Bill OppenheimBill Oppenheim The past few weeks we have been surveying the stallion markets in North America and Europe; this week we arrive at the final region in this review, Great Britain and Ireland. But when you look at the stallion landscape in these two countries what jumps out at you is how, far more than anywhere else we’ve been reviewing, Britain and Ireland have now become the chief stallion battleground in the struggle for world domination between Coolmore and Darley.

Though others may quite understandably have lists which differ from mine, I counted 38 stallions between the two countries which I would classify as major figures, usually (though not without exception) stallions standing for GBP15,000 or higher. Fifteen of these stallions are either directly under the Coolmore banner (14) or could be called, as they say in the political arena, ‘leaning toward’ Coolmore (Dansili). Another 13 come under the Maktoum banner, including two of Shadwell’s, and two which are now ‘leaning toward’ the Maktoum camp (Pivotal and Invincible Spirit, in both of which Darley has reportedly bought a quarter interest). That means 74 percent of the leading stallions in Britain and Ireland (28 of 38) are in the orbit of one of the two camps. This leaves only 10 ‘neutral’ or ‘independent’ higher-tier stallions, barely a quarter of the total. More than on any other major northern circuit, in the British and Irish stallion markets, the conflict between Coolmore and Darley dominates the landscape.

There are six top-class proven sires in Europe, not counting Sadler’s Wells, now 27 years old. As we’ve noted before, Coolmore dominates this top tier, and right now this is the center of their worldwide strength. Fortunately for them, these are not older horses, but relatively young ones. After the premature death of Danehill at 17 in 2003, it was all looking very up in the air for Coolmore. But, of their three candidates for the top tier whose first two-year-olds raced in 2004 (first foals 2002), they came pretty close to hitting the jackpot.

Giant’s Causeway (by then in Kentucky) and Montjeu went pretty much straight into the World Top 12; only Fusaichi Pegasus (still quite a useful sire) proved to be not out of the top drawer. Then the next year came Galileo, giving Coolmore what is now a powerful European six-figure stud fee trio of Danehill Dancer, Montjeu, and Galileo (believed to be Europe’s most expensive stallion now, at EUR 225,000, though listed as private), while simultaneously (though somewhat belatedly) suddenly establishing Sadler’s Wells as a serious sire of sires.

I’m counting Dansili in the ‘leaning toward’ Coolmore camp not because Coolmore owns an interest in him, as Darley now does in Pivotal and Invincible Spirit, but because they appear to be using the son of Danehill as a backup to their own Danehill Dancer. Coolmore has bought yearlings by Dansili; they went out and bought a son of his (Strategic Prince) to stand; and they are reportedly sending mares to him. So four of Europe’s six top-class proven sires are either controlled by or ‘leaning toward’ Coolmore. Pivotal is ‘leaning toward’ Darley, leaving only Germany’s Monsun as completely ‘neutral’ or ‘independent’, whichever word you prefer. But nobody is resting on their laurels. I’d classify another five European sires as world ‘second 12’. Of those, Darley controls Cape Cross, whose 34 yearlings sold last year averaged nearly $ 300,000, from his first crop at a EUR 50,000 stud fee. British sires Selkirk and Medicean are neutral, while, of the two top European sires whose first foals just turned four (first foals 2004), Darley has bought an interest in Invincible Spirit; Coolmore has repatriated Rock of Gibraltar after his gap year in Japan. A third group of proven sires, all standing for GBP 15,000 or EUR 25,000, divide up along similar lines: Darley controls the still underrated pair of Cadeaux Genereux and Singspiel; Barathea and Zamindar are neutral; and Peintre Celebre is at Coolmore.

Of the 10 proven sires counted here which would not be counted among the World Top 12, four are controlled by or leaning toward Darley, four are neutral and two are controlled by Coolmore.

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News 16.01.08

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