By Kevin Blake
Which stallion does the data say is the outstanding sire-of-sires in Britain and Ireland? The answer will surprise you.
We often hear chat about a stallion's ability as a sire-of-sires being bandied about, but it is less common to see it examined in a more detailed and data-driven manner.
First and foremost, my personal opinion is that using a stallion's record as a sire-of-sires is one of the most brutally harsh measures in all of bloodstock on which to judge a horse. In short, the reality is that the vast majority of stallions do not prove to be long-term commercial successes.
Consider this. I recently conducted a study to answer the question of what percentage of Flat stallions are a commercial success in the long run. It included every stallion that commenced their covering careers in Britain and Ireland from 2002 to 2014 inclusive and monitored the fluctuations of their published nomination fee. For the purpose of this study, long-term commercial success for a stallion was defined as standing for the same or a higher nomination fee in their 10th year at stud as they had in their first season.
The study included a total of 186 stallions ranging from those that started from as low as £3,000 all the way up to Frankel who began covering at a fee of £125,000. What percentage of that sample qualified as a long-term commercial success by the above definition? Just 17.7% of them. To hammer it down further, only 8% of them stood their 10th season at double their initial fee or higher. Just 3.8% of them stood at four times or more their initial fee in year 10.
So, for a stallion to do enough to be considered even a reasonably good sire-of-sires is extremely difficult from a statistical perspective. With the very best sires tending to produce the most sons that are given a chance at stud, a top-class sire becoming considered a capable sire-of-sires can be something of a self-fulfilling prophesy. In comparison, even very successful stallions outside of the elite may only get a handful of opportunities for their sons to advertise their father's ability as a sire-of-sires, so the odds are very much stacked against them doing so.
Mind, when one examines the rarified air of stallions that stood for €50,000 or more in Britain and Ireland in 2023 in search of the most notable sires of sires, there is a surprise in store.
Just two stallions are responsible for two or more individual sire sons that feature on this list of the best of the best.
The first is Dubawi through his top-class sire sons New Bay and Night Of Thunder. This won't be a major surprise to anyone given that Dubawi is one of the greatest sires of recent decades. He already has over 50 individual Group/Grade 1 winners to his name and more than 25 of his sons have been given a chance as stallions.
But, who is the other? It must surely be Galileo, Shamardal, Invincible Spirit or some other highly-credentialed star stallion?
It is Acclamation, via his exceptional sire sons Dark Angel and Mehmas.
The pride of Rathbarry Stud has been a wonderful sire for so many breeders since starting his stallion career at a fee of €10,000 in 2004. However, in terms of producing top-class runners, he doesn't have the numbers to compare to the very best sires around. He has had six Group/Grade 1 winners in his career to date, which is a wonderful tally judged against all other stallions, but it is a relatively small number in the context of the very best sires in Europe. For example, Galileo, Dubawi, Shamardal and Invincible Spirit have had over 200 individual Group/Grade 1 winners between them.
The performance of Acclamation's sons on the track has translated to just seven of his sons being given the opportunity to stand at stud in Britain or Ireland over the years. When one looks at them in more detail, the magnitude of what Acclamation has achieved as a sire-of-sires starts to become clear.
Despite just two of his seven sire sons having achieved RPRs of 120 or higher on the track and the seven of them having started their stallion careers at an average nomination fee of around €12,000, this group of sires have punched incredibly well above their weight.
Five of the seven have produced at least one Group 1 winner. Four of them have produced multiple Group 1 winners. Of the two that haven't produced a Group 1 winner, it should be noted that Expert Eye's oldest progeny are just three-year-olds this year so it is still early days for him.
However, the real story of Acclamation as a sires of sires is that his sons Dark Angel and Mehmas have risen to elite status as stallions. They both rank up amongst the very best in Europe as sires of sprinter/milers and are members of the very exclusive club of stallions that have risen to a fee four times or more of their initial fee. Dark Angel has had 14 individual Group/Grade 1 winners as a sire and 10 of his own sons have already been given the chance to stand as sires in Britain and Ireland. Despite Mehmas's oldest progeny only being five-year-olds, he has sired four individual Group/Grade 1 winners and four of his sons are already standing at stud in Britain and Ireland.
All told, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to describe Acclamation's record as a sire-of-sires as being a statistical sensation.
While Acclamation is still going strong at Rathbarry Stud at the age of 24, whether he can produce another stallion son to further enhance his incredible record as a sire-of-sires remains to be seen. If we have already seen the last son of Acclamation retire to stud, Dark Angel and Mehmas are well on their way to continuing his remarkable legacy as a sire-of-sires. What a legacy it is.