debut and has then won two on the bounce for an RPR best of 96. There are a a few other examples at a more modest level that illustrate how Shalaa's runners are improving with time and experience which have all added to the overall rating average increase.

            Also it is noticeable that of his 19 runners who have made their debuts in 2021 there are at least six (Wadhnan, Talabaat, Miami Voice, Tawfan, Abraaj & Divertissement) who have ratings of 80+ including three above 90. That is another indication to me that the Shalaa offspring may not be ones to rush with and certainly much less precocious than those of eg Mehmas. On the face of it, that is quite surprising as Shalaa himself was precocious winning five times at 2yo between late May and Sept.

            Belardo did well with his 2yos in terms of getting four stakes winners but overall his record was slightly below what one would have expected given that he received average mares. The increase in 2021 is not particularly linked to the impact of his 11 new starters with the exception of Saboor who has achieved a 90+ rating in France but is traceable to a few that have improved markedly from 2 to 3yo. These include Chipie D'Irlande who, after coming a distant last in her debut in Italy back in May 2020, came out to win her maiden in January of this year and recently came 4th in a Listed event demonstrating significant improvement. Another is Abelard F who, after coming last in his debut in France in August 2020 reappeared in January of this year with a better run and has since been placed a couple of times as well as finishing 6th in a Listed event behind Saiydabad who was 4th in the Prix Du Jockey Club on Sunday. Overall, whilst the average runner rating is an improvement for Belardo, I do not see the same strength in depth of progression that I see for Shalaa.

            Goken's offspring made a quickfire impact in 2020 and then dropped off slightly although I still had him in my 6 to follow from this 2020 FSS group. Interestingly, he seems to have reversed that blip and from my perspective his offspring are obtaining ratings not far behind Mehmas from a similar level of mare. 75% of his potential runners have raced versus Mehmas at 78%, but Mehmas has 2.5 times the number of runners that Goken has and one has to be careful drawing conclusions from smaller sample sizes. Of his nine new runners this year Fang has won a couple of races and reached a rating of 92 whilst Kimina has been placed three times and top rated at 85. There are a fair few who have shown much improved form at 3yo including Lanaken who ran a couple of times at 2yo before reappearing on the track six months later in 2021 and recently came a close 4th in a Listed event in France. Pile Ou Face is another who has improved well to be rated in the high 80's and there are a number who have also improved (Golena, Cogolin, Gorgo, Singapore Trip) at a more modest level. All of that sways me towards the belief that Goken's progeny are not just fast out of the trap and that he is doing well. His issue is, and will be over the next couple of years, that the initial crop was not that big and indeed will be even smaller in his 2nd and 3rd crops although I note his 4th crop will be back to around the same level as his 1st crop following his successful first year in 2020.

            Territories continues to do well and has the highest average rating for his runners of this 2020 FSS group despite the fact that his mares are just a bit better than average. He himself improved at 3yo and he has a fair few showing improvement, including Mysterious Land in France who has risen to a rating of 96 and been placed 4th in a Listed event and Aldaary rated 105, but what is most noticeable to me is that of the 17 new runners in 2021 nine are rated 76+ including Laos 95, Invincible Light (France) 101 and Badlands 87. Our own Chirimiri made his debut in March in France and has shown ability, none more so than when winning at Bordeaux and reaching a rating of 77. We think there is more to come and hopefully he follows in the footsteps of his half sister Lincoln Rocks who improved markedly at 4yo reaching a rating of 106. Fingers crossed!

            Twilight Son's offspring have been winning races like nobody's business in 2021 and certainly people are comparing that with his own spectacular improvement from winning 2yo to Group 1 3yo. What I see are very few stand out improvers or newcomers but a very broad improvement at an often modest level. Twilight Spinner is the obvious exception making his debut in April before following up with a win and then a 6 length plus demolition job in a Listed race. Of those who ran in 2020, Warrior Within, who races in Italy, has improved steadily to reach 91 and has competed in stakes races on his last three appearances. Light Wakeup ran three times in the UK reaching a modest rating of 62 before being switched to France and given 7 months off racing only to return and reach a rating of 86. Our own Twilight Calls has won in 2021 and posted an RPR of 95 last week versus his best of 87 in 2020. For me, Twilight Son is demonstrating the broadest base of performance improvement from 2yo to 3yo so far of the 2020 FSS cohort although, it has to be said, his average remains some 6-7lbs behind Mehmas from a group of mares that demonstrated similar levels of ability on the racecourse.

            Mehmas himself continues to power on although the average increase was a much more modest 1.3lbs. He has contributed 7 of the additional 19 black type racehorses this group has achieved in 2021 which speaks a lot for his ability to get high level horses and no doubt keeps him up there as firm favourite in the market.

            Whilst this blog has been about improvement of runners from 2yo to 3yo I will update my top 6 taking into account latest information as follows:-

            18 Feb 2021                                                        31 May 2021

  1. Mehmas                                                            1. Mehmas
  2. Coulsty                                                              2. Territories
  3. Territories                                                        3. Coulsty
  4. New Bay                                                           4. Goken
  5. Kodi Bear                                                         5. Kodi Bear
  6. Goken                                                               6. New Bay (not seen as much improvement in ratings as I thought for 10-12f horse)

One to watch -  Twilight Son                              Keep watching Twilight Son & start watching Shalaa

 

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

8th June 2021

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Chirimiri Pours It On

Posted 19/5/2021

            First win for 3yo Territories colt Chirimiri in his fourth outing at Bordeaux on May 9th. We dropped him back 400m from his previous run and his tactics changed as he had previously been well towards the lead in his races whereas this time he was plum last for about three quarters of the race. However, he showed an excellent turn of foot under the drive of Julien Augé and kept on stoutly late on to hold Super Cute by 3/4 of a length with the third a further two lengths behind. Chirimiri holds off Super Cute over 1400m at Bordeaux on 9th May Chirimiri holds off Super Cute over 1400m at Bordeaux on 9th May

            Following this success his handicap has been raised by 3 kilos to 35 which is equivalent to 77 in lbs terms. He looks to have a good turn of foot and it is likely that he'll stay 1600m well using these tactics and as he strengthens up. He has been entered for a 1600m handicap at Toulouse on May 26th. This win for the Christophe Ferland trained colt is promising and it will be interesting to see if he can continue the progression in his next race.

