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Bill's Columns
Date: December 5th, 2018
By Bill Oppenheim
Breeders are forever lamenting the lack of proven sires at ‘reasonable’ prices, and it’s easy to understand why: these days, once the market knows a sire is really good, they don’t ascend the stud fee scale incrementally, like for example Tapit did; they just leap from $25,000 to $100,000 in one fell swoop, like this year’s leading European freshman sire No Nay Never: €25,000 this year, €100,000 next year. No middle ground.
North America: Sires With 1st 3yo’s-6yo’s $25,000 & Under
First Foals 2012 (6-year-olds of 2018)
The North American sire class with first foals 2012 (will be standing their ninth seasons in 2019) is surely the strongest since the 2006 class which included Tapit, Medaglia D’Oro, Speightstown, and Candy Ride, though with more depth and not as many big stars. Quality Road, who made a brief stop at $35,000 two years ago, went to $70,000 this year and goes to $150,000 in 2019, is now the undisputed crop leader, both in progeny earnings and in all major black-type categories: 33 Black-Type Winners (BTW), 21 Graded/Group SW (GSW), and an impressive nine Grade/Group 1 winners in five crops of racing age. But there are some very useful sires who will be standing for $20,000, and even less, in 2019, chasing him, albeit at a respectful distance:
Lookin At Lucky (Coolmore Ashford, $20,000): Has had a career year to say the least; currently ranks #11 on the North American General Sire List, and had his first two G1 winners, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate and the Chilean-bred filly Wow Cat, who won the G1 Beldame and ran a bang-up second to Monomoy Girl in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Lookin At Lucky now has 10 individual G1-placed horses. His most recent North American crops haven’t been so big (around 80 foals) or so good, but he looks like the new Scat Daddy in Chile, and that, combined with his really coming of age in North America, makes him a good bet for 2019.
Munnings (Ashford, $20,000) is a horse we have thought for the last couple of years is poised to make a breakthrough. After his last three crops of 3-year-olds, sired at $10,000 stud fees, averaged fewer than 60 foals per crop, he had 127 two-year-olds this year, conceived in 2015 after this first crop of 2-year-olds had made a good start. They were still $10,000 mares, though, and though he had a lot more foals, the quality of the mares hadn’t improved. He nonetheless ranks #19 on the North American 2-Year-Old Sire List, with 21 winners, including two SW. But his 133 two-year-olds of 2019, conceived on a $25,000 stud fee, were out of much better mares, and his foals of 2018, when he had covered nearly 180 mares, are out of even better mares yet. He had 60 yearlings sell this year for an average of $80,590, by far his highest yearling average yet, and in fact his $56,000 median this year was higher than his previous high average. The elements are there for him to make a breakthrough in the next two years, and if it happens, his $20,000 stud fee for 2019 will have been a big bargain; and even if it doesn’t, he’s fairly priced.
Kantharos (Hill ‘n’ Dale, $20,000): Kantharos, as everybody knows by now, started very cheaply in Florida ($5,000), but proved so good (2.80 APEX A Runner Index) they just had to bring him to Kentucky. He stood his first season at Hill ’n’ Dale in 2017 for $15,000, and his first Kentucky foals arrived this year. Meanwhile, his fifth Florida crop, as ever sired off a $5,000 stud fee, ranks him 16th on the Juvenile Sire List, with 14 winners, including three BTW. At the November sales, 18 foals from his first Kentucky crop sold, averaging $81,333, with a median of $63,500 – over four times his stud fee. This crop is out of so much better mares that he ever saw in Florida, if he just improves a little bit for these much better mares he’s a horse everybody in Kentucky is going to want to breed to, because he imparts two extremely desirable characteristics: precocity and speed.
Temple City (Spendthrift, $10,000): As befitting a son of Dynaformer, Temple City’s only career stakes win came when he led all the way, as a 5-year-old carrying 114 lbs., to score in the G3 Cougar II H. at Hollywood Park in 2010. So it didn’t cause much of a ripple when he went to stud at Spendthrift at a $5,000 fee in 2011. But he may have had a secret weapon lurking in his pedigree, which is that his dam is a Danzig half-sister to Malibu Moon. He ranks 9th by cumulative progeny earnings among North American F2012 sires, so isn’t threatening the crop leaders, but he does have 7 GSW including two G1 winners. As you’d expect from a son of Dynaformer he is virtually all grass, like Kitten’s Joy and English Channel. But he’s proved very popular since Miss Temple City put his name in lights, with over 120 foals in each of his last three crops, it’s a good bet that his name will continue to be in the papers, so, for those who don’t mind collecting prize money for racing on grass, he’s a very good buy for $10,000 in 2019.
