By Bill Oppenheim
Even given the pressures of the commercial marketplace, in real life, the most critical year in many sires' careers is the year their first 4-year-olds run. There are a few reasons for this: their oldest foals are then at an age where they've been given every chance to get good; also, they have now three crops of 2-year-olds, so if something good hasn't happened by then, well, they've had plenty of chances. It's not that the discussion is over even if it hasn't quite happened by then–and that's especially true with this deep group of F2012 North American and European sires whose first foals were born in 2012 and were 4-year-olds of 2016–but in most cases we're getting a pretty good idea.
APEX ratings measure the frequency with which horses sire runners which achieve certain earnings thresholds. In this respect, APEX ratings are most similar to calculating the percentage of a sires' runners which achieve certain speed ratings; both methods try to identify sires which most consistently sire good horses. Both average-earnings indexes and the progeny earnings tables which are recognized as identifying Leading Sires are subject to distortion by one huge earner, whereas measurements of the frequency of class are less subject to distortion. And all these sets of measurements need to be looked at–and, in many cases, interpreted.
By progeny earnings and black-type performers, three sires with their first 4-year-olds in 2012 stand out: Lane's End's Quality Road (Elusive Quality) and Coolmore Ashford's Munnings (Speightstown) in America, and Ballylinch Stud's Lope De Vega (Shamardal) in Europe. But there actually eight sires–six in America and two in Europe–who constitute the top echelon of this sire group. In total there are 82 NA/EU F2012 sires which qualified for APEX ratings, of which 39 had 100 or more year-starters in the three seasons of racing 2014-2016. Besides the eight which we designate 'top echelon,' there are another five we can make positive statements about, which constitutes one-third (13/39) of the sires with 100+ year-starters, and about 15% of the entire group of 82 sires.
Number one sire on this hit parade is Hill 'n' Dale's new import from Florida's Ocala Stud, former “best value sire on the planet” Kantharos (Lion Heart), top NA/EU F2012 sire with 100+ year-starters, with a 3.44 A Runner Index, and number one by ABC Index as well with a 2.19 rating. True, Kantharos does have the lowest number of year-starters (160) of any of this top 10, but on the other hand it's not that low a number, and he stood for $5,000, so, really, his performance is pretty nearly off the graph–which is why he had to come to Kentucky. By topping both index tables, Kantharos deserves to be grouped with the three progeny earnings/black type leaders as a hot commodity. Of the four, only Lope De Vega, at €50,000, is even remotely expensive. Quality Road is $35,000; Munnings is $25,000; and Kantharos is $15,000 in 2017. Those are pretty good buys, in our view, for these upwardly mobile sires.
Others in the F2012 NA/EU 'Big Eight': Ashford's Lookin At Lucky (Smart Strike), still without a Grade I winner but tops among these sires with six Grade I-placed horses, 26 Black-Type Horses, and also number one by number of A Runners (15) and second to Kantharos by A Runner Index (2.79); France's Haras de Bonneval's Siyouni (Pivotal), number two behind Lope De Vega in cumulative progeny earnings for European F2012 sires, second in NA/EU by number of A Runners (13), and third by A Runner Index (2.56); Darley's Midshipman (Unbridled's Song), 2.49 A Runner Index; and Spendthrift's Temple City (Dynaformer), 2.00 A Index and sire of two Grade I winners last year. Once again the European representative is the priciest one, at €45,000 this year; Lookin At Lucky is $17,500, Temple City has just gone up to $15,000 (was $10,000), and Midshipman stands for just $8,500. This disparity in price among successful F2012 sires may reflect the bigger, and therefore more competitive, stallion population in Kentucky.