            Incidentally Chirimiri's win is the fourth from the last five runs of James Ortega Bloodstock bred horses and is by far our best run to date.

            

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Three On The Trot

Posted 4/5/2021

            During the first 4 months of this year not one James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd bred horse had won but that scenario has changed radically in the last four days with three winners from the last three to run! It all started at Churchill Downs, New York on the evening of the last day of April when Gift List (Bated Breath x Birthstone 2018 filly) stormed home by over 4 lengths in the Grade 2 Edgewood Stakes over 8.5 furlongs. The filly, who now races for Brian Lynch in the USA, has won three of her seven races and been second in the other four and is rated 106. It turned out later that the long odds on favourite Aunt Pearl had bled during the race explaining her under performance. However, the manner of Gift List's disposal of the rest of the field convinces me that she would have given the favourite a tough race anyway. Hope that Aunt Pearl recovers well and one day reopposes in good health.

Gift List winning the Grade 2 Edgewood Stakes at Churchill DownsGift List winning the Grade 2 Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs

              I was especially pleased for the 19 year old mare Birthstone who, after winning two races as a two year old including the Group 3 Prix D'Aumale, was retired due to injury to become a broodmare. She belongs to a famous line going back through her dam Baya, who was 2nd in the Prix Diane,   to her grandam Barger who was full sister to the legendary Triptych. Whilst Birthstone has had 4 other winners, none have reached black type level, although a couple did make ratings in the 90s so Gift List's win is the best to date for her offspring. She is currently visiting Bated Breath again, so we may see a full brother or sister to Gift List in a year's time.

              The next day Twilight Calls (Twilight Son x Zawiyah 2018 colt) finally got off the mark over 6f at Doncaster after three good runs as a 2yo. The field was only four in total and it is difficult to judge what he beat, but he could hardly have done it any easier and strolled home by almost three lengths. The second had run a promising debut third with a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 76 and so with Twilight Calls having a handicap mark of 85 and off level weights he would be expected to win. Nevertheless the manner of the victory was impressive and he has gone up to 87. If he runs off that mark in a handicap next time out, I will think about putting the house on it!

            Henry Candy is the trainer of Twilight Calls and he also trained the colt's Group 1 winning sire Twilight Son as well as the Group 1 winning grandsire Kyllachy, so I took an in depth look at their racetrack progression. There are already similarities with Twilight Son's career although he did win twice as a 2yo to start his 3yo career off a mark of 83 whereas Twilight Calls managed two seconds and a rating of 85. They both made their 3yo debuts at the beginning of May and both won. Twilight Son ran all his ten races over 6f and so far Twilight Calls has run all his career races over the same distance. Next up for Twilight Son was a Class 2 handicap at York in June of his 3yo career which he won after which he was given a rating of 104. He wasn't seen on the track again until September of that year when he won the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock. I am convinced that Henry Candy is planning a similar campaign for Twilight Calls, giving him time to strengthen up and progress to possibly match his sire's achievements. Apparently Twilight Son grew and strengthened up a lot from 2yo to 3yo enabling him to improve his rating by 34lbs to 117 and I understand that Twilight Calls is developing likewise from a physical perspective. Kyllachy started out in a similar fashion winning one and being second twice from three runs at 2yo ending up with a rating of 90. His first 3yo race was at the end of April, which he duly won, before progressing during the year to end it on a rating of 103. The main difference between Kyllachy and Twilight Son is that Kyllachy's best form was as a 4yo when he won the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes in August of that year reaching a rating of 120 and he ran all his races over 5f. Twilight Calls also won a Group 1 (Diamond Jubilee) at 4yo but he was 14lbs better than Kyllachy at 3yo. Henry Candy is a patient man and clearly has done it before with this line of colts not once but on two occasions, and who is to say he won't do it again? I hope so!!Zephron ridden by Annalise Cullen to be her first ever win as a jockeyZephron ridden by Annalise Cullen to be her first ever win as a jockey

            Sunday May 2 was a boring day with no runners or winners but Monday at The Curragh brought win number three albeit in a low level 6f handicap with no less than 27 starters. Low level handicap it may have been but it was a special day for trainer Dennis Cullen and his family when Zephron (Ivawood x Amarylis 2017 gelding) scooted home by almost three lengths under an excellent ride from his 19 year old daughter Annalise who was gaining her first ever victory as a jockey to make it a memorable day for all concerned! That was Zephron's second victory and will see him move back up from his current mark of 73 closer to his best to date of 82 with the promise of more to come.

            So here I am on Tuesday 4th May writing up what has been the best ever run for our horses on the track. So what's next? Well Maysonlight (Mayson x Highland Starlight 2016 gelding) is out in the 4.20 at Gowran Park but, whilst he has shown a glimmer of ability in his runs to date, his best is a 4th place and a rating high of 71 and his price this afternoon is 28/1! Whatever, he couldn't make it four on the trot could he????? .................No he couldn't..........

