11th Nov 2013
A quick overview of the UK Group 1 winners of 2012 showed that less than a quarter of the winners were bred by people for whom selling as foal or yearling was the principal driver. It is hard to define an Owner/breeder nowadays. We recognise the Aga Khan as one, and likewise Darley supplies the racing programme of Sheikh Mohammed. But what about those who play each way like Watership Down or Joe Allen? And what about LynchBages Ltd or Southern Bloodstock? Not averse to a sale, whenever the timing is right.
However defined, the commercial world fought back in 2013. Of 33 UK Group 1 races in 2013, they were won by 26 horses of whom it could be argued that 14 were bred by absolute sellers, for whom the yearling sales are the end of a road. I know that these figures are open to dispute and argument, but the relative strength of the Owner/Breeder compared to the modest success of the commercial world in 2012 has at least shown some rebound.
The stallions responsible for the 26 winners are roughly split between 11 sires which ticked all the boxes at the outset of their careers and 10 which stood at some point for a four figure sum or fell short of the full hand on day one in the stallion barn. In these ranks I include War Front and Dansili. Shock and horror may ensue, but neither horse won at Group 1 level and Dansili traded below 10k before his ascent to greatness.
To make sense of the outcomes it would be useful to know the relative populations of the mares hoarded by the superpowers and the pool of so-called commercial mares. We know that large numbers of the choicest mares are in the hands of very few global players. Top level success is hard to achieve for the remainder, with so many issues conspiring against them, most notably the need for financial prudence. The dream business is only attractive if occasionally the dream comes true. For John O’Connor, Roland Alder, Declan Johnson, Tally Ho and Denis McDonnell the dream became real this year.
For us the dream is for one of our stallions to climb the ranks and take his place amongst the greats, in the way that Ahonoora, Indian Ridge or Invincible Spirit have done. About one-third of the top sires in Europe this year have done just that. The odds may be against them but history reassures that Goliath hit the deck. For the likes of Orpen, Red Clubs, Dark Angel, Kyllachy or Intense Focus this year brought the reward for faith in the dream.