By Bill Oppenheim
It’s been a good few years since we decided that once a sire had 200 or more year-starters (a horse is counted as a ‘year-starter’ each year it starts), we were willing to compare him to the general population of sires; until they have that many, their figures are too subject to fluctuation and don’t seem as reliable. Up until very recently, that ‘200+ year-starter’ threshold meant sires which had just finished having their first 3-year-olds run rarely if ever had that many year-starters in their progeny’s first two years of racing. Well, if it was ever going to happen, it was 2/5 that Coolmore/Ashford sires would be the ones to have so many by the end of the year their first 3-year-olds ran, and sure enough, Ashford’s Uncle Mo had 226 year-starters by the end of 2016. A total of 23 of them were A Runners (just as they are year-starters every year they run, they can be an A Runner every year they run and reach the A Runner threshold, so in Uncle Mo’s case in 2016, there are individual horses–Nyquist, for example–who count as two A Runners, looked at this way)–just over 10% of his year-starters–meaning Uncle Mo ended 2016 with a 5.09 A Runner Index, taking him straight to number one among the 446 North American and European sires which had 200+ year-starters by the end of 2016. For sure it’s the first time a sire with just 3-year-olds has topped the list.
In topping the list in his first year of eligibility, Uncle Mo dethrones Coolmore’s flagship sire, Galileo (4.47), who was the top APEX sire by A Runner Index the past two years, and who has over 2,000 year-starters since the beginning of 2010, as opposed to 200 for Uncle Mo. Galileo led the list last year with a 4.09 index, which means he actually improved from 2015. In fact, when you look at the top 20 by A Runner Index (2.53 and above), 12 of them are sires with 800+ year-starters, and seven are sires with under 400 (Monsun, whose last crop were 3-year-olds of 2016 and is thus making his final appearance on this list, was the odd man out, with 633 year-starters). Claiborne’s War Front (4.13), who also improved his rating from last year, is the only other sire to top the 4.00 index threshold (meaning 8.00%+ of his year-starters are A Runners).
Darley’s Medaglia d’Oro (3.48) and Dubawi (3.32) rank fourth and fifth by 2010-2016 A Runner Index, with Spendthrift’s Into Mischief (3.26) still scoring very high despite the fact that half his foals of racing age were 2-year-olds of 2016, meaning they had considerably less earning power than horses of other ages. The fact that he topped the North American 2-Year-Old Sire List with that crop is very impressive, and he had five 2-year-old A Runners last year among his 36 two-year-old winners (also tops among North American sires). We expected Into Mischief to fall much further than he has as a result of this imbalance in his ratio of 2-year-olds in comparison to other top sires; the fact that his index is still well above 3.00 supports the view that this is a sire still on his way up, maybe way, way up. Monsun (3.26), Adena Springs’ revived Ghostzapper (3.21), Juddmonte’s veteran Dansili (3.07), and WinStar’s Speightstown (2.99) and Gainesway’s three-time Champion Sire, Tapit (2.99), round out the top ten among 446 North American and European sires with 200+ year-starters 2010-2016.
Though Galileo, at least temporarily, has ceded the number one spot by A Runner Index, he is again the runaway leader by number of both A Runners (184, up from 159 in 2009-2015) and ABC Runners (top 8% earners, of which he had 382, up from 369). Yes, he had 2,058 year-starters, but that is only 200 more than Tapit, who ranked second with 111 A Runners, or 73 less than Galileo). Medaglia d’Oro (104) and Ashford’s Giant’s Causeway (100) were the only other sires to have 100+ A Runners 2010-2016. They are followed by Speightstown (92), Dansili (87), Ramsey Farm’s top American turf sire, Kitten’s Joy (84), Lane’s End’s deceased Smart Strike (83), and Dubawi (82). Tapit (313) is also number two by ABC Runners, followed by Giant’s Causeway (304), Speightstown (277), Medaglia d’Oro (254), Spendthrift’s Malibu Moon (242), Smart Strike (241), WinStar’s great veteran Distorted Humor (240), Dubawi (230), and Juddmonte’s Oasis Dream (229).
The leading sire by ABC Runner Index is, for the second year running, a Canadian son of Unbridled, Niigon, who died in 2012 just as his runners were just getting going (first foals 2008), and whose final crop were 3-year-olds of 2016, so, like Monsun and Montjeu, this is Niigon’s final appearance as an APEX sire. Uncle Mo (2.54, which is 20.32% of his starters) ranks second, which is very good to see as it means he’s getting plenty of useful runners as well as stars. Then: War Front (2.39), Dubawi (2.33), Galileo (2.32), Ghostzapper (2.28), Speightstown (2.25), Hill ‘n’ Dale’s rising star Curlin (2.25, and number two on the 2016 North American General Sire List), Medaglia d’Oro (2.12), and Tapit (2.11).
In coming weeks we’ll be looking at the APEX figures in more depth; we’ll have a complete alphabetical list of the 817 APEX sires for 2016 (down very slightly from last year’s 820), both as a click-through to an Excel file and on the website, and next week we’ll focus on the youngest two groups of APEX sires: those, like Uncle Mo, with their first 3-year-olds last year (F2013 sires); and F2012 sires, which had their first 4-year-olds in 2016.