Zephron storming home under Annalise Cullen at The Curragh (picture courtesy of The Curragh Racecourse)Zephron storming home under Annalise Cullen at The Curragh (picture courtesy of The Curragh Racecourse)

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Mighty Mehmas & Machiavellian Mares

Posted 18/2/2021

            So another first season sire year has come to a close and, whilst the COVID pandemic tried its best to disrupt events, I think we can objectively analyse the new boys' performances as in any other year despite a delay at the beginning of the season. I followed the fortunes of 26 new sires and these are my thoughts on how some of them performed.

            Whilst I won't dwell too long on the lack of success of some of the new sires that I was expecting to do well, I did advise people that Mehmas was very likely to win the new sire GB/Ireland race for the most winners and it was no surprise to anyone when he duly obliged given that he was a sprinter with by far the most potential runners and those factors linked to his own conformation and demonstrated precocity meant that he looked a solid bet even at the skinny odds of 2/1. What has surprised me is the quantity and quality of his winners and it is extremely unusual that a sire who covered below average quality mares overall can get so many stakes performers which numbered 12 by year end. 69% of his potential runners hit the track which is a higher % than any other 2020 First Season Sire (FSS) and that says to me that he is passing on good conformation as well as the precocity that was expected. As a son of Acclamation and out of a Machiavellian mare he is three parts in blood related to Dark Angel and with this start I think there is a very good chance that he will end up imitating his close relation which would suggest that, whilst he has had his fee more than tripled to €25k, it could look a real bargain a couple of  years down the road.

            For me an odd characteristic of the 2020 FSS performance analysis is that the sires who covered the best mares underperformed. I expected Shalaa to be a major player but I think connections will be hugely disappointed with no stakes winners and only three black type placed runners from well over a hundred potential runners. The same can be said of The Gurkha and Awtaad who only managed three stakes performers between them. This triumvirate covered on average the best mares and their runners did not exactly cover themselves in glory. Early days to be writing sires off but this 1st crop needs to step up in 2021 and their 2nd crops need to perform to a much higher level in my opinion or else they will be packed off to "lesser climes" fairly quickly.

            Switching to the lower end, Coulsty (by Kodiac out of an In The Wings mare) was an absolute revelation. He covered by far the lowest quality mares yet from only 45 potential runners and 23 actual runners he obtained 5 black type performers including 3 winners and around one third of his runners were rated 80+. Clearly he has not received the same plaudits as Mehmas but that sire had more than 100 runners and 56 winners as well as quality black type performers to help blow his trumpet. Herein lies Coulsty's main challenge in that he covered very few mares in his second, third and fourth seasons which means he will have less than 25 new runners in the next three years. Perhaps his 1st crop will continue to shine at three years old (plenty of stamina on his dam's side) or a star or two come out of these new runners but he's going to find it extremely hard to get any air play until 2024 and that assumes he covers many more mares this year! At €4k he is exceptional value based on his FSS performance in 2020.

            So who else did well as a FSS? Territories (by Invincible Spirit out of a Machiavellian mare) impressed me without producing any really top performers. Some 17% of his runners are rated 90+ a figure that is only matched by Mehmas. He hasn't received the same press as the mighty Mehmas which is possibly down to the lack of a really top performer but also that four of his seven stakes performers obtained that level in Italy which tends to be downgraded in people's minds when compared with the UK and Ireland. Territories did run four times as a 2yo including a close 2nd in the Group 1 Jean Luc Lagardare run in October, but he shone as a 3yo and possibly his offspring have more potential for improvement as 3yos than Mehmas. He covered better quality mares than Mehmas but, as indicated above with the 90+ rated runners, he has produced plenty of quality in depth and very few duds. At £10k he looks very good value and we have booked him in to our mare Redskin Dancer who already has a 3yo by Territories called Chirimiri who is due to make his debut shortly in France, all being well!

            Before moving on to some of the other FSS of 2020 it is interesting to note that both Mehmas and Territories are out of Machiavellian mares. I was already sold on Machiavellian as a damsire with our Birthstone producing Gift List to get black type last year before being sold to race in the USA. The fact that two of the top three new sires from 2020 are out of Machiavellian mares has only reinforced my belief that he is an extremely good damsire to follow. Another belief I have is in the blue hen mare Rafha who provided the sires of both Coulsty and Territories and clearly is a major influence on the breed through the exploits of her sons Invincible Spirit and Kodiac.

            Moving on to the FSS of more stamina, as usual there are not so many and amongst the group I studied are New Bay, Fascinating Rock, Vadamos, Dariyan and Harzand. New Bay (by Dubawi out of a Zamindar mare) was by far the best of them on a number of counts. First, he had 54% of his potential runners actually run whilst the other four sires ranged between 28% and 46%. Secondly, he obtained two stakes winners and two placed whereas the other four achieved only three placed ones between them. Finally his runners were way ahead of the others in terms of average rating. Considering New Bay only ran once at 2yo in November and he was best between 10 to 12 furlongs it is surprising that he had so many runners and that they produced such good results. Of all the FSS mentioned so far one would have thought that his runners have potentially the biggest chance to shine in their second season and it would be no surprise to me if they do just that in 2021.