We've said all along this is a deep group of sires, and besides the eight we've mentioned, we also have nice things to say about Europe's F2012 #3, Whitsbury Manor's Showcasing (Green Desert, 1.64 A Index), sire of the dual Group 1-winning 2016 sprinter Quiet Reflection; Airdrie's Majesticperfection (Harlan's Holiday, 1.82 A Index); Darby Dan's Tale of Ekati (Tale of the Cat, 1.78 A Index); Claiborne's Blame (Arch, 1.59 A Index); and WinStar's Super Saver (Maria's Mon), who has just a 1.22 A Index but had three Grade I winners in his first crop, and is due to bounce back any minute. Incidentally, Europe's #1 F2012 sire, Lope De Vega, is 1.53 for A Runners but also 2.72 for B Runners, which is massive, and is one of only three F2012 sires with 40 or more ABC Runners; he ranks #2 with 41, the others being Quality Road (46) and Munnings (40). (Click here for an alphabetical listing of APEX ratings for qualifying F2012 sires)
F2013 SIRES (1st 3-Year-Olds 2016)
The crop of sires which went to stud in 2011, in the midst of the economic doldrums stemming from the World Financial Crash, and had their first foals in 2012, discussed above, was actually the biggest of the four 'young' APEX sire crops we are covering today. There were 82 F2012 North American and European sires assigned APEX ratings in 2016; by contrast, the F2010 (went to stud in 2009) and F2011 (went to stud in 2010) sire crops have 69 sires each, and the F2013 sire crop (went to stud in 2012) contains 70. The sizes of NA/EU sire crops before the crash was more like 90. In any event, of the 70 NA/EU F2013 sires with first 3-year-olds 2016, only 32 had 60 or more year-starters (in their cases, 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds) by the end of last year. That did not include the Haras D'Etreham's Wootton Bassett, sire of Almanzor, who had 43 year-starters from 39 named foals in his first two crops, and therefore doesn't figure in these top 10 lists covering the 32 sires with 60+ year-starters.
Well, Ashford's Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie), that's who this is all about. He was North America's Leading Freshman Sire of 2015, with seven Black-Type Winners, including undefeated 2-year-old Champion Nyquist, and the earners of $3.7-million; Lane's End's Twirling Candy (Candy Ride) was second, with $1.1-million. Last year Uncle Mo had 17 three-year-old BTW and finished third on the North American Sire List, with the earners of $12.5-million. In typical Coolmore fashion, Uncle Mo had 158 named foals in his first crop; by the end of last year, 21 of them (13.3%) were Black-Type Winners, including Grade I winners Nyquist, Outwork, and Gomo. He then dropped to 90 2-year-olds of 2016, but those included GII Remsen S. winner Mo Town. Even if he does drop off a little bit, the fact that his first crop scored an A Runner Index of 5.09, putting him ahead of even Galileo and War Front–that kind of speaks for itself. An interesting aspect of Uncle Mo's spectacular success–he's a World Top Five sire right off the bat–is that he does represent essentially an outcross sire line. It's the Caro branch of Nasrullah's Grey Sovereign line, which is an outcross to everything but itself, and it loves inbreeding to itself. So there's virtually nothing he doesn't figure to work with. He's the best sire in North America since Tapit and War Front.
In this small group of just 32 NA-EU F2013 sires with 60+ year-starters, three other sires top the A Runner figures: Twirling Candy; Coolmore's Zoffany (Dansili) in Europe; and Court Vision (Gulch), who started out for Spendthrift in Ontario, but has now gone to Louisiana, where his 2.10 A Runner Index and five A Runners suggest he's entitled to make a big noise. He is actually second on the list by A Runner Index, ahead of Twirling Candy (2.03), Zoffany (1.90), and New York's Keane Stud's Dublin (Afleet Alex, 1.83). Uncle Mo has 23 A Runners (includes horses like Nyquist, who is two A Runners, once as a 2-year-old, once as a 3-year-old); Zoffany (8) is second, ahead of Court Vision and Twirling Candy (5 each). Uncle Mo has 46 ABC Runners, for a 2.54 ABC Runner Index (20.32% of starters, since 1.00 = 8.00%). Twirling Candy is second, with 24 ABC Runners, and besides his 2.03 A Index, he also has nine B Runners for a whopping 3.66 B Index, and an ABC Index of 2.44, not far behind Uncle Mo's 2.54. Invariably horses who have this many useful runners as Twirling Candy (2.44 = 19.32% of year-starters) turn out well; he has a 2.79 ABC Index for 2-year-olds and a 2.54 ABC Index for 3-year-olds. That augurs well.
