(Photo : Darley)
“THE NEW WORLD ORDER 2010”
Bill Oppenheim TDNAmong all the really valuable, and scary, discussions of yearling prices, profitability and impending 2011 stud fees, it’s important to remember when we’re talking about “the market,” we’re actually talking about one market with several distinct tiers.
There is a commercial category, which I have called “The World Top 12” for some time, that exists in a different commercial atmosphere to the rest of the racing and breeding world.
Whoever the World Top 12 consists of at any given time, they are responsible for a disproportionately high percentage of the industry’s wealth, because of the high fees they command (cheapest of the 12 in 2010, aside from new entry Dubawi, was Smart Strike, at $75,000). They may or may not be trendsetters : what happens to the stud fees of these horses in 2011 may or may not have much to do with what happens to the fees of all other stallions in the racing universe.
Over the last 20 years, it has surprised me that the tier that separates itself right away from the rest of the stallion population is not 10, or 15, but almost always 12. The point is to be inductive about it - not to say, there must be 12, but to say, who are the top, top sires, and then count how many you’ve selected.
The criterion is that they stand out from the crowd.
It’s a judgment call, and subjective. It’s not just about the numbers, such as the APEX stallion ratings; the main note to make about them is that the top sires these days aren’t as far ahead of their contemporaries as the top sires used to be. But, to a certain extent, that has to be the result of the dilution of quality as stallions’ book sizes doubled. So, it’s not strictly the numbers, it’s a combination of the numbers and how I guess you, the professionals, actually rate them. But this World Top 12 - are they really supposed to behave by the same rules, as far as 2011 stud fee declines go, as the rest of the stallion population?
One very striking and dramatic development in the compilation of this very rich list is that the addition of its newest member, Dubawi, swings the balance of power to Europe for the first time in at least 40 years.
As of now, in my view, seven of the World Top 12 are European stallions, just five are American. Twenty years ago, it was probably one and 11. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to stay this way, but, subjective though this list may be, it certainly confirms the swing of the top stallions to Europe that began with Sadler’s Wells, whose first foals raced in 1988, 22 years ago.
Interestingly, then, if you start to look at the second tier - say, pick the next 18 to fill out the top 30 – that would be at least two-thirds American sires, and perhaps it is in that group that 2011 stud fees will be more vulnerable.
Dubawi’s rise to inclusion among a list of the world’s most elite stallions has been both sudden and decisive.
He began 2010 having been the second-best freshman sire in Europe in 2009, behind Darley stablemate Shamardal. And, though Shamardal himself is proving a very good sire indeed – he’s among the second-tier sires in the World Top 30 - Dubawi has racked up one top-class performance after another and, notably, at all distances from five furlongs (Astrophysical Jet) to a mile and a half (Monterosso at Royal Ascot, and Prince Bishop, last weekend at Longchamp in the G2 Prix du Conseil de Paris, against “olders”).
Having won Ireland’s G1 National Stakes over seven furlongs at two, Dubawi’s two Group 1 wins at three were at a mile (Irish 2000 Guineas, Prix Jacques le Marois), though he did stay well enough to finish third in the G1 Epsom Derby, and his dam, Zomaradah, was a Group 1 winner over 10-11 furlongs. So there are elements in his pedigree and race record that suggest he could sire horses that stay further than he did himself; well, look at Oasis Dream, he’s a much more extreme example of it.
In his first Northern Hemisphere crop of about 115 foals, Dubawi has sired at least 11 black-type winners (10 percent), of which eight are group winners (seven percent), percentages that straightaway place him in the top rung of sires. He struck early in the year with G3 Premio Paroli (Italian 2000 Guineas) winner Worthadd - who later added the G2 Italian Derby – and then announced himself in the big time with Makfi’s shock win in the G1 2000 Guineas. After a poor run behind Canford Cliffs in the G1 St. James’ Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, Makfi returned in August to upset Goldikova and Paco Boy in the G1 Prix Jaques le Marois at Deauville, a race won by both his sire, Dubawi, and his grandsire, Dubai Millennium. Then, when Makfi ran badly for a second and final time at Ascot in September, another colt by Dubawi, previous Group 2 winner Poet’s Voice, jumped up to win the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, defeating Rip Van Winkle (Galileo).
As if this weren’t enough, Dubawi already has at least 11 black-type two-year-olds in his second crop of 113 Northern Hemisphere foals of 2008, of which six are already black-type winners. I could be out of date at any minute, but at the moment I count 17 black-type winners for Dubawi in his first two Northern Hemisphere crops, of which nine are colts and eight are fillies.
I’d say there’s rather a wide distribution of pedigrees he seems to be working with, though it’s hard not to be impressed that both Makfi (Green Desert) and Poet’s Voice (Chief’s Crown) are out of mares by Danzig-line sires. Also, although he is a Mr. Prospector-line stallion, being by Dubai Millennium, by Seeking the Gold, Dubawi is definitely going “off piste” for most Mr. Prospector-line stallions, in that he already has two group winners out of mares by other Mr. Prospector-line sires.
These are : last weekend’s aforementioned Prince Bishop, out of a mare by Prospect Bay (he was by Crafty Prospector out of, interestingly, a Danzig mare); and the recent French two-year-old G3 Prix Eclipse winner Split Trois, who is out of a Zafonic mare.
Even stranger : one of Dubawi’s two Group 1 winners from his first Southern Hemisphere crop (now three-year-olds) is out of a mare by Secret Savings - a son of Seeking the Gold, meaning Dubawi’s Australian Group 1 winner Secret Admirer isn’t just Mr. Prospector over Mr. Prospector, she is 3x3 to Seeking the Gold! That kind of off-piste behavior, combined with the sort of class percentages Dubawi has been racking up, often heralds a really important new star sire rising.
Dubai Millennium, who Sheikh Mohammed patently thought was the best horse he ever owned, was cut down after just one season at stud; I think it’s ironic that now one of Dubai Millennium’s sons looks like being the best sire Sheikh Mohammed has ever bred and owned. It is really reminiscent of Seattle Slew, himself one of only 60 foals sired by Bold Reasoning in 1974-75, all over again… 30 years later.
The Current World Top 12 Sires
Fee 2010 ($)
Yearling Avg ($)
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News