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2016 First Season Sire Research – 1st Crop 1st Year

                             The commercial market for racehorses and the breeding of them can be a short term, ruthless place. Success is required at top speed and most people do not want to hang around years for a horse to show its best form on the track, a mare to show she can breed a good one or for a stallion to prove he can pass on his ability and more. In fact, unsurprisingly, people want success and they want it fast. With respect to the stallions, talk and opinion can quickly consign a budding sire’s career to a premature end or downgrade that is difficult to reverse as people convince themselves and each other that this stallion is hot and that one is not. The “not so hots” find their fees lowered as well as the quality of the mares who come to visit them and/or they are unceremoniously shipped off to a “lower level” racing nation and the perception of the market becomes a reality. This in turn convinces people they made the right decision and they continue to act in the same way towards apparently failing sires. This can all happen frighteningly quickly.

                              New sires abound every year, many launched on a wing and a prayer and fuelled by the marketing surrounding the possibility of their future success. We know that the majority will not succeed but until that appears to be likely we will hear about their overfilled books, cracking foals and inflated yearling prices. Then one day they no longer appear in the adverts (or become a relative foot note) and we read that they have been shipped off to more exotic climes to continue their stallion career. That or they are kept at home at a lower fee with the signal to mare owners that if you have a good mare you would be better off sending her to a stallion she deserves and not this boy on the wane with all the implications that holds for prices in the market if you are planning to sell the foal or yearling. The chances of stallions in this downward spiral making a comeback are remote because the quality of the mare they will cover will, in general, be lower than they had experienced up to that point.

                               Mare quality related to offspring performance is the major theme of this research into the class of 2013 of British and Irish based stallions who had their first runners on the track in 2016 and therefore qualified as first season stallions for that year. It is an unequal playing field for these new boys on the block and that is not often quantified or at least visibly so. Frankel was a superstar on the track and received a plethora of high quality mares whereas Group 2 winner Requinto, rated 30lbs inferior to Frankel, was a smart racehorse in his own right that received the lowest rated band of broodmares of the seventeen first season sires in this study. Of course, Frankel’s offspring were rated on their 2016 racecourse performances more highly than Requinto’s but relative to the quality of the mares covered how did they do relative to each other and the other fifteen new sires? Is Frankel really the best potential long term stallion of this bunch or did he just have the best mares? Too early to say, but this study tries to make sense of the early evidence and give my humble opinion as to what will happen.

                             The methodology used was to track the living foals of all seventeen new sires and use the top rating of their racecourse appearances to find an average rating for runners per sire during their first year with offspring on the racecourse in 2016. This average runner rating was then compared against the average racecourse rating of the runners’ mares so that the inherent advantage of the stallions that covered a better class of mares could be negated to a large extent and a stallions true ability to “improve its mares” could be better gauged.

                             Like all other statistics in this field, clearly the results are not perfect and have their weaknesses as many mares did not run, offspring and mares ran in different countries with different ratings and accessibility to those ratings so that some “reasonable” assumptions had to be made to fill the gaps. Of course, the racecourse rating is not the only measure of a mare’s quality with eg the quality of its pedigree as evidenced in its page playing an important part in the gene passing game as well as other factors such as the environment in which the offspring are raised. Speaking of genes, the new technology that has resulted in the development and commercialisation of gene testing in the breeding and racing of racehorses is understandably an area not covered by this study as information gleaned from those tests is, for the most part, held confidentially. Furthermore, we have covered the first year of progeny racing only and some stallions’ progeny will benefit with time whether it be in relation to distance raced or physical size and readiness perhaps linked to the sires own rate of development. The second year will doubtless confirm some opinions voiced in this research whilst disproving others and I look forward to revisiting the analysis as we go through 2017.

