By Robert D. Fierro
Following the completion of the last major 2-year-old sale of the season in each of the past two years, we looked at the potential success of the freshman sires by creating a handicapping event, noting both times that the freshman sires of 2018 and 2019 were very competitive bunches, i.e., many of them were capable of rising to the top five or so of their contemporaries after a few crops had raced.
This year there was a substantial wrinkle in the process. Because of the Covid-19 situation, the sales season ended in mid-July rather than mid-June with a substantial lag-time between the OBS March sale (which was held on time in mid-March) and the next sale (OBS April), which was held in early June. Then the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale (EASMAY) was moved from May to the end of June and OBS June to the middle of July.
Thus, by the time our statistical analysis had been done, a number of these stallions, especially the ones who were very successful at the sales, already had several initial winners from both the OBSMAR sale and private stables to potentially prejudice our selections.
However, let's be clear about this: Our task is to lay odds on how the offspring of these sires are likely to compete over the long term, not to identify the Leading Freshman Sire–although both outcomes could be the case in some years. We concentrated our interest on Freshmen of 2020 stallions that had at least 10 of their offspring which breezed at the four major 2-year-old sales.
While we look at pedigrees in context of commercial appeal, we utilize only video and biomechanical data to assist us in our prognostications. The video data details how their offspring compared as individuals to all the other 2-year-olds which breezed regardless of their sires. The components of this data are included in DataTrack's BreezeFigs™ service which is partially based on breeze time, stride length, and efficiency of angulation. Since 2006, this product has been utilized at sales by buyers and sellers, as well as being offered every day as a handicapping tool at Daily Racing Form's website.
We also took into consideration the results of stallion projection profiles which were compiled in 2017 when these horses went to stud. These profiles are based on biomechanical measurements and the probabilities of these stallions siring race-efficient foals from books of biomechanically balanced mares.
We also took into consideration the biomechanical profiles of more than 250 of their offspring taken at the 2020 2-year-old and the 2019 yearling sales.
As mentioned, we limited our interest to stallions that had at least 10 offspring that breezed at the four major sales–that came down to 18 that began their careers in Kentucky (two have since been exported), and one each in New York and Florida. In addition, we separated each sire's offspring by sex and in the process discovered that while a few had solid data for both colts and fillies, several others were stronger for one sex. However, several, including some with huge crops represented, returned disappointing results for both sexes.
The 18 Kentucky stallions are separated into three groups according to stud fees that were in effect when they retired to stud–theoretically, they are competing against each other in “races” according to a hypothetical Condition Book. They are listed below in Future Book order with a comment or two along the way.
Group 1 (Stud Fee = $20,000 Plus, Kentucky)
7-to-2 Runhappy (Super Saver)
6-to-1 California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit)
8-to-1 Air Force Blue (War Front)
10-to-1 Exaggerator (Curlin)
Comment: The sires with first foals of 2020 is the first crop to come to the races by sons of Uncle Mo, and there probably could not be more of a crystal-ball challenge as to how he would carry on than to note right at the start that as a physical type, the average-sized Nyquist is no Uncle Mo, while the other two sons to be examined (Outwork and Laoban) are large, near-spitting images of their sire. On the track Nyquist was the more accomplished of the trio, but what is curious is that he was less represented at both the 2-year-old sales and last year's yearling sales than one might expect. However, his babies breezed almost uniformly well, and though they are likely to come along a bit later than some might expect, he is our pick for the long-term leader of this crop. Frosted either took your breath away, or you tore up your tickets in frustration when he raced, but his kids brought a deal of quality to their breezes and look the part. For all his ubiquity as a sponsor, Runhappy had fewer breezers than would be expected (as was the case as yearlings), but the ones that showed up showed a certain flair and they should be fun. California Chrome, now in Japan, is probably not destined to come back, but what he left behind will make him an interesting challenger for Freshman Sire honors. Air Force Blue and Mshawish look like their kids are going to want to go a bit more than the Condition Book wants until October, but they should be decent two-turners. Exaggerator flooded the market, and they look to be competitive at all distances.
Group 2 ($10,000 to $19,999 Kentucky)
2-to-1 Not This Time (Giant's Causeway)
5-to-2 Brody's Cause (Giant's Causeway)
5-to-2 Speightster (Speightstown)
8-to-1 Anchor Down (Tapit)
8-to-1 Upstart (Flatter)
10-to-1 Tourist (Tiznow)
10-to-1 Vancouver (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro)
Comment: This is the crowd that got the tongues wagging and wallets open with Not This Time seeming to turn the tables at the sales on his more racing-accomplished former stablemate Brody's Cause. Although by the same sire, they still identified themselves through their offspring with Not This Time getting a speedier type, which is not to denigrate Brody's Cause as you can tell from our Morning Line. Not This Time was often challenged on the track and in the ring by Speightster's kids who came out on fire and refused to be dampened. They are going to help him this year and every other one on the 2-year-old sire lists, and they are likely to play “catch me if you can” for a long time to come. Outwork had a plethora of representatives and reminded people of his sire, and so did his offspring; he is a strong long-term challenger. Upstart gained many followers with his performers, and they should be consistent and versatile competitors, as should those by Anchor Down. The Tourists may need some time to get themselves together, but should like two turns. The now-exported (to his home country) Vancouver (Aus) was a pleasant surprise, and this crop will have tons of speed, so he may be back.
Group 3 ($5,000 to $9,999 Kentucky & Regional)
2-to-1 Cinco Charlie (Indian Charlie)
5-to-2 Ironicus (Distorted Humor)
5-to-1 Jess's Dream (Curlin) (Florida)
8-to-1 Laoban (Uncle Mo) (New York)
Comment: Cinco Charlie is not likely to be as versatile a stallion as Uncle Mo even though they are both by Indian Charlie, but his offspring were so consistent that he has earned the “Surprise of the Crop” designation. As a result, he should be around a while. Ironicus just snuck in with 11 who breezed, but they were consistent, and sons of Distorted Humor often arch eyebrows favorably. Jess's Dream had a tribe out there, and they looked like his pedigree may very well come through (by Curlin out of Rachel Alexandra). Laoban pretty much has the market to himself in New York, but some of them could break out across the country and put him on other maps.
Bob Fierro is a partner with Jay Kilgore and Frank Mitchell in DataTrack International, biomechanical consultants and developers of BreezeFigs. He can be reached at [email protected].