By Andrew Caulfield
There’s still a very long way to go in the race for first-crop sire honours on both sides of the Atlantic, but several of the stallions which covered their first mares in 2014 already have their first group/graded winner to their credit.
With last week’s start of the Saratoga meeting, we saw the year’s first American graded winner by a freshman sire, when Firenze Fire maintained his unbeaten record to land the GIII Sanford S. At 12-1, Firenze Fire was a surprise winner and he was perhaps underestimated because this Florida-bred is the first winner by Poseidon’s Warrior, a Speightstown horse who began his stallion career at only $6,500 at Pleasant Acres Stallions. Poseidon’s Warrior no doubt wasn’t helped by his having failed to race as a 5-year-old in 2013, but he had become a Grade I winner–at odds of 36-1–when he caught Justin Phillip close home in the 2012 Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. at Saratoga. Speightstown had also won the Vanderbilt prior to his success in the GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Poseidon’s Warrior has only 51 foals in his first crop, so he has done well to sire a graded winner so quickly. Could he develop into another Munnings–a stallion with a very bright future–for Speightstown? Another of Speightstown’s sons, Lord Shanakill, has also enjoyed Grade 1 success, via the Prince of Wales’s S. winner My Dream Boat.
Another American-based stallion, Declaration of War, stood his first season at Coolmore in Ireland, where his daughter Actress recently proved too good for the colts in the G3 Anglesey S. With his son Declarationoflove taking second place in last Saturday’s valuable Weatherbys Super Sprint, Declaration of War now ranks third on the Anglo-Irish list.
He’s also fourth on the European table, which features arguably the most talked-about new sire, Dabirsim, in second place. The Racing Post‘s European table credits 2011’s champion French 2-year-old with nine winners from 19 runners, headed by Different League, the French filly who raided Royal Ascot to land the G3 Albany S. It would probably be overstating the case to say that Dabirsim’s daughter High Dream Milena was an unlucky loser of Sunday’s G2 Prix Robert Papin, but this inexperienced filly did very well to be beaten little more than a length into fourth place, after having to be snatched up at a crucial stage.
High Dream Milena’s misfortune turned into a stroke of luck for Unfortunately, the British-trained colt who became the first group winner for Society Rock. This son of Rock of Gibraltar now heads the European prize-money table, helped by 13 winners from 42 runners.
Society Rock’s success as a sire became virtually guaranteed when he succumbed to laminitis at the age of nine, towards the end of his third season at Tally-Ho Stud, in 2016. Although his first crop numbers around 110, his second is smaller at 76 and his third is smaller still.
While Society Rock’s stallion career was all too brief, his racing career was extensive. Although he won only six times from 23 starts, he possessed the invaluable knack of winning when it really mattered. As a 2-year-old he landed the £250,000 Tattersalls Timeform Millions Sprint, as a 4-year-old he took the G1 Golden Jubilee S. and at five he was triumphant in the G1 Betfred Sprint Cup. He also picked up the G2 Duke of York S. in the process of earning more than £275,000 as a 6-year-old, to end his career with earnings in excess of £1,000,000. It was a measure of his class and durability that his Timeform rating in his last four seasons stood at 120, 124, 126 and 126 again.
Even so, Society Rock was priced at only €8,000 in his first two seasons and at €6,000 in his third. Similarly, breeders could use his 18-year-old sire Rock of Gibraltar for only €9,000 this year, even though this globe-trotting stallion has sired more than 100 stakes winners. Rock of Gibraltar has stood in Ireland, Australia, Japan and South America, with his latest Group 1 winner being the Brazilian 2-year-old Gibraltar Point.
Society Rock was inbred 3 x 4 to the great Danzig, through his sons Danehill and Chief’s Crown, but that hasn’t stopped him siring winners from several Danzig-line mares. His Prix Robert Papin winner Unfortunately doesn’t have any extra Danzig blood, but he is a half-brother to the fine sprinting filly Look Busy, who was by Tally-Ho’s fast Danehill horse Danetime. Even though Look Busy was asked to race 13 times as a juvenile, she continued to improve, winning six times as a 3-year-old and twice as a 4-year-old, when she took the G2 Temple S. over five furlongs.
Unfortunate, the dam of Unfortunately and Look Busy, has done remarkably well for a filly who cost only 1,000gns as a yearling. Indeed, she acts as a reminder that successful broodmares don’t necessarily have to have shone on the racecourse, or even possess a fashionable pedigree (though both help.) With her only success at two coming in an all-weather seller at Southwell, Unfortunate earned a measly Timeform rating of 49, and she also won a six-furlong seller at three, when she developed the habit of starting slowly. Her sire Komaite also sired the dam of Milk It Mick, a G1 Dewhurst S. winner who later also enjoyed Grade I success in the U.S. Komaite was a well-connected son of Nureyev, but he didn’t run until he was four, when he won a maiden race, and he sired only one group winner on the flat.
Unfortunate’s dam Honour And Glory was also pretty moderate, with her five juvenile starts earning a rating of only 46. However, Unfortunately and Look Busy are not the first distinguished sprinters produced by this family–Honour And Glory’s half-brother Singing Steven was fast enough to win the G3 Cornwallis S. and the G3 King George S.