             Of the rest I think Kodi Bear (by Kodiac out of a Mujtahid mare) and Goken (by Kendargent out of an Indian Rocket mare) did well from relatively modest mares and the former at €6k is very good value. Twilight Son disappointed me a bit as his runners were rated 5lbs or so below Kodi Bear and Goken from a similar quality of mare and my hope is that his progeny pick up as 3yos just as their father did. He improved by 34lbs from 2yo to 3yo and early signs in January and February are that this improvement may well be happening as he has had a bunch of winners since the turn of the year. Pride Of Dubai and Belardo had plenty of stakes winners between them but their progeny performance overall was not so good. Scissor Kick only had 35% of his potential runners actually run with only 15 making the track of which four were rated 87+ but the numbers are too small to make any firm conclusions in my opinion and the low turn out rate worries me somewhat. Buratino, Adaay, Prince Of Lir and The Last Lion were pretty average overall although The Lir Jet was a big positive for Prince Of Lir. The rest need to up their game or they won't be around in the UK, France or Ireland for much longer.

            In conclusion, considering the quality of mare covered as well as number of winners, stakes performers and average progeny ratings my top six from 2020 FSS group are:-

  1. Mehmas
  2. Coulsty
  3. Territories
  4. New Bay
  5. Kodi Bear
  6. Goken

& one to watch is Twilight Son!

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

18th February 2021

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Gift List Keeps Giving

Posted 25/10/2020

            Yesterday, James Ortega Bloodstock (JOB) registered another black type bred performer when 2yo filly Gift List battled home in a Newbury quagmire to come second in the Listed Radley Stakes over 7f to Love Is You. That makes 6 black type performers from 32 runners giving a ratio of 18.75% black type to runners for JOB. Interestingly, 5 are fillies from only 13 runners (38.5%) whereas we have not been so successful to date with the colts. Hopefully we keep that high filly ratio as we have a whole slew of them coming to the racecourse in the next few years.

Galerna at Manor House Farm Stud before pre-training and moving to Grant Tuer's stable in SeptGalerna at Manor House Farm Stud before pre-training and moving to Grant Tuer's stable in Sept

            We have sold three yearling fillies this year. One is by Bated Breath out of Chicita Banana who is a half sister to the dam of top 3yo Palace Pier, another by Equiano out of Zawiyah who is the dam of promising 2yo Twilight Calls and in France a beautiful Footstepsinthesand (FITS) filly out of Aureana who is a half sister to Chicadoro and Galerna. Amy Murphy trains the Bated Breath, David Simcock the Equiano and probably Frederic Rossi the FITS. Whilst we look forward to the French premiums for the FITS filly we can also have hopes of pay days as breeders for the UK based fillies as both are Great British Bonus (GBB) registered. This UK scheme is very welcome in these tough times. 

            Talking of the GBB scheme, back to the heroine of yesterday in Gift List who has already won two bonuses worth £40,000 in total and was just touched off for a third! That together with over £45,000 in prize money and her current market value means she was an exceptional purchase by John & Paul Fretwell at 23,000 guineas in Book 3 of 2019. She has probably finished her season now and deserves a rest after ploughing through a fair bit of mud in her last three races although she has gone well on good ground and I don't think she is dependent on soft to perform well. She is very honest and game and exactly the sort of racehorse we all wish to own.

            Gift List's achievement is also a big feather in the cap of dam Birthstone who herself won a Group 3 in France as a 2yo and, whilst she has had some very useful performers in Charm Bracelet and Classic Win, this is the first time one of her eight foals of racing age has won black type.Birthstone in October 2017 carrying future black type performer Gift ListBirthstone in October 2017 carrying future black type performer Gift List

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Hitting The Woodwork

Posted 10/7/2020

Gift List on the left just fails to get up on debut at Ripon - Photo by Racing PostGift List on the left just fails to get up on debut at Ripon - Photo by Racing Post            My football team Leeds United hit the woodwork three times last night and fortunately twice the ball went in for a goal in a 5-0 demolition of Stoke whereas James Ortega Bloodstock has had three runners it has bred in the last two days and all three came close without succeeding narrowly missing out on some nice Plus 10/GBB bonuses. I don't mind too much until Leeds seal promotion and then I don't mind if the horses come in and the ball goes out for a couple of weeks. Is it a deal?

            An interesting couple of days started with 2yo filly Gift List running an excellent race at Ripon on Wednesday coming second on her debut. Trained by Karl Burke and ridden by Ben Curtis, the daughter of Bated Breath and our Group 3 winning Machiavellian mare Birthstone did not have the swiftest of starts and she took the first few furlongs of the 6f race to get used to her new career. However, once she had sorted out what she had to do and despite being somewhat left alone in the middle of the track, Gift List knuckled down to the task in hand and came home very well only to be beaten a head. She is the first offspring of Birthstone to even run at two years old and clearly still has some growing to do so with any luck she could develop into a useful performer and, who knows, become the fourth winner from four we have bred of racing age by Bated Breath. 

            Later on the same day saw the debut of Twilight Calls, who is by Twilight Son and out of Invincible Spirit mare Zawiyah. He is trained by Henry Candy, who also trained his sire, and was ridden by David Probert in the 6f Newbury contest. After a reasonable start he was taken towards the rails and held up behind another couple of runners. Travelling very well, he was then pulled out from behind those rivals with about 2f to go and was going so well that he traded at 1.12 to win on Betfair! Unfortunately when sitting quietly came to push Twilight Calls could not get the job done and he faded to come in 5th beaten just under 4 lengths. I had mixed emotions after the race as, on the one hand, he clearly has ability and a high cruising speed, but on the other hand could not see out the final furlong. It was Henry's first two year old runner of the year and he is a trainer who gives his charges the opportunity to develop so I am pretty sure that Twilight Calls would not have been given a hard time getting ready for this race and indeed David Probert gave him a sympathetic ride leaving the whip well alone. Clearly he has been showing a lot at home and that was signalled by early money for him when he opened at 14/1 the night before and was soon trading around 5/1 finally setting off at 4/1 which cannot have happened to many Henry Candy debutant two year olds! Perhaps they have an eye on the Goffs Sales race over 6f at York on August 20th for which Twilight Calls holds an entry and this opener was part of the preparation in which case we may see him out again towards the end of July. Alternatively, after this race they may give him more time to strengthen up or drop back to 5f and give the York race a miss, but it was certainly an exciting first appearance for this very good looking horse.Twilight Calls as a foal. He showed exciting potential at Newbury on debutTwilight Calls as a foal. He showed exciting potential at Newbury on debut