First Foals 2013 (5-year-olds of 2018)
Twirling Candy (Lane’s End, $25,000): Though Uncle Mo is far and away the top North American sire with first foals 2013 (44 BTW, 21 GSW, 6 G1 winners), Twirling Candy is a clear, albeit distant, second by cumulative progeny earnings, number of Black-Type Winners (13), Black-Type Horses (34), and Graded Stakes Horses (14). He also runs Uncle Mo surprisingly close in some average speed figure ratings we compile. With horses the calibre of Gun Runner, Mastery, and Game Winner already at stud or lined up to go to stud, there is every possibility Candy Ride, who is still trying to give Kitten’s Joy a run for 2018 Leading Sire in North America, is going to turn out to have a much greater influence than might have been supposed, and Twirling Candy provides his line with a very useful mid-range sire to help keep his name in lights.
First Foals 2014 (4-year-olds of 2018)
Dialed In (Darby Dan, $25,000): Among third-crop North American sires, with their first 4-year-olds in 2018, the standout in class terms is undoubtedly Lane’s End’s Union Rags, who had four G1 winners, whereas no other F2014 NA sire bar Maclean’s Music (2) has more than one. Dialed In actually has no G1 winners, but he does have Gunnevera, who has now earned over $4.1-million, in his first crop. He’s better than a lot of G1 winners; he won the G2 Saratoga Special and $1m G3 Delta Jackpot as a 2-year-old, making Dialed In the 2016 Leading Freshman Sire, ahead of Union Rags. He won the G2 Fountain of Youth, ran third in the G1 Florida Derby and second in the G1 Travers at three, and was third to Gun Runner and West Coast in the G1 Pegasus and was second to Accelerate in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic this year. That’s a pretty convincing CV. True, Dialed In’s 2016 and 2017 crops are small and out of poor mares, but he covered over 200 mares in 2017, the year after he was Leading Freshman Sire, so he’ll have two big crops out of better mares before the current crop he’ll be covering.
First Foals 2015 (3-year-olds of 2018)
Jimmy Creed (Spendthrift, $20,000): Distorted Humor is well established now as a top broodmare sire, but he’s been taking his time about really having many successful sons at stud. However, he has two sons with their first 3-year-olds this year (F2015 sires) who are trying to redress the balance, Spendthrift’s Jimmy Creed and Pin Oak’s Alternation. Jimmy Creed was a $900,000 yearling, bred by Stonestreet, out of Hookedonthefeelin, a G1 winner in California by Dixieland Band’s son, Citidancer. Jimmy Creed won the G1 Malibu S. as a 3-year-old, and the G2 Potrero Grande S. the following April. Though his first two crops had 88 and 90 foals, the next two (yearlings and foals of 2018) were quite a bit smaller. He has four A Runners in his first crop, including California G2 winners Kanthaka and Spectator, and his second crop includes 13 winners, four of them Black-Type horses, including the G1-placed filly Meadow Dance. He sported a 2.50 Mid-Year APEX A Runner Index rating, and is currently #4 among North American F2015 sires by cumulative progeny earnings.
Alternation (Pin Oak, $10,000): A Pin Oak homebred trained by Donnie Von Hemel, Alternation won the G2 Peter Pan S. in New York in May of his 3-year-old year, but really came into his own as a 4-year-old, when he swept the Oaklawn Park Handicap Triple of the Essex H., G3 Razorback H., and G2 Oaklawn H., and followed that up with a win in the G3 Pimlico Special, at distances ranging from 8 ½ to 9 ½ furlongs. He might not have immediately appealed as a hot commercial prospect to everybody, but from 133 foals in his first two crops he has eight stakes horses, including G3 Super Derby winner Limation and the $675,000 Fasig-Tipton July Horses of Racing Age sale-topper, Alter Moon, while his second crop includes the freak Kentucky wide-margin G2 Pocahontas winner Serengeti Empress. Though he has very small crops – about 30 – in 2017 and 2018, he has absolutely earned his price hike to $10,000, and he looks a very reasonable buy at that, too.
