For those of us who have either already patronised the new generation of Summerhill stallions or are on the brink of doing so, there is much in Andrew’s musings to encourage us, as his piece is largely concerned with the prospects of success of elite racehorses at stud: the arrival of five successive Group One-winning sprinter/milers on the Summerhill roster, Capetown Noir, Linngari, Ato, Act Of War and Willow Magic, must surely serve as an inspiration to even the most sceptical of breeders given the credentials of these fellows at the races. Linngari has already straddled the transitional chasm from good racehorse to good sire in his stride, while all four of the others were generational or divisional standouts of their era.
As bloodstock consultant to Juddmonte, Andrew Caulfield is uniquely placed to provide us with his personal insights into the expectations for Frankel in his attempt at transferring the talents that made him the best racehorse of our lifetime, to his progeny. It’s a long read, but as always, it’s the script of a man who knows his topic as well as the best anywhere, and it’s a fascinating story.
“Prince Khalid Abdullah has achieved a huge amount as a breeder, including an unusual double which would probably have escaped the attention of anyone who doesn’t work for Juddmonte. Having become the first person to breed a stakes winner by Galileo, when Innocent Air won the 2005 Washington Singer Stakes, the Prince has now become the first person to breed a stakes winner by Galileo’s best son, the astonishing Frankel. This, of course, was the highly promising Fair Eva, who treated the opposition in the G3 Princess Margaret Stakes with as much disdain as she had against maiden company on her previous appearance. I have always felt proud and protective of Frankel and I guess that lays me open to accusations of bias. Of course I understand that Frankel is on a hiding to nothing, in that he cannot seriously be expected to sire anything better than himself. Indeed, he would do extremely well to sire anything which gets within hailing distance of his Timeform rating of 147. And I also understand that, in this media-saturated era of 24-hour news, there was always going to be a lot of loose conjecture after this superstar retired to stud.
People endlessly reported that Frankel was not stamping his stock, even though the majority-including Fair Eva, walk and move with the same fluency which was always one of Frankel’s distinguishing features. Well, a stallion’s failure to sire physical replicas of himself is not necessarily a bad thing (though it can be a disadvantage in the sales ring). I can remember an imported stallion called Upper Case who, coincidentally, also stood at Banstead Manor Stud, in pre-Juddmonte days. This winner of the GI Florida Derby and GI Wood Memorial sired progeny which were mainly like peas in a pod.
And they were also identical on the racecourse - few of them could run fast enough to keep themselves warm. Upper Case was by Round Table, who sired the dam of Caerleon, another American-bred who spent his stallion career in Europe. Caerleon was criticized not only because his progeny came in all shapes, sizes and colours, but also because they were sometimes very different in their distance requirements. However, it was Caerleon who interrupted Sadler’s Wells’ long sequence of sires championships and he left a long line of Group 1 winners, with his progeny winning four of Britain’s five Classics, plus the following top-level contests: the Arc, Irish Derby, Japanese Derby, Grand Prix de Paris, Prix de Diane and Coronation Cup. In a comment on Fair Eva’s Group 3 victory, headlined 'A Sire Defying Expectations By Looking Real Deal', the Racing Post’s bloodstock editor Martin Stevens wrote: Expectations of what Frankel might achieve with his first 2-year-old runners were tempered by some sobering truths. Yes, he was the outstanding talent of the modern era on the track, but we knew that the majority of stallions fail, that his stock had received mixed reviews at auction and that many of his runners, owned by their breeders, would be in no hurry to grace a racecourse.
I would take issue with some of this. Although the Juddmonte team was not totally in control of what mares were sent to Frankel in his first season, a determined effort was made to help him make as fast a start as possible by including a proportion of fast mares. As the breeder of Innocent Air, Juddmonte was well aware that Galileo had made an unspectacular start with his first 2-year-olds. From 41 runners in Britain and Ireland, he had sired just one stakes winner and the knock-on effect was that his fee remained at its lowest level 37,500 in 2006. Needless to say, Galileo rapidly transformed himself from possible failure to sire sensation. In one report I pointed out that although Frankel has often displayed breathtaking speed, his sire Galileo is a powerful source of stamina and Frankel's brother Noble Mission is a group winner over a mile and a half, Teofilo, another champion 2-year-old bred on the Galileo/Danehill cross, seems to be imparting a fair amount of stamina to some of his progeny. [Teofilo’s first 3-year-olds included four winners at two miles or beyond, including the future G1 Irish St Leger winner Voleuse de Coeurs] So, until we know more about Frankel as a sire, it will probably pay to send him some mares capable of reinforcing his speed and juvenile ability. Although Juddmonte’s broodmare band does not feature a lot of sprinters, Fair Eva’s dam African Rose was an obvious choice, as a winner of the G1 Sprint Cup. African Rose’s sister Helleborine, who showed a lot of ability at two, was also sent to Frankel, but unfortunately her colt died. Another incentive for sending African Rose to Frankel was the fact that the similarly-bred Teofilo already had a classic-placed Group 2 winner with a dam by Quest To Fame, sire also of African Rose’s dam New Orchid. This mating produced 4 x 4 inbreeding to Rainbow Quest, who did so well for Juddmonte. To return to the Racing Post’s comments on Frankel, we may know that the majority of stallions fail, but I would argue that the majority of truly exceptional racehorses do NOT.
