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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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Lighting Up The Season

Posted 4/5/2022


            A decent start to the 2022 flat season for James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd bred horses. In North America, Gift List kicked things off with a very good 4th in a Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park beaten 3 lengths by subsequent Grade 1 winner Regal Glory. Gift List had been off the track for 8 months so connections must have been pleased with that effort. She subsequently came 8th in another G3 which was slightly disappointing although only 4.5 lengths behind the winner. Nevertheless she is showing up well in stakes races in the USA and adding to the popularity of Bated Breath progeny in that country.

            Talking of Bated Breath, Ekhtiyaar ran four times in the UAE during January and February. Three of the races were Listed and he did not run badly, but he is 8 years old now and his performances perhaps indicated that his best days, including a rating of 112, are behind him. Twilight Son winning at Newmarket 5f 14 April 2022Twilight Son winning at Newmarket 5f 14 April 2022

            Over to Europe, and our first winner in 2022 came with Twilight Calls winning a class 3 over 5f at Newmarket in April in very comfortable fashion. He has always been a strong travelling horse but sometimes hasn't finished off his races as well as he promised and connections decided to geld him after the 2021 season. Whilst I am sure that trainer Henry Candy would have been dreaming of TC following in the steps of his sire Twilight Son and grand sire Kyllachy as the next sire in line, he looked convinced in a post race interview that the horse has improved since that operation and they subsequently entered him for his first black type race in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket on 2000 Guineas day. He ran very well and seemed a little unfortunate to be drawn on the wing and then get carried a bit wider by Whenthedealisdone to be beaten only 1.25 lengths by Khaadem. Subsequently it turned out that over the three day meeting nearly 50% of winners on the straight course in 19 races came from stall 1 or 2 and none were drawn higher than 7 which indicates a draw bias which Twilight Calls (drawn 12) could not overcome. He has been uprated from 100 to 104 and I personally think he is a couple of lengths better than that at 110. Connections seem to share this thought process as he has now been entered for the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock and then the Group 1 King Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Clearly both races are a stretch but it would not surprise me to see him go close in at least the former race if he gets good or firmer ground.

Moonlight Frolic back home after her win at Thirsk over 1 mile on 25th April 2022Moonlight Frolic back home after her win at Thirsk over 1 mile on 25th April 2022

            Moving on from the twilight to the moonlight and we did not have to wait long for winner number two when at the end of April Moonlight Frolic caught War of Words on the line over a mile at Thirsk. This was the filly's second outing after a good introduction at Kempton in December where she came 6th in a maiden. As at Kempton, she managed to find a bit of trouble in running but this time had enough to overcome that and win on the line. The time was not fast and hard to know what she beat although War Of Words on debut had beaten subsequent Listed Pretty Polly 3rd Crenelle in her previous run. The RPR was only 69 which I think is a bit low. We'll see but no doubt that trainer Amy Murphy think that the filly will rate a lot higher as she has entered Moonlight Frolic for the Group 2 Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. Whilst MF looked to need every yard of the mile at Thirsk, twelve furlongs may be a bit far at this stage for a filly by Bated Breath (yes another one!) out of a Danehill Dancer mare that won over 5f. However, stranger things have happened! By the way, MF became our 5th runner by Bated Breath and 5th winner and hopefully will become our third black type performer. We have two 2yos by BB who may add to that tally. Mellow Mood is with Sylvester Kirk and First Page with Jean-Claude Rouget. We also have a colt yearling out of Redskin Dancer who we plan to sell later this year. 

Chirimiri in his box in La Teste de Buch after his run at Paris Longchamp on 1st May 2022Chirimiri in his box in La Teste de Buch after his run at Paris Longchamp on 1st May 2022

           After these two wins I was getting excited about our colt Chirimiri winning a 1400m €70k race at Paris Longchamp on May 1st. He had made his first run of the season at the backend of March at Fontainebleau and was only beaten a couple of lengths in a competitive 1200m race despite finishing 7th. He did not particularly appreciate the initial downhill section of the track and was stopped in his tracks when trying to get a run as well. Whilst the Paris race was 200m more than his ideal distance, Chirimiri has won over 1400m but on softer ground. The ground description was good to soft but I certainly did not see much soft around and no divots flying! Additionally he lost a shoe after 300m which unbalanced him a shade although I think the ground was the main reason he only finished 9th beaten 5 lengths. Whatever, we are still learning with him and trainer Christophe Ferland is now likely to race him at local track La Teste De Buch next up. We also entered him for the valuable Gran Premio Urquijo over 1100m in Madrid in June but we fear that the ground will be too firm for him. However, Madrid is on an elevated plain and as they sang in the musical My Fair Lady........"the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain".............Having lived there for 9 years I am not sure that is true!

