Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

2018 First Season Sires – 1st Crop/1st Year

Another year gone and another bunch of 1st season sires have been under the microscope. This year I believe we have seen a game changer in No Nay Never as well as another potential sire superstar in Kingman. Being a Frankel fan, the thought that there was a new sire who did better than him was hard for me to accept, but the analysis thus far demonstrates that No Nay Never has achieved something even above what the mighty Frankel did in his first year at stud. Whether he will follow up in 2019 is open to conjecture but, if he does, you will be lucky to get him for €100,000. However, before we delve into the outcomes of the analysis, just a reminder of why and how it is put together and how to read the graph.

If you believed even a tenth of the stallion masters’ marketing rhetoric you would be buying them all as there is usually some statistic somewhere to support your boy and most of them seem to have “cracking foals”. The bloodstock market itself swings to and fro with sentiment driven by precocity, need for speed, headline grabbing stakes winners and performers, top prize money earners and number of winners that can result in the premature over or under evaluation of a particular sire. Many analyses I see reinforce this type of thinking and so I have developed a simple analysis that tries to see through the spiel by analysing the facts of performance that reflects the ability of offspring and then trying to interpret them with some other knowledge such as the physical build of the sire and his own race record including precocity and best distance.  As the stallion race is an unfair one with the best horses getting the best mares to cover, I analyse race performance of offspring against the quality of mare covered in an attempt to identify sires who have been improving their mares more than usual and perhaps deserving of covering better mares. The methodology used is essentially the same as for prior years by using the highest rating achieved by a runner as an indication of ability although there is a minimum rating of 30 for progeny who have run to avoid any exacerbated skewing of data. Mares are rated according to their racecourse performance as well with those who did not race rated at the average of those who did hit the track for that particular sire.  Reasonable ratings are used on a consistent basis for those who plied there trade away from the major racing countries.

The graph below maps average runner ratings versus average mare ratings for the eighteen sires followed (Northern Hemisphere only) and a trendline is shown which indicates approximately where a sire should be within this cohort in terms of the ability of his runners against the quality of mares he covered (all other things being equal!). Clearly sires who produce precocious, sprinter type two-year olds will tend to show up better in the first season of a crop than the sires who did better at longer distances in their own careers on the racecourse whose offspring are likely to need more time to develop and also had less race opportunities to shine in year 1 with relatively fewer races over one mile plus. Whatever, the trendline is not a hard and fast indicator of success or failure as we will delve into in this analysis and being below the trendline does not automatically mean that the sire will not be a success.

Note that each sire’s name is followed by a number series showing his:-

  1. preferred distance as a racehorse

  2. height in hands

  3. % of potential runners who raced

  4. Number of potential runners

  5. Black type or stakes winners & placed

  6. Covering fee in 2015 in £000

All these factors are important to consider when trying to interpret the chart and evaluate performance.

These eighteen leading sires were analysed up to and including December 31st 2018 and my initial thoughts are that this group contains a couple of top performers, namely No Nay Never and Kingman, that we did not see in the same analysis of the 2017 first season sires.

No Nay Never – The son of Scat Daddy has made an outstanding start to his career as a stallion with his offspring scoring on average 7lbs more than the 2018 trendline. Frankel was, and still is, the outstanding sire from the 2016 first season sires, but No Nay Never is beating him on a number of fronts when comparing the first year of their first crop. Whilst Frankel achieved a marginally higher average rating for his offspring of 78.8 versus 78.2 for No Nay Never, he did it from a group of mares over 13lbs superior with four times as many stakes performers amongst them. No Nay Never also had no less than six black type winners and eight stakes placed horses whilst Frankel had six winners and one placed black type offspring at the same stage. However, Frankel had 14 or so less runners at this stage versus the 58 of No Nay Never but all in all my conclusion is that No Nay Never has at least matched Frankel’s bare results but from a quality of mare, whilst decent, significantly inferior leading me to the conclusion that at this stage he is better than Frankel as a sire!

                            Being a horse who was best at 6f, No Nay Never’s progeny are showing more precocity than those of Frankel with 67% of them hitting the track against Frankel’s 40% in year one and they will have to prove that they can kick on in year 2 to maintain this impressive performance. Of the stakes winners, the star is clearly Ten Sovereigns who won the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes and will probably have a shot at a 2,000 Guineas or two. As a two-year old Royal Ascot winner as well as a Group 1 winner with the Prix Morny, No Nay Never has demonstrated both speed and precocity as well as class himself on the racecourse and now he has demonstrated his ability to pass that on to his sons and daughters with a high level of performance. Add to that what looks to be an excellent rate of soundness amongst his offspring with two thirds having run at two years old together with the Scat Daddy factor, he looks well worth the quadrupling of his fee to €100,000.

