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Middle Distance Sires on the Move but Havana & Sioux still Calling the Shots

Posted 2/8/2023

            We're past halfway in the flat turf season and in my latest update to the progress of the sophomore sires it is noticeable, as one might expect, that the sires who showed their talent on the racecourse more towards the middle distances are improving in terms of their runners average ratings. Compared to where they were on the chart at 11th March (see below) Roaring Lion, Saxon Warrior Cracksman and Cloth Of Stars have all made marked improvement.   

            Roaring Lion had the best set of mares of this 2022 first season sire cohort and his runners now have the best average. In addition to 2yo Group 1 Grand Criterium winner Dubai Mile he has added another stakes winner in Running Lion as well as stakes placed horses in Embesto, Kingswood and Saint George. Waltham has won two from two for Ger Lyons and will probably add to the stakes performers list in August when he has a couple of Group 3 entries. The way Roaring Lion is shaping up it is a real pity that this is his one and only crop. 

            Victoria Road was a Group 1 winner for Saxon Warrior as a 2yo at the Breeders' Cup but hasn't been seen so far this year. That is due to change as he is also entered in the same G3 races as Waltham in August as well as the G2 Great Voltigeur and G1 Juddmonte Int'l at York and in September we could see him in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes. Thornbrook (Listed) and Greenland (G3) have won stakes races in France since March to add to G3 successes for Moon Ray (also in France) and Lumiere Rock in 2022. These five stakes winners are matched by five stakes placed horses and Saxon Warrior now has the second best crop of runners from the third best group of mares.

            Cracksman is a fair way below the aforementioned sires but has made headway with his runners' ratings moving up in tandem with Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior. He has three new stakes winners and by far the best is G1 French Derby winner and unbeaten Ace Impact who looks like he could be a stallion in waiting after his recent performance which earned an RPR of 125 with the promise of more to come.

            Finally for the middle distance brigade, Cloth Of Stars's first crop has been modest but last week his Birr Castle won a Listed race in France to record his first stakes winner and since March his average runner ratings have move up from 17th best to 14th best. Nothing great to report here, but moving in the right direction.

 

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Foals Have Landed!

Posted 23/4/2023

            Only a couple of foals for us in 2023 given that our French based broodmare, Aureana, passed away last year after a colic episode and we sold Twilight Calls's dam Zawiyah to the Irish National Stud where I understand she has had a full sister to that Group 1 placed sprinter and will/has visited Starspangledbanner.Territories x Redskin Dancer colt with foster mare BabyTerritories x Redskin Dancer colt with foster mare Baby

            First on the scene was a colt by Territories out of Redskin Dancer who arrived on 23rd Feb. Unfortunately a few days after foaling Redskin herself had a severe colic attack and went off to Donnington Grove where she had an emergency surgery. Returning a few days later she seemed to have recovered but fell victim to another attack shortly afterwards and she was put out of her misery. She was our favourite broodmare and was a very pleasant mare who loved getting mints from me! As we also lost our 2yo Havana Gold filly in February to colic as well as Aureana last year it has been a particularly tough time on that front and, fingers crossed, hopefully that is the last we see of colic for a long time. 

Rocadora and her Dream Ahead filly foaled in March 2023Rocadora and her Dream Ahead filly foaled in March 2023            Whatever, life goes on and we have secured the services of Million Dollar Baby, a foster mother based in Suffolk. MDB and the colt foal, who is a full brother to our racehorse in France, Chirimiri, are getting on well. 

            Our other foal arrived on 8th March and is a filly by Dream Ahead out of maiden mare Rocadora who is half sister to Group 2 winner Gift List. Foal and mother are fine and she will be visiting Bated Breath, sire of Gift List, shortly. I think Dream Ahead could do very well based in the UK as he is more likely to get speedier mares than he received in France. Maiden mare Moonlight Frolic is in foal to Territories and Going For Gold in foal to 2nd season sire Lope Y Fernandez on mid March covers so with luck we will have all three mares in foal shortly.

             On the racetrack, Aureana's 2nd foal, First Page, opened his account on his fourth outing when he ran on very well to win over 1600m at La Teste on 26th March and has been allotted a handicap mark of 39 in kilos which is equivalent to 86 in lbs. Tomorrow he has his next race when taking on some useful types at Bordeaux over 1400m and should be in at the finish. As he is by Bated Breath, he became our sixth winner by that sire from seven horses of racing age with prize money wins of over £700k. Chirimiri made a welcome return to the racetrack on 8th April when a head second over 1200m in a conditions race at Bordeaux. We went up for the race and were very pleased with this comeback run which augers well for the future.

 

Jim Atkinson

23rd April 2023

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

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Sioux Nation Out In Front

Posted 15/3/2023

            We're in the middle of the Cheltenham national hunt festival right now but it is also a key time for sending broodmares to stallions with perhaps greater urgency in the flat division of the breeding game given the longer time horizon for horses to compete over the jumps. Below is my analysis of the class of 2022 and how their 1st crop is faring after almost a year of being able to run. As usual, the analysis compares progeny racecourse performance against broodmare quality which I firmly believe is the best way to judge how a sire is performing. Number of wins could include a lot of low quality events and, whilst a useful indication, cannot be taken as the sole factor in indicating which sire is doing the best. Prize money differences by country or specific events can also give a false impression so that a particular sire can be high up the table just because an offspring of his won a very valuable race. That is good news for the sire but may be misleading to some extent about the quality of all the offspring. Having said that, Golden Horn has produced racehorses with consistently high average ratings even taking into account a high quality of broodmare, but he hasn't had enough top quality performers nor speedy ones and that probably explains why his fee has dropped from £60k to £8k.So, whilst I like my favoured measure, it is not the only one and must be taken into account along with a number of other measures as well as non-numerical factors.First Season Sires 2022 1st Crop to 11 March 2023First Season Sires 2022 1st Crop to 11 March 2023

            Sioux Nation, by Scat Daddy out of an Oasis Dream mare, has made a very good start with his 1st crop runners averaging 74.5 from mares rated 77.1 and 12 stakes performers including two Group 3 and two Listed winners. That is a decent performance given that the average broodmare is rated around 80 and he was covering at a modest €12,500. What is more it was a large crop of around 160 and 63% have run which, whilst you might expect that given he was a sprinter, points towards a degree of soundness. His fee dropped to €10k in his 4th season but for 2023 it has gone up to €17,500 which I think fairly respects the start he has made. Dakota Sioux and Sydneyarms Chelsea have been his G3 winners although they are part of a group of 9 rated 100 or so any of whom may improve further as 3yos. He ran 7 times as a 2yo including in April and ended up winning the G1 Phoenix Stakes. Interestingly, he is not your typical 15.3 hands sharp sprinter conformation-wise and at 16.15 it is quite possible his progeny train on particularly well.

