One of the bugbears of contemporary breeding is the extreme attention paid to the results of the first-year sires’ standings. The hyper-focus on immediate, short-term racing success drives the market both for stallion prospects and their offspring.
First of all, breeders look at a stallion prospect and ask themselves whether he’ll be a good 2-year-old sire, whether the horse in question was fast and successful in his first season and whether his sire or other close male relatives were top 2-year-olds. Then they ask whether the horse would be a good match for their mare.
Second, buyers at the yearling sales, and most especially the pinhookers, query themselves about whether the yearling in front of them is likely to be a quick and early juvenile. Are his closest relations of a similar racing character? That’s why the breeders were asking the question.
Last of all, the sales of juveniles in training and then the early-season racing, in particular, are stringent tests of the most likely prospects from the first two steps to get out on the racetrack and win races. Some, like Nyquist, will prosper mightily through the process and send their sires soaring into the stratosphere of stallion appreciation.
After the 2017 racing season for 2-year-olds, the results did not send a freshman sire to the stars the way Nyquist and other good juveniles sent their sire, former champion 2-year-old colt Uncle Mo (by Indian Charlie).
To the contrary, the top five earners among the juveniles of 2017 were by household names Quality Road (Caledonia Road), Good Magic (Curlin), Rushing Fall (More Than Ready), Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro), and Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy). Likewise, the top 10 leading sires of juveniles in 2017 were topped by the much-lamented Scat Daddy over Curlin and Into Mischief. Among the top 10, only two freshmen made the scene, with Overanalyze (Dixie Union) and Violence (Medaglia d’Oro) in 8th and 9th of the 10.
Those two finished less than $100,000 apart at the end of an active season for their first-crop runners. Overanalyze had 64 starters from 100 foals of 2015, and Violence had 65 starters from 115 foals. Violence led all North American freshmen sires with 31 winners, and Overanalyze had 26. Each had four stakes winners from his first crop.
With year-earnings of $1.6 and $1.5 million, they stood well clear of the next horses on the list. In third is the only other freshman sire to pass $1 million in progeny earnings last year, but the stallion, A.P. Indy’s son Take Charge Indy, is now in Korea. Take Charge Indy was a markedly talented racehorse who did not pass some academic tests for conformational perfection, and “in-crowd” breeders were racing so quickly away from the horse that the ownership at WinStar Farm was convinced to sell him abroad.
The Versailles, Ky., farm takes courage from the loss by noting that Overanalyze stands there too. Violence stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale, and the next two horses on the freshman list, Shanghai Bobby and Animal Kingdom, stand at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud and Darley‘s Jonabell Farm.
Whereas Take Charge Indy proved a noteworthy surprise for many people, the two young sires immediately below him on the list were on many observers’ short lists of young sires to watch.
In fourth place, Shanghai Bobby was a champion juvenile by Harlan’s Holiday out of a mare by champion sprinter Orientate. The unbeaten 2-year-old Shanghai Bobby had gotten such quick- and progressive-looking yearlings his stud fee rocketed upward before he ever had a starter. By the end of the juvenile sales season, however, the bloom was off the rose for “Bobby.” Consignors and buyers were decidedly tepid in their appreciation of the horse’s 2-year-olds. Comments included “not big enough,” “look like sprinters,” and the ever-dreaded “may need time.”
The gentle reader might expect sellers and buyers of young critters in training would appreciate horses that “look like sprinters,” but that’s really not the case. The market ideal is a young prospect with the size and scope (length and leg) to look like a top miler or classic prospect but to also have the speed to sail through a furlong in about :10.
Don’t want much, do they?
Well, yes, they want everything, and they want it yesterday.
And that makes the fifth-place finish of Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux) all the more interesting. The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner was not a top 2-year-old and only bloomed just in time to make the classic and carry home the roses. He improved as a 4-year-old and, after a lengthy layoff, came back to finish a very smart second to Wise Dan in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile, then won the 2013 Dubai World Cup at 5.
Animal Kingdom is also one of three young sires in the top 10 with a graded stakes winner. The others are the pair immediately following Animal Kingdom, sixth-place Jimmy Creed (Distorted Humor) and seventh-placed Point of Entry (Dynaformer). This trio have proven they can get the required quality in their early performers; if further improvement comes for some of their stock, one or more of these sires could challenge for overall leadership of the sire class this year.