The difficult second book

Freshmen are all the rage but can suffer from dwindling support in subsequent years more »

Monday, March 31, 2014

There is no shortage of evidence on both sides of the Atlantic that breeders suffer from what could be described as Dwindling Faith Syndrome where unproven stallions are concerned. While many are more than happy to flock to first-season stallions, their support frequently ebbs over the next few years. This can have a long-term effect both on the stallion’s career, effectively sentencing him to recurring peaks and troughs, and can also have an adverse effect on the breeders’ bank balance.

This syndrome was perfectly illustrated by the early years of Dark Angel’s stallion career. Fresh from his victory in the 2007 Middle Park Stakes, the son of Acclamation covered 114 mares in his first season. Memories had begun to fade 12 months later, when Dark Angel’s book rose no higher than 79 and his third season saw him cover 60 mares, for 38 foals. By the time those relatively scarce third-crop youngsters were old enough to go to the yearling sales, Dark Angel had established himself as Ireland’s leading first-crop sire of 2011 and was also well on his way to a top-15 finish on the general sires’ list of 2012.

Fast Company was based at Rathasker, a stud with a reputation for ‘making’ stallions

The market-place response was dramatic, with Dark Angel’s third-crop youngsters, sired at a fee of €7,000, selling for up to 200,000gns.

The unwillingness of some breeders to support second- and third-season stallions can be much more pronounced in the US, with the consequent fall in numbers making it very hard for a stallion to maintain any initial success. Dabirsim, France’s champion two-year-old of 2011, is by Hat Trick, a leading Japanese miler whose first crop numbered 69 foals. In addition to Dabirsim, these 69 included the smart American performers King David (Grade 1), Bright Thought (Grade 2) and Howe Great (Grade 3), so Hat Trick started very brightly. Unfortunately his next three crops contained 43, 20 and 19 foals, making it difficult for Hat Trick to add to his reputation. However, one of those third-crop yearlings sold for $190,000, off a $7,500 fee. With a 2013 crop of 108 foals, he has every chance to make up for lost time.

Another exciting American colt to flaunt his ability in Europe is No Nay Never, a son of Scat Daddy. Although Scat Daddy was a Grade 1 winner at two and three, breeders were quick to move on after sending him 162 mares in his first year. The second-year total stood at 100 mares and he is credited with only 53 live foals in his third year, with No Nay Never being one of those 53. Those third-crop yearlings averaged $77,940 in 2012, off a $15,000 fee, and five sold for between $150,000 and $250,000.

Breeders were quick to see their error. With his fee set at only $10,000 in his fourth season, Scat Daddy’s popularity was fully restored and he sired 131 foals from 191 mares. Demand rose to 217 mares in 2012, after the first crop by the Ashford stallion had consistently highlighted his merits, and 2013’s total was 171 mares at a fee of $30,000, so Scat Daddy appears to have come through unscathed.

Scat Daddy is based at Ashford, Coolmore’s sister stud in Kentucky. It is interesting that even an operation as powerful as Coolmore isn’t always able to buck the trend where Dwindling Faith Syndrome is concerned. Although Lookin At Lucky led his generation at two and three, his first three years saw his book go from 156 to 104 and then to 94. Galileo’s son Cape Blanco joined the Ashford team a year later and was initially so popular that he covered more mares – 220 – than any other American stallion. Year two, though, saw support fall to 141. Uncle Mo, another recruit to Ashford in 2012, was also in great demand in his first year, with a book of 211, but he then received 129 in 2013.

The figures suggest that the second year can be more difficult than the third for a young American stallion. With many breeders deciding their mating plans before a stallion’s first foals are born, they have no added incentive to use a second-year stallion. However, it isn’t uncommon for a stallion to restore his popularity with some good prices at the weanling sales. Uncle Mo is likely to come into this category in 2014, as he was the leading first-crop sire at the 2013 weanling sales.