            Next best for me in this sire cohort are Havana Grey, Harry Angel and Kessaar. Havana Grey has had an excellent year with 6 stakes winners amongst his 14 stakes performers. Like Sioux Nation, his stakes winners were split between G3 and Listed and his runners had an average of 71.9  from mares rated 75.9. He had a similar 2yo career to Sioux Nation by debuting in April, running 8 times and coming a close 2nd in the G1 Prix Morny and as a pure sprinter at 15.35 hands high it is perhaps not surprising that 78% of his offspring have run. His G3 winners have been Eddie's Boy, Rumstar and Lady Hollywood whilst Listed winner Shoudvebeenaring is rated 105. The "noise" factor was high in terms of his performance as a sire given the quantity of runners, winners and high number of stakes performers from modest mares and his fee tripled to £18,500 if you have been fortunate enough to get one!

            I was fortunate to visit Darley's Dalham Hall Stud at the time of the Tattersalls July Sale and saw quite a few sires including the legend Dubawi but I did not have much interest in Harry Angel as he had a had a slow start and was not high on my list of potential sires for our broodmares. Silly me! During the second half of 2022 he picked up quickly and by the time of Tattersalls December Sales I was very interested to see him but as he was swanning it Down Under with the Southern Hemisphere girls I missed him again! Since then he has continued the improvement and the chart shows his runners average at 72.7 from broodmares rated 81.6. To me that puts him a shade behind Havana Grey with runners 0.8lbs better from mares 5.7lbs better. Harry Angel was not so precocious as either Sioux Nation or Havana Grey, running only twice as a 2yo, although he did win the G2 Mill Reef Stakes. However, he made up for that as a 3yo winning two G1s and reaching a rating of 125. He is only 15.3 hands high and physically probably needs a strong mare to pair up with but he is clearly on the up which was highlighted recently when Al Dasim won a G3 at Meydan and Iconic Moment won a Listed race at Lingfield on the same day. He has had another Listed winner in Proverb and three stakes placed horses including two at G2 level including Marshman who is rated 113. Al Dasim won well by over 2 lengths in a 6f event and looks at least a G2 performer if not higher. At a £10k nomination fee I believe Harry Angel is excellent value and fixed up a cover for our broodmare Redskin Dancer this year. Unfortunately she passed away after a colic incident so that particular mating will not be happening.

            A sire who I believe is under the radar is Kessaar whose progeny have an average of 70.4 from broodmares rated 71.9. That puts his runners 6th highest from the 16th best group of mares of this 2022 cohort. Although he did not have such a big crop as the others totalling 76, 75% have run and he has had two Listed placed runners in Ipanema Princess and Bolt Action. Four of his better runners, Ipanema Princess, Tostado, Mount Mary and Disdainful, have ended up in the USA and that together with his relatively few stakes performers and below average mares possibly explains why he is under the radar. The fact is that on average he is producing horses nearly as good as Havana Grey from lower level mares and at €5k he has to be a bargain.

            Of the other sires, Zoustar has had an excellent one in G1 Cheveley Park Stakes winner and 114 rated Lezoo but not too many other good ones (Lezoo is the only Northern Hemisphere stakes performer) and from the 4th best mares his runners are rated 10th highest. Cracksman was a 10 to 12 furlong performer so his progeny may need a bit more time although apparently he is a C:C from a speed gene perspective which is unusual. He has had a G2 winner in Italy and three other stakes performers but we need to see some significant improvement in them as 3yos to believe that he will be a top sire. Saxon Warrior is clearly the best after the top four with his runners lying 4th from the 3rd best mares but what is eyecatching is that he not only has six stakes performers but they are by far the best quality stakes performers of any of these sires with G1 winner Victoria Road, G1 placed Geo Teorainn as well as two G3 winners and two G2 placed all achieved in either France, Ireland or the UK. Finally we have the dear departed Roaring Lion who has had a G1 winner in Dubai Mile and we can expect some improvement from his runners as 3yos. He had the best mares by some way being rated around 95 on average but his runners are lying 2nd which is no mean performance for an 8 to 10 furlong sire. 

            As always, early days and too early to write any sire off and it will be interesting to see how the 2nd crops perform, but the best of this sire cohort is already stamping itself 

 

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

15th March 2023

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Patience Is A Virtue

Posted 18/2/2023

            Now and again it is a pleasant surprise to get a mare pedigree update from Darley that you did not know about. Usually, although I do notice some such updates on a worldwide basis, these are for stakes performers in countries that I don't follow rigorously. The other day I received one for Birthstone and her maiden broodmare daughter Rocadora for Ashwa Yudhvir (2019 rig Ampere x Je Suis) who won the Listed North India Derby (noted as a Gr 3 in India) at Delhi over 1600m on 14th February. As his maternal great grandam is Birthstone I thought I would have a detailed look into his pedigree which threw up some interesting linebreeding on both sire and distaff sides as well as any number of strong stallion names.

            My interest was also driven by the grandam Charm Bracelet whom I had tried to buy at the 2012 Tattersalls December Sale only to be outgunned by Raptakos Brett and Gaurav Rampal who won the bidding at 39,000 guineas leaving me in second place. Charm Bracelet was by Tiger Hill out of Birthstone, whom I did not own at the time, and had won a race in France as a 3yo with an RPR of 97 when trained by Andre Fabre. Darley, who bred her, put her in foal to Poet's Voice and off she went to the sales which subsequently saw her exported to India where she foaled Je Suis in 2013. Unfortunately Charm Bracelet did not see out 2013 and Je Suis was the only foal she had before passing away. As far as I can see, Je Suis only ran once and was well down the field in a 1200m event in 2016 so at this point things had not worked out too well! Whatever, she became a broodmare and to date I see that she has had two foals both by Ampere one of which is Ashwa Yudhvir and the other in 2020, a filly called Truth In Wine who has yet to run. Ashwa Yudhvir has won 4 races from 9 starts to date for owner Mr Ravinder Pal Singh Chauhan and trainer Rajesh Narredu.

