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First published May 2020 in BLUEBLOODS, to get this article when it’s first published
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AS stallion owners and breeders get ready to embark on another covering season, this time with a certain air of uncertainty hanging over the industry, it might be a worthwhile time to look back at 2019 and find out which stallions attracted the best quality of mares.
Remarkably, 2019 was I Am Invincible’s tenth season at Yarraman Park. Time flies! The son of Invincible Spirit has already made such a big impression that it’s hard to see how he can get any better. But all things being equal it should get appreciably better for him. In each of his first four seasons, I Am Invincible covered less than 20 elite mares, but in the last three his number of elite mares have been 124, 144 and 122. For the purposes of this article, an elite mare is one from the top 15% of the broodmare population assessed by their produce records and pedigrees. And we know he’s likely to capitalize on this great support. His relatively small group of runners from elite mares have done particularly well at the races with 11% of them becoming Stakes winners – considerably more than from his non-elite mares, which have dominated his early books. Even his non-elite mares have done well to come up with 8% Stakes winners to runners from mares that normally only produce half that rate.
I Am Invinclble was the only stallion to attract over 100 elite mares last season, his closest pursuer being Widden’s Zoustar with 92. He’s another – indeed like most stallions – with a very good rate of return from elite mares on the track. In his case 13.1% of his small number of runners from elite mares have become Stakes winners. And like I Am Invincible, his crops coming down the road are far stronger than those he’s built a fine early reputation with.
The third most popular stallion at attracting elite mares was Coolmore’s Justify (86) who just pipped Arrowfield’s The Autumn Sun (77) and Widden’s Trapeze Artist (65) to be the most popular first-season sire in the land. Second-season sires often struggle to match their year-one performance, but one or two did very well in 2019. Newgate’s Russian Revolution topped the poll with 66 elite mares which was a fair number given he attracted 87 in his first year. Others of note were Coolmore’s Merchant Navy (41), Yarraman Park’s Hellbent (29) and Darley’s Impending (28). The three third-season sired with the most impressive numbers were Coolmore’s American Pharoah (56), Newgate’s Capitalist (44) and Arrowfield’s Shalaa (29).
Unlike the top two on our table, Pierro, in fourth place overall, enjoyed the benefit of proper patronage early on and the fact that his elite mare numbers in the past two seasons have climbed back to somewhere nearing the quality of his first two crops tells it’s own story. That he can sire a top-class speed horse like Pierata, his highest rated runner to date, is a bonus considering most of his offspring stay further. He sired 7.7% Stakes winners to runners from his early coverings with decent books, but it’s an even healthier picture with elite mares: he’s a 12.3% stallion, which compares favourably to the best around, such as I Am Invincible (10.7%) or Snitzel (13.0%).
Snitzel himself attracted 76 elite mares in his 14th year at Arrowfield, which was considerably below what he’d gained in earlier years. It was the first time his number was below 100 in seven straight years. He’s a top-class sire, having just broken the 100 Stakes winner mark with his Australian foals. His best-bred horses are racing now and he’s only going to have even greater opportunities in the coming years. He gets 10% Stakes winners to runners from mares that score 7.9% with other sires. More importantly, he does even better with elite mares, siring 13.0% Stakes winners, compared to the 9.5% other sires achieve.
Another youngster impressing breeders is Arrowfield’s Dundeel who occupies seventh place on our table with 75 elite mares, his highest number in the six years he’s been at stud. His eight (5.6%) Group winners to runners so far is very impressive – in fact it is the best strike rate of any sire since Redoute’s Choice at the same point in his career. It’s no surprise breeders have gone for him in such a big way.