Sunday, June 25, 2017

Observations from the 2017 Royal Ascot Meet

One of the biggest weeks on the racing calendar has come and gone with the five day Royal Ascot meeting concluding on Saturday after 30 entertaining – and interesting – races. From stallions dominating throughout the week to broodmares making their mark on the meet and racehorses running more than five miles, Royal Ascot had a little bit of everything for both racing and pedigree fans.

By The Numbers – Over the five day, 30 race Royal Ascot meeting, 157 stallions had at least runner entered in a race during the final entry stages over the week. Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) led all sires with 26 runners, while Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) led all sires by winners with four. Forty-eight stallions had at least one horse finish in the top three with 21 having at least one winner. The average age of those winning sires is 16 years of age with an average stud fee of £50,741. Breeders can still breed to all but three of the winning sires with the most expensive advertised fee being Dubawi (Dubai Millennium) at £250,000 and least expensive being Nayef (Gulch) at £5,000. Dabirsim (Hat Trick) takes the award for youngest stallion at eight while the late Lomitas (Niniski) was born 29 years ago.

A truly international event, stallions currently standing in no less than 16 different countries had entries at the meet. The winning sires stand in eight different countries (Note: for shuttle stallions, they are counted in the country count of where they stand in the northern hemisphere. If they didn’t shuttle in 2017 [Choisir and Duke of Marmalade] they are counted in their southern hemisphere country’s count) and stand at 12 different farms. Ireland and England tied as the countries with the most winners at seven each while France was the only other country to have more than one winning stallion.

Scat Daddy – The farther we get from Scat Daddy’s death in late 2015, the more evident is it that his loss was arguably the biggest of a young sire in a number of years. Despite standing on another continent, Scat Daddy has taken Europe by storm and that domination was clear during the five days of Royal Ascot. Of his eight runners, four won and two others finished third with at least one Scat Daddy runner hitting the board in every race he had an entry in. Coolmore already has his son No Nay Never standing in Ireland and owns two of this week’s Scat Daddy winners who look like they may be good heir apparents to the stallion. While the super speedy Group 1 winner Caravaggio already has a spot in the stallion barn, the huge 2-year-old Sioux Nation may need to prove himself a bit more before Coolmore puts his nameplate on a stallion stall.

Scat Daddy also sired trainer Wesley Ward’s two winners in 3-year-olds Lady Aurelia, who beat older horses of both sexes, and Con Te Partiro.

Royal Ascot winner Lady Aurelia in her Royal Ascot prep race.
Urban Sea – Super mare Urban Sea’s influence is felt nearly every week around the world and this was no different. Six different sons and grandsons combined to sire 24 runners who were in the top three, including seven winners. Of the 30 races run at Royal Ascot this week, those runners by Urban Sea’s sons and grandsons took at least two of the top three spots in eight (27 percent) of the races with Galileo responsible for a sweep in the Grade 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes and a 1-3 finish in the Grade 1 Coronation Stakes. The versatility of the Urban Sea line was also on display with top three placings in the seven furlong Chesham Stakes, the approx. 2.69 mile Queen Alexandra Stakes and many distances in between. Urban Sea’s Galileo and Sea the Stars accounted for 17 of the 24 placers.

While only counted in that 24 runners count were those sired by sons and grandsons, one great-grandson of Urban Sea also had a horse finish second to help add to the line for another generation.

Thomas Hobson –  Showing a hardy constitution, Thomas Hobson (Halling) won the second-to-last race of the day on Tuesday going 2 ¼ miles, had a little more than 96 hours to rest then returned to finish second in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at approx. 2.69 miles on the last race of the card on Saturday. To put it in perspective Thomas Hobson raced 5.19 miles (41 ½ furlongs) in four days. The U.S. Triple Crown is run over 3.9 miles (31 ½ furlongs) during a five week period and the English Triple Crown is 4.3 miles (34 ½ furlongs) run over a little over a four month period (though many horses skip a leg or two and run elsewhere.) For those who like horses who switch between jumps and flat racing, Thomas Hobson is your man with 12 runs over hurdles in addition to his 10 flat runs.

