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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