            Ashwa Yudhvir's sire Ampere is by Galileo out of a Sri Pekan mare (Amorama) and he won 2 out of 5 starts in France for Andre Fabre including the G2 Prix Hocquart over 2200m and then he was 2nd in the G1 Grand Prix De Paris over 2400m but after one poor run as a 4yo, when he was heavily eased, he was retired and is now a stallion in India. That's a very well bred stallion as Galileo needs no introduction and Amorama won a G1 in the USA. It's his distaff side that really intrigued me as the grandam of Amorama is Triple Couronne who was a full sister to Barger, the great great grandam of Je Suis. Triple Couronne and Barger were full sisters to multiple G1 winner Triptych and their dam was Trillion who therefore appears 5x6 in the pedigree of Ashwa Yudhvir and the full sisters appear at 4x5. 

            Linebreeding as I understand it is where a horse's parents have common ancestors but they are not closely inbred and the breeder is trying to preserve certain traits/genes/characteristics from exceptional sires or dams. This is obviously less often achieved with dams and it is something I like to see when a blue hen appears more than once in a pedigree. In addition to Trillion, who appears on both sides of Ashwa Yudhvir's pedigree, he has Natalma (the dam of Northern Dancer) who appears no fewer than 4 times at the 6th generation level of his dam Je Suis and also at the 4th generation of his sire Ampere, so that he carries repeat appearances of two very powerful blue hens in his relatively recent pedigree.

            Apart from the appearance of these top class dams in the pedigree, what I also take from all this is that class is permanent even if it decides to hide itself for a generation or two and that patience is a virtue. After Charm Bracelet died and Je Suis did nothing on the track, connections might have been justified in calling it a day but they persisted and Ashwa Yudhvir is now paying off that patience about 10 years after they purchased Charm Bracelet. Well done to them and hopefully the change in fortune continues.

            Our young mare Rocadora (Havana Gold x Birthstone 2019) is expecting to Dream Ahead and will then visit Bated Breath who sired her half sister and G2 winner Gift List. Perhaps I should send her to Ampere in India next year although I strongly suspect that the cost and travel complications might put sending a mare out of the UK to be covered in much closer countries post-Brexit look incredibly easy!!

            Oops, sorry I have to go, another e-mail from Darley has arrived with an update for Birthstone/Rocadora in Australia where Matcha Latte, whose great grandam is Barger, has just come a neck 3rd in the G2 Hobartville Stakes G2 at Rosehill in Australia over 1400m...... Keep' em coming!!!

 

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

18th February 2023

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Investing in a Maiden Broodmare

Posted 12/2/2023

          Delighted to be able to buy back 100% of Moonlight Frolic (we were 25% owners) at the Tattersalls February Sale and she returned back to where she was foaled last weekend. The 4yo filly won a race as a 3yo and looked to have a promising future, even competing in a Listed event at Goodwood, but she developed a moderate tendon issue and, whilst not inconceivable that she could have returned to the track, overall it was felt best to enter her for the December Breeding Stock sale run by Tattersalls with a view to a future broodmare career. Surprisingly, given she is closely related to sire Palace Pier, she did not sell in December so we went again in February and, whilst our primary intention was to sell if the right bids came in, we also decided to bid online if that was not the case and embark upon managing her broodmare days should we be the purchasers. Moonlight Frolic (Bated Breath x Chicita Banana)Moonlight Frolic (Bated Breath x Chicita Banana)

            Before deciding to go down this track we had to take into account many issues, not least of which is the significant cash flow needed to launch and maintain a maiden broodmare. Buying a maiden broodmare for the medium/longer term is a substantial investment and the actual amount paid, which in this case was 4,500 guineas, is not the most important part of that investment. First, your broodmare has to get in foal in 2023 and continue with good health to produce a foal in approximately 11 months time. That foal will be a yearling in 2025 and that would be at least two and a half years from now, if the intention is to sell at that point, before recouping anything of your investment over that period of time. Assume that you put her in foal in 2024 and 2025 and with good fortune you now have another foal on the ground and the broodmare is carrying the other, you will have bought three nominations to stallions to cover her, paid for the keep, vet and other costs for the broodmare for at least two and a half years as well as approximately one year for the 2024 yearling after he/she was weaned. Obviously these costs can vary enormously on the nominations front, but if you assume a modest fee of £10,000 per stallion for the three years that means £30,000 has been laid out for that concept alone. As for keep costs etc these obviously vary as well but I have seen £15,000/year used quite often which would mean approximately £52,500 for the mare and yearling. Adding all that up and you probably need to fork out £82,500 before you see a penny coming back with the assumptions made above. Ok, you could choose cheaper stallions and have lower costs than £15k/year per horse but I'd be surprised if your investment was lower than £50k in total up to the autumn 2025 stage as you develop the broodmare's career. Additionally, by choosing lower value stallions, you theoretically have a lower chance of eventual success when the progeny hit the track.  All of this. of course, supposes that you are paying someone else to do the work and clearly it would be a lot cheaper if you were doing it. 

            On to 2026 and hopefully your aspiring broodmare has produced another healthy foal and managed to get back into foal although perhaps she is now visiting in May and you might be considering to give her a year off from visiting her boyfriends after 2026. Importantly, her 2024 foal is now ready to race and start to show what she is capable of producing. Of course, it may be that the 2yo is not so precocious and needs time to be able to show signs of his/her potential and so at the end of 2026, almost 4 years after your purchase you may be not much wiser as to whether your young broodmare is likely to produce talented offspring. Clearly there are other factors to be taken into account such as the conformation of all the offspring, their temperament and the 2yo in training may well have shown plenty of ability training at home, but at the end of the day you need to see performances on the track. Overall, I would say you need at least £60k to give a maiden broodmare a fair chance to show what she can do and probably nearer to £100k if you use sires at the higher level of the so-called budget value sires ie £10k. If you want to cover with Dubawi, Frankel, Sea The Stars and Siyouni, it's a different game!