            Finally, Thursday saw 3yo Zephron have his second race this year at Navan in a 5.5f maiden acquitting himself very well to come a close up 3rd after a fairly awkward start. Trained by Dennis Cullen and ridden by Mark Gallagher, Zephron is by Ivawood out of Rip Van Winkle mare Amarylis and is a first foal. He has shown ability in all four of his races to date and usually shows plenty of speed before not quite getting home. certainly this half furlong less than his previous races seemed to suit and it would not surprise me to see him out over the minimum trip next time out. Hopefully he runs out a winner fairly soon and continues on an upward curve.Zephron as a yearling. Ran another fine race at Navan coming a close up 3rdZephron as a yearling. Ran another fine race at Navan coming a close up 3rd

            So three good runs from our stock and, whilst it's frustrating that at least one of them didn't get over the line first, it is very encouraging for the future as, like all racehorse breeders, we want to breed good, healthy horses who demonstrate ability on the racetrack. Still, the football team keeps winning and as they say, "You can't have it all"

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Almost There!

Posted 18/5/2020

Bated Breath x Aureana 20c at 1 week oldBated Breath x Aureana 20c at 1 week old            Whilst we are all struggling as best we can through the pandemic that is COVID-19 and starting to come to terms with a new world, it is always a welcome relief to finish the breeding season with all foals on the ground and healthy and mares covered and in foal. Without wishing to tempt fate, James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd is almost there bar our 18yo Group 3 winning mare Birthstone who for one reason or another is proving difficult to get herself in shape for a cover by Sea The Moon. We still have a couple of months to go and hopefully she is ready to cover by the end of May which, if she gets in foal, would probably mean an early May foal at best. That does not worry us, and if she does not get in foal we have no issue to re-cover her in June or beyond as we aren't hellbent on getting an early 2yo type especially considering the sire whose offspring are likely to be better at 3yo. I think that there is far too much emphasis placed on having an early foal although I do understand the commercial drivers that largely drive it. Anyway, come on Birthstone!

            As for the rest, well it's been another filly fest with the first four this year all being that way inclined following on from all four foals in 2019. Indeed if we add on the last foal from 2018 that made nine fillies in a row! You can imagine there was some relief when Aureana produced a Bated Breath colt (left) on April 2nd to make it 4-1 to the fillies for the year. Not that I have anything against fillies and indeed four of the five black type racehorses we have bred have been fillies and anyway, after 56 foals the score is 28 all between colts and fillies so we can hardly complain about luck when considering our ten year breeding history. The key thing is that it appears that they are all healthy and doing well as are their dams.

            First up this year was a Jan 30th Ultra filly (below left) out of Mount Nelson mare Lady Macha who comes from the prolific Purring family who I think have their best years ahead of them with three black type daughters being dams including Lady Macha's dam Lady Francesca and 111 rated Purr Along whose 3yo Starcat won on his only outing at two and has an entry in The Derby. Lady Macha's full brother, 96 rated Bartholomeu Dias, is now plying his trade in Australia with up and coming trainer Ciaron Maher. The foal was born at Haras Du Logis in Normandy but is currently at Manor House Farm Stud in the UK as mother has visited Outstrip and is in foal. 

Ultra x Lady Macha 20f at 4 weeks oldUltra x Lady Macha 20f at 4 weeks old

            Next was Redskin Dancer who foaled a strong looking Oasis Dream filly (below) on Feb 10th before visiting Bated Breath whose foal she is now carrying. Redskin has two winners from three runners including seven time Listed winner Lincoln Rocks who herself has had a Churchill filly in 2020. This is her first foal and now she has been covered by Saxon Warrior. Oasis Dream x Redskin Dancer 20f at 5 weeks oldOasis Dream x Redskin Dancer 20f at 5 weeks old

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Feb 29th only comes around every four years and this year it was the date for Zawiyah's fourth foal who is a filly (below) by Twilight Son and hence full sister to her two year old colt Twilight Calls who is in training with Henry Candy. I like her physical as much as I liked the one of Twilight Calls and so Zawiyah went off again to the same sire and is in foal to him for the third time. Twilight Son x Zawiyah 20f at 7 weeks oldTwilight Son x Zawiyah 20f at 7 weeks old

           

 

 

             Finally we had the mother and daughter combination of Going For Gold and Aureana who were both in foal to Bated Breath. Goldie foaled a filly (below), who is a full sister to 98 rated Kaanoon, on March 29th before we finally got the colt from Aureana. Goldie is now in foal to Havana Gold who I think will be a good physical and distance fit for her, whilst Aureana stayed on the stud in Normandy and was covered by Ultra.Bated Breath x Going For Gold 20f at 1 week oldBated Breath x Going For Gold 20f at 1 week old

             So there we have it! A couple of full sisters to colts we have bred before, one of whom has won three races at a smart level (Kaanoon) and the other of which we have high hopes (Twilight Calls).  With the racing season about to start its belated 2020 version we await to see what the families of this quintet can do on the track. If successful the value of these foals will be enhanced but it will also provide encouragement to us in terms of what we might be able to expect from them as well. As always........Time Will Tell!

