Plenty At Play In The Numbers Game

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Zoffany was one of three stallions to cover more than 200 mares last year | Coolmore

By Emma Berry

In order to avoid the almost certain disappointment of not receiving a Valentine’s card for the 48th year running, I shall be leaving the country, but in my temporary absence there will be plenty of activity in Newmarket and beyond as the 2018 covering season gets underway.

According to Weatherbys’ recently released supplement to the Return of Mares for 2017, there were plenty of stallions who found no difficulty in attracting huge numbers of partners last year and two shared equal billing at the top of the table. Their names should come as no surprise.

Dark Angel (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) was Ireland’s busiest flat stallion, with 223 mates, a number matched in Britain by Frankel (GB) (Galileo {Ire}). Their own sires are still very much alive and kicking, and Acclamation was sent 149 mares, a number which puts him behind another of his sons, Mehmas (Ire), on 187. Meanwhile, Dark Angel’s sons Gutaifan (Ire) and Estidhkaar (Ire), winner of the G2 Champagne S. and a half-brother to Toormore (Ire) (Arakan), were kept busy at Yeomanstown Stud and Tara Stud, covering 152 and 143 mares, respectively, prompting a significant boost to Try My Best’s branch of the Northern Dancer line.

Zoffany (Ire) (Dansili {GB}) was the only other stallion in Europe to cover in excess of 200 mares and has some quality support among the quantity, including Rain Flower (Ire) (Indian Ridge {GB}), the dam of Dancing Rain (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}, who has visited him in both of the last two years.

Incorporating figures from France’s Repertoire des Etalons, 26 stallions standing in Europe covered 150 mares or more–a total of 4,562 mares between them. It’s up to each individual breeder to decide whether or not they want their mare to be among a large book, and the high numbers of stallions having retired to stud in Europe over the last few years should mean that there’s more choice. In reality it’s likely to mean that the unproven sires that excelled over sprint distances are well supported–at least in their first season–while stallions who can be relied upon to give young mares a good start at stud but don’t quite boast the X-factor of Galileo or Dubawi are increasingly shuffled to the bottom of the pack.

Even before some of his offspring revealed themselves to be pretty talented individuals, Dabirsim (Fr) (Hat Trick) was fully subscribed in 2017 and was France’s top stallion numerically with 197 mares. Judging by comments on the recent Route des Etalons, it will be a similar story this year. Those breeders who don’t make the cut for Dabirsim may well consider his stable-mate Martinborough (Jpn), another grandson of Sunday Silence, but this time by the great Deep Impact (Jpn). Despite being relatively unknown in Europe last season, the half-brother to the dam of G1 Japan Cup winner Cheval Grand (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn}) covered 72 mares during his first season at Haras de Grandcamp in 2017.

Siyouni (Fr), undoubtedly the most exciting stallion son of the celebrated Pivotal (GB), also played his part in a resurgence of numbers in France, covering 189 mares at Haras de Bonneval, while the first book of Shalaa (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), which included the mightly Treve (Fr) (Motivator {GB}), stood at 156, just one more than Le Havre (Ire) (Noverre), whose star remains in the ascendant. There’s plenty of excitement surrounding the first runners for Shalaa’s fellow Haras de Bouquetot resident Olympic Glory (Ire) (Choisir {Aus}) this season and he was the most active of France’s young bucks last year, avoiding any third book-angst when covering 160 mares.

With 196 suitors in 2017, the juvenile record-breaking Kodiac (GB) ensured that he was still the kingpin at Tally-Ho Stud despite some stiff opposition from his upstart stablemates Mehmas and Vadamos (Fr) (Monsun {Ger}). The latter, along with Maxios (Ger), appears to give us the best chance of ensuring that the great Monsun is not remembered principally as a sire of National Hunt sires. Andreas Putsch’s homebred covered 183 mares, putting him slightly ahead of Camelot (GB) (Montjeu {Ire}) on 179 and Galileo on 178. Along with hefty support from the O’Callaghan family, Vadamos has also received votes of confidence from an array of major breeders, including the Aga Khan, the Tsui family, Newsells Park Stud and Airlie Stud.