            Meanwhile, other closely bred broodmares on your broodmare's page may have done well with their offspring and this will help the attractiveness of your mare's offspring at the sales to some extent. However, it is clear that you have had to invest a substantial amount of cash (for the majority of people with two feet on this planet) before you are able to truly see whether your decision to purchase this maiden broodmare was a good decision or not. In addition, the example I have laid out above assumes that many things have gone well eg the mare gets in foal on one of three covers in each of the four years considered otherwise she will not get in foal unless you arrange a fourth cover for the same or go to another sire. Is this an issue she has or was it the stallions she went to? Even if she gets in foal, it is possible that she aborts before foaling or suffers a health issue such as colic which may even end up with her passing away or losing the embryo. We lost Aureana in 2022 whilst in foal to Al Wukair and lost her as well as the foal. After foaling you usually have to pay the nomination fee if the foal stands for 48 hours but there is no guarantee the foal will survive to reach the racecourse. We've had a foal who had wobbles and had to be put down as well as a few who have had exciting moments in the stud paddock trying to jump fences and gashing their legs in a way that could have ended up in a more serious outcome. In fact this happened with our filly New Providence who, as a yearling, thought she was in the Grand National and tried to clear a sizeable fence causing herself some leg  damage that fortunately did not turn out to be serious. She later won a Group 3 race and is now a broodmare in Japan!! Fence damage caused by New Providence as a yearling as she practiced for The Grand National!Fence damage caused by New Providence as a yearling as she practiced for The Grand National!There are loads of other hoops and hurdles to be dealt with for any breeder so nothing can be assumed in terms of getting any return on your investment. True, your broodmare could turn out to be a superstar with offspring regularly getting black type and, if so, you will be rewarded in the market in terms of selling future foals/yearlings or if you decide to cash in on the mares success and sell her whilst she is still reasonably young.

            In conclusion, welcome back to Moonlight Frolic and we hope she has a long, healthy and successful breeding career with us. She is out of Chicita Banana (by Danehill Dancer) who is a half sister to Beach Frolic, the dam of Palace Pier, a top miler who now stands with Darley at £50,000 this year. Bonfire, who won the Group 2 Dante, is a half brother to Chicita Banana and Group 3 winner Joviality is a half sister so there are plenty of stakes winning performers close by in the pedigree. Moonlight also has a bit of size about her, is well balanced and has a lovely temperament so, in theory, there is plenty going for her. Her first boyfriend will be Territories who has already had a couple of 100+ horses with Dansili mares and as Moonlight is by Bated Breath that points towards potentially an interesting nick. Territories is by Invincible Spirit and his sire sons, including Kingman and I Am Invincible, go very well with Danehill Dancer mares and the Danehill line in general. Whatever, we'll see how it goes and hopefully we're sitting here with a top class broodmare in 4 years time who will have justifed the investment made. Fingers and toes crossed.............twice!!!

  

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

12th February 2023

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Group 1 Proven Mares at Tatts Sale

Posted 22/11/2022

            The Tattersalls December Breeding Stock Sale is my particular favourite and this year the sales company has added the Sceptre Sessions which gives an additional focus to Monday and Tuesday evenings. There are some exceptional racehorses on sale such as 4yo's Saffron Beach, Alcohol Free and La Petite Coco to name just a few, but if we focus on broodmares and potential broodmares, only around 25% of the lots in the Sceptre Sessions have ever had a runner which to me exhibits a focus on hope, or potential, rather than proof in terms of what a lot has achieved or may achieve as a broodmare going forward. True, many of the Sceptre lots are listed as "Horse in Training" and may be bought to race on but surely much of the buying price will be factoring in their future broodmare potential. 

            Another way to look at that is to say that only around 25% of the Sceptre Session lots has had the chance to prove themselves as a broodmare with a runner and several of those (eg 1617 Waila, 1899 Loving Things and 1901 Fleur Forsythe) have not done that and appear to be included in the Sessions based upon the fact that they are part of a dispersal, have a top stallion cover or are part of a desirable family. As an eternal optimist I understand that hope and potential are always major factors in the breeding game, but it is sobering to see that at least 80% of the top sessions lots for sale have not proved anything with regard to their broodmare career. You constantly see this in terms of the stallions used with many breeders favouring the unknowns inherent in using a new stallion or one that has not had any runners rather than the so called proven sires. Whilst the dream to produce a top racehorse exists no matter which stallion and broodmare you use, maybe we should focus more on those that have achieved rather than those who promise a lot but have not delivered as yet or even had the chance to deliver.

            I decided to do a small study of some of the top proven mares in the whole sale to try and identify the best value amongst them and have chosen all those who have produced a Group 1 winner or placed horse as the definition of a proven mare in this particular study. I have to declare an interest in that our mare Zawiyah (Lot 1772) is one of the eight G1 producing mares in the study being the dam of G1 King's Stand Stakes runner up Twilight Calls who improved consistently in 2022 and may well go on to win a G1 in 2023 as a 5yo.

            There are 8 qualifying lots as follows:-

            1503 Let It Be Me - South Seas G1 placed in France

            1558 Rose Trail - Rose Imperial G1 placed in France

            1584 Enjoy The Life - Enjoy Vijay G1 placed in Germany

            1623 Lights On Me - Light Infantry G1 placed in France

            1772 Zawiyah - Twilight Calls G1 placed in the UK 

            1788 Magic Nymph - Folkswood G1 placed in UAE & Australia

            1873 Luzia - Fonteyn G1 winner in the UK

            1891 Desert Berry - Desert Crown G1 winner in the UK

          Whilst the broodmare's conformation, biomechanics, health and behaviour patterns are important factors to consider in making final evaluations, as I making this study pre-showtime the factors I focused on were:-