            Chirimiri's name describes a light rain that is seen in the northern parts of Spain so he has something in common with Twilight Calls and Moonlight Frolic. In terms of the European 2022 flat season things have started well and this trio certainly do not look light on ability to me. Fingers crossed I'm right!



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French Z's Leading The Way of 2021 First Season Sires

Posted 7/11/2021

                Early days, but I think that this cohort of FSS may not be that hot if I compare with how the 2020 cohort had done by this stage of the first season. New Bay had a progeny average of around 78 from a bunch of mares rated 83 or so which would have put him way ahead of this 2021 cohort. Territories’s progeny were rated just under 76 from mares rated 81 which would have put him a couple of pounds ahead of Zelzal whilst at the lower end, Mehmas’s progeny would have been about 8lbs higher than Ardad from a similar level of mares and Coulsty would have been well clear of both Cotai Glory and Ardad from an inferior book of mares. Perhaps last season’s FSS are very good but similar patterns emerge comparing to other cohorts from 2016 onwards and I do not see any excellent sires emerging right now in the Frankel, Kingman, Night Of Thunder or No Nay Never mould.Zarak owned by Aga Khan Studs at home at Haras De BonnevalZarak owned by Aga Khan Studs at home at Haras De Bonneval

               The two that have caught my eye the most so far are French based Zarak and Zelzal. The former is by Dubawi who we already knew was a great stallion before the last two nights when three of his progeny won Breeders’ Cup races! Add to the fact that the dam, Zarkava was an unbeaten 7-time winner, including the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe, and you have a sire who is bred in the purple three times over. Not only that, but in his first season as a sire he has had 3 stakes horses, which is less than a few others but more than any other 10-12f horse and, incidentally, he only ran once as a 2yo so there should be plenty of scope for improvement of his offspring as 3yos. Zelzal did not run as a 2yo and, being by Sea The Stars, one would expect there to be plenty of scope for improvement as his progeny face longer distances from now until the end of their 3yo careers although he himself was a miler. His runners are rated 3rd best on average but from an average book of mares who are 15th best of these 23 sires in their first season with runners. His 2022 fee has already been announced as €15,000, up from €6,000 in 2021, which reflects this very good first year although I personally would have hoped they would have kept the fee to the €10-12k range.

               Caravaggio, who now resides in the USA, and Churchill have both started well and are currently joint top in terms of their runners’ ratings although Caravaggio’s mares are rated 1lb less and he has had 8 stakes performers versus Churchill’s 6. On the other hand, Churchill is a much bigger unit than Caravaggio (who was also a sprinter) and I would bet that Churchill’s progeny will progress more at 3yo. In conclusion, both are doing well but nothing out of the ordinary yet.

               Ulysses, like Zarak, stands at 16.1 hands and was a 10-12f horse who only appeared once as a juvenile. I think it is fair to say that he has made a good start with the prospect of a higher level of progeny improvement as they move through their 3yo careers.

               Ardad has been the early season talking horse and has produced a top class 2yo in Perfect Power who followed up his Prix Morny win by taking another G1 in the Middle Park Stakes. No doubt Ardad has done well with a low-level group of mares, but Mehmas did much better as I have pointed out already and Ardad has a lot of low level runners as well. Also, he did not train on very well and there must be a doubt as to whether this 1st crop will achieve much as 3yos outside of the few stakes horses that he has produced to date. In my opinion, this could be a classic case of over hyping of market sentiment that later leads to disappointment. His fee has been raised to £12,500 for 2022 so he will get better mares and perhaps that will help him in in 2025 but he may be following a similar path to Havana Gold following that sire’s first season success with Havana Grey.Zelzal owned by Al Shaqab at home at Haras De BouquetotZelzal owned by Al Shaqab at home at Haras De Bouquetot