                             The chart below shows the overall results of this analysis in the form of a scatter graph mapping average offspring runner rating against average mare (of those offspring runners) racecourse rating for each new sire that started to cover in 2013 and had its first runners in 2016. Each stallion has its highest official rating (note Foxwedge is a racing post rating when he won his Group 1 as the official rating was not available to me) and distance or range of distances where it had its highest ratings noted alongside its name. Frankel is rated highest at 140 and Requinto lowest at 110. The chart is quite busy and for the sake of clarity Sir Prancealot, Helmet, Sepoy, MaysonPower, Requinto , Delegator and Foxwedge are all directly above their data point, Born To Sea, Frankel and Bated Breath directly below, Excelebration, Nathaniel, Harbour Watch, Casamento and Elzaam to the right and Dragon Pulse to the left. The trend line shows an inclination from left to right as average runner ratings increase along with higher rated mares according to the make up of each broodmare band covered by a particular sire.

Highest rating and best performing distance or distance range after name of sireHighest rating and best performing distance or distance range after name of sire

                            The stallions that are above the trend line, at this early stage in their careers, are those that are performing above expectations relative to the cohort of seventeen based upon the criteria used and conversely those underneath the line are under performing. However, those conclusions are too simplistic to be taken without thought of other factors and merely give us a common starting point by using real performance data to begin to work out which stallions are most likely to succeed and which are most likely to fall by the wayside.

                             Whatever, the raw data indicates that the two horses at the opposite ends of the spectrum ie Frankel and Requinto are those that are performing the best, relative to the rest of the cohort, with the greatest distance north of the trend line whilst Delegator and Born To Sea are the worst performers being some way below the trend line. Of the rest, Mayson and Sir Prancealot are doing well whilst Nathaniel is somewhat behind although more of that particular case later. The other ten sires are close to the trend line which indicates that in a relative sense they are getting performers from their broodmares that one would expect give or take a pound or so at most.

                             Returning to the best and worst performers, the distance in the chart between their data points and the trend line indicates the over/under performance. Requinto with an average runner rating of 69.1 is approximately 6lbs per runner above what that rating should be given the quality of mares he was sent based upon their own ratings as runners whilst Frankel at 78.8 is approximately 5lbs better. Delegator is 6lbs below where he should be and Born To Sea 7lbs. If we compare Requinto with Delegator, the former produced horses with a rating of 9lbs higher than the latter from a group of mares that were 7lbs inferior. This is significant even if you account for Requinto being best at 5f and Delegator at 8f which would tend to favour the former when using data from the first year as the offspring of a pure sprinter are more likely to be ready to perform to their potential than those of a miler during the first year. Another way to look at Requinto’s impressive performance in getting more out of his mares than you would expect is that he achieved almost the same runner rating as Sepoy, who is bang on the trend line and performing as expected, but with a broodmare band rated 18lbs inferior to the Australian sprinter. Overall Requinto has the fourth highest runner rating of the seventeen sires from the lowest quality of broodmares based on their own racecourse performances.

                             It is important to try and understand what the trend line is telling us especially with an outstanding performer like Frankel who can impose a significant change to it. The chart above shows the trend line moving up from an average runner rating of 64 at the average mare rating of 70 up to 75 at the average mare rating of 100. This equates to an 11lbs increase in the runner rating over a 30lbs increase in mare quality. Given the impact of Frankel, I experimented by taking his data out of the chart and the result was that the trend line became less steep and ran from approximately 65 at the average mare rating of 70 up to 71 at 100. This effectively reduces the 11lbs increase to 6lbs over the range of mare quality which is an almost halving of the impact. It will be interesting to see what happens in this crop’s second year on the racetrack as well as in other crops to determine if there is a recognisable pattern to this overall increase in runner ratings when plotted against mare quality. Clearly in this respect Frankel has had a significant impact on the steepness of the trend line in the first year of the first crop of this group of sires.

