Even if most racing is delayed, we're all hoping it will get underway sometime this spring or early summer, if for no other reason than so we can all find out the answer to our annual favorite question. We surveyed some top judges on who their leading first-crop sire is, and to give us some under-the-radar picks as well.
Uncle Mo will have a really good look as a “sire of sires” this year with Laoban, Outwork and Nyquist all entering the breeding shed as freshman sires in 2020. The question is, can they all co-exist and at the top level? That being said, Nyquist ranks as my selection for leading freshman sire of 2020, with Runhappy (for Mattress Mack's sake), as an honorable mention and Exaggerator as an “under the radar” stallion.
As a racehorse, Nyquist was the best of his class early on (champion 2-year-old) and into his 3-year-old season, with an ability to both sprint and route and, of course, win at a Classic distance in the Kentucky Derby. While not as masculine and scopey as his Uncle Mo counterparts, his physical stability and psyche comprised a tenacious spirit on the racetrack which I believe will be seen in his foals, and especially early! With his first-crop yearling average ranking number one at $236,000 and judging by what I've seen from his progeny as 2-year-olds in training, my expectations are in line with what the market trends reflect.
Runhappy, brought to you by Mattress Mack, has undoubtedly been given the strongest campaign support since Ronald Reagan and as a result, along with the incentives provided, has garnered plenty of support to springboard his success for his freshman year. As a son of the fairly precocious Super Saver, his first book of mares include 34% who won at the age of two are the producers of 27% winners to date. Although Runhappy did not reveal himself as a precocious type while peaking in the midst of his sophomore season, my belief is that with his natural speed and having not raced on Lasix, this will give his progeny a leg up early on.
Although I see Exaggerator as a stallion whose progeny will thrive at longer distances, he proved his mettle at a very early age, not to mention with a conservative handler in Keith Desormeaux. They were steady market sellers as weanlings to yearlings, and from what I've seen of thus far, they've evolved nicely as 2-year-olds, exhibiting good balance and aptitude, while selling reasonably well at the recently concluded OBS March sale. He's one to watch for sure.