Those paying close attention are usually able to gain some kind of insight from the breeze-up sales, staged from March onwards. The breeze-up community, for instance, were quick to latch to latch on the Night Of Thunder bandwagon while last year, many of them pointed buyers in the direction of Ardad, a bold move considering he stood for just £6,500 – but entirely accurate as it turned out.
On the other hand, there will also be those unable to escape negative comment. It will be interesting to see which horse attracts positive chat this time around.
Scat Daddy Fever
As far as some of the bookies are concerned, however, this year’s first-crop championship by winners is already done and dusted. The ‘winner’ in question is Coolmore’s Sioux Nation, who heads the market at 4/9 and 4/5 with Paddy Power and Fitzdares. Such confidence is understandable given he was a precocious and high-class two-year-old who won the Norfolk and Phoenix Stakes. It’s the kind of juvenile talent often associated with his sire Scat Daddy, who is exerting an increasingly powerful presence in pedigrees; other Coolmore-based sons of Scat Daddy, No Nay Never and Caravaggio, each sired Group 1 winners in their first crops and breeders clearly expect Sioux Nation to take similar high order having provided a level of support that has resulted in 158 two-year-olds bred off a fee of €12,500.
Scat Daddy is also represented in this generation by the American Grade 3 winner Smooth Daddy (Starfield Stud: 2019 fee €5,000), whose first crop of 30 have sold for up to £120,000, and the French pair of Seabhac (Haras de Saint Arnoult: 2019 fee €5,000) and Seahenge (Haras de la Haie Neuve: 2019 fee €5,000), two Group-winning two-year-olds. None of these horses are of the same calibre of various other earlier sire sons of Scat Daddy, so it will be interesting to see if they are capable of maintaining the line’s momentum.
From a public perspective, however, all eyes will be on Roaring Lion. The charismatic grey retired to Tweenhills Farm and Stud having swept the Irish Champion Stakes, Eclipse Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Juddmonte International but sadly succumbed to colic after only one season. He has 90 two-year-olds to represent him bred off a fee of £40,000 including those out of high-class racemares such as Simple Verse, Kiyoshi and Beach Bunny. Led by a half-brother to Subjectivist, his first yearlings sold for up to 450,000gns and averaged 76,848gns.
In keeping with his race record and the profile of his sire Kitten’s Joy, its most likely that we won’t see the best of Roaring Lion’s stock until next year. However, it is worth remembering that he himself was a high-class two-year-old who won the Royal Lodge Stakes and ran a close second in the Racing Post Trophy. So if he were to throw a high-class performer or two this year, it would be no surprise. As it is, Paddy Power and Fitzdares are divided in their opinion, with Paddy Power offering 9/1 and Fitzdares 16/1.
In what promises to be a big year for Tweenhills, 2022 also marks the debuts of its shuttle sire Zoustar. The son of Northern Meteor isn’t strictly a first-crop sire, having supplied five crops in his native Australia, out of which he has sired two Group 1 winners. Nevertheless, he is available to back for champion first-crop sire honours with Fitzdares at 5/2. Not every reverse shuttler makes it in Europe – there have been some high-profile disasters over the years – but Zoustar is at least a proven speed influence whose first European crop contains an array of well-bred individuals, as befits a horse who stood the 2019 season for £25,000.
I was also a big fan of Tweenhills’ other horse, Lightning Spear (2019 fee £5,000), when he was racing. Few horses are capable of putting together his kind of record, one that featured a win in the Sussex Stakes alongside seven Group 1 placings, and if his progeny have inherited even a measure of his durability and zest for racing, they will be ok. Sadly, he is restricted by fertility problems but a number of his small first crop are in good hands.
I’m also looking forward to seeing the first runners by Saxon Warrior (Coolmore: 2019 fee €30,000). Obviously he was an excellent horse, as winner of the 2,000 Guineas and Racing Post Trophy, but there is also additional interest in him being the first European-based son of Deep Impact at stud. So far, Deep Impact possesses a mixed record as a sire of sires in Japan, with the successes of Kizuna and Silver State offset by the disappointments of Deep Brillante, A Shin Hikari and Spielberg.
Saxon Warrior has not lacked for opportunity, his 111-strong first crop containing the offspring of top mares such as Cassandra Go and Gilt Edge Girl. The colt out of Cassandra Go was listed as selling for €540,000 as a yearling last year and is one of four 2yos for the sire registered so far as in training with Aidan O’Brien. William Haggas, Richard Hannon, Roger Varian and Andrew Balding are others with Saxon Warrior 2yos in their yard.
Paddy Power have priced Saxon Warrior at 6/1 to be champion first-crop sire. In light of his own race record and the fact he’s a good-sized, strong horse himself, expect his progeny to progress as the season goes on. Having said that, he is out of a champion 2yo in Maybe, who was forward enough to win the Chesham Stakes, so there’s also reason to hope that the odd fast 2yo could come his way.
Also unsurprisingly well represented in various major yards is Juddmonte’s top miler Expert Eye (Banstead Manor Stud: 2019 fee £20,000). There is a lot to recommend Expert Eye; not only was he a Group 1-winning miler but also a Group 2 winner at two and represents the same Acclamation sire line as Dark Angel and Mehmas. In addition, he has the backing of Juddmonte, who not only bred six of his first crop but paid 290,000gns and 140,000gns for members of his first crop at auction last year. In other words, he has been given every chance to succeed and can be backed at 12/1.
