Caulfield: Australia’s Effect on Sire Success

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More Than Ready | WinStar Farm

By Andrew Caulfield

Thanks to the shuttle system, breeders are sometimes forced to revise their assessment of a stallion when he returns home a conquering hero. The perfect example has to be Danehill. Although Danehill started his career at a fee of IR£25,000 in 1990, he quickly started to slip down the ranks at Coolmore, to the extent that by 1993, Coolmore had seven stallions standing at higher fees than the IR9,000-guinea Danehill. By 1994, Danehill was only tenth in the pecking order. Although his early Irish crops forced a rapid reappraisal, Danehill was still leased to Japan in 1996.

By the time he returned to Ireland in 1997, Danehill had established himself as the dominant force in Australian breeding, becoming champion sire in 1994/95 and 1995/96, and he was well on his way to his third consecutive title. He had also underlined his status as a sensational sire of 2-year-olds, with each of his first three crops containing the G1 Golden Slipper winner (Danzero, Flying Spur and Merlene).

These outstanding southern hemisphere results, coupled with a pair of 2-year-old sires’ championships from his Irish crops, helped breeders view Danehill in a new light. His Irish fee began to soar, and by 2005, he had landed the first of his three consecutive sires’ championships (ten years after the first of his nine Australian titles).

Results over the past fortnight have highlighted two other stallions–More Than Ready and High Chaparral–whose talents were arguably first fully appreciated by breeders in Australia. The Breeders’ Cup saw the veteran More Than Ready score his second double at the championships, with ‘TDN Rising Star’ Rushing Fall taking the GI Juvenile Fillies Turf and Roy H. the GI TwinSpires Sprint. His previous double came seven years earlier, when More Than Real and Pluck won both of the Juvenile Turf events, which were then Grade II’s.

High Chaparral, for his part, has recently enjoyed so much success in Australia that he now ranks second on the sires’ table behind Snitzel (who owes his substantial lead to Redzel’s victory in The Everest sprint). His principal November earners in Australia include Ace High, who added the G1 Victoria Derby to his earlier success in the G1 Champion S., and Rekindling, who turned in a terrific effort for a 3-year-old in winning the G1 Melbourne Cup. For good measure, High Chaparral also supplied second and third in the G1 Kennedy Oaks (also known as the VRC Oaks).

It is only in recent years that the now 20-year-old More Than Ready has received the type of respect in Kentucky that he has long enjoyed in Australia. Having started at $25,000 at Vinery Kentucky, his fee fluctuated for quite a while and even his 2010 Breeders’ Cup double wasn’t enough to launch him into the higher echelons. As I pointed out at the time, he was still awaiting his first GI success in the northern hemisphere (leaving aside his Puerto Rican champion Forbidden Prince).

It didn’t take him long to correct that omission. Buster’s Ready took the Mother Goose S. in 2011 and then Regally Ready won the Nearctic S. a few months later, before taking the GII Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. The major breakthrough finally came in 2013, when Verrazano took the Wood Memorial and then pulverised the opposition in the Haskell Invitational.

Verrazano may be about to add another chapter to the More Than Ready story, as his first-crop yearlings achieved such good prices as $575,000, $625,000 and $650,000, off a fee of only $22,500. More Than Ready has also been joined at WinStar Farm by his son Daredevil, who became another GI dirt winner when he took the 2014 Champagne S. Daredevil’s first weanlings have been selling well in recent weeks. Sired at $12,500, they have made up to $150,000 and averaged more than $83,000, so Daredevil may be another one to keep an eye on.

More Than Ready was himself a dirt performer, but his difficulty in his homeland was that he was perceived primarily as a turf sire (four of his five Breeders’ Cup successes have come on turf, as did Room Service’s victory in the GI American Oaks). Now the likes of Buster’s Ready, Verrazano and Roy H. have helped convince breeders that his progeny also have plenty to offer on the main track. Consequently, his fee has often stood at $60,000 in recent years.

Even so, it is possible to argue that More Than Ready has operated at a higher level in Australia. Having initially stood for AUS$22,000, his fee was as high as $148,500 in 2009 and it still stood at $121,000 as recently as 2012. The size of his fee reflects his feat of siring a lengthy list of 14 southern hemisphere G1 winners, headed by the champion mare More Joyous and the Golden Slipper winners Sebring and Phelan Ready. Five of his G1 winners, including two winners of the Victoria Derby, are out of daughters of Danehill, whose pedigree blended well with that of More Than Ready’s sire Southern Halo.

It has been a similar story with High Chaparral. I have explained several times that he wasn’t immune to suspicion early in his stallion career, even though he had been a G1 winner at two, three and four, with the Racing Post Trophy, Derby, Irish Derby, Irish Champion S. and two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf among his successes. He also represented the potent Sadler’s Wells-Darshaan cross, but that probably meant that breeders associated his name more with stamina than speed.

In his early years at Coolmore, High Chaparral was in direct competition with Sadler’s Wells and his brilliant sons Montjeu and Galileo. He also joined the team at a time when there was still some prejudice against Sadler’s Wells as a sire of sires–a prejudice which Montjeu and Galileo rapidly erased. Unfortunately, that didn’t help High Chaparral, as breeders increasingly turned to Montjeu and Galileo rather than the unproven High Chaparral. After starting at €35,000, High Chaparral’s fee fell by €5,000 every season until it reached only €10,000 in 2009 in his sixth season.

By that stage, he had begun to attract the attention of National Hunt breeders and his 2009 book included numerous mares with National Hunt backgrounds. One of those 2009 mares was Monte Solaro, winner of a National Hunt flat race and a handicap hurdle. She duly produced the top-class jumper Altior, who, oddly enough, is a contemporary of the top-class miler Toronado.

Fortunately, High Chaparral’s first three crops all did well during 2009, forcing breeders to think again. By this stage, his first New Zealand crop was also beginning to highlight his classic potential, with Monaco Consul winning the G1 Victoria Derby and So You Think the G1 W.S. Cox Plate.

With his fee heading upwards, High Chaparral’s Irish crops added four more G1-winning sons in the Irish Champion S. winner Free Eagle, the German colt Lucky Lion, the dual Australian G1 winner Contributor and now Rekindling. Golden Sword, a brother to Rekindling, could be considered a bit unlucky not to be included on this list, as he held second place in Sea The Stars’s Derby until passed close to home by Fame And Glory, Masterofthehorse and Rip Van Winkle.

Even so, High Chaparral’s southern hemisphere crops–sired at fees up to AUS$99,000–have arguably done even better, with Aces High following in the footsteps of such illustrious multiple G1 winners as Dundeel and Shoot Out. Other noteworthy G1-winning sons include Descarado, winner of the Caulfield Cup and Caulfield S., and Tivaci. Tivaci proved himself one of High Chaparral’s fastest sons, notably winning the All-Aged S. over a mile, and he is to shuttle to England’s National Stud to fill the gap created by Toronado’s move to France.

Sadly, High Chaparral died in December 2014 at the age of 15, so his final 2-year-olds are racing this year. They have a lot to live up to.

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