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Night Of Thunder Surprises again whilst Golden Horn will blow his Trumpet in 2020

Posted 20/2/2020

            Richard Hughes opted for 15/2 shot Toormore for the 2014 2,000 Guineas but it was 40/1 shot Night Of Thunder (NoT), ridden by Kieren Fallon, who literally swung home to beat Kingman by half a length. Current fellow sires Charm Spirit, War Command. Kingston Hill, Australia, Outstrip and The Grey Gatsby were behind him that day and, judging by his first season at stud they, could very well remain behind him in their new careers. With seven black type winners and over 50% of his first season 2yo runners being winners the son of Dubawi has surprised us again and in my book is by far the best first season sire from the 2019 brigade. Not a surprising conclusion many will say, but look at the chart below where progeny performance is measured relative to mare quality and you can see how much clear of the field he was. eg from a book of mares on average 10lbs below Muharaar his progeny were on average 7lbs better. That is significant.

            The wonderful thing about this game is that there are no certainties and one look at Night of Thunder's crooked front legs would probably result in you scratching out his name even if he cost you next to nothing to contract a cover for your superstar mare. However, as wonder mare Attraction, who had similar limb issues, pointed out to us in her excursions on the flat, theory and fact often do not coincide and clearly Night Of Thunder is passing on an abundance of ability to his offspring. Not only that but he is still, if not within the Racing Post Breeding on a Budget guidelines, at a relatively accessible nomination fee at €25,000. Accessible that is if you spoke to Darley about four months ago as for sure he is well and truly full for the 2020 covering season. Why is he such great value? Well I have already espoused the attractiveness of No Nay Never (NNN) as a sire so how does NoT stack up against him in these early days? Their 1st crops were both conceived from mares averaging around the 85 mark and NNN's progeny is a 1lb or so ahead after it's 1st year. NNN's 2nd crop was conceived from a mare quality 3lbs lower than NoT and the latter's 1st crop progeny are about 2lbs better. That, together with their relatively similar positions north of the trend-line in these analyses, says to me that we are talking about a couple of young sires performing not a million miles differently from each other and much better than their colleagues in their respective first season sire cohorts. Taking into account that NNN started out at €20,000 but has now risen to €175,000, NoT looks like the bargain of the century. Early days but you get the gist.

Night Of Thunder is the outstanding first season sire of 2019 but watch out for Golden HornNight Of Thunder is the outstanding first season sire of 2019 but watch out for Golden Horn

            Comparing black type winners for these two stallions, NoT has achieved 7 winners and four placed horses from his Northern Hemisphere offspring whereas NNN had 6 winners in the 1st year of his first two crops with 4 and 8 placed respectively which is again broadly at the same level of achievement. One could argue that NoT has not produced outstanding offspring with his sole Group 2 winner , Night Colours, having done that in Italy, which with all due respect is probably a lower level than say France, UK or Ireland. Another slightly concerning factor is that the number of his potential runners that reached the track is a bit low at 46% for a horse who showed his best form at a mile and is of average height (16.05 hands). Maybe some of that poor conformation did get passed on and resulted in some 2yo's missing the track in 2019 but perhaps I am just searching for a negative for a young sire that looks exceptional judging on first season progeny performance. 

            Who else looks promising from the 2019 first season sires? Golden Horn looks to me to be the one who will emerge from the pack in 2020. Whilst one would have expected 2019 to be a quiet year for him given that he is a horse who showed his best form at 10 to 12 furlongs, I think it was even quieter than one would expect! His best horse was West End Girl who won the Group 3 Sweet Solera but then disappointed later in the season as did his other black type winner Festive Star who won a listed event in Italy before running down the field in France. However, it was never going to be about their 2yo careers and what is noticeable is that Golden Horn has thrown a high percentage of horses who have performed very adequately in the 70 to 85 rating range with very few below average horses. You will not get rich producing horses with those types of ratings but, given the likelihood that his produce will improve significantly at three, there may be a few stars about to burst through of those who did run as 2yos as well as from the 54% who did not run. 

            Apart from the fact that Golden Horn was at his best over middle/longer distances why else should his offspring do better in 2020? First, he only ran once as a 2yo winning a late October maiden over an extended mile (rated 86) before being put away until his Feilden, Dante, Derby, Eclipse four timer as a three year old followed later in the year with wins in the Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc as well as two other close up Group 1 second places. Secondly, he is a sizable unit at 16.2 hands and if he passes that on his offspring may just need a bit more time. Thirdly, he had 46% of his potential runners turn up on the racetrack at two years old which is relatively high given his size and his need for a distance. This suggests that his progeny have good conformation in general and we can expect to see plenty of them as three year olds. Finally, whilst the 2019 group as a whole in their second season covered around 72% of the mares they covered in their first season, Golden Horn covered 91% and indeed covered around 100 mares in each of his third and fourth crops which means that he is likely to remain in focus for the next few years. Note also that he is demonstrating a higher than average ability to convert those coverings into live foals which points to a very good fertility rate. 

            Gleneagles has done ok and in Royal Dornoch and Royal Lytham one could argue has produced better horses than both NoT and Golden Horn. Royal Dornoch beat the subsequent Group 1 Futurity winner Kameko in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes whilst Royal Lytham won the Group 2 July Stakes before finishing a close up third to Siskin in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes. However you would have expected his progeny to score much higher than Golden Horn's in their 1st year considering that both stallions visited mares of roughly the same quality given that he was a 7 to 8f horse and more compact at just under 16 hands high.