Sunday Silence – Sunday Silence (Halo) is a familiar sight in Japan but is a bit rarer outside that country, except for last week. Dabirsim (Hat Trick) gave his grandsire a first win of the week on Friday when Different League upset the Grade 3 Albany Stakes for her First-Crop sire over a field of 20. Almost exactly 24 hours later, Deep Impact (Sunday Silence) gave his sire another victory when the freaky filly September beat the boys by 2 1/4 lengths in the Chesham Stakes. Dabirsim stands in France while September is a product of the Coolmore partners shipping multiple Group 1 winner Peeping Fawn to Japan to visit Deep Impact a few times. September’s full brother Wisconsin raced at Royal Ascot on Friday but finished 12th of 13 after a bizarre blowing of the first turn.


Father/Sons – Three sets of father/son pairs (or triples in one case) sired winners. The late Danehill Dancer (Danehill) joined his son Choisir on this year’s winner list when Qemah won the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge a day after Rajasinghe won the Group 2 Coventry for Choisir. Tuesday was a huge day for Exceed and Excel (Danehill) who not only had a 1-3 finish in the Windsor Castle Stakes but also saw his son’s Barney Roy (Excelebration) upset Churchill (Galileo) in the Group 1 St. James’s Palace.

Like usual, Galileo was an overachiever here. He not only had three winners through the week, he also had two sons with winners. Frankel got his first winner on Thursday in the King George V Stakes while Teofilo sired the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes winner the following day.

Hveger – Hveger may not be a name many were familiar with before the Royal Ascot but they should be now. This 16-year-old Australian-bred Danehill daughter has proven to be a major asset to the Coolmore operation, especially when moved to Ireland and bred to Galileo. The second foal from that cross is six-time Group 1 winner Highland Reel, who won Wednesday’s Group 1 Prince of Wale’s Stakes. Three days later, his year younger brother Idaho won a race Highland Reel couldn’t manage to win last year when beating the Queen’s Dartmouth (Dubawi) and 10 others in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes. The pair have a 3-year-old full sister named Cercle de La Vive, who sold for 460,000 guineas as a yearling but is so far unplaced, an unraced 2-year-old sister named Via Condotti (sold for 625,000 gns), and an unnamed yearling full brother.

Highland Reel
Sun Shower – It’s not often you see a broodmare have an exacta in a Group 1 but that’s what Sun Shower did on Tuesday. Her sire son Excelebration sired Group 1 St. James’s Palace winner Barney Roy and only a length behind him in second was Excelebration’s younger half-brother Lancaster Bomber (War Front). I talked a bit more about Sun Shower before the Qipco 2,000 Guineas so you can learn more about her in that blog but she has a really interesting story that shouldn’t be overlooked. She was sold to India after foaling Excelebration, bought by Coolmore and sent to the United States. She’s visited War Front every year since being imported with 2-year-old and 6 month old full brothers to Lancaster Bomber currently on the ground.

Farms – Godolphin and Coolmore fought out the owner’s championship throughout the week with the championship coming down to second place finishes to select the winner (Coolmore) and their stallion rosters also fought it out as well. Both farms had six stallions apiece with winners during the week but thanks to Scat Daddy having four winners and Galileo with three, Coolmore squeaked out ahead with 10 winners to Darley stallions’ eight. The Aga Khan’s roster was the only other one to have more than one stallion with winners as his Irish-based Sea the Star (Cape Cross) and French-based Siyouni (Pivotal) both had at least one winner apiece.

Acclamation – Acclamation didn’t have any winners at Royal Ascot this year but he made a good case for being a sire-of-sires. In addition to his two third place finishers, three of his sons had four first or second place finishers. That included the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee winner The Tin Man (Equiano) on the final day of the meet. The four sires (Acclamation and his son) struck nearly every day with at least one horse hitting the board during races on four of the five race days, including in three different Group 1 events. Showing how speedy the line is, every single one of the six placings came at five or six furlongs.

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