Kevin Blake

Kevin looks at why Coolmore's recent purchase of the progressive sire Wootton Bassett has set the bloodstock world alight.

  • Wednesday 19 August
  • Blog

Coolmore and Wootton Bassett

The first half of August is usually a relatively quiet time in the bloodstock world, but it sprung to life last Friday with the news that Coolmore had bought the highly-progressive sire Wootton Bassett from Haras d’Etreham in France. It is unusual for stallions of his age, profile and standing to change hands, so for an operation like Coolmore to make such a big move set the bloodstock world alight with comment.

While the 12-year-old Wootton Bassett may seem to be something of a left-field purchase for Coolmore at first glance, when one steps back and views the bigger picture, the reasons why they pursued and ultimately purchased him are clearer to see.

First and most importantly, Wootton Bassett gives every indication he is an excellent stallion. A son of Iffraaj that had his biggest day when winning the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp as a two-year-old, he retired to stud after a disappointing three-year-old campaign without much fanfare. Standing at Haras d’Etreham for a fee of €6,000, he didn’t initially capture the imagination of French breeders, as the following chart detailing the results of his first two years at stud shows.

Year Foaled Nomination Fee Conceived For Live Foals
2013 €6,000 24
2014 €5,000 18

To be frank, his first two seasons were very disappointing in terms of the number of mares he attracted. In this day and age when commercially attractive first-season sires are expected to produce over 100 foals in their first crop, for Wootton Bassett to only produce 24 foals in his first crop and 18 foals in his second crop was a worryingly poor return. At that stage, if a bookmaker was asked to price up the probability of Wootton Bassett becoming a commercial success as a stallion, there is unlikely to have been too many backers at 50/1.

However, that outlook began to change when offspring of Wootton Bassett appeared on the ground. His first representatives certainly made a favourable impression, as can be seen from the strong results they achieved at the yearling sales considering his low profile and nomination fee.

Year of Foaling Nomination Fee Conceived For Live Foals Yearlings Sold Median Yearling Price (Gns) Average Yearling Price (Gns)
2013 €6,000 24 11 32,000 48,545
2014 €5,000 18 9 38,000 50,556

Making a good initial impression with a small sample of yearlings at the sales is one thing, but the real acid test of a sire comes on the racecourse - in this regard, Wootton Bassett got off to an almighty start thanks to the presence of Almanzor in his small first crop. A smart juvenile that won three of his four starts in 2015, Almanzor very much took off as a three-year-old, winning the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Many very successful sires don’t produce a horse of Almanzor’s class throughout their whole careers. So, for Wootton Bassett to do just that in his first season when standing for just €6,000 and paired with an unraced maiden mare that had been sold by the Aga Khan for just €16,000 very much got the attention of the bloodstock world.

Group 1 performers put stallion on map year-on-year

As can be seen in the complete table below, the exploits of Almanzor, both as a two-year-old and particularly as a three-year-old, led to a serious uplift in the level of support that Wootton Bassett received in 2016 and 2017. Just as importantly, Wootton Bassett’s progeny made year-to-year progress in line with the increased quantity and quality of mares he covered, already proving he is anything but a one-horse stallion. Patascoy, Wootton, Wooded, Speak Of The Devil and The Summit all hit the frame at Group 1 level, and his first crop of two-year-olds conceived at €20,000 have already produced an exciting unbeaten colt in the shape of Chindit this year.

Year of Foaling Nomination Fee Conceived For Live Foals Median Yearling Price (Gns) Average Yearling Price (Gns) RPR of 90+ From Each Crop Up To Aug 18th 2020 RPR of 105+ From Each Crop Up To Aug 18th 2020
2013 €6,000 24 32,000 48,545 2 2
2014 €5,000 18 38,000 50,556 4 0
2015 €4,000 45 39,000 37,523 8 2
2016 €4,000 44 57,000 60,440 7 3
2017 €6,000 89 56,000 69,750 14 5
2018 €20,000 86 60,000 76,225 1 0
2019 €20,000 97 - - - -
2020 €40,000 - - - - -

It is this progressive profile and the very clear possibility that Wootton Bassett’s best days may only just be starting that makes him such an exciting sire.

As well as his proven merit as a stallion and the potential for his stock to rise notably higher in the coming years, another key piece to this puzzle to what made Wootton Bassett so attractive to Coolmore is likely to have been his pedigree. While he wouldn’t necessarily fit the pedigree profile of a typical Coolmore stallion, this is actually an important part of his appeal.

Wootton an attractive option for mares

When one examines his extended pedigree, it can be seen that none of the major stallions of the last couple of decades such as Danehill, Green Desert, Sadler’s Wells or his sons Galileo or Montjeu appear on his page. One has to venture back to the fourth generation of his pedigree to find Northern Dancer, Mr Prospector and Danzig. The relevance is that it makes him a suitable option for mares with these successful sires high up in their pedigrees.

In Coolmore’s case, it makes him an attractive solution to their incredibly high-class problem of having so many top-class daughters of Galileo in their broodmare band. The fact Coolmore will be sure to support Wootton Bassett with many of these blueblood mares can only encourage outside breeders to send mares to him in a bid to get into him before his Coolmore-sired crops hit the racecourse, and potentially take him to the next level in terms of achievement and nomination fee in the coming years. His progress in the next few years is sure to be fascinating to observe.

Bassett deals breeding blow to France

In terms of the wider impact of this deal, it can’t be seen as anything other than a blow to the breeding industry in France. As was laid out in this space a couple of years ago, the breeding industry in France has been punching below its weight in recent years. A lack of stallion power has almost certainly been a major factor in this underperformance.

With Wootton Bassett now moved to Ireland, there are only two proven stallions left standing in France that are standing for €20,000 or more - Siyouni (€100,000) and Le Havre (€50,000). For all their excellent prize money and breeders’ premiums, the French breeding industry is going to struggle to compete with the likes of Britain and Ireland until they can attract, develop and retain a higher quality of stallion to serve French breeders and their mares.

Kevin Blake
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