                             Apart from the hard, empirical evidence of performance on the racetrack, the inheritance of characteristics by offspring from their parents is obviously key to the breeding game and will play a crucial role in the development of the chart as the crop gets older. As well as the top rating of each sire on the chart you will also see the distance or range over which they achieved their best performances. Clearly most races at two years old are between 5 and 6f with others up to a mile and this must favour the types who showed their best form at the sprint distances at least for the period covered as their progeny are likely to be more precocious and will be on the track earlier with more opportunities to show their potential. Eight, or almost half of our cohort fall into this category with six others in the 7 to 8f category and only three above 8f although you could make a case for Casamento falling into this final category given his top performance was over 8f at two years old in the Racing Post Trophy and he ran over 10f at three. Of the eight speedsters, no fewer than six fall above the trend line which would seem to confirm the bias towards them that the study shows after just the juvenile year of the stallions’ offspring. The two who do not make the cut are Bated Breath and Harbour Watch. Bated Breath is the only sire who did not race at two and progressed with age producing his best performances at four and five years of age.  If indeed he is passing on this later physical development to his sons and daughters his apparent middle of the road first season performance can be upgraded and we can expect better to come. As for Harbour Watch he won three times at two but never ran again and we will never know how good he could have been. His performance as a sire was also modest in 2016 versus expectations (he was under extra pressure through the weight of my “five bob” bet on him to be top sire!) but he is quite a big sort, and also may need more time for his offspring to mature. More about size later. At the other end of the distance spectrum, Nathaniel was the only sire to win at 12f and Born To Sea put in his best performance at that distance when second to Camelot in the Irish Derby whilst Frankel shone in the 8-10f range. (With Frankel and Nathaniel being by Galileo and Born To Sea a half brother to the great stallion you can see the importance of the current number one to the distance ranks coming from this 2013 class.) All other things being equal (which they never are but it has to be said!) we can expect all three, and possibly Casamento, to show up better in this study after the second season of their first crop. That is absolutely frightening when you think about Frankel who may very well be off the chart!

                             Having touched on the question of time to develop with Bated Breath we can consider the progression of other sires in this respect. Harbour Watch, Sir Prancealot and Requinto never ran at three so we do not know in terms of racecourse performance beyond two years old. Mayson, Frankel, Nathaniel, Excelebration all progressed markedly with age whilst Delegator, Foxwedge and Sepoy were generally better at three than as two year olds. Although he only won at two, Born To Sea ran his best race at three whilst Helmet, Power, Elzaam, Dragon Pulse and Casamento did not progress much if at all at three. Out of all of that one would have to highlight Nathaniel, Excelebration and Mayson as the best improvers with age followed by Frankel (who was already outstanding at two but whom you cannot keep out of anything positive!) whilst Bated Breath showed good improvement from his first races at three until his four year old career which he then maintained at five.

                             Moving on to size we appear to be seeing more and more two year olds retired to a second career as a stallion and this may partially be influenced by the perceived likely improvement in a particular racehorse given his size and conformation. After the 2016 season Mehmas has been retired to the stallion ranks and he is not a big horse as he checks in at 15.3 hands high and perhaps connections saw limited upside to racing him beyond two. Requinto is even smaller at 15.2 and one wonders how much influence this characteristic had on his excellent first season performance as outlined above and shown on the chart. In general, one would expect a smaller horse to come together more quickly than the bigger specimens and not need so much time to be ready to meet the rigours of the racecourse with success and/or to have less chance of injury thus allowing them to do relatively better at two. Below is the same chart as above but with different labels for each sire being their size in hands high and the % of crop who ran in 2016.

Height of sire in hands high (one hand = four inches) and % of crop that raced in 2016 after name of sireHeight of sire in hands high (one hand = four inches) and % of crop that raced in 2016 after name of sire

                            If the supposition that smaller sires hold an advantage when their progeny are two years old holds true then one might expect the bigger types to fare relatively better when their offspring race at three and beyond. Helmet is the biggest sire and he already is on the trend line which bodes well for him. Mayson and Frankel are 16.1 hands high but already amongst the three relatively best performers in the first year as well as having the two highest ranking sets of runners in absolute terms. On this size argument Requinto may find it harder to perform so well with this crop in year 2 and perhaps the same could be said about Elzaam. We can also expect to see improvement from Nathaniel, Harbour Watch and to a lesser extent Born To Sea and Casamento on this size question.