Besides Wootton Bassett making a name for himself among F2013 sires with fewer than 60 year-starters, three other sires with three A Runners each have promising A Runner indexes. Two of them are sons of Giant's Causeway: New York's Rockridge Farm's Giant Surprise (4.41) and Kentucky's Millennium Farm's Giant Oak (3.41); and another New York stallion, Questroyal North's Courageous Cat (Storm Cat, 3.13), who stood his first season at Lane's End in Kentucky before his transfer to New York. (Click here for an alphabetical listing of APEX ratings for qualifying F2013 sires)
Hill 'n' Dale's Curlin (Smart Strike) was a two-time Horse of the Year and the all-time North American-trained money winner, so had a great shot when he retired for $75,000 to Lane's End, while Spendthrift's Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday) was a little-known $12,500 prospect who had run six times, all in California, all on synthetic tracks. They are the two sires who have emerged from this group to be the real big-time sires. Curlin was the #2 sire in North America last year with the earners of more than $12.8 million, including five Grade I winners, tying him with Tapit and Scat Daddy as the leading North American sires of 2016 Grade I winners. Into Mischief, with his first big crop (130+) of 2-year-olds, was the Leading North American Sire of 2-Year-Olds both by progeny earnings, and by number of 2016 2-year-old winners (36). Into Mischief (3.26) led Curlin (2.45) by A Runner Index, but Curlin (2.25, 18.00% of year-starters) was the leader by ABC Runner Index, while Into Mischief dead-heated for second with yet another useful regional sire son of Giant's Causeway, New York's Keane Stud's Frost Giant (both 1.83). Curlin was the clear leader with 34 A Runners, Into Mischief again dead-heating for second (24), here with a former Spendthrift barn-mate, Tiz Wonderful (Tiznow), who was sold to Korea. Curlin is miles ahead by number of ABC Runners (125), with Darley Dalham Hall's New Approach (74) a distant second, and Tiz Wonderful (70) third. (Click here for an alphabetical listing of APEX ratings for qualifying F2010 sires)
Among this group of sires, who had their first 5-year-olds in 2016, the two most successful and expensive sires are the top two by number of APEX A Runners and ABC Runners, Gilltown Stud's Sea The Stars (Cape Cross) in Europe and WinStar's Pioneerof the Nile (Empire Maker) in America; each now stands for 125,000, Sea The Stars in Euros, Pioneerof The Nile in dollars. Sea The Stars leads both 'numbers' categories, with 21 A Runners and 66 ABC Runners; 'Pioneer' is second in both, with 19 A Runners and 54 ABC Runners. In the 'index' categories, the two leaders are two of the best regional sires in North America, Ontario's Adena Springs North's Giant Gizmo (the fourth regional son of Giant's Causeway to get a call today) and California's Ocean Breeze Ranch's Square Eddie (the third son of Smart Strike to get a mention). Giant Gizmo (3.93) tops Square Eddie (3.01) by A Runner Index, but they are reversed by ABC Runner Index, Square Eddie (2.32, about 18.5% of runners) ahead of Giant Gizmo (2.16, about 17% of runners). Other F2011 sires to merit a mention on the 'numbers' table are Coolmore's Mastercraftsman (Danehill Dancer, tied for 4th with 14 A Runners, 3rd by ABC Runners with 52), and France's Haras de la Cauveniere's top French sire Le Havre (Noverre, tied with Mastercraftsman with 14 A Runners, and tied for 4th with 46 ABC Runners (with another now-Korean F2011 sire by Tiznow, Colonel John). On the index tables, the German sire Adlerflug (In The Wings), now back at Monsun's home, Gestut Schlenderhan ranks fifth, with a 2.29 A Runner Index, ahead of two more California sires, Tommy Town's Grazen (Benchmark, 2.27 A Index) and Harris Farms' Desert Code (E Dubai, 1.85). (Click here for an alphabetical listing of APEX ratings for qualifying F2011 sires)
Click here for top 10 tables for A Runner/Indices and ABC Runners/Indices for each foal crop F2010-2013.