Biggest Test To Come For Leading Freshmen


Night Of Thunder |


We are all familiar with the flash-in-the-pan stallions who blaze a trail with their first crop of runners only to sink with relatively little trace in ensuing seasons–a situation doubtless exacerbated by fleeting whims of a commercial market. For the sires whose debutants took to the track in 2019, the results achieved were important in regard to continuing or boosting their appeal to breeders booking mares for the 2020 season, but of even more importance is what happens now that their first crops are of the Classic age.

When Dubawi (Ire) was born on Feb. 7, 2002, Galileo (Ire) was about to cover his first mare at Coolmore. The team at Darley doubtless had high hopes for Dubawi upon his retirement to Dalham Hall Stud as a Classic winner four years later, but few of them would have dared to dream of the successful way in which he has carried the torch for his much lamented father, Dubai Millennium. The only regret is perhaps that he is unfortunate enough to be in his pomp in the era of Galileo, but the 18-year-old is unarguably a terrific stallion, and one area in which his star is rising is as a sire of sires.

His sons are spread increasingly far and wide. On the Darley roster is the 2019 champion freshman sire Night Of Thunder (Ire)–who has returned to Kildangan Stud after two seasons in Newmarket–while alongside Dubawi at Dalham Hall are Postponed (Ire) and recent retiree, the former champion juvenile Too Darn Hot (GB). The National Stud has the Juddmonte-bred Time Test (GB), Al Kazeem (GB) is at Oakgrove Stud, and Australia (GB)'s half-brother Frontiersman (GB) at Overbury Stud. In Ireland, Ballylinch Stud has New Bay (GB), while in France Hunter's Light (GB) and Zarak (Fr) are at Haras du Logis and Haras de Bonneval, respectively.

Furthermore the line has essentially returned to America this season with the recruitment of the well-bred Demarchelier (GB) to the famed stallion barn at Claiborne Farm that was once home to his great grandsire Seeking The Gold, while Makfi (GB) is at the JBBA's Shizunai Stallion Station on Hokkaido.

When winning the 2000 Guineas of 2010, Makfi sprung a few surprises, not least for his breeder Shadwell, who had sold him the previous October for just 26,000gns to Mathieu Offenstadt. He was the first important marker for Dubawi, a British Classic winner from a debut crop which subsequently included fellow Group 1 winners Dubawi Heights (GB), Lucky Nine (GB), Monterosso (GB), Prince Bishop (GB) and the late Darley sire Poet's Voice (GB).

Four years later, Dubawi was represented by his second 2000 Guineas winner, the Richard Hannon-trained Night Of Thunder, the only horse ever to get the better of Kingman (GB) in his otherwise faultless eight-race career.

Night Of Thunder ran just twice at two but won both starts easily, the second being the Listed Doncaster S. over six furlongs. In the G3 Greenham S. on his 3-year-old debut, he was 4 1/2 lengths behind Kingman in second, but turned the tables in the 2000 Guineas, only to have them turned again by the Juddmonte star in the G1 St James's Palace S., in which Night Of Thunder was second. A down-the-field attempt at 10 furlongs in the Coral-Eclipse was the only time he was asked to go beyond a mile and, returned to his favoured distance, Night Of Thunder gained placed finishes in both the G1 Prix du Moulin and G1 Queen Elizabeth S. at three before winning the G1 Lockinge S. at four.

It's fair to say that Night Of Thunder has made an explosive start at stud. His seven stakes winners give him a strike rate of 15.9% stakes winners to runners, surpassing the 12.5% set by Frankel (GB) with his first crop. While his winners–28 in total, for a whopping 58% winners to runners–provide one part of the story, a more telling figure is that 11 of these recorded an official rating of 90 or higher. At the head of these is Under The Stars (Ire), bred by Rabbah Bloodstock and racing in the same colours as her sire for Saeed Manana from the James Tate stable. The Rabbah team will doubtless be somewhat relieved to have bought her back for 6,000gns as a yearling when offered at Tattersalls October Book 3 through Houghton Bloodstock as she won on debut at Ripon and followed that up with victory in the G3 Keeneland Princess Margaret S. at Ascot. Following respectable performances just out of the places in the G2 Lowther S., G1 Moyglare Stud S. and G2 Rockfel S., Under The Stars bounced back to win the valuable Tattersalls October Auction S. on her seasonal swansong at Newmarket.

The Simon Crisford-trained Night Colours (Ire) went on her travels to add Italy's G2 Premio Dormello to her novice win at Ffos Las, while top-rated of the Night Of Thunder colts is Thunderous (Ire). He could well propel Highclere Thoroughbred Racing back into the big time if he can build on his highly encouraging juvenile season in which he posted victories in June, July and August, the last one being in the Listed Denford S.

Sheikh Hamdan has the useful looking Molatham (GB) to represent him this year. Bought from breeder Cheveley Park Stud at Book 2 for 160,000gns, the descendant of Miesque was second to Mums Tipple (Ire) (Footstepsinthesand {GB}) on debut and then won the competitive Convivial Maiden at York before landing the Listed Flying Scotsman S.

