Chris McGrath

Value Sires For '23: Part VI, Earning Their Stripes

And so we come to the abyss: that giddy phase between launching your first juveniles and being able to claim a viable niche in this most unforgiving of marketplaces. Yes, for those few young stallions that do manage to seize their fleeting opportunity, a narrow path can rise rapidly towards lucrative heights. Most of the others, however, find themselves clinging to a crumbling ledge. Whatever you do, don't look down! It's easy to disparage the robotic tendencies of the commercial market. Too easy, certainly, for me to have neglected the...

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This Side Up: Lecomte Starts a New Cycle

And so we begin anew. The GIII Lecomte S. always warms the heart: it's like noticing the first buds on the bare trees, as the quiet midwinter promise--familiar, expected, miraculous--of another spring to come.

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This Side Up: Lecomte Starts a New Cycle

And so we begin anew. The GIII Lecomte S. always warms the heart: it's like noticing the first buds on the bare trees, as the quiet midwinter promise--familiar, expected, miraculous--of another spring to come. In trees, each new cycle is nourished by past decay: by roots extending into soil enriched by the leaves discarded at the end of the previous one. And actually it's not dissimilar with selective breeding, so that each generation can recycle its speed, stamina, beauty, bravery. The world may be a very different place, on and...

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Value Sires for '23: Part V, First Sophomores

Today we finally come to a group that has at least had some initial opportunity to show whether or not they can replicate their own racing prowess. By the same token, of course, this means that their level of support--which in many cases will already have declined through each preceding year, as racetrack exposure draws perilously closer--may now fall off a cliff. If the stampede to unproven sires is ludicrous, then so is the haste with which they are abandoned. Stallions whose stock should plainly be granted time to mature...

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Value Sires for '23, Part IV: First Runners Due

No getting away from it, the young stallions we assess today have already completed their service to many breeders. They've processed a debut crop of yearlings, often on an industrial scale, and many have obliged with the kind of averages that vindicate the familiar, self-fulfilling commercial cycle that so favors new sires: demand generating supply, and the quality incidental to that increased supply in turn increasing demand. That leaves us with another tricky podium. You can't just congratulate those who have "won" on this system, topping out the first-crop yearling...

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Value Sires For 2023 – Part II: First Foals Due

The group we consider today for now retains a convenient gloss, still in the happy position of offering "all talk, no action." But they will actually have got as far as delivering their first flesh-and-bone foals into the straw by the time they start receiving their second book of mares. And many of the people who exploited their novelty value last year will automatically have moved on to the next intake of rookies, rather than expose themselves to the peril that the market won't like a debut crop. Foals conceived...

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Value Sires For 2023 – Part I: New Stallions

Welcome to our annual assessment of Bluegrass sire prospects for the approaching covering season. As last year, we're going to confine our focus largely to a "Value Podium" for each intake--rather than attempt, as in the past, an exhaustive (not to say exhausting) assessment of every stallion in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Believe me, it wasn't always easy to find something adequately civil to say about every last one! But the fact is that this is only ever one person's opinion and, as such, a hopelessly subjective exercise. By restricting...

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This Side Up: Style And Substance To Light Up Cigar

Strictly, it's the very reverse of what he's doing—which is actually to revert from two turns to one. In a sense, however, the return of Zandon (Upstart) to Aqueduct on Saturday will bring things full circle. For it was on the equivalent card last year that he began what has turned into a pretty frustrating sequence of races where, for one reason or another, he arguably hasn't quite realized his full potential. When you consider that these include the GI Kentucky Derby itself, that shows how much raw ability he...

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Bolt d'Oro an Instant Hit

As we saw in the GI Breeders' Cup Distaff, if there's anything more exciting than a duel to the wire, it's the intrusion of a third nose. And that's pretty much the way a remarkable contest for the freshman sires' title is playing out entering the stretch. The first thing to stress is that it really shouldn't matter which of the stallions involved happens to bank the critical extra cents to claim the crown. That won't be how the marketing teams of their respective farms are viewing things, naturally, but...

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This Side Up: A Game of Accident and Design

We can harness Thoroughbreds to our best and worst, to our altruism or avarice--but thankfully we will never alter the essential, inherent wonder of the breed, nor maintain the illusion that we are ever truly in control of its destiny. There's a genuine possibility, this weekend, that a German colt could elevate himself to the top of the global sophomore crop by winning the G1 Japan Cup. Yet Tünnes (Ger) (Guiliani {Ire}) was a wholly inadvertent acquisition at the Baden-Baden yearling sales, his purchaser having dropped out at €20,000 only...

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This Side Up: Where the Ice of Fashion Melts

What do these stallions have in common: Competitive Edge, First Samurai, Include, First Dude, Majesticperfection, Midnight Lute and Noble Mission (GB)? Okay, so you could also add A.P. Indy, Into Mischief, Lope de Vega (Ire), Medaglia d'Oro and Quality Road to the mix. But you would hope so, too, if you happen to be one of those highly paid advisors who tell their patrons that the only way to start a breeding program is with most expensive covers around. Because these are the dozen sires responsible for mares that made...

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This Side Up: Billion Dollar Babies are Here

It's a long time now, some 40 years or so, since Nelson Bunker Hunt's notorious observation that "a billion dollars isn't what it used to be". Which presumably means that today it's no longer even quite what it was, back when it wasn't what it used to be. After all, we've just seen the dispersal of a single art collection--assembled by the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft--realize $1.5 billion. Nonetheless it feels as though the transatlantic yearling market, in 2022, has reached a pretty historic landmark in tipping 10...

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