By Andrew Caulfield
There was something of a family affair about the most successful stallions at Royal Ascot last week, with the six stallions responsible for two or more winners featuring Galileo, Galileo’s son Frankel and Galileo’s half-brother Sea The Stars.
Of course this trio features two of the most extraordinary racehorses ever to have graced the turf, with Frankel and Sea The Stars’s combined efforts amounting to 22 wins from 23 starts, the only defeat coming on Sea The Stars’s debut. Between them they landed 16 Group 1s and took high rank on Timeform’s list of all-time greats, with Frankel improving his rating from 143 at three to 147 at four, while Sea The Stars achieved a figure of 140 at three. Sea The Stars’s physique suggested that he too might have pushed his rating even higher had he stayed in training at four.
Both these superstars are imposing physical specimens, both were group winners at two, both won the G1 2000 Guineas and the G1 Juddmonte International and both linked to Galileo, who had already claimed the first of his nine sires’ championships before Sea The Stars commenced his stallion career in 2010. Galileo was a four-time champion sire by the time Frankel made his debut at Banstead Manor in 2013. Consequently, the path to stardom as a stallion might have been expected to be as smooth and straight as it could possibly be, but even these exceptional Classic winners have had to go through a few trials and tribulations along the way.
There was never going to be any difficulty in their first season, when Sea The Stars was priced at €85,000 and Frankel at £125,000 and they respectively covered 136 and 131 mares. The problem is that there isn’t an endless supply of breeders prepared to invest heavily in untried but high-priced stallions and events showed that not even Sea The Stars and Frankel were immune to the fluctuating demand that affects so many young stallions in their first four seasons.
It now seems hard to believe that Sea The Stars’s totals in those first four years were 136, 83, 138 and 82 mares. Frankel’s figures were 131, 128, 104 and 105. Perhaps Frankel’s arrival as a stallion in 2013 was partly to blame for Sea The Stars’s book falling to 82 mares, but their main problem was that these unproven horses were competing against stallions whose ability to sire top performers had been proven time after time. In Sea The Stars’s first four years, his half-brother Galileo covered books of 175, 215, 196 and 191 mares, whereas Frankel’s first four years clashed with the rise of Dubawi, whose book stood at 136, 157, 157 and 157.
Needless to say, Frankel and Sea The Stars have both quickly proved that they belong among the small club of elite stallions, with Sea The Stars’s fee now standing at €135,000, as opposed to the original €85,000, and Frankel’s at £175,000 from the initial £125,000.
Breeders who used them at these increased fees this year will have been reassured by their respective performances at Royal Ascot. Frankel had 18 individual representatives in the 30 races, all from his first two crops, and they clocked up three wins (from Without Parole, Monarch’s Glen and Baghdad), two seconds and five thirds. Compare this to Galileo’s tally of two winners, two seconds and two thirds from a total of 24 runners.
Sea The Stars had fewer representatives but his comparatively small fourth crop, which numbers 74 foals, provided two of the meeting’s star performers. Firstly, Stradivarius bravely took the G1 Gold Cup and then Crystal Ocean won the G2 Hardwicke S. in the style of a future Group 1 winner. Crystal Ocean and Stradivarius had finished second and third, separated by only a short head, behind the Irish Derby winner Capri in a hot edition of the St Leger.
Sea The Stars now has eight Group 1 winners, six Group 2 winners and 11 Group 3 winners to his credit from his first four crops. That’s 25 group winners from a total of 382 foals in those first four crops, which equates to an impressive 6.5%. And those Group 1 winners have garnered a Derby, an Irish Derby, a Deutsches Derby, an Oaks, a King George, a Prix Ganay, a Prix d’Ispahan, a Goodwood Cup and now a Gold Cup, which amounts to a highly prestigious collection.
Good things are worth waiting for, and this applies to Sea The Stars and his progeny. Although he won two of his three juvenile starts, including the G2 Beresford S., Sea The Stars improved considerably from two to three–by no less than 31lb according to his Timeform ratings. So far only two of his 25 group winners have succeeded in winning at that level at the age of two, these being the G3 Prix des Chenes winner Cloth of Stars, who developed into a Group 2 winner at three and a Group 1 winner at four, and the G3 Park S. winner My Titania.
This suggests that there are group winners still to come from Sea The Stars’s current 3-year-olds from his 93-strong fifth crop, conceived after Sea The Stars had finished seventh among the first-crop sires of 2013 (beaten by Mastercraftsman, but also by Intense Focus, Captain Gerrard, Dandy Man, Bushranger and Champs Elysees).
The best of his 3-year-olds so far are the listed winners Sea of Class and Knight To Behold, and there is also Stream of Stars, who disappointed when favourite for the G2 Queen’s Vase–a race won last year by Stradivarius.
It will be interesting to monitor the progress of Sea The Stars’s 2018 juveniles, which come from his first crop sired at a fee of €125,000. This crop is his largest of his first six crops, at 135 foals. Around a dozen of them are out of mares by Sadler’s Wells, who number Taghrooda and the Classic-placed Storm The Stars among their four black-type winners from 59 foals. This is comfortably the most numerous cross for Sea The Stars.
Sea The Stars’s progeny have an average winning distance of 11 furlongs, which is very close to Galileo’s figure of 11.2 furlongs. Although Sea The Stars has excelled with daughters of such as Monsun, Bering, Silver Hawk and Sadler’s Wells, perhaps it would be worth employing a similar policy to the one taken with Galileo in recent years, whereby a strong emphasis has been placed on giving him mares with speed. Sea The Stars’s Group 1 winners include Harzand and Vazira, who are out of mares by the champion juveniles Xaar and Zafonic. Then there’s Cloth of Stars and Zelzal, who are among the four black-type winners sired by Sea The Stars from 12 foals out of mares by the top miler Kingmambo.
Crystal Ocean’s broodmare sire, the 2000 Guineas and Queen Elizabeth II S. winner Mark of Esteem, is another top-class miler with a fine record with Sea The Stars. There are only five foals of racing age bred this way but four have raced and all four have won, another being Across The Stars, winner of the G2 King Edward VII S. in 2016. Interestingly, Galileo also has a fine record with daughters of Mark of Esteem, siring the likes of the Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach and the Group 2 winners Kite Wood and Mikhail Glinka from only 13 foals.
Crystal Ocean’s dam Crystal Star was unbeaten at two, winning twice over seven furlongs, and was group-placed over that distance at three. She has developed into a wonderful producer, with three group winners and a listed winner. Although all four are by different sires, two of them are by father and son, with that fine mare Crystal Capella being by Sea The Stars’s sire Cape Cross. All four of her stakes winners stayed at least a mile and quarter, another being Hillstar, a Danehill Dancer colt who won the G2 King Edward VII S. and the GI Canadian International.
Crystal Ocean’s third dam Krisalya produced the G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Rose Gypsy and was a half-sister to the G1 Prix d’Ispahan winner Sasuru. Fourth dam Sassalya produced 16 named foals, most of them above average. In addition to Sasuru, there was Sally Rous, winner of two group races over seven furlongs, including the Jersey S. at Royal Ascot. Another of Sassalya’s daughters, The Faraway Tree, produced the American Grade I winner Tuscan Evening.