One only has to glance at the first crops of the world’s greatest stallions to understand the undeniable wow factor of freshman stallions, writes Renée Geelen.
Scientists will tell you that DNA gets less potent as it ages, but that doesn’t fully explain the vibrancy of the first crop for a stallion. Trainers remember the wonderful horses they found, sometimes at bargain prices, from the first crop of a stallion. No wonder they continue to chase after the next one from the same source. Of course, this leads to increased sales for the latest, greatest, newest stallions; an ever-repeating cycle of excitement.
When a great stallion arrives on the scene, they do it with a bang. Case in point: Danehill’s first crop in 1991 – for which breeders paid a fee of only $10,000 – consisted of 49 foals, of which 10 won stakes races including multiple Gr1 winner Danewin, Flight Stakes winner Danarani, Golden Slipper winner Danzero, Stradbroke winner Danasinga, and Queensland Oaks winner Joie Denise.
His sire-sons dominate the list of stallions who have freshman sires in 2017. Globetrotting superstar, Choisir, leads the list with five sons retiring to stud this year (Divine Prophet, The Last Lion, Worthy Cause, Defcon, and Coroebus). Renowned sire of sires, Redoute’s Choice, has three sons on the freshman list (Counterattack, Swear, and King’s Troop), while his heir apparent Snitzel has two (Sooboog, and Odyssey Moon). Redoute’s Choice’s son Stratum is represented by Gr1 winner Stratum Star. Two freshman sires make their start at stud for each of Danehill’s sons Commands (Holler, and Rommel), and Fastnet Rock (Awesome Rock, and Lionhearted). California Dane has Gr1 winner Rebel Dane retiring this year, while Exceed and Excel’s son Furnaces will join Aquis.
Many breeders have the opposite problem – broodmares who already carry Danehill lines, sometimes twice, and for them, there are plenty of non-Danehill options.
In 2017, Street Cry leads the charge with four retirees (Last Typhoon, Wolf Cry, Telperion, Rageese). High Chaparral is another leading sire who had a huge first crop with Gr1 winners So You Think, Shoot Out, Descarado, and Monaco Consul from his first southern hemisphere crop. He has three sons retiring in 2017 (Gr1 winner Tivaci to NZ, as well as Alpine Eagle, and Wayed Zain). Invincible Spirit (sire of boom stallion I Am Invincible) will attempt to follow his success with three new sons this year (Territories, Shalaa, and Ajaya).
Written Tycoon is a new kid on the block himself, and his brilliant son Capitalist retires in 2017, as does boom sprinter Winning Rupert. Also with two sons retiring is Medaglia d’Oro (Astern, Mshawish), and Encosta de Lago, whose Gr1 winners (Puccini, and Vanbrugh) retire to NZ.
Among the remainder, of particular note is the Deep Impact Gr1 winner Miki Isle. Deep Impact’s first crop was born in 2008, and he had four Gr1 winners from that crop. He now has 30, and 96 stakes winners overall. Gr1 sprinter Flying Artie should be popular, and we haven’t even touched on the hype of American Pharoah – the only horse to win the US 3YO Triple Crown and a Breeders Cup. Other Gr1 winners like Under the Louvre, Turn Me Loose (to NZ), Bobby’s Kitten, Belardo, Vadamos, Extreme Choice, Xtravagant, Maurice, Frosted, Tarzino (to NZ), Palentino, Vert de Grece, and Air Force Blue give breeders a wide range of options at a broad set of fees.
History shows us that somewhere in this exciting group of new stallions could lurk a sire that will become a breed dominator.
Albeit that it's sometimes akin to searching for analogous needles in a haystack, the payoff for those who strike a rich seam can be massive, a tantalising prospect that keeps us all coming back to pan for gold.