Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sires to Watch: Young Stallions in Europe

Born to Sea (Gilltown Stud photo)
Jumps season is still in full swing as the first month of the year ticks by, but in yards across Europe runners by a variety of stallions are preparing for the 2017 flat season.

Stallions young and old will again be trying to catch the attention of owners and breeders by producing as many winners as possible during the year but younger stallions still have something to prove as they try to establish themselves as “go-to” sires in the years to come.

Here are six young stallions standing Europe – from Ireland to Turkey (a country that sits in both Europe and Asia) – with a few crops on the track who are worth keeping an eye on in 2017.

The last foal out of supermare Urban Sea, Born to Sea (Invincible Spirit) didn’t live up to the lofty race records of his half-brothers Sea the Stars (Cape Cross) and Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) but held his own on the track. Born to Sea was a listed winner in addition to being second to Camelot (Montjeu) in the 2012 Irish Derby and started his stud career in 2013 at Rathasker Stud. From a family that gets better at three, Born to Sea had a 25 percent strike rate with 11 winners from 44 runners with his first 2-year-olds last year including Group 3 winner Sea of Grace and two listed placed horses. It’s worth noting that he got his first group stakes winner before Galileo, though it’s hard to see him – or any other stallion – hitting the lofty heights of that half-brother any time soon. He joined another half-brother, Sea the Stars, at the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud in 2015, which looks promising for his future stallion career.

The most obvious stallion to keep an eye on this year is Frankel (Galileo). The undefeated champion racehorse had many hopes sitting on his shoulders when his first runners hit the track and he didn’t disappoint. Six of his runners won group stakes races, including Group 1 winner and Japanese champion Soul Stirring, and one other was multiple stakes placed Cunco. Frankel seemed to get better with age so there’s no reason his foals won’t as well and he still has enough well-bred runners who haven’t yet started to make 2017 an even better year than 2016.

SOUL STIRRING'S GROUP 1 WIN

With his first crop just turning five this year, Lope de Vega’s (Shamardal) 44 stakes performers and 14 group winners is impressive. The Giant’s Causeway grandson’s numbers should only get better as his later crops – and probably better bred – crops start hitting the track. Granted that first post-first crop rush won’t hit the track until 2018. But with Lope de Vega’s early success so far, including multiple classic placed horses I don’t expect him to have a quiet year by any stretch of the imagination. He has 71 2-year-olds, which isn’t as many as some of his counterparts but more than enough to make the year a memorable one.

Mastercraftsman (Danehill Dancer) came out on fire with his first few crops, including multiple classic winners and 2017 is the year we’ll see the benefit those runners had on his books. Coolmore has advertised that the first of his best bred crops will be hitting the track this year so it could be his best year yet. His runners seem to be better at three than two so it could be a case of getting ahead of myself by putting him on the list of sires to watch this year, but it’s not hard to imagine that these better bred 2-year-olds may have a little more precociousness, which makes for an interesting thought when he has had 2-year-olds with stakes form in his earlier crops.

MASTERCRAFTSMAN'S THE GREY GATSBY WINNING THE PRIX DU JOCKEY CLUB



Mayson (Invincible Spirit) had 19 winners last year with his first 2-year-olds including seven stakes horses and three listed stakes winners. That list includes Group 2 placed Global Applause and Group 3 placed Rosebride. Mayson himself got better with age, getting his Group 1 win at four so it has to be thought his runners will as well. He did better with his runners and number of wins last year than some highly anticipated horses so it will be interesting to see if he can carry on that success into the new year. With a large group of horses who were placed as 2-year-olds but didn’t quite hit the winner’s enclosure, it won’t be a surprise to see his win numbers go up, and him get his first group winner, as the season starts rolling.

A Turkey-based stallion, Native Khan (Azamour) is a bit harder to follow than other young stallions but that didn’t keep him from catching the eye with his first crop’s success. From the stallion’s 20 starters last year as 2-year-olds, 15 won races. He has 20 2-year-olds this year according to the Jockey Club of Turkey and 20 3-year-olds who have yet to start as well. While his impressive 75 percent strike rate will almost certainly fall as more of these horses hit the track, if his first time starters and current maidens show the same talent as his first winners Turkey may have a breed changing sire on its hands.

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