Foals produced for years available for cover - It is a big positive having a broodmare who regularly gets in foal early and produces a healthy foal. Multiple visits to a sire during a covering season means that the cover date gets pushed out and accelerates the time when the broodmare has a year off with no cover. Barren or slipped foal years are years with no progeny as well and these lost years are costly not only in terms of expenses but also "lost" progeny. Some broodmares have foals who die early in their lives which is also a sign of potential issues possibly emanating from the dam. All 8 broodmares have missed at least two years for one reason or another except Desert Berry who only missed one in 2017 for a slipped foal.
Runners to foals of racing age - It is better to have a broodmare who produces sound foals able to take the training regime and hit the racetrack and help to prove the ability of the broodmare to produce active racehorses than unsound foals who can not take the training regime. Lots of foals but few of them racing indicates possible issues with soundness being passed on by the broodmare. Enjoy The Life and Desert Berry have 5 runners from 6 foals of racing age, Lights On Me 4 from 4 and Luzia 1 from 1 .
Winners to runners - How many of the runners won? It is no good producing lots of foals who run but do not win or at least do not perform at a higher than average level. Desert Berry is best with 5 winners from 5 runners whilst Luzia has 1 from 1.
Average rating of foals - Does the broodmare consistently produce high quality progeny? The best is Luzia with Fonteyn rated 116 but that is her only foal to run so it's also her worst foal to run! Best of those with multiple runners is Enjoy The Life with 5 runners having an average of 101.6, which is outstanding.
Best Foal Rating - Whilst it is good that a broodmare produces 80+ rated racehorses, can she produce a top quality one? Luzia has proved she can. The rest have all produced racehorses rated between 108 (Let It Be Me) and 125 (Desert Berry) but only Desert Berry with Derby winner Desert Crown and Lights On Me with Light Infantry have produced horses rated above 120 with Luzia next best (Fonteyn 116)
Broodmare age - Clearly proven broodmares are very likely to be older than unproven ones. Age is important as to years left to breed. The oldest broodmare of the 8 is Rose Trail (2007) and the youngest is Luzia (2014). The mean year of birth is 2009.
Broodmare as a racehorse - How good was the broodmare on the track herself? Interestingly only 3 of these 8 broodmares won a race. The best was Enjoy The Life (100) and the median rating of the five who raced was 79 whilst three were unraced. Perhaps too much emphasis is placed on having a winning broodmare with a high rating although this is only a small sample.
Date covered and by which sire - Factors to be taken into consideration in terms of will the broodmare have to be left uncovered for a year quite soon which could be important for an older broodmare with fewer years left to breed. The covering sire will impact the price to be paid although it does not really affect your evaluation of the broodmare herself on her overall performance to date as obviously the purchaser can choose whichever sire desired in the following years. Another factor to consider regarding sires are those used to cover the broodmare in the past eg if she has been covered by less fashionable/expensive sires she should probably be rated higher based on what she could possibly achieve with a top sire. Also is she covered by a sire with whom she has had success with in the past? Both Zawiyah (Twilight Son) and Desert Berry (Nathanial) meet that criteria.


             After chewing over all the information available I came up with the following ratings out of 100 and analysis of all eight broodmares from my estimation of the highest rated downwards:-