Cracksman’s price of 50/1 with Fitzdares might come as a surprise to the racing fan. He was a champion at three and four, when his performances were highlighted by two wide-margin wins in the QIPCO British Champion Stakes. The Darley resident is also the first son of Frankel to stud and has 120 2yos to run for him bred by a number of Europe’s leading breeders off a fee of £25,000. However, he himself ran only the once at two, when successful in a back-end Newmarket maiden, and as a good-sized, rangey horse who is so far generally throwing to type, is likely to be better judged at stud once his progeny hit their 3yo season.
Numbers are also not an issue for Whitsbury Manor Stud’s Havana Grey (2019 fee: £8,000), who has 113 two-year-olds to represent him. Sharp enough to win the Molecomb Stakes and run second in the Prix Morny at two before striking in the Flying Five Stakes at three, it stands to reason that he should throw precocious sorts – his stock certainly looked the part at last year’s sales. As such, it’s no surprise to see him priced around the 9/4 mark.
Similarly, Darley’s Harry Angel (2019 fee: £20,000) was a Group 2 scorer at two who trained on into a champion sprinter at three, when his performances included wins in the July Cup and 32Red Sprint Cup. He was one of the more expensive new stallions of 2019 and hit the headlines last year when supplying the £220,000 top lot at the Goffs UK Premier Sale. That colt is now named Redemption Time and in training with Harry Angel’s former handler Clive Cox.
With 103 two-year-olds on the ground, Harry Angel has enough ammunition to make an impact. Granted, Dark Angel’s reputation as a successful sire of sires could be stronger but against that, Harry Angel is by far the best son of his to retire to stud to date.
Coolmore’s US Navy Flag (2019 fee: €25,000) also boasts a number of credentials to be successful. A tough two-year-old, he was the first horse since Diesis in 1981 to sweep the Middle Park and Dewhurst Stakes double and trained on to win the July Cup. He’s well-bred too, being a son of champion Misty For Me, while his stock, which sold for up to €290,000 last year, have earned positive reviews from various good judges.
Having said that, the gloss has come off his sire War Front – indeed, US Navy Flag remains the sole son of War Front at stud worldwide for Coolmore, once such staunch supporters – and a group of 70 first-crop representatives is a low enough figure for a horse from that operation who stood his first season for €25,000. Even so, a price of 100/1 looks generous.
Nailed on to throw sharp types is Kessaar (2019 fee: €6,000). Few more lines are more potent when it comes to good two-year-olds than that belonging to his sire Kodiac. What’s more, Kodiac is developing into a serious sire of sires and in Kessaar, here is a Group 2-winning son based at Kodiac’s home of Tally-Ho Stud. The O’Callaghan’s operation has housed the past two champion first-crop sires, Cotai Glory and Mehmas, and while a first crop of 77 compromises Kessaar’s prospects of making it three in a row, no one should be surprised if he ends the year near the top of the list in terms of prize-money. His first yearlings looked the part and the early breeze-up chat on them is positive.
Nor would it be surprising to see Shadwell’s Tasleet (2019 fee: £6,000) quick out of the blocks. A well-bred son of speed influence Showcasing, he was a high-class sprinter who landed stakes successes at two, three and four, and had yearlings sell for up to 80,000gns. Like Kessaar, a first crop of around 70 doesn’t make it straightforward but the attributes are there for him to throw a smart horse or two.
Indeed, this is a generation littered with fast horses whose supporters are likely to know their fate early.
Gustav Klimt (Coolmore: 2019 fee €7,500), for example, was a Group 2-winning two-year-old who was Group 1-placed over 6f to a mile at three. He operates at the lower end of the market but he’s bred for the job as a Galileo relation to Invincible Spirit and Kodiac; for that sector of the market questioning him for his size (he is a neat horse listed standing at 15.2), it is worth remembering that this isn’t a family renowned for throwing big horses (indeed his granddam Rafha was famously described as ‘knee high to a bumble bee’). He might just surprise a few people.
The same Rafha family sits behind James Garfield (2019 fee: €7,000). Also a fast Group 2 winner at two who was Group 1-placed at three, he doesn’t have numbers on his side (46) but against that, the backing of Rathbarry Stud – the operation behind Acclamation and Kodi Bear – counts for plenty.
Precocity is also likely to be a theme behind Oak Lodge Stud’s Unfortunately (£7,500), a fast winner of the Prix Morny who boasts representation with Kevin Ryan, Richard Fahey and Richard Hannon, and Coventry Stakes winner Rajasinghe (The National Stud; £3,000), who shares his sire Choisir with Starspangledbanner; the latter has barely 30 2yos on the ground but he does at least have the determined backing of Rebel Racing, in whose colours he ran.
Washington DC (Bearstone Stud; 2019 fee £3,500) was another high-class juvenile whose success in the Windsor Castle Stakes at two was backed up by a placed effort in the Prix de l’Abbaye at three and a Group 3 success at four. The sole son of Zoffany at stud in Britain and Ireland, he has close to 50 2yos to run for him.
Group 2 winner Massaat (Mickley Stud; £5,000) has 70 2yos on the ground and has every right to make an impact this year having run second in the Dewhurst Stakes himself. He’s a well-bred horse and is another who could surprise a few people.
A fascinating group of first-crop stallions that includes several real stars of their generation. For me, Saxon Warrior possesses the ammunition to be interesting at 10/1 with Fitzdares. Kessaar, as a high-class son of Kodiac with the backing of Tally-Ho Stud, would also appear poised to make an impact, especially as the chat on him so far appears positive.