                             In terms of % of crop to run, unsurprisingly Nathaniel at 38% has the lowest % followed by Frankel at 40%. Both these stallions may have the best yet to come especially when one considers they had the best quality of mare at average runner ratings of 89 and 100 respectively. Somewhat surprisingly 56% of Born To Sea’s progeny have appeared at two although I would expect them to come on a lot as three year olds relative to the other sires. Of the others, Elzaam, Bated Breath, Casamento and Delegator look relatively low at 51-54% racecourse appearances and these sires therefore have a slightly higher chance of moving significantly either higher or lower in year 2 on this particular point.

                             Black type is an important measure of the quality of the progeny of sires and no surprise that Frankel won this battle with six winners (all Group winners in major racing countries) and one placed horse. Mayson also did extremely well with three winners and four placed horses and again all of them in major racing nations. Considering Frankel had around six times as many black type mares to cover than Mayson, this was a major achievement by the latter and an excellent indication that Mayson can produce horses of the highest quality. It is no use producing droves of winners with ratings around 70 to 80 as this will just cost you money to train them and will not do an awful lot in terms of prize money nor any sell on price. Once you start getting into the 90+ rated area where black type animals generally start to appear, you begin to see serious money change hands for horses whether for racing or breeding concerns. Discounting black type performers in “lower level” racing countries, as I am not convinced that a black type performer in Italy equals, for example, one in UK, Ireland or France, Sepoy was the next best with two winners and three placed black type winners. This is one area where Requinto did not shine as he only got one placed black type performer and, much as his ability to improve lower quality mares is worthy of applause, he seriously lacked top flight performers.

                            The intention is to follow up the analysis of this first crop in their second year and see how the sires perform relative to each other over a two-year period when we should have a clearer picture of those sires likely to stay the pace and become serious influences going forward. It is clear that there are many ways to measure performance and there is usually a statistic available that will show any sire in a good light. This study also has its faults but is done in an independent, dispassionate way in an attempt to unravel the sire performance conundrum largely taking into consideration the quality of mare served. Below I lay out sire by sire my interpretation of their 2016 performance and my opinion about which way they will go in 2017. The performances have been rated POOR (well below average) FAIR (below average) GOOD (average) VERY GOOD (above average) EXCELLENT (well above average) and where two rating descriptions are used in the prognosis I see the sire somewhere within that range.

BATED BREATH – 2016 performance fair - he was a sprinter but a late developer and the only one of these sires not to run at two years old. If his progeny take on this later development characteristic, and his relatively low % of runners at 52% would seem to support this, he could have a better 2017. Prognosis – fair start, on the up in 2017 to GOOD/VERY GOOD

BORN TO SEA - 2016 performance poor – Given that his breeding and racecourse performances would point to more stamina, it is hardly surprising that his progeny performed below average in year one. Being a relatively tall horse at 16.1 and with stamina coming more into play we can expect to see closer to the trend line after 2017. Prognosis – Unsurprising start, on the up in 2017 to FAIR

CASAMENTO - 2016 performance good – I have already heard comments that Casamento has been disappointing but this analysis would suggest that he did ok given the mare material he had to produce from. Sure, if you look at actual ratings of his runners there are only two behind him, but only four sires had lower quality mares. Apart from Frankel, he also made relatively the best start of those with a bit more stamina than the pure sprinter/milers. Prognosis – Decent start, will do better in 2017 although needs a top class black type winning flagbearer to begin to convince the market that he can make it to GOOD/VERY GOOD

DELEGATOR - 2016 performance poor – Unfortunately he has passed away and so will be ultimately judged on his progeny on the ground after the 2017 foaling season. Apart from Group 3 winner Delectation and big sales race winner Accidental Agent, there was not an awful lot to shout about in 2016. Only 52% of this first crop on the track so may be more and better to come but I would be surprised if he makes any significant impact. RIP to a game racehorse. PrognosisPOOR/FAIR

DRAGON PULSE - 2016 performance good – Did well from the second lowest quality set of mares and could kick on from that in 2017. Had three offspring rated over 100 and showed he could get some good ones. On the downside, he did his best racing early on and if his progeny show the same tendency he may struggle to go much from where he is. Prognosis – good start but may find it difficult to kick on GOOD/FAIR