               Of the others, I think that owners of two of the more expensive sires in Almanzor and Ribchester will be a little disappointed with their starts. Early days and reasonable starts but they have some catching up to do with Caravaggio, Churchill and Ulysses who also commanded around the same initial fee. Cotai Glory has made a good start from the worst set of mares and his runners are rated 9th best. He has also had 7 stakes horses which is impressive considering the low level of mare. Again, this points towards how well Coulsty was doing from the 2020 FSS as his progeny were 3lbs better on average than Cotai Glory from mares 6lbs worse. Ultra looks to have started well in terms of his position relative to the trendline but he has had few runners and that may be a false position. We will know more by the end of this year and the first few months of 2022. National Stud sires Aclaim and Time Test have also started quite well with the latter already registering 4 stakes winners. Given he was an 8-10f racehorse, I would not be surprised to see this son of Dubawi move up the rankings as this 2021 FSS cohort 1st crop moves forward. Another French sire, Al Wukair, is also showing promise and, whilst he has not had any stakes horses yet, he has a number who look useful and could progress. His fee for 2022 has been raised to €8,000 from €6,000 which indicates confidence in his start.

               No doubt we will see a few changes by the end of the year and going into 2022 but Zarak and Zelzal are the two who have caught my eye the most so far. Time will tell!

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Strong Sales

Posted 31/10/2021

            After a few rather poor years for sales results we have done much better this year and managed to sell all five yearlings on offer this year for an average of approximately £34,000 which is over three times the average cover fees. Equally satisfying are the homes that the five have gone to and we are very hopeful that they will have good, happy careers and be a source of pleasure to their new connections. The Twilight Son filly we sold in August for £70,000 we believe went to Lambourn based Clive Cox who knows all about sprinters and how to get the best out of them. In Book 2 we sold our Oasis Dream filly for 52,000 guineas and she will be the first horse we have bred to be stabled at trainer David Menuisier's establishment in Sussex. Going For Gold's Bated Breath filly went to another Lambourn based trainer in Sylvester Kirk for 2,500 guineas. The price was disappointing given her half sister was a black type performer and full brother had a top RPR of 103. However, it was clear on her physical and pedigree that she will need some time and the market doesn't particularly like waiting! We'll see, as Syl is a very good and experienced trainer and no doubt she will get every chance.Bated Breath x Aureana colt at the Deauville Yearling SaleBated Breath x Aureana colt at the Deauville Yearling Sale

            On to Deauville and we were thrilled not only to sell Aureana's Bated Breath colt for €40,000 but also that the purchaser was Jean Claude Rouget one of the top trainers around. As he is based in Pau, only 90 minutes car ride from where we live in Donostia-San Sebastian, it is quite possible we'll get a chance to see the colt race at a nearby track. Finally our Ultra filly sold for €10,000 to Marc Pimbonnet, a trainer based in Lyon. It is important for us that both French yearlings stay in France as they could win French Breeders Premiums for us down the road, something we haven't been able to do after seven years of trying mainly because the yearlings were sold to people who had them trained outside of France!

            The Yearling Sales in aggregate have been strong and in particular the rise in median prices which for me signifies a stronger middle market. This is welcome news to many breeders as are the clearance rates which were also strong. Clearly the recent passing of some very key industry players at Cheveley Park, Juddmonte and Shadwell was a concern running up to these sales but I think any drop in their buying activity was more than made up for with strong participation from abroad (in particular the USA) as well as UK and Irish players. Whilst Shadwell in particular, who also downsized at last week's Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale, it appears that they and the others will continue their activities although perhaps at a lower volume than before.                                                                                                                                                                       

Ultra x Lady Macha filly at Deauville Yearling SaleUltra x Lady Macha filly at Deauville Yearling Sale

                                                                            So, the show goes on and we will be selling our 3yo unraced filly Galerna at the Tattersalls December Mare Sale. She is a full sister to Chicadoro who, after winning at Haydock Park, was second in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket before being beaten just over 6 lengths in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. After that she was sold to race in the USA where she was a winner and has now ventured into her new career as a broodmare with a yearling filly by Kessaar before being covered by Kodiac last year. 

            Galerna is also a half sister to Aureana who has made a promising start to her broodmare career with the two foals to date including the Bated Breath colt we sold to Jean Claude Rouget in October. There will be plenty of action on the page between the three young sisters and could be a very astute purchase for someone!