Such eye-catching early results saw Night Of Thunder's yearling sales average increase from 56,388gns in 2018 to 81,805gns last season, with 91% of his yearlings offered in 2019 being marked as sold. If his offspring follow a similarly progressive pattern to his own racing career, then Night Of Thunder certainly looks to be a stallion to follow closely in the coming seasons.

Highclere Stud's Cable Bay (Ire) was even faster out of the blocks than Night Of Thunder and, no sooner had the European Flat season started than he was rewarded with his first winner when Archie Watson sent Electric Ladyland (Ire) to score on debut at Lingfield on April 2–eight days before her second birthday. The game filly was out again and winning less then three weeks later and kept a busy schedule throughout the summer, running nine times for three victories and an official rating of 88.

Cable Bay, a Group 2-winning son of the popular Invincible Spirit (Ire), was a winner at two but improved as his career went on to record his two group successes, both over seven furlongs, as a 4-year-old. His eye-catching start as a stallion was maintained throughout the season with 24 individual winners to his credit. Cable Bay's first stakes winner came in July when Liberty Beach (GB) won the Listed Dragon S. at Sandown. Already a dual winner before then, she went on to claim the G3 Molecomb S. and finish second in the G2 Lowther S. for her breeder Philip Wilkins.

Of Cable Bay's top 10 runners, all with an official rating of 85 or more, it is perhaps incidental that only two are colts–the 101-rated Ropey Guest (GB) has to be one of the highest qualified maidens in the land having finished in the first three in four group races last season, while Tomfre (GB) won four of his seven starts and is rated 95.

Yet to be granted an official rating but Cable Bay's highest earner and a colt worth keeping tabs on this year is The Queen's homebred King's Lynn (GB), who was beaten a short-head on his Windsor debut and then won the Weatherbys £300,000 2-Y-O S. at Doncaster for Andrew Balding.

Gleneagles (Ire), who bears such a close physical resemblance to his sire Galileo (Ire), will have his work cut out to resemble his achievements at stud but he made a more than pleasing start in 2019, finishing third in the table. He has two Group 2 winners to his credit–the colts named after fellow Scottish golf courses Royal Lytham (Fr) and Royal Dornoch (Ire), who landed the July S. and Royal Lodge S. respectively–as well as the Royal Ascot winner Southern Hills (Ire), who won the Listed Windsor Castle S.

Gleneagles himself won the 2000 Guineas the year after Night Of Thunder and went on to victory in the Irish version. With the 1000 Guineas winner Marvellous (Ire) and G1 Moyglare Stud S. victrix Happily (Ire) as sisters and Giant's Causeway as his uncle, his family is clearly replete with class. There's good reason to believe that members of his first crop, which has thus far produced 23 winners from 57 starters, will be gracing Classic fields later this year.

Topping the 2019 freshman sires' table numerically was Gutaifan (Ire), who was fourth overall and was represented by 29 winners from his 88 runners. Yeomanstown Stud's son of Dark Angel (Ire) raced solely at two, just like his sire, and in that season won four of his seven starts, including the G2 Prix Robert Papin and G2 Flying Childers S. He was also runner-up in the G1 Prix Morny to Shalaa (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), who could well be one of the leading lights of the 2020 freshman sires' championship.

Eve Johnson Houghton's Graceful Magic (GB) is her sire's leading contender to date, with three wins to her credit and a runner-up finish in the G3 Firth Of Clyde S.

Rathasker Stud had already provided one of the leading freshmen of 2018 in Bungle Inthejungle (GB) and it is also the home of Anjaal (GB), who claimed fifth place with 18 winners. The Hyperion (GB) sireline is dangling by a thread, with Anjaal one of two sons of Bahamian Bounty (GB) at stud in Britain and Ireland along with Pastoral Pursuits (GB), so it would be good to see the former G2 July S. winner build on his encouraging start.

A decent chunk of Anjaal's progeny earnings came from the Weatherbys Super Sprint winner Bettys Hope (GB), who won three of her eight starts for Rod Millman as well as finishing second on another three occasions to earn a total of £145,670 and a rating of 89. Not bad for a £3,000 Tattersalls Ascot yearling.

Whitsbury Manor Stud prides itself on being a prominent source of fast horses in Britain and, behind its flagship stallion Showcasing (GB), the Hampshire farm has a number of young stallions waiting in the wings. At the head of that queue is the War Front horse Due Diligence, a listed-winning sprinter for Aidan O'Brien who was runner-up to Slade Power (Ire) in the G1 Diamond Jubilee S.

Indeed, Due Diligence's two group winners last season were both bred by Whitsbury Manor from mares by the stud's former resident Compton Place (GB). Good Vibes (GB) was on the go early, finishing runner-up at Newmarket's Craven meeting before winning less than a fortnight later at Salisbury. She went on to win the Listed Marygate S. at York the following month and was placed in the G2 Lowther S. before winning her final start of the season, the G3 Cornwallis S.