First Foals 2016 (2-year-olds of 2018)
The top four North American first-crop sires this year are Spendthrift’s Cross Traffic ($25,000) and Goldencents ($20,000); Airdrie’s Cairo Prince, who remains at $25,000, and Three Chimneys’ Will Take Charge, who remains at $30,000. These all look like perfectly good bets for the money, and we’ll know a lot more than we do now in 12 months’ time. But that’s the nature of freshman sires, as we all know. One interesting note is that three of the four are Fappiano-line sires: Cross Traffic and Will Take Charge by Unbridled’s Song, and Cairo Prince by Pioneerof The Nile.
North America: Sires without Runners
First Foals 2017 (Yearlings of 2018, 2-year-olds of 2019)
With unproven sires it is to a great extent a matter of opinion, and especially with sires about to have their first 2-year-olds breeders tend to be wary. One farm which almost always provides good value, because they never over-price their sires, is Claiborne, and Lea, who remains at $7,500 in spite of averaging $87,200 for 41 yearlings sold (ranked 7th among North American first-year yearling sires in 2018, off an opening $12,500 stud fee), certainly fits that Claiborne profile. By First Samurai out of a Galileo mare, a Group winner on grass and a G1 winner on dirt who also placed on five further Grade I’s on both dirt and grass, Lea may especially appeal to those who recognize the ‘turf surge’ in American racing opens the door for new sires who can take advantage of all the turf racing now being carded. “Everybody loves Lea” is a slogan Claiborne has used for him, and it’s true.
I can’t claim to be unbiased about Gainesway’s Karakontie, but he is another who is poised to take advantage of North America’s “turf surge”. He was the Champion 2-Year-Old Colt in France after winning the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardare, and went on to win the G1 French 2000 Guineas and G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile (defeating 2018 Leading French Freshman sire Anodin) as a 3-year-old in 2014. He had the class and he certain has the pedigree, his second dam being a three-quarter sister to Kingmambo, and at $10,000 it’s not an expensive bet that he, like Lane’s End’s Noble Mission (1st 3-year-olds 2019) and Lea, could be poised to succeed the likes of Kitten’s Joy and English Channel in American turf racing. Karakontie will be well known to European breeders and buyers as well, and just could be a shrewd bet as he will have nearly maximum opportunity to make a good impression in almost every racing context (dirt, grass, America, Europe, etc.).
Tonalist (Lane’s End, $15,000): Tonalist won the G1 Belmont S. (12f), the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup (10f) twice, and the G1 Cigar Mile in his final career start as a 4-year-old. He had 41 yearlings from his first crop average $103,036 at the sales this year, off his initial $30,000 stud fee. He’s never had a runner, yet his price has been slashed in half, no doubt because he doesn’t have a ‘precocious’ profile. But Rule #1 in this business is ‘class trumps all’. Breeders who use Tonalist in 2019 and have a foal of 2020 will have a yearling to sell in 2021, the year he has his first 4-year-olds. Yes, it could all go the wrong way, but the fact is he has just as good if not far better a chance to make a sire as many of his contemporaries, and if he does make a sire, those shrewd breeders who gamble on him in 2019 stand to show a good profit, whatever market conditions are by that time.
First Foals 2018 (Yearlings of 2019)
The market, reflecting as it does the collective opinion of hundreds of professionals, is not surprisingly often a good guide to ultimate sire success, and that is especially the case with sires whose first foals have sold as weanlings each year. Sure, there are cases of manipulation, where stallion managers engineer good results, but with the numbers which appear at the auctions these days that happens less and less. Here are six North American sires who either had good market results and/or have good reason not to be overlooked by the market:
Runhappy (Claiborne, $25,000): Runhappy won the 2015 G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (6f) as a 3-year-old at Keeneland, and two seven-furlong G1’s, the King’s Bishop at Saratoga and the Malibu at Santa Anita. The Claiborne magic dust ensured him a good hearing, and the market responded, as he finished third to Darley’s Nyquist and Frosted among North American first-crop weanling sires with 15 foals (of 17 offered, a very high clearance rate), for an average of $148,666. Look for him to be a ‘market darling’ at the 2019 yearling sales as well.