  1. Desert Berry - 76 - Dam of 5 runners from 6 foals of racing age with the unraced foal being a 2020 filly by Al Kazeem. All 5 runners have won including English Derby winner Desert Crown as well as Flying Thunder who won a G3 in Hong Kong. The other three runners, who are all by Archipenko as is Flying Thunder, are no slouches either having won 12 races between them and ratings (RPRs) from 77 to 89. Overall her runners average 96.6 which is third best of the mares studied. Desert Berry has produced a foal every year she has been breeding except 2017 when she had a slipped foal. She did win a race but only a modest rating of 71 and being born in 2009 she is not young but not old either. Her first foal, Rose Berry, is now a broodmare with a 2021 colt foal by Expert Eye to whom she returned in 2022. She has also produced the best racehorse of all these broodmares in 125 rated Desert Crown and, whilst her cover date is not early at 4th May she is in foal to the sire of the Derby winner. Overall, a mare who regularly gets in foal, has sound offspring who win and have a high average rating in addition to breeding a Classic winner and being in foal to the same sire again. Her offspring have also demonstrated an ability to win over distances from 5 to 12 furlongs. What is there not to like?
  2. Enjoy The Life - 71 - In Germany she was a listed placed horse at 2yo and a listed winner at 3yo over 1600m and is clearly the best racehorse of these 8 broodmares with an RPR of 100. Apart from Luzia with one runner only, she is also the broodmare with the highest average rating of her foals on the racetrack at 101.6. Enjoy Vijay was 2nd in the G1 German Derby, Enjoy The Moon won a Listed event in France whilst Enjoy The Dream was also listed placed in Germany. Her other two runners were no slouches either being rated in the 90's. Her 2020 Sea The Moon colt is the only foal not to run to date and up until 2020 her breeding record was excellent apart from a hiccup in 2017 when she was barren. Since then however, she has been barren twice and this year did not get in foal to Nathaniel up to late March before being switched to Sea The Moon (also Enjoy The Moon's sire) and getting foal on 14 May. So great positives in that all 5 runners to date have won and demonstrated themselves to be smart but some recent negatives in terms of ability to get in foal. Risky to assume that she will leave her issues behind but on the other hand she produces very good ones and has one on the way by a good stallion. She is the highest rated of those not included in the Sceptre Sessions.
  3. Luzia - 70 - The youngest broodmare having been born in 2014. Her first foal, Fonteyn by Farhh, won the G1 Sun Chariot Stakes and is 3rd best rated of the progeny of these broodmares at 116. Luzia did not race herself and has shown that she has some issues with getting into foal as she was barren in 2020 and not covered in 2021. She had her only other foal, a colt to Time Test in 2021, and is now in foal to Dream Ahead with a 23 March cover. Some mixed messages here with on the one hand her ability to produce a top racehorse by a sire who has had fertility issues himself to a less than convincing ability to get in foal herself and no form on the racecourse. Apart from Fonteyn, Luzia is young and has not been covered by any top sires and I am sure she would command a top price if she had demonstrated a better ability to get in foal. Nevertheless, still very interesting and I am sure she will do better than her last visit to this sale in 2019 when she sold for 3,500 guineas!
  4. Lights On Me - 70 - Joint 3rd with Luzia is the dam of Light Infantry who won the G3 Horris Hill Stakes in the UK before running close seconds in two G1 races in France earning him a rating of 121. She has bred two other winners, one in France and one in Italy. The latter, who is 2yo, recently came 4th in a listed event but was beaten a long way and is only rated 68. She had one other runner in France who did not achieve much but all 4 foals of racing age have run with one being high level and the other three modest performers. She missed a couple of years when not covered in 2017 and 2020 which suggests she does not always get in foal easily, although once she does, she delivers. Lights On Me won races in Germany, Italy and Austria but was only of average ability. She is in foal to Palace Pier with an early April cover. The question here is whether Light Infantry (by Fast Company) is a one off although it is fair to say that she has not been covered by top sires to date and her average offspring may improve for an upgrade.
  5. Zawiyah - 66 - Only raced as a 2yo but was placed and achieved an 80 rating (Official rating 84) after a couple of useful efforts in class 2 events at Newmarket. Her broodmare career did not start well as she slipped the foal after being pregnant in 2016. Her second foal ran a few times in France without success before things improved when moving to Greece where he recently won his 3rd race over a distance of 1200m. Interestingly he is still an entire although 5yo, but he will need to improve a lot more to join the stallion ranks! Her second foal was a 2018 colt Twilight Calls (by Twilight Son) who has improved over his racing career to be second in the G1 King's Stand Stakes this year and is rated 113. He has a great cruising speed and is best at 5 furlongs although he has run very well at 6f. The 3rd foal, a filly by Equiano, was unraced and is now a broodmare whilst the 4th foal, a 2020 fllly and full sister to Twilight Calls called Fools And Horses has been placed over 7f and just received her first official rating of 73. She looks an improving type and could very well do better as a 3yo in the hands of Clive Cox. Her 5th foal is a full brother to Twilight Calls and is in training with David O'Meara. After delivering 5 foals on the bounce, 2022 was a barren year but Zawiyah is now back into foal to Twilight Son again with a 10 March cover. Born in 2011 she is the second youngest of these broodmares, has already delivered a very smart colt and is carrying a full sibling to him. Zawiyah is a good sized broodmare who has not visited top sires to date but has already proved that she can get a racehorse capable of being placed in a top G1 race in the UK. Only 3 of these 8 mares can boast G1 form in the UK for their best offspring.
  6. Magic Nymph - 64 - Being foaled in 2008, Magic Nymph is the second oldest of these broodmares. Her best foal was her first foal Folkswood in 2013 who was G1 placed colt in the UAE and Australia and rated 114. She demonstrated a good ability to produce foals by getting six on the trot before not being covered in 2018. Of those 6 foals Good Omen (2014 colt) was another rated 100+ but then followed four fillies, two of whom ran but only very moderately and two who never ran. After her year off, Magic Nymph produced a full brother to Folkswood called Dionysian who recently won his second ever race by over 5 lengths and is rated 83 and she had a filly by Harry Angel last year. She was not covered in 2021 but now has a very good late February cover in New Bay which will certainly add to the cost of attaining her at the sale. Although she will soon be 15yo, her best foals to date were her first two and there are signs that she is proving a little more difficult to get in foal having missed two of the last five years, she qualifies as a good proven mare and could look a very astute purchase if Dionysian improves further as a 3yo with the prospect of a New Bay foal as well.
  7. Rose Trail - 59 - Born in 2007, Rose Trail, who did not run, is the oldest of these mares. She certainly started off her broodmare career with a bang with her first two foals both being fillies by Pivotal winning black type races attaining ratings of 108 and 112. After that, things cooled down although her 2015 colt did win in Japan before dying at 5yo. Unfortunately her 2018 filly died unraced as a 3yo and her 2020 colt died as a yearling and she has aborted in both 2017 and 2019 as well as not being covered in 2021. A change of fortune in 2022 in that she is in foal to Oasis Dream with a mid-March cover but overall there is plenty to be concerned about and one doubts whether she can repeat the foals of 2012 and 2013 although, of course, you never know!
  8. Let It Be Me - 52 - Ran a few times without success in France and although she did get a top RPR of 79, the official French rating high was 74. Again she had early success with her first foal, South Seas (2014 colt by Lope De Vega) winning the G3 Solario Stakes before coming 2nd in the G1 Criterium International in France. Since then it has not been much fun with only a couple of runners rated 61 and 56 respectively (although the 2nd has only run once and is 2yo), the death of her 2015 foal, no sign of her 2016 Lawman filly and being barren in 4 of the last 6 years. She does have an early February cover to Kameko this year so hopefully her luck is changing but plenty to be concerned about regarding this 2009 born broodmare. Nevertheless she has shown she can get a good one and who is to say it can not happen again?

             In summary, this is just a look at some of the relatively few proven mares in this year's sale. For me, Desert Berry is the outstanding one of these 8 and I expect her to get the highest price of them even though I would love it to be Zawiyah!. As you can see from my commentaries, there are plenty of risks attached to these proven mares and some of them are no doubt being sold as they are in middle age or older as broodmares and are having one or two problems. We have personal experience of buying a broodmare (Birthstone) who had not been so successful and had had quite a few issues getting into foal but she had been a G3 winning 2yo in France and, luckily, her first foal for us was Gift List who won a G2 in the USA. So problems or not, if a broodmare has class be it on the racecourse or with past foals performance, there is always a chance she will produce a smart one despite any issues or problems being suffered. Of course when you buy a filly who has not been to the breeding sheds all of these issues/problems are unknown as of today but you do not know if she can get a top racehorse like these 8 have done and you do not know the problems that almost inevitably will come along down the road for the youngsters of today. Whatever, good luck to all vendors and purchasers and may your dreams come true! 

 

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

24th November 2022

   

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Sire Consistency Prevails For 2020 First Season Sires

Posted 18/9/2022

             In my analysis of the 2020 First Season Sires, it's Mehmas who has consistently shown that he has improved his mares in his first three crops. In this 3rd crop, running as 2yo's in 2022, his progeny are 6th highest from the 15th best set of mares. Unsurprisingly, the others to show up well so far with this 3rd crop include TerritoriesKodi Bear and Goken amongst the better performers and these sires have also done well with other crops. New Bay and Awtaad are below the trendline so far whereas they have been above it in the first two crops, significantly so in the case of New Bay. Perhaps we will see that change by the end of the year. The Gurkha has been a disappointment so far but this crop are shaping up better although he only has a small crop of 20, of which only 3 have run, so we'll need to see a bit more evidence before we can say he is doing better this time around. 