Kingman – In any normal year I would probably be going on about what a great addition Kingman is to the stallion ranks in exclusion of anything else. From the same Juddmonte band as Frankel, he has virtually matched that sire’s 1st crop 1st year performance with his progeny averaging 78.4 versus Frankel’s 78,8 from a broodmare band of more or less the same level and is just ahead of No Nay Never at 78.2 but from a broodmare band almost 14lbs better. With five stakes winners and one placed he is just one winner shy of both Frankel and No Nay Never and in Calyx and Persian King he has two real challengers for Classic honours in 2019. 52% of his potential runners ran which is not the highest rate for a 7/8f horse although I would think it is more to do with allowing the youngsters to develop rather than any soundness issues given the very high quality of mares that he covered. 50% of the offspring of his black type mares have still to run whereas No Nay Never as only a few to run which along with the likely greater potential for improvement over slightly longer distances would suggest to me that there is more room for improvement in Kingman’s offspring than No Nay Never’s in 2019. Whatever, I believe along with No Nay Never and Frankel, Kingman will establish himself as a leading sire.

Charm Spirit – A decent start by the son of Invincible Spirit with an impressive 71% of his 1st crop having a race in 2018 and finding himself a pound or so above the trendline in the graph. In fact he had the third best book of mares and achieved the third best progeny performance average which indicates he clearly did what was expected of him. If there is a criticism it would be that he only had two stakes performers in Yourtimeisnow and Charming Kid both of whom ran poorly in their last races. Kick On, rated 105, is one who could develop into a top performer in 2019 having won twice and then stepped up to run a close 6th in the group 1 Vertem Futurity in October running on strongly at the finish. As I own one of his sisters (incidentally by Invincible Spirit), I hope he does become a star!

Sea The Moon – The best performer of the 10 to 12f brigade finishing only slightly below the trendline and having the joint fifth best average performance result from the fourth best bunch of mares which is very good for one whose progeny we can expect to improve leaps and bounds in their second year. Taking Camelot as a yardstick, Sea The Moon covered mares 1.5lbs inferior and was only 0.9lbs behind that leading sire of the 2017 first season sires in terms of progeny ratings which reflects a very promising start for one in the middle distance category. He also managed two black type winners and two placed whereas Camelot managed two and three respectively (although from almost double the number of runners) which again shows Sea The Moon in a very good light. One major difference was the runner rate where Camelot had 55% appear at two versus Sea The Moon’s 35%. Australia is also at 54% and Mukhadram at 45% which suggests that Sea The Moon’s rate is on the low side for those who themselves performed best between 10 and 12 furlongs. Having said that, Nathaniel was at 38% and as quite a lot of Sea The Moon’s progeny are based in Germany and France where owners appear to give horses more time to develop I do not think there is anything untoward in this lower %. 2019 may well see this sire hit the heights.

Australia – With the second-best broodmare band he only has the seventh best performers which has to be disappointing although clearly one would expect his offspring to improve with time and distance. Fellow middle-distance sire Sea The Moon is ahead of him in terms of progeny performance from a bunch of mares 7lb inferior on average. Good points for Australia are his 54% runner statistic which would seemingly indicate he is passing on soundness and the high quality of his placed stakes performers. Western Australia was 3rd in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity and is rated 110 whilst Sydney Opera House and Broome were both touched off in Group 1’s in France to reach 106. 2019 will be key for Australia to make an impact as a sire and these three will provide some of the better ammunition.

Toronado and Olympic Glory – Both French based sires have done quite well although neither has so far convinced me that they are going to be major players going forward. Toronado has the fourth best set of performers from the eighth best cohort of mares and has managed five stakes performers although none have been winners whilst Olympic Glory is just north of the trendline. For Olympic Glory Watch Me won a listed race on her second outing and may have enough improvement in her to get amongst the Classics but perhaps overall one would have expected more from the 1st crop of a sprinter/miler sire just under 16 hands who himself won four races at two including a Group 1. Of the two sires I would give the nod to Toronado based on year 1 but it’s a close call.

Slade Power – Connections must be disappointed with this sire in his first year being well south of the trendline with the ninth best progeny performers from the fifth best broodmare band. This from a sprinter, although it has to be said, one who improved with age and had his best days as a five-year old. However, will the market have enough patience as it constantly rewards two-year old winning sprinter sires? Slade Power did have 16 winners but not at a very high level and for 2019 his cover fee has been cut to almost a third of his starting fee at €7,500.

