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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