Declan Rix

Using data from Kevin Blake's latest article, Declan Rix profiles Flat stallions whose progeny will first see the racetrack in 2021, including the likes of Caravaggio, Churchill and Decorated Knight.

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PROFILING FLAT STALLIONS OF THE FUTURE

When fellow attheraces.com stable mate Kevin Blake isn’t picking up local litter or saving kittens from trees, he is writing good content for this site. Kevin’s last two articles have covered first-season sires for 2020 and what sires made a big impression with their first foals in 2019; next season’s soon-to-be first-season sires.

It was Kevin’s second column that resonated with me more, for the simple reason that I felt I knew a lot of these horses well enough so, I thought I would profile their track careers with their new duties as stallions in mind.

I realise regards timing, with their stock not hitting the track until next year, it’s a bit counter-intuitive given Kevin’s first column, but time is on our side and I could always get this season’s stallions covered by the time racing resumes.

Bloodstock is a fascinating game for me, a game that interests me hugely, but I would consider myself a novice with much to learn. So, as with all pieces, feel free to weigh-in with thoughts and on anything I may have got wrong.

Analysing important stallion features here, like conformation, won’t be done anywhere near in-depth like they should (may get the odd mention), but there is plenty other information, data and video available on each of the below horses, thanks to their racetrack careers.

There are 16 horses to cover from Kevin’s list, but El Kabeir and National Defense will be omitted, given they performed in the USA and France, respectively. This will be a two-part blog, with the second one following next week. From Kevin’s piece, I have arranged the horse alphabetically.  

ACLAIM

Age: 7

Pedigree: Acclamation (GB) x Aris (Ire) (Danroad) (AUS)

Classic season: 2016

Highest official rating: 116

Group 1s won: 1

Times ran: 15 (December ’15 – October ’17)

Distance: 7f

2020 fee: £9,500 (National Stud)

By the end of his 4yo season, his final on the track, Aclaim was a horse I had plenty of time for. His last start finally saw him bag a Group 1 at Chantilly’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting, in the Prix de la Foret, having gone close in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest earlier in the season. While by no means an exceptional race horse, as his rating suggests, the son of Acclamation was a consistent, tough and versatile performer who had a wonderful attitude.

A €130,000 purchase at the 2014 Goffs Orby yearling sale, his desire to win, along with his fluent action and classy page could see him as a stallion success story, especially given the current market demand for precocious, speedy horses. He himself made the racetrack at two, but very late in the season and Aclaim got better with each passing year so, it will be interesting to see just how precocious his stock are and how quickly they progress; each dam will obviously have a say.

Aclaim’s own dam Aris is a half-sister to dual-Group 1 and Irish 1000 Guineas winner Again. Aris’s dam was an unraced half-sister to the great Montjeu. That’s a quality distaff page, for all, it's one on racetrack evidence at least, that suggests ground with juice will suit Aclaim’s progeny. 

Looking at Kevin's data, with 114 foals on the ground last year, the sire was well enough supported in his first year, but his fee has dropped from £12,000 to £9,500 (2020) so maybe the very early signs could be better. However, attitude is everything in life and maybe it's only when the sire's progeny hit the track, will we see that positive and important trait Aclaim possessed.

ARDAD

Age: 6

Pedigree: Kodiac (GB) x Good Clodora (IRE) (Red Clubs) (IRE)

Classic season: 2017

Highest official rating: 108

Group 1s won: 0

Times ran: 9 (June ’16 – August ’17)

Distance: 5f

2020 fee: £6,500 (Overbury Stud)

By Kodiac and out of a Red Clubs mare, it should come as no surprise that Ardad did all his good running as a juvenile. In a trio of starts as a 3yo, John Gosden’s inmate made little impact, but on the back of a £170,000 purchase at the 2016 Goffs 2yo Breeze-ups, Ardad would go on to win at Royal Ascot and later in the season win the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster.

His Royal Ascot success came on soft ground in a race he truly dominated, winning by 3¼ lengths, beating a field that included Battaash (a shadow of the horse he is now).