Air Force Blue (Ashford, $20,000): This horse mystified everybody, including his incomparable trainer, Aidan O’Brien, by absolutely flopping as a 3-year-old in 2016, and in fact he caused dozens of otherwise very clued-up professionals to announce that War Fronts “don’t train on”, which the actual statistics totally refute. Air Force Blue didn’t train on, that’s for sure, but historically horses who were truly top-class 2-year-olds can make top sires regardless of what they did after their 2-year-old careers. Air Force Blue was arguably the best 2-year-old Aidan O’Brien has ever trained: he won the G1 National S. with an RPR of 122 and the G1 Dewhurst (both at 7 furlongs) with a 125. He had 16 weanlings average $84,119. I would be betting on him, not against him, making a sire.
Not This Time (Taylor Made, $15,000): Not This Time, who is incidentally a half-brother to the promising Lane’s End stallion Liam’s Map, won his first three starts, then finished a neck second to Classic Empire in the 2016 G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, but was unfortunately injured and retired to Taylor Made, where he covered as a 3-year-old in 2017, shortly thereafter. As he had an abbreviated career, the market, certainly outside Kentucky, didn’t know much about him, so the fact he had 17 weanlings from his first crop average $80,882, with his $85,000 median even higher than his average, tells the story: he must be throwing very good-looking horses. Rarely, at least with that much representation, do you see a sire whose median is actually higher than his average, and it is always good news about the uniformity of what he is throwing. This is definitely a sire to watch.
Tamarkuz (Shadwell, $10,000): His 20th and final career race was the best one for Tamarkuz, because in that race he defeated Gun Runner, whose only subsequent loss in eight more starts was to Arrogate in the 2017 G1 Dubai World Cup. Tamarkuz is by Speightstown, and is a half-brother to this year’s G1 St. James’s Palace winner, Without Parole, bred at Glennwood by the father-daughter team of John and Tanya Gunther who were also responsible for Justify. Tamarkuz was a 6-year-old when he beat Gun Runner; he had started in England with Saeed bin Suroor, then spent two seasons at Meydan, where as a 5-year-old he won four in a row, culminating in the G2 Godolphin Mile, before continuing his career with Kiaran McLaughlin in America. He only had four weanlings offered at the November sales, and all four sold, for an average of $82,500, and including colts which sold for $140,000 and $110,000. He’s got credentials.
Speightster (WinStar, $10,000): Speigthster only ran four times, winning his first three, including a hot allowance at Belmont Park on the day American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, and the G3 Dwyer (his Beyer 105) on July 4, defeating Texas Red. He didn’t go to stud with a lot of fanfare, but his first foals sold very well indeed at the November sales. He had 29 weanlings sell, for an average of $60,517, and a median of $57,000 – 90% of his average, always a sign of uniformity among the foals. Five of them sold for six figures, though none for higher than $135,000 – another sign of uniformity. By Speightstown out of a Danzig full sister to Dance Smartly, which is the family of Smart Strike, he won’t be stepping on his pedigree, either.
Texas Red (Crestwood, $7,500): After running third to American Pharoah in the 2014 G1 Frontrunner S., Texas Red, trained by the canny Keith Desormeaux and ridden by brother Kent, dropped a 13-1 bomb in the absence of American Pharoah by winning the 2014 G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over Carpe Diem, with Upstart third. After running second to Lord Nelson in the G2 San Vicente the following February, Texas Red had five months off, and his best subsequent race was when he won the G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. Texas Red is kind of the forgotten horse of American Pharoah’s crop, but at only $7,500 at Crestwood’s low-key but very successful operation, the owner-breeder in particular might find Texas Red’s credentials appealing.
First Foals 2019
Mastery (Claiborne, $25,000): Juddmonte’s Arrogate and Three Chimneys’ Gun Runner were the two top North American sires with their first mares selling in foal this year, and both are truly top prospects. Number three first-crop covering sire in 2018 was Mastery, who had 28 mares sell in foal in the November sales, for an average of $237,500. Like Gun Runner, Twirling Candy, and undefeated 2018 Two-Year-Old champion Game Winner, Mastery is another by the increasingly interesting sire of sires Candy Ride; and, like Lea and Runhappy, he stands at Claiborne. There were plenty of people who felt that, if Mastery hadn’t been injured after running his record to four-for-four with a facile win in the 2017 G2 San Felipe S. in a gaudy Beyer 105 that he would have proven the best American 3-year-old of 2017, and the market certainly received him like a top prospect. He had also won the then-G1 Los Alamitos Futurity by seven lengths in the last of this three starts as a 2-year-old. He’s a ‘market darling’ for sure.
