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Shalaa Shaking It Up

            In my analysis of the runners of the 2020 First Season Sires (FSS) during their first year, I noted three stallions that had underperformed despite receiving some of the best mares in Shalaa, The Gurkha and Awtaad, and whilst Awtaad has had a couple of black type winners and The Gurkha a couple of stakes placed performers during the first 5 months of 2021, it's Shalaa who is making the most significant move upwards. That is what my updated analysis is telling me in terms of the increase in the average rating of the 2020 FSS' runners as they started their 3yo careers. The top 5 improvers in terms of their 1st crop average rating in lbs are:-

Shalaa                 +5.0             72% of potential runners have raced

Belardo                +4.2             67%        "                "                "

Goken                  +3.5             75%        "                "                "

Territories           +3.4             72%        "                "                "

Twilight Son        +3.0             76%        "                "                "


            King Shalaa won two races as a juvenile but stepped up on that when he won a Listed event at Cagnes Sur Mer although he did subsequently disappoint in a G3 on soft ground whilst No Speak Alexander did even better with a G3 win followed by an excellent third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and is clearly Shalaa's best progeny to date. My Sea Cottage had an introductory run mid 2020 in the USA and then was put away for 7 months before making three appearances this year improving on each run which ended with a win at Gulfstream Park. It has been a similar story with Boomshalaa in the UK who was off the track 9 months after his debut and has then won two on the bounce for an RPR best of 96. There are a a few other examples at a more modest level that illustrate how Shalaa's runners are improving with time and experience which have all added to the overall rating average increase.

            Also it is noticeable that of his 19 runners who have made their debuts in 2021 there are at least six (Wadhnan, Talabaat, Miami Voice, Tawfan, Abraaj & Divertissement) who have ratings of 80+ including three above 90. That is another indication to me that the Shalaa offspring may not be ones to rush with and certainly much less precocious than those of eg Mehmas. On the face of it, that is quite surprising as Shalaa himself was precocious winning five times at 2yo between late May and Sept.

            Belardo did well with his 2yos in terms of getting four stakes winners but overall his record was slightly below what one would have expected given that he received average mares. The increase in 2021 is not particularly linked to the impact of his 11 new starters with the exception of Saboor who has achieved a 90+ rating in France but is traceable to a few that have improved markedly from 2 to 3yo. These include Chipie D'Irlande who, after coming a distant last in her debut in Italy back in May 2020, came out to win her maiden in January of this year and recently came 4th in a Listed event demonstrating significant improvement. Another is Abelard F who, after coming last in his debut in France in August 2020 reappeared in January of this year with a better run and has since been placed a couple of times as well as finishing 6th in a Listed event behind Saiydabad who was 4th in the Prix Du Jockey Club on Sunday. Overall, whilst the average runner rating is an improvement for Belardo, I do not see the same strength in depth of progression that I see for Shalaa.

            Goken's offspring made a quickfire impact in 2020 and then dropped off slightly although I still had him in my 6 to follow from this 2020 FSS group. Interestingly, he seems to have reversed that blip and from my perspective his offspring are obtaining ratings not far behind Mehmas from a similar level of mare. 75% of his potential runners have raced versus Mehmas at 78%, but Mehmas has 2.5 times the number of runners that Goken has and one has to be careful drawing conclusions from smaller sample sizes. Of his nine new runners this year Fang has won a couple of races and reached a rating of 92 whilst Kimina has been placed three times and top rated at 85. There are a fair few who have shown much improved form at 3yo including Lanaken who ran a couple of times at 2yo before reappearing on the track six months later in 2021 and recently came a close 4th in a Listed event in France. Pile Ou Face is another who has improved well to be rated in the high 80's and there are a number who have also improved (Golena, Cogolin, Gorgo, Singapore Trip) at a more modest level. All of that sways me towards the belief that Goken's progeny are not just fast out of the trap and that he is doing well. His issue is, and will be over the next couple of years, that the initial crop was not that big and indeed will be even smaller in his 2nd and 3rd crops although I note his 4th crop will be back to around the same level as his 1st crop following his successful first year in 2020.

