In January this year, Summerhill’s Mick Goss delivered the Keynote Breeding lecture at the Asian Racing Conference in Dubai. His focus on the “Battle of the Titans,” more commonly known as the struggle for global racing and breeding supremacy, was widely publicised in industry publications around the world. Now industry guru, Bill Oppenheim picks up the cudgels.
The top five sires in Europe this year all stand or stood at Coolmore—Danehill, Galileo, Montjeu, Sadler’s Wells, and Danehill Dancer. Including last week’s Tattersalls October 2 & 3 Sales at Newmarket, the excellent Insta-tistics table on our website now provides up-to-date international yearling averages on all sires. Danehill, of course, has his last three-year-olds in 2007. The other four have had a combined 231 yearlings sell so far this year (scattering at Keeneland September, the rest in most of the last three weeks in Europe). The 231 yearlings by these four sires grossed around $78.8 million—converted to dollars- which is the equivalent of just about 20 percent of the total amount grossed so far at the European yearling sales. That ’ s 231 yearlings, by the top four surviving sires in Europe, which averaged more than $341,000. Coolmore signed for 33 of them, totalling (by our calculations) $23.8 million. Maktoums and associates signed for…none. Yearlings by the top four sires in Europe: advantage Coolmore.
Not four hours after the last October 3 yearling passed through the Tattersalls ’ ring, and not four miles away, Jim Bolger ’ s Galileo colt, New Approach, scored his fifth straight win and locked up the European two-year-old championship with a hard-fought (but ultimately impressive) win over Fast Company (Danehill Dancer). Raven ’ s Pass (Elusive Quality) was third, with Godolphin ’ s Rio de la Plata (Rahy) fourth. It looked like a very good G1 Darley Dewhurst S., and it transpires that the Maktoums now own an interest in the first four finishers. Sheikh Mohammed bought out breeder Seamus Burns ’ s half of New Approach in a well-documented transaction last month. Sheikh Mohammed ’s son, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, bought Fast Company from Earle Mack after his win in the G3 Acomb S. at York in August. John Ferguson signed for Rio de la Plata for Godolphin at the Tattersalls Two-Year-Old in Training Sale in April, and it was reported by the Racing Post that Sheikh Mohammed had bought into Raven ’ s Pass- trained by John Gosden for owner-breeder George Strawbridge—before the Dewhurst. Upshot: Darley controls the first four finishers in the Dewhurst. This year ’ s top two-year-olds: advantage Darley.
The battle lines are drawn. Can Coolmore produce enough good horses by existing top sires to sustain the overall advantage with which they begin this particular arms race? Or will Darley outgun them, surrounding them by buying every top racehorse/prospective stallion they can get their hands on? Sheikh Mohammed is playing the long game, and he has to, because Coolmore has the massive advantage of Sadler ’ s Wells having finally made a sire of sires (20 years after his first crop was foaled in 1986), and Danehill being on the verge of doing the same—through Danehill Dancer, Dansili, and maybe Rock of Gibraltar, after all. Darley has to not only produce equally top sires—Street Cry looks good, Cape Cross and Elusive Quality now have their chance to step up to the big time—but they then have to become sires of sires. From today, it can ’ t happen in less than a decade. But Sheikh Mohammed seems determined to try and make it happen, which will be great for the business—especially since his operation seems quite happy to buy the progeny of the top Coolmore sires in training: Authorized (Montjeu), Teofilo and New Approach (Galileo), and Fast Company (Danehill Dancer), for example. But for breeders, if you think picking the top stallions to use has been tough up til now, it ’ s going to get even more interesting. Are you breeding for dirt, turf, or all-weather? Are you breeding for America or Europe? Are you breeding Coolmore, Maktoum, or neutral? It ’ s going to be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to breed for all those markets. Is a period of specialization in breeding choices looming?