            Muharaar was disappointing as from a high class book of mares he finished well behind both Gleneagles and Golden Horn. On a positive note he covered in excess of 120 mares in each of his first four seasons as a stallion and has the best conversion rate of covers to foals on the ground. 2020 will be key for him to show that 2019 was not the best of him. Whilst it is still early days for this cohort of stallions it is hard to enthuse about the rest after the 1st year and the graph above does not support certain hefty hikes in stallion fees for the likes of Cable Bay, up to £15,000 from £6,500, and Due Diligence up to £8,500 from £4,000 in 2019. In both cases it is probably down to the usual market sentiment caused by excellent performer Liberty Beach for Cable Bay and three black type winners for Due Diligence as well as both getting over twenty winners in 2019. Whilst Cable Bay covered well over 100 mares in his 2nd year, that dropped off rapidly to some 30 mares in 2019 whilst Due Diligence fell away sharply in his 2nd year to less than half the mares covered in 2016 and also only covered around 30 mares in 2019. This means that things are going to go very quiet for them a year or two down the track.  Strangely Ivawood, who has been sent off to France by Coolmore and standing at about a third of his 2016 fee, comes out as having progeny on average 2lbs better than Due Diligence from a similar mare quality! Ivawood did manage a couple of French black type winners but perhaps that mercurial market sentiment isn't impacted so much by what goes on outside the British and Irish isles. Parochial, us?? Mais non. Whilst one might be tempted to punt on Ivawood as a cheap cover my worry is that he has the lowest rate of actual foals per mare covered of this lot and I wonder whether part of the fact he has been dismissed to foreign lands is down to a lower than average fertility rate.

             So, in summary, Night Of Thunder is the obvious top dog from this 2019 band of aspiring sires and that is hardly a surprise to anyone as it coincides with headline stakes performances and market sentiment. What is more, at €25,000 he is tremendous value and hopefully you managed to get in at that price because if his offspring performs as well in 2020 as they did in 2019 we are likely to see a significant hike in his covering fee for 2021. The one under the radar for me is Golden Horn and it would not surprise me at all to see him have a great 2020 for the reasons outlined above. Having said that, being under the radar at £60,000 (now £40,000) is not something in the price range of most breeders and my optimism for him this year still has to be realised. A punt on new sire and fellow Derby winner and Darley inmate Masar at £15,000 could be a better bet(This begins to sound like a Darley advert!!). Nevertheless, Golden Horn is my second best pick from the 2019 class followed by Gleneagles who incidentally covered 182 mares in 2019 and being the only one who covered more than he did in his 1st year as a stallion in 2016. 

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

20th February 2020

 

 

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No Nay Never Outstanding 2018 First Season Sire

Posted 27/1/2020

            Supporters of fellow sire Kingman may take exception to the headline siding with No Nay Never but my analysis of the performance of their offspring taking into account mare quality leaves no doubt in my mind as to its veracity. Whilst most of the focus in the breeding game is on the sire, it takes two to tango and the mare input is 50% of the resulting foal. Clearly the stallion supremacy stakes is not a fair race as the top racers get the best mares and in effect is a reverse handicap where the lower rated horses are given extra weight to carry making their task extremely difficult to say the least. Top sires with top mares will usually get more than their fair share of top racehorses resulting in a positive knock on effect on the all important market sentiment which can promote or finish a sire with sometimes undue haste. This analysis attempts to uncover stallions throughout the food chain who are outperforming in the reverse handicap. Below you can find the charts for the first two crops of the 2018 first season sires measuring mare ratings against progeny ratings with a trend-line approximately indicating an average of the cohort.

No Nay Never is the outstanding sire from 2018 so far. Kingman doing very well and Sea The Moon well ahead of expectationsNo Nay Never is the outstanding sire from 2018 so far. Kingman doing very well and Sea The Moon well ahead of expectations

No Nay Never's 2nd crop not quite so dominant but still relatively the best. Sea The Moon better than 1st crop and Kingman also doing very well. Charm Spirit and Toronado not doing badly but need more top performersNo Nay Never's 2nd crop not quite so dominant but still relatively the best. Sea The Moon better than 1st crop and Kingman also doing very well. Charm Spirit and Toronado not doing badly but need more top performers 

            Basically in their first crop, No Nay Never's progeny had a slightly higher average rating than Kingman's but from a group of mares 14 to 15 lbs inferior. We will never know, but the likelihood is that No Nay Never would have done even better with Kingman's quality of mare. In their second crops, Kingman's progeny rated around 3lbs better from a 13lbs better group of mares which, whilst not so obvious still puts No Nay Never ahead when comparing to the trend-line. It is also interesting to note that No Nay Never's 1st crop progeny improved about 3.5lbs on average in their second year which is slightly more than Kingman's and somewhat contrary to many forecasts that they would not train on so well.   

            No Nay Never's equalling of Kingman from inferior partners is backed up in terms of the similar number of quality black type performers with Kingman just edging out No Nay Never with 13 winners vs 12 and 8 placed vs 7 in the 1st crop but No Nay Never having 10 black type performers versus Kingman's 7 in the 2nd crop. Whilst averages are all well and good, the black type performers are critical for the rapidly changing market sentiment to be improved and the proof that the sire can get truly top performers which after all is the main aim of the game. Kingman has produced some top performers including French Guineas winner and French Derby second Persian King, St James's Palace Stakes second King Of Comedy, dual Group 2 winner Headman and Coventry Stakes winner Calyx who is shortly to embark on his own stallion career. No Nay Never has had Ten Sovereigns who won two Group 1 races in the Middle Park Stakes at 2 and the July Cup at 3, Coventry Stakes winner Arizona as well as Group 2 winners Mystery Power and Land Force. Not to be outdone by Kingman, both Ten Sovereigns and Land Force have joined Calyx in the stallion ranks. 