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Yearling Sales

Posted 10/10/2021

            We have two yearlings for sale this week at Tattersalls in Newmarket and two next week at Arqana in Deauville. First up on Tuesday 12th October will be a February filly by Oasis Dream out of Redskin Dancer. She is half sister to seven times winner Lincoln Rocks who won a Listed race over a mile and also came 2nd in a Group 3 over 7 furlongs and had a top rating of 106. Lincoln Rocks herself is now a broodmare and her first foal by Churchill, also a filly (Lot 696), goes through the ring on the Monday whilst this filly does so on Tuesday as Lot 894. She also has a 3yo half brother by Territories called Chirimiri who is currently in training with Christophe Ferland in France and has won two races to date reaching a rating of 39.5 in kilos which is equivalent to 87 in lbs. He ran a very good 4th yesterday in a class 2 €50,000 1200m handicap at Chantilly beaten a length whilst finishing strongly in sticky ground. He will now go on a break and be brought back for a Spring 2022 campaign when we aim to go for a Listed race at some stage.  

Oasis Dream x Redskin Dancer 2020 filly being prepared for the Book 2 yearling saleOasis Dream x Redskin Dancer 2020 filly being prepared for the Book 2 yearling sale

She is a very strong filly as you can see in the picture and should be a sprinter around the 6f mark like Chirimiri. Sire Oasis Dream had a great day yesterday gaining his 18th Group 1 winner when Native Trail won the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket and has put himself up as the top 2yo in the UK in 2021. Oasis Dream has been a brilliant sire and is proving there is life in the old boy yet!

            On Friday in Book 3 we will be selling a Bated Breath (BB) filly out of Going For Gold who has already produced stakes placed Chicadoro and Kaanoon, who also happens to be a full brother to the filly. This is our 6th Bated Breath foal and the 4 to have run have yielded two stakes performers in Ekhtiyaar and Grade 2 winning Gift List as well as brother Kaanoon who was smart winning 3 of his 7 races and reaching an RPR of 103. The 4th was Kokocha who also won 3 races in France so that in total our BB foals have won 14 races from 50 runs and £664,300 with an average RPR of 99! The 5th foal is 2yo Moonlight Frolic who is in training with Amy Murphy and due to make a first appearance on the racecourse before year end, all being well. She is out of a half sister to the dam of Palace Pier so if a bit of her cousin's ability comes through she could be useful. I don't want to tempt fate, but she is progressing nicely and may well continue our BB run. 

            There is no doubt that this filly will need a bit of time, like Kaanoon who debuted at 3yo, but all good things come to he/she who waits!  

Bated Breath x Going For Gold 20f during sales preparation for Book 3 in October 2021Bated Breath x Going For Gold 20f during sales preparation for Book 3 in October 2021

                            The following week at Arqana on Wednesday 20th October (Lot 489) we will see BB number 7 who was foaled four days after number 6. He is out of Aureana who is half sister to the yearling filly in Book 3 and this yearling looks to be more of a 2yo which he probably gets from damsire Kyllachy's contooribution to his genes. His half sister is 2yo Pretty Persuasive by Footstepsinthesand, owned by Le Haras De La Gousserie who recently had a Group 1 winner in Rougir. She is due to make her first appearance at Chantilly on Wednesday over 1300m. This yearling looks very different from his BB auntie and very much in the up to a mile category of racer. 

Bated Breath x Aureana 20c in May 2021 at Haras De Logis, NormandyBated Breath x Aureana 20c in May 2021 at Haras De Logis, Normandy











            Finally on Thursday we'll be selling via Haras De Logis, who are also selling the BB colt, an Ultra filly out of Lady Macha (Lot 595). This is her first foal. The dam is a full sister to Bartholomeu Dias who has won 5 races in the UK and Australia and holds some high level entries in Group 1 races like the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup although to be honest I think it's doubtful he will run in either race. Nevertheless, he has accumulated Aus$341k in his career to date and is clearly a smart racehorse. Lady Macha herself retired after a couple of placed efforts due to injury but had already demonstrated some ability. Likely this yearling filly will need a mile plus so don't expect to see her early on as a 2yo.


                So a very important couple of weeks that need to see some good sales and cash coming in to offset the cash that goes out on a daily basis! After the very good sale of our Twilight Son filly at the Goffs Premier Sale for £70,000 we are optimistic but, as we all know, these things can change in the bat of an eyelid.

