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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!