There were two striking examples of this among the new Kentucky stallions in 2011. Quality Road, a top-class son of Elusive Quality, covered 91 mares in his second season, after an initial book of 149, but an average price of $122,857 for his first weanlings was enough to boost his third-year figure to 136. Majesticperfection, a very fast son of Harlan’s Holiday, went from 128 mares in his first year to 63 in his second. Then his first weanlings averaged $55,000, with a top price of $145,000, off a $10,000 fee and his book soared back to 130 in 2013. Majesticperfection also illustrates how outside influences also play their part. His sire Harlan’s Holiday had ended 2012 as North America’s champion sire of two-year-olds.

Sireline is important
It also helps if a young stallion has a sire who is making his name as a sire of sires. No-one is currently doing better in that department than Galileo, following the bright starts made by New Approach and Teofilo. It is no surprise, then, that the third book of his accomplished son Rip Van Winkle is also his biggest at 153.

Coolmore must be hoping that results at the 2013 foal sales will also provide a shot in the arm to three stallions who joined the team in 2012. Canford Cliffs, Pour Moi and Zoffany all experienced quite significant falls in the size of their books in their second year. Fortunately Canford Cliffs’s foals sold for up to 180,000gns, with an average of nearly 50,000gns, so he should be back in favour. Pour Moi’s fee is down to €12,500 and he should benefit from his first foals selling for up to 140,000gns, with an average of 52,470gns. The fact that he’s a Derby-winning son of Montjeu should work in his favour as Montjeu’s first two Derby winners were responsible for three Group 1 winners in Europe in 2013, including the brilliant Treve. Similarly, Zoffany should benefit from being arguably the most accomplished two-year-old sired by Dansili, and three other sons of Dansili were represented by Group winners in 2013.

Off course a stallion’s first yearlings can also boost their sire in the sales ring, as last year’s leading freshman sire Mastercraftsman demonstrated. A healthy total of six-figure yearlings resulted in his biggest book in his first four seasons, with a total of 187.

Sea The Stars illustrated that even brilliant performers aren’t immune to fluctuations in demand. The difficult second season saw him cover only 83 mares, compared to 136 the year before, but his first foals created quite a stir at the sales and, hey presto, Sea The Stars’s book was back up to 138 mares in his third year.

Lope de Vega also suffered a second-season dip, but his first foals sold for up to 150,000gns, ensuring greater interest in year three.

A fast start by a stallion with his first runners can also yield immediate results. For example, Dandy Man was very quickly out of the blocks in 2013 and was instantly rewarded with his biggest book of 144 mares.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful by referring to Dandy Man as ‘cheap speed’, but he conforms to a pattern which is clearly popular with breeders (and presumably with buyers too). Dandy Man was a good two-year-old who later proved best at sprint distances, before retiring to stud at a reasonable four-figure fee.

There are numerous other examples in recent years. Who would have thought that a son of Danetime – even one who won a pair of Group 1s – would cover nearly 700 mares in his first four seasons? But that is what Bushranger did.

This year will see the first runners by Zebedee, who has averaged more than 150 mares in each of his first three seasons even though his brief racing career didn’t feature a Group 1 success. Clearly breeders are hoping he could be the next Dark Angel, another stallion who raced only at two.

Another possible contender for that title is Equiano, especially as he shares the same sire, Acclamation, as Dark Angel. He has been given every chance, with books in excess of 120 mares in each of his first three seasons.

Keep an eye out too for Fast Company. In the bloodstock world, absence rarely makes the heart grow fonder, so he could have struggled when he went to stud in 2011. He hadn’t raced in 2008, 2009 or 2010 and his excellent juvenile form was becoming a distant memory.

However, Fast Company had a couple of things in his favour. For a start, other sons of Danehill Dancer had been responsible for the 2010 winners of the Golden Jubilee, July Cup and Prix de l’Abbaye. Arguably more importantly, Fast Company was based at Rathasker, a stud with a reputation for ‘making’ stallions, thanks to such as Clodovil, Mujadil and Titus Livius. This has helped him attract more than 100 mares in each of his first three seasons and it is a safe bet that he will make that four out of four in 2014, following the excellent returns achieved by his first sales yearlings.

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