Now 16, the G1 2000 Guineas winner Footstepsinthesand (GB) (Giant’s Causeway) more than holds his own at Coolmore, where he covered 191 mares last year. Along with Shamardal, who is carefully managed by Darley and whose 63 mares in 2017 were all owned either by Godolphin, Shadwell, Rabbah or Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, he does an important job of keeping Storm Cat’s flag flying in Europe. Fortunately for breeders, Shamardal has at least one very exciting son at stud, and Lope De Vega (Ire) covered 163 mares at Ballylinch Stud last year at a career-high price of €50,000. That figure has since risen to €60,000, but it seems unlikely that his support will wane. Lope De Vega’s young son Belardo (Ire) didn’t lack suitors, either, with 122 signed up in his first season.

Galileo covered just three more mares than his half-brother Sea The Stars (Ire) (Cape Cross {Ire}), whose 175 matched Coolmore’s busiest first-season stallion, The Gurkha (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). Another son of Galileo, the dual Derby winner Australia (GB), who has first runners this season, covered 154 mares, while Pride Of Dubai (Aus), a son of the much-missed Street Cry (Ire) out of a mare whose half-sister produced the perennially popular Kodiac and Invincible Spirit (Ire), wasn’t far behind his fellow Coolmore resident on 153.

On the Darley roster, Mr Prospector’s great-grandsons Dubawi (Ire) (Dubai Millennium) and Iffraaj (GB) (Zafonic) were busiest of all, covering 174 and 171 apiece, while the shuttling half-brothers Epaulette (Aus) (Commands {Aus}) and Helmet (Aus) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) retained a decent level of support with 154 and 150 mares each. Fast Company (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}) moved from his original base at Rathasker Stud to serve one season in Britain at Overbury Stud in 2016. But then up popped his Classic-winning daughter Jet Setting (Ire) and so did his fortunes. A move back to Ireland, this time to Kildangan Stud, saw him cover 162 mares.

Kingman (GB) (Invincible Spirit {GB}) has a big year ahead of him as members of his first crop are readied for their racecourse debuts. The brilliant miler posted a whopping yearling average of £244,000 from 37 sold last year, which will have been music to the ears of the owners of the 168 mares to have visited him.

If At First…

There was a certain amount of angst surrounding the loss of two proven stallions from Britain’s flat ranks to the Irish National Hunt division in 2016, when Mount Nelson (GB) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}) left Newsells Park Stud for Boardsmill Stud, and Juddmonte’s Champs Elysees (GB) (Danehill) transferred to Castlehyde Stud.

Both stallions are still perfectly capable of siring a top-class flat performer sent the right mare but there is no arguing that the moves have been lucrative.

From 54 mares in Newmarket in 2016, Champs Elysees leapt to covering 241 in Cork, while Mount Nelson served 210 at the Flood family’s Boardsmill Stud from a low of 22 in 2016. His versatility was there for all to see last year when Penhill (GB) won the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and Librisa Breeze (GB) won the G1 QIPCO British Champions Sprint, both for the same lucky owner, Tony Bloom.

Incidentally, Bloom also owns one of Champs Elysees’s biggest flat winners of last season, the Cesarewitch hero Withhold (GB).

Despite those high numbers, Champs Elysees and Mount Nelson were far from the busiest of the National Hunt brigade. The only horse to exceed the 300-mark, and by quite some margin, was Galileo’s son Soldier Of Fortune (Ire), who started his career at Haras du Logis St Germain in Normandy. During his final season there in 2015, he was sent 22 mares but he will have had to up his game considerably in the covering shed at Beeches Stud, where he was asked to perform with 341 partners last year.

Soldier Of Fortune’s surging popularity has done his half-brother Affinsea (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) no harm. The Jim Bolger-bred and John Oxx-trained winner of a Roscommon maiden joined Ronnie O’Neill’s Whytemount Stud last year and covered 123 mares.

Meanwhile, another repatriated stallion, Walk In The Park (Ire), who, along with Motivator helped Montjeu to a Derby one-two in his first crop, is now hot property at Grange Stud. He returned to Ireland in 2016 having stood in relative obscurity in France until the top-class jumpers Douvan (Fr) and Min (Fr) came along. His 2017 book included 216 mares.

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