Cupid (Ashford, $10,000): Cupid is perhaps not so obvious, though he was a Triple Group 2 winner at three, winning the Rebel, Indiana Derby, and West Virginia Derby at distances of 8 ½ and 9 furlongs, and what used to be the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup, at a mile and a quarter, at its new home at Santa Anita in May of his 4-year-old year. Fair enough, that’s not the profile of a Market Darling, but there’s another bit of information in the PP’s that is, in his case, a little bit of a tip-off: he was a $900,000 yearling by Tapit, meaning he was seriously good-looking. He was sure seriously good-looking when we saw him at the beginning of this year, and a beautiful mover for a big horse at that. There aren’t that many horses where any of us just look at them and say “throw away the books, I want to breed to this horse”, but that’s how Cupid struck me, anyway. I sure thought, for a breeder, he’s a horse you just look at and want to find a mare to send to him.
First Foals 2020 (Covering first mares 2019):
West Coast (Lane’s End, $35,000): In three of the last five years the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-year-old Colt has gone to a later-developing 3-year-old who won the G1 Travers: Will Take Charge for trainer Wayne Lukas in 2013; Arrogate in 2016, and West Coast in 2017 for trainer Bob Baffert. The other winners: California Chrome 2014, American Pharoah 2015, and of course Justify this year. So in three of the last four years in which there was not a Triple Crown winner, a later-developing 3-year-old won the Eclipse award, which is significant mainly in that it shows that it can happen, and usually for the right reason – they improve past some of the winners of Triple Crown races. In West Coast’s case, his first stakes win was in the Easy Goer on Belmont S. day. He then won the G3 Los Alamitos Derby, the G1 Travers, and the G1 Pennsylvania Derby. Then West Coast ran three great races in defeat against older horses: 3rd to Gun Runner and Collected in the 2017 G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic (his Beyer 112); 2nd to Gun Runner in the G1 Pegasus (his Beyer 117); and 2nd to Thunder Snow in the G1 Dubai World Cup. The fact that he didn’t come back to that form in his two subsequent starts this fall – too bad, but it doesn’t alter the fact that West Coast goes to stud with great credentials, having established his form against the very best horses. He was certainly good enough to make a big-time sire, so I think he is just about the best buy of the year at his entering $35,000 stud fee.
Oscar Performance (Mill Ridge, $20,000): Form comes from all directions, and one of the most important pieces of form for Oscar Performance is that he is going to the same farm, with the same team, which stood Diesis and Gone West. Those may just be names on the page to many of our younger colleagues, but to us veterans of the 1980’s, that means a lot: those were two seriously important sires, and they were managed expertly. Equally importantly, Oscar Performance goes to stud with excellent credentials and gives his sire, Kitten’s Joy, a real chance to become a sire of sires, especially given the ‘turf surge’ in American racing. As a 2-year-old, Oscar Performance won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, a race dominated by Europeans. As a 3-year-old he won the G3 Pennine Ridge, the G1 Belmont Derby, and the G1 Secretariat. As a 4-year-old this year, he broke Elusive Quality’s 20-year-old stakes and track record, winning the G3 Poker in 1:31;1, and led all the way to win the G1 Woodbine Mile. He was undoubtedly the best American grass horse of his generation, effective from 1m – 10 furlongs, and he’s going to get a great shot at this farm.
SIRE 1st Fls Farm $ Fee 19
LOOKIN AT LUCKY 2012 Ashford 20,000
MUNNINGS 2013 Ashford 20,000
KANTHAROS 2012 Hill 'n' Dale 20,000
TEMPLE CITY 2012 Spendthrift 10,000
TWIRLING CANDY 2013 Lane's End 25,000
DIALED IN 2014 Darby Dan 25,000
JIMMY CREED 2015 Spendthrift 20,000
ALTERNATION 2015 Pin Oak 10,000
LEA 2017 Claiborne 7,500
KARAKONTIE 2017 Gainesway 10,000
TONALIST 2017 Lane's End 15,000
RUNHAPPY 2018 Claiborne 25,000
AIR FORCE BLUE 2018 Ashford 20,000
NOT THIS TIME 2018 Taylor Made 15,000
TAMARKUZ 2018 Shadwell 10,000
SPEIGHTSTER 2018 WinStar 10,000
TEXAS RED 2018 Crestwood 7,500
MASTERY 2019 Claiborne 25,000
CUPID 2019 Ashford 10,000
WEST COAST 2020 Lane's End 35,000
OSCAR PERFORMANCE 2020 Mill Ridge 20,000
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