Ultra x Lady Macha 20f in her Normandy field with her mates in May of this yearUltra x Lady Macha 20f in her Normandy field with her mates in May of this year



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Chirimiri Loves Deauville

Posted 22/8/2021

            Chirimiri, our 2018 colt by Territories out of Namid mare Redskin Dancer, continued his upwardly mobile career and his love affair with Deauville when running a neck second to paternal half brother Mysterious Land at the coastal track yesterday. Whilst we could be somewhat disappointed that he just missed out on a second win at Deauville this month, we were very happy with the fact that he coped with the tough 4.5 kilo (11lbs) rise in his rating that the handicapper had given him. Chirimiri (No.4) 2nd at Deauville on 21 August over 1400mChirimiri (No.4) 2nd at Deauville on 21 August over 1400mHe was initially awarded 32 (70 in lb terms) in April after three runs and has now proven himself to be worthy of his current 39.5 (87) rating with this run. It's clear that when putting a horse into training there are a couple of key things to have in mind. First, how fast do you go with him/her? Quite a lot of horses never make the racetrack or never reach the level of innate ability they have and this could be down to pushing them too hard too soon. Secondly, take your time to get to know what your racehorse likes and dislikes when racing. Is there a preference for a certain type of going, racetrack, distance to run or tactics in running and what type, if any, of items of equipment help eg blinkers, visor or tongue tie?

            There is no doubt that we made the right decision with Chirimiri not to rush him with his racing and did this for a number of reasons. First, he was foaled on 28th April which makes him a relative youngster of his generation but perhaps more importantly was his physique which hinted at scope but did not shout out "I'm ready to rock!" when he was a two year old. His seven time winning half sister Lincoln Rocks, who also won a listed race, was much better at four years old and taking all these factors together we saw no reason to rush. Having said that, I think you have to give them some developmental exercise and not just leave them in the field until you decide to press on with getting them to the track. We sent him for a couple of months education and pre-training work before another spell in the field and then he was sent off to France with Christophe Ferland to start his career in September of 2020. 

Chirimiri in February 2021 at his stables in La Teste De BuchChirimiri in February 2021 at his stables in La Teste De Buch

Chirimiri made his debut in early March 2021 in a decent maiden at Chantilly on the all weather track over 1600m and ran decently to be 5th beaten 6 lengths. His second run was at local track La Teste De Buch, again over 1600m although this time on turf, and he ran a similar race in coming 4th beaten 5 lengths against decent types. At this point we were somewhat disappointed with his early efforts without being despondent but his third race was a worry as he trailed in 11th in an 1800m contest. It was at this point that we decided to try him over a shorter distance as he did not seem to relish going beyond 1400m in his races to date and that resulted in his first win when he trotted up in a 1400m handicap at Bordeaux where he was also held up versus running prominently. It was at this point that jockey Julien Augé suggested a straight course eg Deauville would suit as Chirimiri didn't like going around curves too much, and, after a fair run at Toulouse (with curves) under his new handicap mark of 35, he started his love affair with Deauville's straight track when running an excellent third in a competitive handicap over the shorter distance of 1300m. It was clear to us at this point that Chirimiri preferred shorter distances as well as the change in tactics of holding him up versus being up front which were first employed in his win at Bordeaux. It was also apparent that he preferred a bit of give in the ground although his win at Deauville over 1200m in early August was achieved on

Chirimiri at his stables in August 2021Chirimiri at his stables in August 2021ground described as good. Again he came from the back and won comfortably which probably explains why the handicapper gave him such a hefty rise of 4.5 kilos to 39.5. Subsequent events in his race yesterday at Deauville proved that the handicapper was not far off the mark although I still think he was harsh by a kilo or so. 

In conclusion, we have learnt a fair bit about Chirimiri and what he likes and doesn't like on the racetrack and physically he has developed tremendously over the previous six months as can be seen in the two photographs taken in February and August this year. Whilst photos quite often mislead due to their quality, angle taken, winter coat vs no coat and the light, it's clear that the horse below taken in August is a much stronger and imposing example than the one above taken in February. Whilst that is partially down to his natural growth pattern, it's also down to the regimen of training and racing that has developed his muscle condition and strength and possibly is something that would not have happened so well if we had put him in training 6 to 9 months earlier. We'll never know if that is a true conclusion of course, but I am a firm believer in letting nature take its course and not trying to force the pace. Ultimately the horse will tell you whether he/she is ready for a particular stage and it's up to the people looking after him/her to read the signals correctly. Hopefully we continue to read his signals correctly and Chirimiri goes on from being even more than the useful handicapper that he is today. We all know that patience is a virtue but listening is as well, oh and for Chirimiri, Deauville is the best!


Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd 

22nd August 2021

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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