Mukhadram – On paper not a great start and his yearling and foal prices seem to indicate the market is already writing him off. However, he produced the 10th best bunch from the 9th best broodmare band which is not bad for a middle-distance horse. He is a big unit and his offspring may well need that extra bit of time to develop and show what they are capable of over longer distances. Our own Mukhadram yearling was built like a tank but the market is not interested in laying out lots of cash for that type of horse that clearly needs time to be able to compete on the racetrack. Incidentally we sold him to run in Australia so hopefully we will see him win the Melbourne Cup in three or four years’ time!! Whilst developing this analysis during the year I noticed that Mukhadram’s position relative to the trendline improved towards the end of the year and he has been able to get a couple of stakes horses. Also 70% of his progeny out of black type mares have not run yet which could indicate that the best is yet to come although it will be difficult for him to get the bloodstock market back onside. Of those that have run, Jahbath, trained by William Haggas (who trained Mukhadram) looks the best bet and is entered in The Derby. Whatever, Mukhadram is my dark horse to show improvement in 2019 to be one of the better sires of the class of 2018.

War Command – A reasonable start by this sire although I think it will be difficult for him to make an impact. Quite a low runner rate for a 16 hands high sprinter at 52% and whilst he has had a couple of stakes performers they do not look anything special.

Bungle Inthejungle – This sire is an example of the hype I referred to at the beginning of this analysis. Sure, he has produced 26 winners including a very good Group 3 winner in Rumble Inthejungle who then came a 4 length beaten third to Ten Sovereigns in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes but there is not an awful lot else to shout about and this analysis shows him smack on the trendline which is ok but nothing special. In fact his progeny are 12th highest average performers from the 12th best bunch of mares so quite why he deserves to be hiked to €12,000 from €5,000 beats me.

Garswood – Rather like Slade Power, Garswood was better as an older horse and won his Group 1 at four. His 1st crop had a runners’ ratio of only 47% which is low for a sprinter although he is 16.2 and maybe his offspring need some more time. He has had a couple of Group 3 winners in France but only seven winners in total. I think the market is already binning him but on pure facts his progeny is 2lbs better than Bungle Inthejungle’s progeny on a mare quality 4.5lbs better which says to me that of his runners he is doing as well as Bungle Inthejungle in terms of ratings as well as stakes performers if not in terms of winners, yet the market sentiment seems very different. Nevertheless it is going to be tough for Garswood who will not be getting the best quality of mare going forward at £3,500.

Gregorian – Good start albeit at the tough end of the sire spectrum. Basically, his progeny have the same average rating as Bungle Inthejungle from a group of mares over 4lbs on average inferior so you could say his nomination fee lift to £8,000 from £4,500 has at least as much justification as Bungle’s increase. Five stakes placed horses as well although nothing that looks outstanding but another feather in his cap all the same. Still a tough job on his hands to make a lasting impact but the best of those at the lower end of the spectrum.

The RestCoach House and Battle Of Marengo both ended slightly north of the trendline but extremely difficult for either to make a serious impact and the latter has already been packed off to France and probably has a future as a dual purpose sire. Alhebayeb struggled despite a big crop whilst Gale Force Ten and Heeraat fared even worse. Very difficult for any of these sires to make a serious impact.

Conclusion – Early days as yet but 2018 could well prove to be a year where two top stallions had their first runners in No Nay Never and Kingman. I thought and still think that Frankel is a phenomenal sire but the way No Nay Never has started maybe there is another phenomena on the way. Scat Daddy sire sons are in vogue but the data in this analysis confirms all the hype, headlines and statistics that you could possibly read. Like many others, I initially thought the quadrupling of his fee to €100,000 was over the top but when you look at the graph you can see support for why it was done and who knows what he can achieve with mares 10-15lbs better. Kingman almost matched Frankel and I would not be surprised if his three-year olds do him proud in 2019 and he establishes himself as another Juddmonte superstar.

              Next best for me is Sea The Moon who has made an excellent start for a middle distance horse and could be in with a shout in a Classic or two this year. After that I would group Charm Spirit, Tornado and Olympic Glory as sires that could come out of the pack and improve on a decent first year’s work. It’s a make or break year for Australia but he has some decent three-year olds to make it the former and my dark horse is Mukhadram for whom the best is yet to come and he may surprise us.

              One or two of the others, notably War Command and Gregorian have done quite well but I think it will be tough for any of the others to make a significant impact.

Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

January 3rd 2019