            To be clear, Kingman is an excellent stallion and will continue to receive top mares along with his stablemate Frankel to go along with his nomination fee rise to £150,000 but No Nay Never has catapulted to approximately the same cover fee from his initial fee of €20,000 (a third of Kingman's initial fee) and will surely get a better quality of mare starting from 2019 after his initial explosion on to the scene. Those horses will hit the track in 2022 when we will see if the relatively better mare quality pushes No Nay Never into a clear lead over Kingman. Incidentally when comparing 2016 First Season Sire Frankel with these two from the class of 2018 he comes out roughly 3lbs better than No Nay Never from a mare quality 17lbs better. For me, taking a line through No Nay Never to Kingman, this indicates a slight superiority of Frankel to Kingman but No Nay Never is the best of three excellent sires when comparing average runner ratings versus mare quality.

            Leaving aside the £150,000 and €175,000 stallions from the class of 2018 what else takes the eye from that year? Sea The Moon looks to have made an outstanding start to his stallion career. His first crop were joint 5th best in their first year from the fourth best group of mares and they have progressed in their second year to be 3rd best. His second crop look even better as from a group of mares some 5lbs lower than his 1st crop they are on average 2lbs better and are 4th best from the 5th highest group of mares. That is some performance for a horse whose best form was between 10 and 12 furlongs and whose progeny you would expect to improve at three years old significantly more than most of the progeny of other sires. In fact his 1st crop progeny improved 7lbs in their second year which is double or more than Kingman's and No Nay Never's. A more relevant comparison is to look at his performance versus those of Australia and Mukhadram who also excelled as racehorses over similar distances. Sea The Moon's 1st crop after two years are around 1lb ahead of Australia's and 8lbs ahead of Mukhadram's whilst his quality of mare was around 7lbs lower and 2lbs better respectively. His second crop is repeating the medicine being 2lbs better than Australia and 7lbs better than Mukhadram from mares 6lbs worse and 2lbs better respectively. The repetition of the 1st crop performance with a largely different group of mares is solid evidence that Sea The Moon is way ahead of the game for a middle distance sire and  is proving that he can inject plenty of speed into his offspring. True he will need to overcome the market desire for sprinter/miler sires and also he may have another headwind in terms of where many of his offspring reside with a relatively large proportion in Germany. Industry insiders probably will not attach so much value to performances in top races in Germany as they would in the UK and Ireland and so market sentiment may be lower than it should be unless corroborative form is achieved in the UK, Ireland or to some extent France. German Group 3 three year old Wonderful Moon is one who could raise the profile a lot in 2020 as well as Irish Group 2 winner Alpine Star.

            When comparing with Kingman, Sea The Moon's 1st crop is about 4lbs inferior from a 12lbs inferior group of mares and I would say that is relatively as good as can be seen by their proximity to the trend-line. He has 15 black type performers versus 21 for Kingman but not at the same quality level. His 2nd crop is some 6lbs down on ratings to Kingman's from a 13lbs inferior bunch of mares but with the likely year 2 improvement in this crop I would expect his progeny to be within 2 or 3lbs of Kingman by this time next year. Given the fact that Sea The Moon's advertised fee is 10% of Kingman's it is very clear to me where the value lies.

            Finally I would not write off Charm Spirit or Toronado from this 2018 class although they are clearly behind the principals discussed above. At reduced fees of £8,500 and €8,000 respectively they are not overpriced and "just" need a couple of headline makers to raise their profile and that all important market sentiment.

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Cracking Start to 2020

Posted 12/1/2020

 Be Fair in the winners enclosure at LingfieldBe Fair in the winners enclosure at Lingfield           A couple of winners for James Ortega Bloodstock bred horses in the first nine days of 2020 mean a wonderful start for our progeny as they strut their stuff on various stages. First up was four year old Be Fair (Kyllachy x Going For Gold) who followed up a December win at Lingfield with a second win in only his sixth start on January 4th. After three fairly innocuous runs in Ireland he transferred to Tony Carroll in the UK and immediately improved to finish third before winning his two races over a mile and a half. Clearly he has needed some time to come to himself and is still only rated 65 but I think there is plenty more to come from him. He is half brother to listed placed and two time winner Chicadoro (Paco Boy x Going For Gold - rated 100) and three time winner Kaanoon (Bated Breath x Going For Gold - rated 98) and full brother to Aureana who only ran once before being retired due to injury and is now a broodmare in foal to Bated Breath in France where she will be for sale in the February Arqana sale. 

            On January 9th Ekhtiyaar (Bated Breath x Bayja - rated 112) won his fifth race in Meydan taking his winnings to over £320,000. Last year he ran very well to be a three length second to top sprinter, and now stallion, Blue Point in a Group 3 race in Meydan and hopefully he can push on and win a Group race this year. On ratings he needs to find three or four lengths to put himself in with a chance of winning at the top level and become the first Group 1 winner for Bated Breath for whom he already owns the highest Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 116.

            So, a promising start to 2020 for us and let's see if we can continue in this positive vein on the racetrack!Ekhtiyaar winning at Meydan over 6f on January 9th 2020Ekhtiyaar winning at Meydan over 6f on January 9th 2020

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