He disappointed twice subsequently over six furlongs on fast ground at Newmarket (Group 2) and York (Group 2) before appreciating the drop back to the minimum at Doncaster. This day in the Flying Childers he confirmed himself an out-an-out speedball 5f performer.

The Last Lion, back in third would go on to beat Blue Point in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes on his next start, so it did leave you wondering had connections stuck down the 5f route with Ardad, would his track record look a bit sexier as a juvenile?

Looks destined to (hopefully) be successful with juvenile performers, if his own track record and pedigree is anything to go by.  

CARAVAGGIO

Age: 6

Pedigree: Scat Daddy (USA) x Mekko Hokte (USA) (Holy Bull) (USA)

Classic season: 2017

Highest official rating: 122

Group 1s won: 2

Times ran: 10 (April ’16 – October ’17)

Distance: 6f

2020 fee: €40,000 (Coolmore Stud)

An exciting young sire for Coolmore, especially in the context of the operation losing his own sire, Scat Daddy, prematurely. Scat Daddy was a brilliant stallion in his own short career and Coolmore have remained determined on tapping into his genes, given he provides a potentially valuable outcross for the operation's Galileo mares.

No Nay Never has done well in his short career to date while the likes of other Scat Daddy sons, Justify and Mendelssohn are two more horses that breed under the Coolmore banner. Caravaggio is another name to add to the roster.

A precocious colt who debuted in an April Dundalk maiden, in his unbeaten-in-four juvenile season he would win at Royal Ascot (Coventry Stakes) and bag a Group 1 (Phoenix Stakes). At the Royal meeting we witnessed a truly top-class juvenile performance, the colt overcoming a pace and draw bias to blitz the Group 2 field by 2¼ lengths. Caravaggio would win his 2yo Group 1 at odds of 1/8 in the Phoenix Stakes 54 days later.

The highlight of his 3yo campaign and his only top-level victory at three came in a barnstorming renewal of the new(ish) Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot when he turned over the top-class Godolphin pair of Harry Angel and Blue Point. Against a significant pace and track bias in the July Cup on his next start, Harry Angel would reverse the form, Caravaggio finishing fourth.

A disappointing effort in the Maurice de Gheest at Deauville was blamed on the wrong shoes being worn before he bounced back to win on Irish Champions Weekend (Group 2 Flying Five Stakes), at odds of 10/11.

His career swansong came on British Champions Day at Ascot when a gallant third in a race he never truly looked like winning. Given his owners and pedigree, it was no surprise to see him retired after, despite losing three of his last four starts, but that is maybe more a reflection of the fine-margin intricacies sprinting presents. 

Caravaggio should suit the current market ideally given his precocious, raw speed, but he’s a stallion you could see producing Classic winners, too, in a 1000 or 2000 Guineas, especially when paired up with Galileo fillies adding staying power.

While there was speed, Caravaggio possessed stamina too, and it’s a shame we didn’t see him over 7f at any stage, as it may well have suited him, for all Group 1s are slim pickings over that trip. His quick, choppy stride wasn’t the most graceful to watch, but he could run, and run hard.

Out of a smart US family on the distaff side, with the support of Coolmore, I look forward to watching his new career play out. As Kevin’s piece suggests, the early signs are encouraging. 

CHURCHILL

Age: 6

Pedigree: Galileo (IRE) x Meow (USA) (Storm Cat) (USA)

Classic season: 2017

Highest official rating: 123

Group 1s won: 4

Times ran: 12

Distance: 8f-10f

2020 fee: €30,000 (Coolmore Stud)

A highly decorated performer who was Champion Juvenile and a dual-Guineas winner, Churchill’s first eight career starts - six as a juvenile – suggested he was on an upward trajectory to superstar status. By Galileo with a strong marketable name, and as per, a quality pedigree, it had looked like Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien were in the midst of producing racing’s next top miler sensation, until the wheels came off at Royal Ascot at in the 2016 St James’s Palace Stakes at odds of 1/2.

Before this blip, the fluent-moving colt just seemed to be getting better and better. These are the profiles you like; who doesn’t desire an improving horse? Factor in Coolmore, O’Brien, the pedigree and a strong, powerful physique, after his Guineas double at Newmarket and the Curragh this was hype I could get behind.