            Territories continues to do well and has the highest average rating for his runners of this 2020 FSS group despite the fact that his mares are just a bit better than average. He himself improved at 3yo and he has a fair few showing improvement, including Mysterious Land in France who has risen to a rating of 96 and been placed 4th in a Listed event and Aldaary rated 105, but what is most noticeable to me is that of the 17 new runners in 2021 nine are rated 76+ including Laos 95, Invincible Light (France) 101 and Badlands 87. Our own Chirimiri made his debut in March in France and has shown ability, none more so than when winning at Bordeaux and reaching a rating of 77. We think there is more to come and hopefully he follows in the footsteps of his half sister Lincoln Rocks who improved markedly at 4yo reaching a rating of 106. Fingers crossed!

            Twilight Son's offspring have been winning races like nobody's business in 2021 and certainly people are comparing that with his own spectacular improvement from winning 2yo to Group 1 3yo. What I see are very few stand out improvers or newcomers but a very broad improvement at an often modest level. Twilight Spinner is the obvious exception making his debut in April before following up with a win and then a 6 length plus demolition job in a Listed race. Of those who ran in 2020, Warrior Within, who races in Italy, has improved steadily to reach 91 and has competed in stakes races on his last three appearances. Light Wakeup ran three times in the UK reaching a modest rating of 62 before being switched to France and given 7 months off racing only to return and reach a rating of 86. Our own Twilight Calls has won in 2021 and posted an RPR of 95 last week versus his best of 87 in 2020. For me, Twilight Son is demonstrating the broadest base of performance improvement from 2yo to 3yo so far of the 2020 FSS cohort although, it has to be said, his average remains some 6-7lbs behind Mehmas from a group of mares that demonstrated similar levels of ability on the racecourse.

            Mehmas himself continues to power on although the average increase was a much more modest 1.3lbs. He has contributed 7 of the additional 19 black type racehorses this group has achieved in 2021 which speaks a lot for his ability to get high level horses and no doubt keeps him up there as firm favourite in the market.

            Whilst this blog has been about improvement of runners from 2yo to 3yo I will update my top 6 taking into account latest information as follows:-

            18 Feb 2021                                                        31 May 2021

  1. Mehmas                                                            1. Mehmas
  2. Coulsty                                                              2. Territories
  3. Territories                                                        3. Coulsty
  4. New Bay                                                           4. Goken
  5. Kodi Bear                                                         5. Kodi Bear
  6. Goken                                                               6. New Bay (not seen as much improvement in ratings as I thought for 10-12f horse)

One to watch -  Twilight Son                              Keep watching Twilight Son & start watching Shalaa


Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

7th June 2021


 Strong Finish by New Bay


            Shalaa did not see out the second half of the year so well and finished up pretty near the trendline whereas New Bay's offspring certainly put on a spurt and no doubt that contributed towards the decision to up his fee to €37,500 for 2022. Saffron Beach won the G1 Sun Chariot Stakes, Jumby the G2 Hungerford Stakes, Sea Bay a G3 in Germany and Bay Bridge a Listed race. Whilst the latter won over 10f the other three won over 7/8f which I think was very positive for New Bay given he was a horse who excelled between 10/12f.

            Mehmas remains the star performer producing horses rated about the same as both New Bay and Territories but from mares averaging much less at just over 75 some 7/10lbs lower than the other two top performers. As for New bay, the fee for Mehmas shot up to €50,000 from €25,000 and you have to say it is well deserved given his 1st crop's performance and a similar 1st year performance by his 2nd crop. 

            Territories has done well although I feel he is not receiving the due recognition, probably because of the lack of top individual performers. His fee for 2022 has been kept at £10,000 possibly also due to an average performance from his 2nd crop in their 1st year. Coulsty remains of interest given that he was 8th highest from the worst set of mares from this cohort of 26 sires. As previously stated, he did not have a huge amount of progeny (31) hit the track from this 1st crop but he'll have even less in his next two crops as he was virtually ignored. However, he has covered 100+ in 2022 and so maybe we will see the true ability of this sire in 2025. Patience is a virtue!

               Goken also did well from a relatively low book and they maintained his stud fee at €15,000 which he was increased to from €3,000 in 2021. His offspring were precocious but also showed some improvement at 3yo.


Jim Atkinson

James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

15th Sept 2022