ELZAAM - 2016 performance good – similar to Dragon Pulse in terms of his offsprings’ performance in relation to the mares he covered. Being a smaller, well set powerful looking sprinter it may be difficult for him to make progress from this rating. Has a flag-bearer in listed winner and group placed Clem Fandango but he is quite exposed. Only 51% of his crop ran in 2016 so may be some other good ones to come. Prognosis – good start but may slip a shade in 2017 GOOD/FAIR

EXCELEBRATION - 2016 performance fair – Raced in Frankel’s shadow and, so far, even deeper in the shade as a stallion. Probably also a shade disappointing to Coolmore and from the fourth best set of mares his progeny are seventh in the average ratings table. Having said that he did improve a lot as a three year old and then maintained that level at four so if his offspring follow suit we can expect an upturn in 2017. Needs a flag-bearing, group winning offspring soon. Prognosis – slightly disappointing start but should do better GOOD

FOXWEDGE - 2016 performance good – another sire very close in performance to Dragon Pulse and Elzaam although in terms of his covering fee not quite such good value. Has group winners in his Southern hemisphere crop with Foxplay and Volpe Veloce, but this analysis is limited to the northern hemisphere where he had four placed black type performers. Foxwedge did progress at three to some extent. Prognosis – good start but may slip a shade in 2017 GOOD/FAIR

FRANKEL - 2016 performance excellent – he had the best mares by 11lbs over Nathaniel but in terms of average runner ratings he was 8lbs clear of Mayson who was second highest. When you consider that he is 16.1hh and ran his best races over 8 to 10f it would have been reasonable to suppose he would have done well to be around the trend line in this first year. But this is Frankel, who never does anything by halves, and he ended up 5lbs north of the trend line with no fewer than six Group winners, including a Group 1, from top racing nations Japan, France and the UK. He has no fewer than eight offspring rated over 100 and only 40% of his crop ran. Frankly, I expect to have to change the chart size next year to keep Frankel on it! Prognosis – great start and can do even better EXCELLENT++++

HARBOUR WATCH - 2016 performance fair – a bit disappointing in 2016 with a joint 12th position on runners ratings from the joint 8th best quality mares. He never ran beyond two and is quite a big unit at 16.15hh and it would be no surprise if he came on a lot in 2017. He does have a black type Group 2 winning flag-bearer in Tis Marvellous although he was disappointing in a couple of late summer races. Prognosis – disappointing start but can do better in year 2 GOOD

HELMET - 2016 performance good – started off the 2016 season with a bang and ended up with another when Thunder Snow won the Group 1 Criterium International in France and achieved a rating of 119. He is a big unit at 16.2hh and built like a tank but this did not stop 70% of his crop being precocious enough to run which shows that you cannot overly rely on simplistic thought processes in this game! Despite Thunder Snow I feel he will stay around where he is today. Prognosis – headline success in 2016 may have flattered to create an impression better than good. Having said that, I think he will maintain his relative position. GOOD

MAYSON - 2016 performance very good – matched Frankel with number of black type performers off a group of mares with an average rating 19lbs below the superstar. Impressive, as he showed his best form as a four year old and is not a small unit himself. Overall his runners performed some 3lbs better than the norm for his quality of mare and as he has also shown more than once that he can get high class progeny I would expect that he can at least maintain and perhaps even improve a shade in 2017. Prognosis – He has been underestimated (won his July Cup in a bog) but has got off to a great start and can continue in the same vein VERY GOOD

NATHANIEL - 2016 performance fair – unsurprising that he did not figure more highly relative to the others given his distance preference, his own remarkable improvement from two to three and his build. Nathaniel’s progeny ran on average about 3lbs below the trend line for his quality of mare which was the second highest of the group. Given the factors which dimmed his 2016 performance and that 62% of the first crop have yet to run I expect him to improve strongly in years 2 and 3 and reward the patience. Prognosis – start better than perceived and will improve strongly GOOD/VERY GOOD