To be fair to Churchill, hype is unfair because he kept on delivering up until that Royal Ascot. He was clearly below par this day behind Barney Roy in a race that broke the previous track record by over a second.

O’Brien said he didn’t eat up when he got home that night but Churchill at least showed the resilience of his namesake to put up, what I consider, a joint-career best at York in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes  over an extended 10f behind top-class colt Ulysses. From here however, his time in office was up; beaten at 8/11, where a poor ride contributed, in the Irish Champion Stakes, a return to form was however seen when third on British Champions Day in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Like so many top Coolmore 3yos, he would understandably flop on dirt in his career swansong at the Breeders’ Cup in the Classic.

While there were battles lost in the latter stages of Churchill’s career on track, Coolmore’s wars are always in the breeding sheds. Here, he can still make his mark in history by influencing the breed with his precociousness, durability and class.  

COTAI GLORY

Age: 6

Pedigree: Exceed And Excel (AUS) x Continua (USA) (Elusive Quality) (USA)

Classic season: 2014

Highest official rating: 114

Group 1s won: 0

Times ran: 30

Distance: 5f

2020 fee: €5,000 (Tally Ho Stud)

Charlie Hills has shown in recent times his capability at handling high-class sprinters and while Cotai Glory won’t fit into the Muhaarar or Battaash mould, Hills has seemingly done enough to get this son of Exceed And Excel into the breeding sheds at Tally Ho Stud. To be fair to the horse, while he only won four of his 30 career starts, he supplemented his two Group 3 victories with numerous placings at big prices in Group 1 sprints.

A neck second to Profitable in the 2016 King's Stand Stakes, third in the 2017 Nunthorpe Stakes behind Marsha and a close up ninth, beaten less than three lengths in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar showed, on his day, he was a classy and fast type.

Durable, versatile enough with regards ground (trainer felt he was best on quick gong) and a Group 3-winning juvenile, maybe he will offer small-end breeders an option of getting progeny to the track quickly, but at a much cheaper price.

With 127 live foals from his maiden crop, he has been well supported.  

DECORATED KNIGHT

Age: 8

Pedigree: Galileo (IRE) x Pearling (USA) (Storm Cat) (USA)

Classic season: 2015

Highest official rating: 120

Group 1s won: 3

Times ran: 19

Distance: 10f (September '14 - September '17)

2020 fee: €9,000 (Irish National Stud)

A horse bred across the same lines as Churchill, being by Galileo and out of a Storm Cat mare, based solely on pedigree, there is a case to say that Decorated Knight, at €21,000 cheaper, is a better value breeding alternative than the Coolmore Stud horse. Decorated Knight’s dam Pearling is an unraced sister to the great Giant’s Causeway from a family that offers much more than just “The Iron Horse”. 

OK, the former Roger Varian and Roger Charlton inmate didn’t have the same precocious juvenile and classy 3yo campaigns Churchill had but he did at least make the track as a 2yo, and year and year from there, just got better and better. 

A solid Group 2/3 campaigner at three without winning, the chestnut progressed into a Group 2 horse at four. At five, he would have an excellent season, making significant strides to win a trio of top level races. He correctly wouldn’t get the respect bestowed upon a European Group 1 winner when winning the Jebel Hatta in Dubai, but he emphatically put that right in his Tattersalls Gold Cup (Group 1) and Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1) successes.

In the latter contest, where he finished ahead of Churchill, in what was a properly-run, top-level race, he ran to 120. That is a top-class level of form from what was now a top-class horse. Decorated Knight deserves credit for his durability and toughness that season, too, having likely been in full training early in the New Year.

To win a great race like the Irish Champion Stakes, on the back of top-class efforts at the Curragh and Royal Ascot, among other runs, in September takes a fair bit of doing, and a tip of the cap to his trainer, who handled him so well.

If provided with precocious mares to work with, maybe Decorated Knight could add to a market that is so keen on getting horses to the track quickly. Since 2018 to 2020 his price has dropped however, from €15,000 to €9,000 and the son of Galileo only had 46 foals in his first crop.

Declan Rix
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