Although the picture is clouded by some premature deaths, illnesses and even kidnap, it makes an interesting exercise to look at Timeform’s list of all-time high weights, which is headed by Frankel with his figure of 147. Next comes the imperious Derby and Arc winner Sea-Bird II, on 145. None too fashionably bred, Sea-Bird was leased to Darby Dan Farm for five years and died at the age of 11. Consequently, he is credited with only 175 foals, but 33 of them - a magnificent 19% became black-type winners.
He will always be best remembered as the sire of the brilliant mare Allez France, but also sired the likes of Little Current, Gyr and Arctic Tern. Next on the list, on 144, are Brigadier Gerard and Tudor Minstrel. Many people would write off Brigadier Gerard as a failure. If I remember correctly, his owners would not take mares from commercial breeders, which can’t have helped, and they also imposed strict numerical limits on his book. With fertility issues also becoming part of the story, The Brigadier left just 329 foals. It is worth pointing out that 12 of the 186 foals in his first six crops became group winners a figure of nearly 6.5%, which would thrill any of today’s stallion owners. Tudor Minstrel, for his part, provided British racing with three important stallion sons in King of the Tudors, Sing Sing and Tudor Melody. He was then moved to the U.S., where his representatives included a GI Kentucky Derby winner in Tomy Lee and a champion filly in What A Treat.
There are only 10 other horses which achieved the landmark figure of 140 or more, a few of them during an era when Timeform’s ratings for 2-year-olds were set at a considerable higher level than in recent decades. I certainly wouldn’t quibble about Ribot’s figure of 142. This Italian star spent most of his stallion career at Darby Dan, where he developed into a major Classic influence. America benefited from the likes of Tom Rolfe, Arts And Letters and Graustark. Over in Europe two of his sons Molvedo and Prince Royal followed in Ribot’s footsteps by winning the Arc, while Ragusa emulated Ribot’s victory in the G1 King George. The thrilling Mill Reef justified his rating of 141 with a similarly phenomenal stallion career. Although this winner of the 1971 Derby, King George and Arc left fewer than 400 foals, he is credited with 63 black-type winners - 16%. Roughly 10% were successful at group level, which remains an exceptional achievement. The Derby at Epsom proved a perfect showplace for his descendants’ talents, with victory going to two of his sons, one of his grandsons, one of his great-grandsons and one of his great-great-grandsons. Dancing Brave (140) certainly didn’t make the type of start his admirers would have wanted, perhaps because his health was compromised by Marie’s Disease. But then his third crop, numbering 39 foals, produced four Group 1 winners, including winners of the Derby, Derby Italiano and Irish Oaks. By then, though, Dancing Brave was in Japan.
Another who was arguably denied a fair test was Sheikh Mohammed’s favourite Dubai Millennium (140), but his legacy from his very brief time at Dalham Hall yielded Dubawi, one of the world’s most effective stallions. Shergar is credited with having sired only 36 foals prior to his abduction but once again there could be few complaints about their quality, as his five stakes winners (14%) included Authaal (Irish St Leger) and Maysoon (second in the 1000 Guineas and third in the Oaks). The 140-club also features Vaguely Noble and Sea The Stars. Even though Vaguely Noble was considered to have outrun his pedigree, he also shone as a stallion.
We couldn’t have complained if his only achievement had been to sire Dahlia, who ranks among the best race mares and broodmares of all time. However, Vaguely Noble achieved much more, via the likes of Nobiliary, Empery, Exceller, Lemhi Gold, Estrapade, Mississipian and Jet Ski Lady. He was responsible for nearly 6% group/graded winners. Vaguely Noble numbered the Arc among his victories and so did Sea The Stars, who had earlier also won the G1 2000 Guineas and Derby. Although this half-brother to Galileo has only three crops aged three or over, he has already been represented by winners of the Derby, Oaks, Irish Derby, Deutsches Derby, the King George, Prix Jean Prat and Prix Saint-Alary. In this context, it surely can’t be a surprise that Frankel, the best of them all, is defying expectations.