POWER - 2016 performance good – no fewer than five runners rated over 100 and a couple of flag-bearers in Peace Envoy and Pleaseletmewin indicate that Power can get top class offspring. No reason to suppose he cannot continue in the same vein in 2017. Prognosis – good start and will keep it going GOOD

REQUINTO - 2016 performance excellent – the smallest at 15.2hh, lowest rated at 110 with the lowest quality of mares covered, the lowest crop number and one of the lowest nomination fees but Requinto was relatively the best performer of the lot at 6lbs above the trend line. The only real negative was his inability to get more than one black type performer in Broken Stones who was his only offspring with a rating above 90. Whatever, one cannot dispute that he did a great job with what was put in front of him to get the fourth highest average runner rating even if the top quality eluded him bar one. Perhaps this analysis favoured the smaller sprinter in the first year and he will do very well to match this in 2017 with his offsprings’ second year performances relative to the rest. Prognosis – Brilliant year in improving his mares but can he maintain the pace? VERY GOOD/GOOD

SEPOY - 2016 performance good – after a slow start Sepoy picked up well and had 10+ runners rated 90 or over and five black type performers. No reason to suppose he cannot continue in the same vein in 2017. Prognosis – good start and will keep it going GOOD

SIR PRANCEALOT - 2016 performance very good – champion first season sire in terms of prize money won as well as number of individual and total winners and certainly over performed versus expectations. Consequently his fee has gone up from €5,000 to €8,000 although it started out at €6,000 when our 2016 runners were conceived. He was fifth in the list of average runner ratings from a mare group that was ninth in terms of quality. Difficult to see him improving on that and may slip a bit in year 2 relative to the others. Prognosis – well done in 2016 but may lose some ground relative to the others in 2017 GOOD



                             Clearly Frankel had a great start to his stallion career but we all knew he had the best mares and perhaps that fact helped him to undue flattery. Rather than just focusing on yearling sales values or headline race wins, which reinforced Frankel’s supremacy, this analysis dispels thoughts about Frankel doing well just because of the high quality of mares he covered or the races his progeny won. Obviously both these factors helped him but he has done better than just that and is on the road to great things again!            

                             At the other end of the scale we have the “hardly talked about” Requinto who has quite clearly done a great job in improving his mares and getting progeny that have exceeded expectations in terms of their racecourse ratings. One of the reasons for this study was to try and unearth such cases where a stallion did well but did not receive the due plaudits nor recognition and is in danger of perhaps underachieving what he could do given proper recognition.

                             Below them we have the very good start made by Mayson and Sir Prancealot both at modest fees and few would have predicted that a year earlier. Then we have a whole plethora of stallions that did well but perhaps will not really break through to the big time and some that slightly underachieved but can come back strongly like Bated Breath, Harbour Watch, Excelebration and Nathaniel.

                    On average we can expect perhaps three of the new stallions each year to actually be around and making an impact ten to fifteen years later. At this early stage of the evaluation of the progeny of the 2016 first season sires I will place my bets on the following three being the ones that make the grade long term:-


  • FRANKEL – could be the next great sire after his dad which would be great for the breed

  • MAYSON – value and may be the one that fills, if only partially, the shoes of Pivotal and Kyllachy

  • NATHANIEL – expect a “Lazarus” year from him in 2017


The sires I see as providing the strongest challenge at this stage to those three are:-


  • REQUINTO – will the market see his relative success and get him better mares? If not, he will struggle to make the frame and others will challenge more strongly

  • BATED BREATH – based on my belief that the best is yet to come and he will be well supported

  • EXCELEBRATION – another one that I believe we have yet to see the best of as a sire and will be well supported


Most of the other sires are not out of the race to establish themselves amongst the elite sires by any means although obviously Delegator has left us and his impact will be limited. I also think that Born To Sea is up against it to get anywhere near emulating his famous half-brothers Galileo and Sea The Stars.

So there we have my top three sires of the future from this crop and my tips for the top three closest challengers although at this stage anything can happen and do not write off any of the others making a strong fist of it in 2017 and beyond. No doubt when I come to revise this 2016 first season sire group next year there will be those who have done surprisingly well and those who will have disappointed. We shall see!!


Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

January 2017