            Coulsty with a crop of only 3 and Estidhkaar with only one runner to date can be ignored as far as this chart is concerned and we'll see better data at the end of the year in the case of the latter.

            At the end of the 1st year of the 1st crop for these stallions (and there were 26 of them being analysed then) I concluded in February 2021 that the following sires had performed the best:- 

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

and it seems to me that they are still the best. Obviously, Coulsty is a difficult one to judge given that he only had a reasonable crop size in his 1st crop whereas crops 2 and 3 have 15 between them so we will have to wait and see what he does with the expected crop increase in 2023 which will only hit the track in 2025! Meanwhile, there is no doubt in my mind that Mehmas deserves his nomination hike to €50,000 and it is exciting to think about what he will do when we see his produce from better quality mares hit the track.

            To see all 2020 crop progress look under the Research tab.

Jim Atkinson

18th September 2022

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

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Yearlings Move On

Posted 1/9/2022

            The yearling sale season is well underway and demand appears to be strong judging by the Arqana and Goffs Premier Sales held in August. Despite all the doom and gloom around us regarding energy prices, inflation in general and looming recessions around the world the micro-bubble of horseracing appears to be very robust and charging on irrespective of impending global economic doom! Adding to the yearling positivity, The Covex Kid (TCK), a 3yo gelding who was rated 46 just 3 months ago but has zoomed up to 80, was sold yesterday at the Tattersalls Horses In Training Sale for 160,000 guineas to race in Bahrain. That seems excessive to me but then perhaps he's on his way to 100 rating! Well done to trainer Amy Murphy and team. 

Our 8th Bated Breath Offspring on show at DoncasterOur 8th Bated Breath Offspring on show at Doncaster

           As far as James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd is concerned, we did have two lots for sale at the Goffs Premier Sale in Doncaster who both sold but at slightly lower amounts than hoped for (Always wanting more Jim!!). Lot 199, a lovely strong Bated Breath colt out of stakes producer Redskin Dancer, sold for £30,000 to Marco Bozzi and Sebastiano Guerrieri who are a top bloodstock agent and trainer partnership based in Italy. This colt is our eighth Bated Breath offspring following the first five who have won and include two black type horses in Ekhtiyaar and Gift List as well as another 103 RPR winner in Kaanoon. Together they have won 15 races and almost £700,000 between them. The sixth runner, First Page trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, came 4th last Sunday in a French race for unraced 2yos and promises to be the sixth winner from six runners for us. The seventh is Mellow Mood, a 2yo filly in training with Sylvester Kirk and full sister to Kaanoon. She looks likely to run fairly soon and from what I have heard she is not without ability. The colt we sold at Donny had loads of views so hopes were high for around £40 to £50k but it didn't quite work out. Whatever, he is in good hands and I am sure has every chance to proove himself another hit as far as our Bated Breath connection goes. 

            On the second day we sold Lot 316, a full brother to 110 rated Group 1 placed Twilight Calls (TC), who we had sold at the same sale three years previously. I had been hoping to see TC run in the G1 Nunthorpe at York a few days before the sale but unfortunately he wasn't quite right and you have to be to win any race let alone a G1! Incidentally it was great to see Highfield Princess (HP), a filly who has shot up from a rating of 57 to 120 in the last couple of years, win so well. Both HP and TCK give great encouragement to owners whose horses do not win from the get go and take a bit of time to find their true form and this encourages patience with racehorses to give them a chance to develop at their own speed without being unduly pushed perhaps leading to physical issues and not fulfilling full potential.Twilight Calls brother being shown by Jack at Goffs Premier Yearling SaleTwilight Calls brother being shown by Jack at Goffs Premier Yearling Sale

            Back to TC's brother and he is a fine looking animal perhaps slightly taller/rangier than TC but with a similar look about him and with a lovely temperament which he needed with all the shows he had over 4 days. Jason Kelly Bloodstock bought him for £52,000 which again was slightly lower than hoped for especially given that we sold his sister (named Fools And Horses (F&H) and in training with Clive Cox) for £70,000 at the same sale in 2021. He will be trained by David O'Meara who trained Redskin Dancer's filly Lincoln Rocks to win 7 races including a Listed at Pontefract and who reached a rating of 107. I did have a word with Clive Cox about F&H and it seems she may be out fairly soon so fingers crossed she shows something as mother Zawiyah is in foal to Twilight Son yet again!

            As for TC, hopefully he rapidly overcomes his minor issues and contests the G1 Flying Five 5f G1 race at The Curragh on 11th Sept and/or the G1 Prix D'Abbaye at Paris Longchamps on Arc Day (2 Oct). Even if he is fit he'll need the ground to be Good or better to be able to show his best and that is certainly no given at either venue at this time of the year. Fingers crossed he competes and does well as he could qualify for the Turf Sprint race at the Breeders Cup in Keeneland. Now that would be a lovely trip to make! Come on TC!!

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Zarak Flying

Posted 6/6/2022

            Seven months on from my analysis of the 2021 First Season Sires (FSS), that you can see below, I have reanalysed them to see how their 1st crop is progressing. I finished the analysis literally hours before the cohort had a field day at Chantilly with Churchill's Vadeni winning the G1 Prix du Jockey Club as well as Zarak getting a stakes double with Baiykara winning the G3 Prix de Royaumont and Purplepay winning the G2 Prix de Sandringham. Add to that the Listed win by Ribchester's Snooze N You Lose and Cotai Glory's Sophie's Star winning a valuable handicap in races at Musselburgh as well as Decorated Knight's Knight Of Honour winning a decent maiden at Goodwood. Definitely a Super Sunday for this group of sires!

