Writing in the TDN this week, the world’s no.1 stallion commentator, Bill Oppenheim, touched on racing’s hottest topic: the trench warfare between the two superpowers, Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley. Bill’s story deals with the most recent recruits to their and the so-called “neutral” stallion operator’s line-up, and how they’ve located them strategically. This is serious stuff :
When you look at these 42 top-of-the-crop sire prospects as a whole, three things stand out. First, the rise of the Maktoum family as a force in the stallion market; they stand 16 of the 42 stallions on that list, divided equally: eight in Kentucky, eight in Europe. Second, we can see how Coolmore is sticking with the programme that got them there: very selective, the highest possible quality only, and mostly by their own, in-house, absolute top-drawer sires. Whereas Darley, in the last four sire crops, leads Coolmore in North America in top-of-the-crop prospects eight to two, in Europe it is only eight to seven. Darley’s biggest growth spurt was in Kentucky, in 2008 retirements.
The third notable point is that, with Coolmore based in Ireland and the Maktoums (Darley plus Shadwell) operating from Dalham Hall and the Nunnery in England, and from Kildangan and Derrinstown in Ireland, there has been very little left over for the “neutral” stallion farms in Europe, especially in England. Of the 17 top-of-the-crop “neutral” stallions we’ve identified, 15 stand in Kentucky, where there is clearly still much more diversity of choice. Only two stand in Ireland, Azamour at the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud, and Lawman at Ballylinch. None stand in England. Though that is the case, I must emphasize, only with the most expensive stallions. Some of the most successful sires among the 242 we’ve listed are sure to be among the 200 now standing for less than “top-of-the-crop” stud fees, but it is notable that the top commercial prospects from these crops in Europe are stationed exclusively in Ireland, or on Maktoum farms in England.