The 103-rated Streamline notched his third win of the season in the G3 Sirenia S. for Clive Cox, having been bought at the Goffs UK Breeze-up Sale for £13,000 by Philippa Mains–a significant loss for the Manister House Stud team which bought him for 40,000gns as a foal but it was at least some vindication of the colt's early appeal.

Another of Due Diligence's 18 scorers was Sir Boris (GB), who races for his breeders Bob and Pauline Scott of Parks Farm Stud, another treble winner who earned black type when sent to Ireland by Tom Dascombe to win the Listed Blenheim S. and then on to France to finish third in the G2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte.

As previously noted, Ballylinch Stud stands the Dubawi stallion New Bay, who will have his first runners this season, but a year ahead of him at the same stud is a horse from the same sireline, Make Believe (GB), a son of Makfi. Leading the way among his 16 winners was the hardy Rose Of Kildare (Ire)–another yearling who didn't break the bank and was bought for €3,000 by Mark Johnston's son and assistant trainer Charlie. Blustery days on the High Moor at Middleham must have been warmed considerably by the sight of this plucky filly going about her work. The first of her 12 trips to the races in 2019 came on Apr. 30 when she finished second, and within the next month she won twice. A trip to Newmarket in August saw her add a smart fillies' nursery to her CV which was later augmented significantly by consecutive wins in the G3 Firth of Clyde S. and the G3 Oh So Sharp S.

A second group winner for Make Believe came in the form of the German-trained Ocean Fantasy (Fr), while Tammani won the Listed Prix Isonomy for his breeder and Make Believe's racing owner Prince A A Faisal, who was also represented by the 95-rated Mishriff (Ire). The latter won a Nottingham maiden by an impressive 10-length margin and it is perhaps worth noting that this came in heavy ground, as did Tammani's listed success in Deauville, though he was also a winner on good ground in July.

Among the other freshman of last year, Ivawood (Ire) has already left Coolmore to stand at Haras de Mont Goubert in France in the year that his sire Zebedee (GB) died. His 14 winners included the listed victors Sopran Iva (Ire) and Chares (Ger).

Exceed And Excel's son Outstrip (GB) fielded a decent number of first-crop winners, his haul of 21 led by the Listed National S. winner Flippa The Strippa (GB).

Galileo's son Galiway (GB) sneaked into the top 10 of stallions standing in Europe and led the French-based freshman sires with five winners from just 11 runners. These included the G3 Prix la Rochette winner Kenway (Fr), out of the useful Kendam (Fr), herself a Group 3 winner and Group 1-placed daughter of Galiway's stud-mate Kendargent (Fr).

Coolmore's American Pharoah (Pioneerof The Nile) may be based in Kentucky but unsurprisingly a number of the Triple Crown winner's debutants found their way to this part of the world and the stables of Aidan O'Brien, Charlie Appleby and Andre Fabre each supplied him with at least one winner. His leading European representative is Peter Brant's Monarch Of Egypt, who was American Pharoah's first runner in Europe, winning on debut on Apr. 13 and earning 'TDN Rising Star' status and subsequently finishing runner-up in the G1 Keeneland Phoenix S. to Siskin (First Defence). Wesley Ward also launched a successful European raid with Maven, winner of the G3 Prix du Bois.

American Pharoah wasn't the only Kentucky-based stallion to be represented by a first-crop group winner in Europe as Gainesway Farm's GI Breeders' Cup Mile winner Karakontie (Jpn) (Bernstein) is the sire of the unbeaten Kenzai Warrior. The G3 Horris Hill S. winner was bred by John Gunther and bought by Chad Schumer for just $6,000 at Keeneland's September Sale. Later resold by Johnny Collins of Brown Island Stables at the Goffs UK Breeze-up Sale, he still looks well bought, by Geoffrey Howson and Matt Houldsworth in partnership with trainer Roger Teal, at £45,000.

Karakontie, whose five European winners include In The Present for his owner-breeders the Niarchos family, goes into the notebook as a stallion to follow this season, as does Shamardal's German-based son Amaron (GB), whose sole runner in Britain is the 105-rated stakes-placed Run Wild (Ger) from John Gosden's stable.

It will also be fascinating to track the progress of the offspring of Golden Horn (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}) in 2020, bearing in mind he made just one winning appearance in late October as a 2-year-old and 12 months later was named Horse of the Year following his victories in the Derby, Eclipse S., Irish Champion S. and the Arc. His leading runner from eight individual winners to date is the G3 Sweet Solera S. winner West End Girl (GB).

One other factor worth noting in sifting through the offspring of these stallions is that, while the progeny of first-crop sires can often sell at a premium, a number of the stakes winners referenced here were bought for well below their production costs. That's cold comfort for breeders when selling–though black-type updates are always welcome providing the mare has been retained–but it should be seen as extra encouragement for prospective owners, trainers and agents to scour the yearling sales at all levels. A diamond is still a diamond, even when it's found in the rough.

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