Powerful Start A Boost For Ardad

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Ardad at Overbury with his former jockey Frankie Dettori | Sarah Farnsworth

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It could be said that there's a stallion to suit all types of breeder at Overbury Stud, and the farm that was for so long synonymous with Britain's perennial leading National Hunt sire Kayf Tara (GB) now has a budding star of a very different type.

Ardad (Ire) finished 2021 as the leading first-season sire in Britain and was second overall to Cotai Glory (GB), who stands at Tally-Ho Stud, where Ardad was himself bred and where his sire Kodiac (GB) has long been king of the hill. 

Now eight, Ardad has so far pretty much done what could have been expected of him. On the track he was fast and early, with the high point of his racing career being his victory in the G2 Flying Childers S. From what we have seen of his progeny so far, they appear to be following suit: so much so that when the first bunch of runners from Ardad's first crop turned into a number of early winners, his book for last year suddenly leapt by around an extra 100 mares. 

If rock bands suffer from that 'difficult second album' syndrome, it's fair to say that the stallion equivalent is the difficult third book. Or fourth. In Ardad's case, however, those winners coming so early in the season meant that breeders were still able to take the opportunity of the final month of the covering season instead of waiting until this year either to renew their support or to use Ardad for the first time. But a graph plotting his covering numbers in his short stud career to date would clearly highlight the precarious nature of the stallion business. From 132 mares in his first season of 2018, Ardad then dipped to 70 in 2019 before slumping to 26 and then shooting back up to 156 last year. This year he will cover approximately 175 mares. 

Casting his mind back to last spring, Overbury Stud's Simon Sweeting says, “We had 60-odd mares booked before the racing season started and we actually had got through a lot of those mares and then [his offspring] started winning. He had that four or five quick bursts of winners and the mares started coming in. We booked another hundred and he got through those, got them covered well through the second half of the season. So we are confident that he will be able to cover plenty of mares, but also equally determined not to over-face him and to try to keep the quality of the mares as high as we possibly can. And we're very fortunate that he is being sent some really super mares.”

He adds, “My figure is 175. It may be a little bit more, it won't be 200 though. I'm absolutely determined that we won't do that.”

It has been noted on a number of occasions by those who have been associated with Ardad's stock that they are gifted with an agreeable temperament which allows them to switch on when work is required and quickly switch off again once it's over. His dual Group 1-winning son Perfect Power (Ire) appears to be an almost textbook example of this if photos of him flat out asleep in racecourse stables ahead of major assignments are anything to go by. Sweeting notes that it is a trait common to their sire.

“He's one of those that can be relaxed one moment, cover a mare and be relaxed straight away after,” he says. “So he hasn't been a moment's problem with us in doing anything really. He's got great libido, but a horse can have great libido and still be fairly easy to handle.”

He continues, “He was always the same. To look at, he was exactly what you expected, apart from the fact that he's got this fabulous stride and it is passed on to his foals too.”

A quartet of sons of Kodiac had retired to stud the year before Ardad, with Prince Of Lir (Ire), Kodi Bear (Ire) and Coulsty (Ire) all standing in Ireland and Adaay (Ire) standing principally in England before being relocated to Italy. Another six of his sons have joined the ranks since 2019, with Ubettabelieveit (Ire) being the only new recruit in England at Mickley Stud.

Sweeting says, “A few years ago, you'd look at the list of stallions available in Britain and there just wasn't a proven sire below £15,000. In that bracket, if you are sending a mare to give her a first go, to a horse that's got a very good chance of throwing you a winner, you don't want to spend £25,000.

“They just were not about but now there's Time Test, there's Ardad, Havana Gold, and Havana Grey might turn into that sort of horse. So there is a lot more for a UK-based breeder to choose from rather than having to go to Ireland for that inexpensive, but decent quality horse. They were either here unproven or way out of most people's price range.”

Ardad himself started out at £6,500, a fee that remained in place for three seasons until it was dropped to £4,000 in 2021. For this season his price has gone up, but at £12,500 it is not an eye-watering rise.

“There's got to be something left for the breeder,” says Sweeting when asked if he was tempted to give Ardad a heftier hike. “And also I know from bitter experience that if people pay a lot of money for a horse who then has a couple of disappointing years, they will never forgive that stallion, however things turn out down the line. I don't want to have to pull his price back down again. And I always want people to think that he's been a fair price. We want our customers coming back in four or five years' time and that's really had a strong effect on how we set it. Yes, it could have been £15,000–I don't think it sensibly could have been much more than that–but I think with the balance of the quality of mares that we have and the numbers, we've got it just about right, with hopefully the chance of breeders still being able to make some money.”

Certainly the returns for Ardad's stock have risen in line with his profile, and a lot of the early buzz can be attributed to a number of breeze-up pinhookers taking a chance on his first yearlings and being well rewarded when selling them the following year. His yearling averages rose from 15,327gns in 2020 for 49 sold to 53,133gns last year for 30 of the 31 to have passed through the ring, while foal averages climbed from 9,696gns to 14,400gns to the 2021 high of 32,636gns.

Continuing to deliver horses of the quality of Classic prospect Perfect Power also won't hurt him, and though there may rightly be a question mark over the ability of Ardad's offspring seeing out the mile, Perfect Power is out of Sagely (Ire) (Frozen Power {Ire}), herself a winner over 10 furlongs, while granddam Saga Celebre (Fr) is not only the daughter of an Arc winner in Peintre Celebre but a half-sister to another, Sagamix (Fr), who also stood for a time at Overbury. Another of Saga Celebre's half-siblings is Shastye (Ire) (Danehill), the dam of Japan (GB) and Mogul (GB).

The number of foot soldiers for Ardad, who was also represented last year by the Group 3-winning filly Eve Lodge, will of course dip in the coming seasons, with his current crop of yearlings numbering just 18.

“Most of the trainers that have got the Ardads that have just turned three, they were saying at the end of last year, 'actually I think this horse is going to train on', and they wouldn't be saying that if they didn't have good reason for it,” says Sweeting.

“So, yes, he's got two smaller crops to come, but luckily not a third. If he hadn't had his first winners until the middle of May, which he could have done and still have been a very good stallion, he would've only covered 65 mares last year.”

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