            Zarak continues to be the stand out 2021 FSS for me with the highest average rating of runners to date from the 5th best group of mares. Given that they were only the 4th best group of runners as at the end of 2021 it is clear that, as expected, they would improve in their 3yo careers for a sire who was best at 10 to 12 furlongs but to be leading the way after just 5 months of the second year is exceptional for a 10-12f horse. After Baiykara's success he can now boast 8 black type performers of whom 5 are winners. Granted he has not sired a G1 winner yet but Times Square came very close to achieving that in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and it is only a matter of time before he gets one. Incidentally, Zarak has also sired a G3 jumps placed horse in Carlton du Berlais but if people start talking about him as a jumps sire I think I'll give up! Leaving the desire for quick turnaround in getting them on the track and the innate lack of patience that seems to afflict a lot of people to one side for the moment, quite why people can not accept that a sire can be a great sire of both codes I will never understand. Nathanial just had an excellent Derby winner in Desert Crown but, it seems to me, he is already half classified as a jumps sire by many as though that is detrimental. I thought diversity was the big thing of today in wider society but not in thoroughbred horse breeding it appears. Mind you, we are still talking furlongs, guineas and hands high so why am I surprised?

            Jim, get back to the FSS of 2021! Ok, so who else merits a mention. Let's dive from a 12f horse who won his G1 at 4yo to Cotai Glory who won his first G3 over 5f before the end of July in his 2yo career. As noted in November he had already started well, but what has caught my eye is how his offspring appear to have carried on improving as 3yos. His offspring are a close 9th best on average from the lowest rated set of mares. He has had 9 stakes performers in this crop, just ahead of Zarak and just behind Caravaggio and Churchill which is impressive when you consider that they have covered mares on average around 15lbs better. Whilst his best 2yo's in Atomic Force and Eldrickjones do not appear to have trained on particularly well there are a number including Pearl Glory, Sophie's Star, Stayincotai and Glory Daze who have run well as 3yos. Incidentally Glory Daze was unplaced in the Derby on Saturday which strikes me as a surprising place to see a son of Cotai Glory! In contrast, offspring of other sprinter sires Ardad and Profitable have not improved on average by nearly as much as Cotai Glory who is definitely winning the "Cheap Speed" award to date. Whilst the 2nd crop data is still too light to make much sense of overall, the sprint division is ahead of the game and Cotai Glory is again showing a superiority over Ardad and Profitable year to date with Cosmic invasion, Miami Girl, Democracy Dilemma and Bottle Of Bubbles all showing good early form.

            So, who is next? Vadeni has given Churchill his first G1 winner in impressive style and no doubt the damsire influence of Monsun was a factor in his improvement over a longer distance. As noted in November, it would not surprise me to see Churchill's stock improve at 3yo given his own 16.2 size and impressive build. Clearly there are a number of promising horses in Ireland but he has also sired a few doing well in Europe apart from Vadeni with Il Grande Gatsby winning an Italian Listed event by 4 lengths and Queroyal winning a German G3. He may not reach the heights of Frankel, but Churchill is definitely moving in the right direction.

            Almanzor's 1st crop has shown some very good improvement so far this year and have jumped on average from 12th best at the end of 2021 to 7th best from the 3rd best cohort of mares. Unanimous Consent was his first stakes winner when picking up the Woodhaven Stakes in the USA and, whilst he is well behind Zarak at this stage, he is moving up and may still justify his €35k initial cover tag. 

            The biggest improver in the first 5 months of the year has been The Grey Gatsby whose progeny have jumped up from 20th best to 8th best. He can boast 2 stakes winners in Indian Wish and Mylady and has a number of promising types including Master Gatsby, Jay Gatsby, Kingdom and Mia Boy. Whilst I wouldn't have expected a large % of runners to date, he has had only 53% which is just ahead of Ultra (52%) but less than Highland Reel (56%), Postponed (58%), Almanzor (60%) and Zarak (64%) of the horses who liked more distance. 

            Caravaggio continues well up the table with his progeny 2nd best from the 4th best rated mares and he has had most stakes winners with 11 to date. Certainly he is one of the best sires of this European sire cohort although he is now based in the USA. Tenebrism disappointed in the G1 1000 Guineas weakening late on and looks set for a sprinting career having been entered for the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot next week. Maljoom has won all three races to date including a G2 in Germany and is entered for the G1 St James's Palace Stakes next week. He could be seriously good.

            Of the others, Time Test has disappointed the market after 4 stakes winners last year and whilst Aclaim has had a Classic winner in Cachet, overall the performance is average. I think sometimes too much store is placed into the performance of one or two stars without assessing the overall sire performance let alone the quality of mares covered. Ardad, with the outstanding Perfect Power, is another case in point although the sire has done reasonably well from the second lowest rated mares. Zelzal and Al Wukair have continued quite well although connections of the latter will no doubt be praying for a stakes performer fairly soon. I sent a mare to him this year but unfortunately she died of colic whilst in foal so we will never know if that was a good move or not. Zelzal has had a couple of G3 winners in the USA although last year's Listed winner Zelda may proove to be the best after she ran a very close 6th in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches. Ulysses has disappointed me so far this year as I thought he would kick on very much as Almanzor and The Grey Gatsby have done. He is now 6th best from the best rated mares and hopefully we see his offspring kick on in the next 3-4 months.

            In summary, Zarak looks the best to me of this group of FSS followed by Caravaggio, Churchill, Cotai Glory and Zelzal with an honourable mention for Al Wukair and a couple of up and comers in The Grey Gatsby and Almanzor. No doubt we'll see more developments in the next few months and the 2nd crop will start to give some meaningful data which is important as one crop does not make a stallion. two good crops may be coincidence but more likely we start to see which sires really are passing on their ability to their young ones.

 

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

6th June 2022

            

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Be Fair Steps Up

Posted 9/5/2022

            It's 2 years since his last win, but Be Fair won over 14 furlongs at Wolverhampton with an impressive finishing burst. He travelled well but looked to have plenty to do entering the straight. Nevertheless he found the necessary acceleration and won by 1.25 lengths with the 3rd 6 lengths behind. 

Be Fair wins at Wolves under Hollie DoyleBe Fair wins at Wolves under Hollie Doyle

He is our third winner of the season with all three winners coming in the last three weeks. He is by Kyllachy out of Going For Gold, who provides the stamina, and after being sold to BBA Ireland for 36k guineas at the 2017 Book 2 he ran three times in Ireland without success before coming back to the UK to be trained by Tony Carroll. 

            The win last Friday was his fourth and he has reached a high rating to date of 69. He has two siblings in Chicadoro and Kaanoon who have reached levels of around 100 and the latter has a full 2yo sister, Mellow Mood (by Bated Breath), in training with Sylvester Kirk.                                                                                                                                                                              

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 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